If Ever I Cease to Love You
Winston James falls instantly in love with bartender Jacobi Griffin one night when he is in the French Quarter club entertaining some clients. To get to know Jacobi he asks Jacobi's boss to recommend a good bartender for Winston's upcoming party. Of course the man recommends Jacobi after giving Winston the four-one-one on him. Winston has never been one to beat around the bush. Not only does he ask Jacobi to work for his party but also tells him to bring an overnight bag because the two of them would be spending the night together.
Bartender Jacobi Griffin didn't fall for cheesy come-ons or sleep around. Although the city of New Orleans is teeming with tourists for the Mardi Gras season Winton and Jacobi find the time to spend together getting to know each other by blocking out everything around them and falling in love.
"Are you available for a private party?"
Jacobi Griffin looked up at the sound of a deep voice and smiled. The guy was about six-feet tall with muscles and wavy black hair. The ice blue eyes gazing down at him made Jacobi feel a bit self-conscious and horny.
"That depends on when and where it is or if I need to provide the alcohol or not."
Mr. Tall and Handsome ran an appreciative gaze over him.
Jacobi tried not to blush. Guys were always trying to flirt with him, and some of them tried the most outlandish ways of getting his attention. He couldn't help the way he looked or the way he was built either. His mother ran a dance studio to help support him and his six siblings. His shapely ass and legs and small waist were the product of sixteen years of dance classes and competitions.
"My place tomorrow night, and I'll provide the booze. All you have to do is show up."
"Formal or informal?"
"Formal," the great-smelling guy answered. "Wear a black uniform and bring an overnight bag."
Jacobi didn't understand the last part. "I'll be staying the night?"
The other guy nodded. "Yes."
Jacobi frowned. Why does he assume I'm gay or easy?
"I'm never wrong," the other guy said as if he'd read Jacobi's mind.
Jacobi's heart picked that particular time to skip a beat. "I don't sleep around on the first date."
The guy smirked. "We'll see." He took out his business card and handed it to Jacobi.
Jacobi looked down at it. Winston James, A. P. James Tour Guides and Party Planners. Oh, so that's why Jacobi thought he'd seen him somewhere before. Winston had made commercials for his company. Jacobi continued reading the address. It was in the Garden District near Saint Charles Avenue. "What time?"
Damn, he hoped there weren't any parades still rolling around that time. The Mardi Gras season had just started, and it was going to be non-stop partying in New Orleans for the next two weeks.
"Bring swimming trunks," Winston said.
Oh, so it was that kind of party--rich dudes gone wild.
"The hot tub and the swimming pool are heated," Winston said. "Though, I doubt if you'll be in them very long."
Jacobi scowled. Just because the man was gorgeous didn't mean that he could get Jacobi in his bed.
"See you tomorrow, Jacobi."
"How do you know my name?"
Winston pointed to his chest.
Jacobi looked down. "Oh." He had on a nametag. He watched Winston walk away. Damn, he's fine.
Seth, the other bartender on call, came over. "Do you know who that was you were just talking to?"
"Who is he?"
"That's Winston James. His family owns most of the Garden District, some hotels, and a tour and hospitality business. Or so I've heard."
"Is he married?"
"Hell no," Seth said like he'd asked something ridiculous. "Rumor has it that he's the ultimate party animal. What did he want?"
"Directions," Jacobi lied. He kept his personal business private, and it wasn't against the rules for them to take side jobs in their free time.
A crowd of people came up just as Seth returned to his station. The newcomers took up most of the seats at both bars. They were loud, obnoxious, and already two sheets to the wind. He sighed. It was going to be a long night since his and Seth's shift had just begun at nine. It was three in the morning when he finally crawled in bed. If Winston James was the type of party animal Seth had mentioned, who knew when Jacobi would get his next good night sleep.
Winston's alarm sounded at noon like he'd set it to do. He had to get up, shower, and dress because he had a lot to do before tonight's party. He had people coming in from Maine to have some fun in the Big Easy. Winston's family owned one of the largest hotel chains in the state, and it thrived because there was always something going on in town, be it a holiday or festival. And they always sought him out to show them a good time. The older he got, the less he wanted to be bothered. He'd much rather come home after work, shower, and kick back and watch a movie.
Winston got out of bed. After showering, he had a bowl of cereal, avocado toast, and hot green tea for breakfast. That was followed up with a trip to the gym. He always thought better after a vigorous workout. Today was no exception.
He showered again, changed into a suit, and went to a meeting with some backers. Then he tried to get home before the revelry started. His brother Martin arrived to hang out until the real guests came.
"Who are you entertaining tonight?" Martin asked as Winston sampled an appetizer.
"Some new clients from Maine. They're in town for Mardi Gras and staying at one of our hotels. They brought a lot of guests with them, and they want to party."
"Idiots," Martin said. "I'm surprised you agreed since Mardi Gras isn't your favorite holiday."
"That's because tourists come here, tear up the city, and then leave."
Martin helped himself to a canapÃ© and poured himself a drink at the bar. "That's how it's always been." He paused. "Who's the lucky guy for the evening?"
"You say that like you know me."
Martin was just two years younger than him.
"That's because I do."
"Okay, he's this guy I've had my eye on for a while now. He's a bartender and cute."
Martin sipped his drink. "How cute?"
"So good-looking I can't stop thinking about him. Imagine an angelic face, big hazel eyes, clean-shaven, and just the right size to cuddle."
Martin ate the canapÃ©. "He does sound promising. Does he know he's on the menu?"
Winston shrugged. "I kind of hinted when I told him to bring an overnight bag."
Martin gasped and hissed at him. "No wonder you can't keep a lover. What did he say?"
"That he wasn't easy. That's exactly why I'm interested in him. He's a hard worker, just finished college, and goes straight home alone at night. He doesn't even drink alcohol."
"Neither do you anymore," Martin said. "How do you know so much about him?"
"I've followed him a couple of times," Winston admitted. "His boss provided me with the rest of the information."
"Stalk much?" Martin asked playfully.
"No, he gets off pretty late, and plenty of people have been getting mugged lately."
"So you were doing it to make sure he got home safe?" Martin asked.
Winston nodded. "This one might be the one."
Martin nearly choked on his drink. Winston patted him on the back. "You barely know him."
"That's why I hired him to work the party tonight. I plan to get to know him better after it's over. He'll make some great tips, and then he'll have stimulating conversation with me."
"What time is this charmer arriving?" Martin asked.
"Nine. The guests should be here by then. He can set up the bar any way he wants to."
"I can't wait to meet him. He must be special if you hired him."
"So what's up with your life?" Winston asked.
"Nothing much. I've been busy working with Father, and Mother's complaining that she doesn't see you enough."
"I've been busy, and besides, we work together five days a week." The doorbell rang, and Winston went to answer it. The first of his guests began to arrive. He hoped Jacobi would get here soon.
The traffic started to thin out as Jacobi drove down Saint Charles Avenue. A red streetcar passed on his left. Its wheels made clacking sounds while going over the track, and it made frequent stops along the way. It still managed to catch up with him at the red lights. When he was a child, his mother used to take him and his six other siblings to ride on and enjoy the route to the university area and the Audubon Zoo.
The GPS directed him to turn right at the next corner. Jacobi followed the instructions. It took him down a couple blocks into a neighborhood of huge mansions, a Catholic church, and a school. He rode up to a brick two-story. There was a valet outside giving directions and parking cars.
"I'm the bartender for Mr. James's party."
"There's an employee's entrance on the side," the valet said.
"Thanks." Jacobi drove around the corner, parked, grabbed his bag, and got out.
Even the side of the historic house was impressive, from its veranda that went around the entire house to the wrought ironwork and the green plantation shutters.
He knocked on the door, and a young woman dressed in a gray uniform with a white apron answered.
"May I help you?"
"My name is Jacobi Griffin, and I'm the bartender of the evening."
The young woman looked him over. "Yes, please come in. Mr. James is expecting you." She stepped aside, and Jacobi entered. "Right this way."
Jacobi followed her past all of the kitchen workers. They all looked up when the two of them walked by. Jacobi waved. The young woman took him to what appeared to be a grand ballroom. The place was huge. He wondered if this was actually Winston's home, or did he just use it to entertain.
A few guests had already arrived. She showed him to the bar. "There's a built-in icemaker and beer on draft. Someone is going to come along to collect the dirty glasses periodically during the evening."
Jacobi stashed his bag under the bar and saw the supplies he would need, along with a large assortment of wines and liquors.
"My name is Darlene. Just call me if you need anything." She pointed to a phone.
Darlene left, and he opened the bar.
"Welcome to my home."
Jacobi looked up and almost dropped the box of swizzle sticks. Winston James stared down on him, dressed very debonair in a brown suit with a butter-colored turtleneck sweater. There was another guy with him that could pass for Winston's brother.
"Thank you, Mr. James."
"Mr. James?" the other guy asked. "Call him Winston."
"And you are?"
"Martin James. Winston's younger and better-looking brother."
"It's nice to meet you, too, Mr. James," Jacobi said.
"What a brilliant smile. How are you at mixing drinks?"
"What would you like?"
"I'll start with a Scotch on the Rocks," Martin said.
Jacobi put his full attention on Winston. "And you?"
Jacobi lowered his gaze quickly.
Martin chuckled. "Look at that blush."
Jacobi playfully rolled his eyes at both of them. He made Martin his drink.
Martin sampled it. "Delicious."
"You haven't answered me."
"My big brother doesn't drink alcohol," Martin said.
"Me either," Jacobi confessed.
"He drinks sodas."
"Then I have just the thing." He made Jamaican fruit punch sans the liquor and handed it to him.
"Thank you. What is it?"
Winston drank some of it. "Ooh, I like this. I can do this."
Another guy appeared. "I'd like a White Russian."
Jacobi fixed it and handed the man the glass along with a napkin. He tried his drink, too. "This is just what I needed, and it's fixed exactly the way I like it." He put money in the tip jar. "Keep him on the payroll, Winston. A good bartender is hard to find."
"Thank you," Jacobi said.
"I plan never to let him go," Winston said. The three of them walked away.
Jacobi's heart finally settled down. He caught a glimpse of Winston's broad shoulders from the back. The man definitely had his attention.
"Oh my God, where did you say you found him?" Martin asked Winston later as they watched Jacobi filling drinks from across the room. "Father is going to love him. You know how the man loves his White Russians."
"He works at a club in the French Quarter. I just happen to see him one night when I was there entertaining clients."
"You took your clients to a gay night club?"
"It's not a gay night club, and just because I'm interested in him doesn't mean he's gay."
Martin chuckled. "I'm no expert, but I can say with some confidence from that blush that either he is, or he would turn gay for you."
Winston shook his head. "It doesn't work that way."
"I know that," Martin said. "You wouldn't be showing this much interest if he wasn't."
"If he's not, then I've found a great bartender. If he is, he'll be warming my sheets later after I kick all of you out."
His party had turned out to be a big success. There was plenty of food and drink, and no one was drunk or tearing up the place yet.
"So what do you know about him?"
"He's a bartender who doesn't drink alcohol. He's in his mid to late twenties, and he looks good in black."
"Is that all?" Martin asked.
"His name is Jacobi Griffin, and he has an amazing smile and alluring hazel eyes."
"So nothing, right?"
"I know that I'm attracted to him, and from that blush earlier, I think he's at least curious."
"Then you should take the time to get to know him."
"I plan to do just that. I just hope he talks in his sleep."
Martin laughed. "You're incorrigible."
"Look at him. He's easy on the eyes, has that kick-ass Southern accent, and his cologne choice has sealed the deal for me."
"He could have a boyfriend."
"Why are you trying to get me to lose interest?" Winston asked.
"You're barely over Oliver, and now you're sniffing behind a gorgeous, doe-eyed bartender you barely know. I just don't want you to get hurt again."
Winston cleared his throat to get the vision of his evil ex out of his head. "It wasn't all bad with Ollie. We did have some good times."
"He cheated on you and tried to rob you blind," Martin reminded him.
Winston finished his drink. Oliver could've cleaned him out financially if Winston hadn't insisted on a prenup early in the relationship. He walked away with what he came there with, plus the cat and everything Winston had given him as gifts. He had a feeling Jacobi was different. Not everyone was money grubbing and materialistic like Oliver.
"It's like riding a horse--once you fall off, you have to dust off the dirt and climb back up in the saddle."
"Well, before you bring him home to meet the family, do a background check on him."
"I already have," Winston admitted. "The club owner is a friend of mine, and he gave me enough information to use. Jacobi is clean. He doesn't even have a jaywalking ticket."
"I knew you weren't going into another relationship head first. He's cute. I'm rooting for you guys."
"Thanks. I think I've found my Mr. Forever."
"Good," Martin said. "Find out if he has a sister."
The party ended earlier than Jacobi expected. He'd had all the glasses washed and put away as Winston said goodbye to his guests. All the people here tonight had been very generous with tipping. Jacobi had Winston's share ready by the time he came over to speak with him.
"What's this?" Winston asked.
"Your share of tonight's tips."
Winston chuckled at him.
"Those are yours. You did all the work."
"But you provided the liquor," Jacobi argued.
"They were my guests, and I was just providing refreshments."
"It's a lot of money," Jacobi said.
"Keep it," Winston said. "Have you eaten?"
Jacobi shook his head. "No."
"I'll have the cook prepare something for us before she leaves. Did you bring your swimsuit?"
Jacobi reached down and came up with his overnight bag. It contained his toiletries, his trunks, and a change of clothing.
"Good. Let me show you where you can change." Winston walked him out of the ballroom and into the kitchen. Most of the people who were in there earlier had gone, including Darlene. "Jacobi and I will need something light to eat for dinner after we take advantage of the hot tub and swimming pool."
"Yes, Mr. James," the cook said.
They continued to another room. Jacobi spied a hot tub and a pool inside the mansion.
"It has a shower and a changing room. I'll just have to go check on the food, and I'll be back shortly. Just come out and relax after you put on your trunks." He left the room.
Jacobi changed out of his uniform and showered. Easy listening music played from a stereo system. Winston was there waiting in the hot tub when Jacobi appeared. The man's gaze locked on him and scanned him from head to toe, making Jacobi very nervous. He took really good care of his body by eating right and never drinking or smoking. Other guys had complimented him, but he hoped Winston James didn't find him lacking.
"Wow," Winston said as Jacobi made it to the edge of the pool. "You're more gorgeous than I imagined."
Jacobi climbed up the stairs and joined him in the heated water. Winston had a tray of canapÃ©s waiting when he made it over to him. He also had two glasses of what looked like white wine.
"It's grape juice," Winston told him.
"Is that caviar?"
Winston nodded, lifted one from the tray, and fed it to Jacobi. It tasted a lot saltier than he'd imagined.
"It's salty," Jacobi answered.
"You've never had fish eggs before?"
Jacobi shook his head.
Winston lifted one of the glasses. "Here, wash it down."
Jacobi accepted the glass. "Thank you."
"I can't believe you're a bartender who doesn't drink alcohol. How do you know if you've gotten a mixed drink correct?"
"I follow the recipe to the letter. I'm somewhat of a vegetarian, too," Jacobi answered.
"Hmm, I'll have to remember that."
"Don't fret about it. You went to a lot of trouble to please me. I just ate it, and I don't think a couple of fish eggs will make me fat."
"I don't think so either," Winston said as he plucked a strawberry from the tray. "Are you allergic to these?"
Jacobi shook his head again. "No."
Jacobi opened his mouth. Winston fed him the strawberry and then stole a kiss while Jacobi chewed. Jacobi swallowed, then opened his mouth to Winston's prying tongue. His cock woke up.
Winston ended the kiss. "That answered one of my questions."
"What question?" Jacobi asked.
"If you're gay."
"Uh, yeah." Jacobi swam away from him so he could calm down his heart. It was beating so fast. He swam back. "What are the other questions?"
"Does he like me? Is he single? Is there a chance he'd let me make love to him?"
"Yes, to the first two questions. No current boyfriend."
"How about the last one?"
Jacobi wiggled out of his swimming trunks and tossed them over the side of the hot tub. "Not usually, but I'll make the exception this time."
Winston moved closer to him and lifted Jacobi partially out of the water. Winston was incredibly strong. He held him with just one arm. He wrapped his legs around Winston's waist and rubbed his body against him.
"Do you work out?"
"At least once a week. I'm into bench-pressing, so I think I can handle you."
"Let's go find out," Jacobi said, freeing the man's waist. He swam over to the stairs and climbed out of the water.
"Wait for me," Winston said, swimming toward the edge. He got out, too.
Moments later, Winston's wet trunks joined Jacobi's. The two of them left the pool room.
"Are we alone?" Jacobi asked.
"Yes, everyone is gone, including the cook."
"Good," Jacobi said. "We don't have to hold back."