Grayson is a lighthearted goofball lucky enough to be dating his best friend and human life-preserver, Kate. Sure, he's inching toward thirty, his vegan neighbor, Felix, is an intrusive jerk, and he's stuck taking care of a moody cat he neither likes nor wants. Still, so long as he can pull the occasional prank of sending a meat lover's pizza to Felix and enjoy a moonshine sundae while his neighbor shrieks, he's perfectly content.
Then Kate suddenly breaks off their relationship to rediscover herself, and Grayson's mostly content life gets thrown into chaos. And though he wants to get his life back on track, he may have laughed one time too many for anyone to take him seriously.
Grayson Pope thought this August was getting a little ahead of itself. The thermometer outside his balcony's sliding door read ninety-six degrees. In the shade. Hot. Too hot to think.
Not that you've ever been much good at thinking, Grayson thought as he piled toppings onto two bowls of melting vanilla ice cream. Walnuts, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, maraschino cherries. Topping each bite off with a sip of moonshine made it the perfect dessert. He never would've guessed when he'd stumbled on it years back.
During his senior year in undergrad, he'd run out of root beer one night when he'd desperately wanted a float. He'd been bemoaning his loss, staring down at a glass full of vanilla ice cream like the world was crashing down around him when his roommate had tossed him a jar of moonshine, hoping it might shut him up. And for lack of anything better to do, Grayson had filled his glass and dug in.
The hangover in the morning had steered him away from moonshine floats, but a moonshine sundae was damn near perfect. So much contrast. So much kick. Grayson shivered and grinned at the prospect.
Sundaes, spoons, and a tumbler of moonshine all precariously balanced in his arms, Grayson wove around his secondhand breakfast table, stepped over the enormous ginger cat Bobo, and threw the sprawling menace a stern look. "Don't even think about it, Bo," he said as he inched the balcony door open between his elbow, knee, and face. "You wouldn't last ten minutes in the wild."
Bobo blinked up at him lazily, the feline equivalent of flipping the bird. Grayson rolled his eyes.
Out on the balcony, Kate huffed. "For all your talk about hating that cat, you're awfully protective of him."
Ah, Kate. Light of his life. Preserver of his sanity since they were in grade school. Stretched out in a folding chair under the balcony's shade, she hid her eyes behind purple tinted sunglasses and fanned herself with last month's copy of Shape magazine, grinning despite the heat. Her shorts rode high on her long, muscular legs, her bare feet a pale contrast. Sock tan. A runner's dilemma, she called it. Grayson smiled. Even though they were both staring down thirty, some things never changed. For that, he was thankful.
"Shh," Grayson said as he pushed a bowl into Kate's hands. "No bad thoughts when there's sundaes to be had."
Kate looked at the overflowing swirl of melting ice cream and chocolate syrup, her grin faltering. "Hey, Gray, you have anything besides a blood sugar A-bomb?"
"Uh, that would be a negative." Eyeing his own monstrosity, Grayson fought the urge to scratch the back of his neck. "You don't want a little moonshine sundae?"
Shaking her head, Kate scooped toppings into Grayson's bowl until she found her ice cream. Grayson dropped into his chair, forcing a grin. "If you can have a sundae, why would you want anything less?"
"I've got an aerial class in the morning, and dairy makes me bloaty to begin with. Add all this sugar, and I will make for the world's most irritable fitness instructor."
Oh, duh. Biology. Should've known better. Staring longingly down at his now overflowing bowl, Grayson cooed. "But it's really yummy."
"Pass. Hard pass." But her eyes still glimmered merrily.
"Aw, c'mon Kate. It's not like I'm some vegan fundamentalist who tries to poison every unconverted bystander with peanut-tainted brownies. It's just a sundae," Grayson commented as he swirled his sundae together. "A delicious sundae."
"Hey," came a shout across the partition to the next-door balcony. "Offense taken, shithead."
Grayson stifled a grin. Trust Felix, his ever-invasive neighbor, to be eavesdropping. Honestly, didn't he have better things to do? Vegan things, maybe? "Good," Grayson called back. "Offense intended."
Kate sighed. "Just ignore him. Rubber and glue, you know?"
Pouting to mask his grin, Grayson settled back in his seat. "But this is just so much fun."
Kate gave him a reproving look over the rim of her sunglasses, disapproval laced with amusement. "Eat your sundae."
Grayson toasted her with his tumbler of 'shine. "Aye aye, boss."
He took a sip, let that so smooth burn roll down his throat and into his belly, and chased it with a bite of sundae. Cold spread across his tongue. Sweet ice cream, rich chocolate, and tangy cherries all warred on his palette. From the nape of his neck to his fingertips, Grayson's skin tingled. He tipped his head back and sighed.
Kate chuckled. "That good, huh?"
"Man, you're missing out. That, damn. That's better than sex."
"Uh huh," Kate said dubiously. "You sure that's your final answer?"
Eyes wide, Grayson snapped upright. "Not better than sex with you! Obviously. That would be likely comparing a dove to—No, a hawk, to a scraggily, bird-flu infested…" he scrubbed his neck, "…not-hawk."
Kate's bland expression didn't flinch. She twirled her spoon through the soupy remains of her sundae, considering. "Better. But still not great."
Grayson leaned over the arm rest, batting his eyelashes up at her. "Aww, Katie, don't be like that."
Kate's mouth pinched tight for an instant, but she shook it away with a sigh. "Nope. Too late. I am displeased."
"Let me make it up to you?" He let his eyes go wide and round, doing his best imitation of an over-eager puppy.
Another flicker of a smile as Kate's reserve melted. "Maybe later."