Julio is shipping off to basic in a week, and he badly needs a distraction—and a warm bed for the night. Phillip is not sure what he needs, but he has a week left before he reports back to the Rangers, and he is more than a little lonely. They’re both ready to give up, until a misunderstanding helps them both find what they want—and perhaps what they really need, too.
Choked by the smell of sweat and perfume from the crowd, deafened with the thump of the music, Julio decided that spending the evening at a club had been a complete waste. He had just one week of freedom left after signing himself over to the United States Navy earlier that morning, and he was trying to have a little fun.
He didn’t allow himself to think of the past nine months, of sleeping anywhere he could find a place that he didn’t have to watch his back, of digging through the trash around restaurants to find anything kind of edible. He’d tried to keep from telling the recruiter that he was homeless, but he’d eventually had to admit that he didn’t actually have an address. The recruiter, Madison or McDonald or something like that, had handed him enough cash for a bunk at the Y until time to ship out for basic.
Julio didn’t want a hard, lonely bunk at the Y.
In celebration of cash in his pocket and the promise of paychecks and meals to come, Julio hit a laundromat after picking up his duffle from a friend’s place. He even splurged on a box of fabric softener sheets to make his clothes fluffy and soft. After finishing his clothes and hitting the Y for a quick shower, he decided that he deserved a good meal for a change. A burger and fries from a restaurant fancy enough to wrap their silverware in the napkin had enough calories to keep him going through an evening of dancing and beyond.
The dancing had gone okay, but he was having a little trouble setting up the beyond.
Three guys had already backed away after hitting on him at the bar when Julio couldn’t stop his leg from bouncing and his fingers from tapping out the drumbeat on the side of his stool. Two of them thought he was high, and the other called him “cute but weird” before taking off.
If he didn’t get himself under control, he was going to end up stuck sleeping alone when he would much rather be not-sleeping with some company. After those failures, he’d moved to the edge of the dance floor where he had more room to rock his body to the music. Energy to burn, time to kill, he was young and so was the night and all that crap.
Julio finished off his beer and twisted around to set it among the empties on a nearby table. The group that had been sitting there had checked him out when he’d first wandered over, pretty women and prettier men all eyeing his mouth and shoulders as if he was something they wanted to eat. They’d playfully asked to see his ID to make sure he was legal, and then they’d bought him a beer. Julio had thought he might get lucky with one of them, but the party eventually paired off and headed out to dance.
He sighed and pushed off from the pillar, trying to decide between finding another club or just a place to crash.
A woman stepped in front of him, smiling seductively, cutting off his path to the door. She was hot as hell and seemed more than willing to keep him for a night as she coaxed him onto the dance floor. They found a rhythm, and she pressed her chest into him, stroking his thigh with one hand and his neck with the other.
He grabbed at her ass, pulling her closer, letting her soft curves cradle his chest and hips. But Julio wasn’t really looking for softness tonight. He let her grind on him for the length of a song, then gently scraped her off onto another man and made his escape.
The crowd grew bigger as the night had gone on, but Julio still didn’t see anyone that made him want to stick around. He pushed through a group of women and froze on the other side. Sitting at the bar was one man that would be worth hanging around for, if he was interested. All shoulders and sharp jaw and intense eyes.
His head was shaved bald, his rigid spine screamed military, and God did Julio want to taste those full, soft-looking lips. His deep brown skin seemed to absorb more light than it reflected from the flashing array overhead. Julio found a place out of the flow of traffic where he could lean against the edge of a table and keep an eye on the guy.
Even after a solid ten minutes of watching him and thinking very dirty thoughts about biting along the edge of the guy’s jaw, Julio couldn’t tell who the guy was checking out, or if he was looking to pick up anyone.
Jawline didn’t overtly leer down the shirts of any of the girls who brushed against him as they leaned over to pick up drinks, but he wasn’t looking at any of the guys’ asses, either. Arms like that guy had, well, if Julio guessed wrong, he was pretty sure the guy’d lay him out.
Julio really didn’t want to end up with the painful kind of bruises this week. Injuries would slow him down. Broken bones could keep him from shipping out. He’d started to climb out of the pit his life had become, and he was so damned close to having something, someplace of his own. It wasn’t worth giving up the possibilities of a bed, three squares, and a paycheck, trying to get a dick in his ass if the guy with the dick wasn’t interested.
A scratch at his thighs made him twitch, and he looked down to see his hands restlessly clenching and unclenching. He took a long, slow breath and forced his hands to relax. Time to take a minute to clear his head.
He pushed himself away from the pillar beside the dance floor and headed toward the door, catching the arm of a thin man who was just coming in smelling of cigarettes. The man looked him over, lip curling slightly, and Julio lifted his hand off the light rayon sleeve of a genuinely ugly shirt.
“Hey, man,” Julio yelled to be heard over the music. He smiled, aiming for friendly, not flirty; no way was he fucking someone in a shirt like that. “Got a smoke?”
Guy cocked an eyebrow and dug a crumpled soft pack of unfiltered nic sticks out of his chest pocket, tapping one into Julio’s palm. He held up his lighter, but Julio shook his head and shouted his thanks before pushing through the bodies still coming in the door.
Outside, he stepped away from the glow of the dancing neon sign above and leaned against the cinderblock wall, flicking the lighter he always carried. The smoke hung heavy in the air, and Julio resisted the urge to wave away the cloud of smoke around his head. The cheap cigarette tasted foul and left bits of tobacco on his tongue, but it was something to do. Halfway through, Julio started to feel a buzz under his skin, lightheadedness easing away some of his twitching. He huffed a sigh and tried to let himself relax.
A tall man walked out of the club. It was Jawline and, as he stopped near the curb, Julio thanked everything thankable that Levi Strauss had made jeans so popular. Damn, the muscles in that ass! That was the kind of ass a guy could cling to for hours at a time. And the power Jawline would get with the meat on those thighs…
Jawline stood on the curb, breathing deeply as he looked around a moment. He huffed a sigh, shoulders relaxing as he did so, and resumed walking down the street, straight toward Julio’s cozy little shadow. It had to be some kind of a sign. And damn! The combination of that ass and that jaw was too perfect to not at least make some kind of attempt. Julio took a drag on his cigarette and pushed off the wall.
“Hey, Sailor,” Julio drawled, letting the words slide out of his mouth with another cloud of smoke.