Keith Anderson believes he's caught in gay hell - almost forty and too old for love. Bobby Michaels disagrees and thinks Keith is just right for him.
Keith Anderson is in love with Bobby Michaels. Unfortunately, Keith with their fifteen year age difference thinks he's too old for Bobby. The two start as 'friends with benefits' but Keith dumps Bobby when it turns serious leaving Bobby brokenhearted.
When tragedy strikes and Bobby needs Keith, he steps up to support his lover. But Bobby lacks trust in Keith and everything around him. Can Keith convince Bobby that this time is for real, or will the two lovers never reconcile?
Monday Morning after Independence Day
Bobby Michaels drove down Ocean Avenue to the Sunset Club planning to have a serious conversation with Zach Montgomery. Zach was hanging around Bobby's best friend, Jason Monroe, and Jason didn't need someone who wasn't prepared to be around for longer than a nanosecond.
He pulled into the Sunset Club's parking lot and got out of his five-year-old red Mazda Miata looking around at the building in the daylight. Despite the hordes that showed up every night and spilled outside on line waiting to get into the club with their cigarettes and beer bottles, someone swept and hosed the parking lot, so it appeared pristine. Zach took the time to maintain the club--that said something about him. The Sunset seemed to be closed, but Zach wasn't with Jason, so Bobbie figured he must be here doing paperwork. He walked up a few steps and knocked sharply on the delivery entrance.
A large man with chestnut brown hair and dark brown eyes that appeared almost black opened the door. He wasn't Zach. Bobby's eyes moved up and down his body. He looked ripped, about six-four to Bobby's five-ten, and dressed in cutoffs and a T-shirt with the club's logo. The man met Bobby stare for stare.
"I'm looking for Zach. Is he inside?" Bobby asked impatiently, wanting to get the unpleasant chore of warning Zach off finished.
"I'm Keith Anderson. Zach and I are business partners. Who are you and why do you need to speak to Zach?" Bobby narrowed his eyes.
The man came off as menacing, but Bobby was immune to black looks having received them for most of his life from Jason. Bobby would do what he needed to do to protect his friend despite anyone's lethal gaze including this good-looking asshole's.
"I'm Bobby Michaels, a friend of Jason Monroe's and I'd like to talk to Zach. What I'd like to speak to him about is his and my business." Bobby's foot twitched as he stood on the raised concrete slab used as a loading dock.
Keith peered at Bobby's face scrutinizing it for something--Bobby didn't know what. He seemed to come to some decision because he opened the door and let Bobby inside.
He escorted Bobby into a small office near the kitchen in the back of the building and pointed to the seat in front of the desk. Bobby sat down and waited. Bobby knew how to out wait and intimidate an opponent. Besides being a soccer star, Bobby played an excellent game of chess.
Keith spoke first just as Bobby intended. "Zach isn't here. He had something he had to do for his sister Gloria today. Now it's your turn. What do you want with Zach?"
"I asked for Zach, not for you. Why should I explain myself to you?" Bobby asked as he leaned forward, closing the distance between them. With the line of his body, Bobby told Keith that he didn't scare easily.
Keith seemed to take a deep breath then let it out. He sized up Bobby somewhat belligerently. "You should because I know who you are Bobby Michaels, you're Jason's best friend. Well, I'm Zach's best friend, and I'm wondering what's going on with my Zach and your Jason." Bobby glared back.
"Well, I won't show my cards without seeing some of yours," Bobby watched Keith's eyes roll up toward the ceiling.
Keith let out a huff. Looking back at Bobby he said, "I suggest we pool our information."
Bobby relaxed a bit and leaned back in his chair. This conversation was going to be more interesting than he thought. "That sounds like an excellent idea, you first." Bobby's brown eyes blazed with victory.
"Since you knocked on my door-- you should go first, but I'm getting bored with the pissing contest and would like to get on to the topic at hand." Bobby thought Keith wouldn't give away much, but Bobby would meet him toe-to-toe. A strange expression flitted over Keith's face.
Seeming as if he came to a decision his hard eyes softened a bit. He had gorgeous black eyes especially now that he's not glaring.
Keith offered. "Zach has stopped seeing everyone else." Keith pulled back from the desk as if he needed to put physical distance between Bobby and him, revealing more of his body. Bobby hadn't noticed earlier because he was preoccupied; but Keith possessed a rock-hard body and under Keith's T-shirt Bobby spotted hair peeking over the round band of the collar. He was in instant lust. Bobby loved hairy chests.
Bobby's cock took inventory. He liked what he saw. He pulled his thoughts from traveling in that direction. What did he just say...oh...Bobby's eyes widened. "That's surprising--I assumed Zach was a player. He told Jason he didn't do encores."
Keith examined Bobby's eyes and cocked his head, "Zach Montgomery was more than a player. He was a man whore. Notice the word was in that sentence. To my knowledge, Zach hasn't seen anyone but Jason since the night they met, which makes me suspicious of your Jason. Zach has money, your turn."
"Jason's broke, but he has no idea that Zach has money."
"He owns half the club and has a number of other assets in town." Bobby bristled, and his leg began to twitch.
"Jason assumes he owns a mortgaged nightclub and is solidly middle class. He doesn't know anything about being wealthy, he wouldn't see the signs, besides which Jason has never been to his home. Zach always comes to him."
"Interesting..." Keith sat there staring. Bobby continued to refuse to be intimidated. His smile seemed benign.
"They go to the park and sometimes Zach brings Caroline to play with Kitty. He might even like Kitty, but I don't want to take a chance. Jason and Kitty have more to lose than Zach."
"Zach wouldn't hurt the little girl, how could you think that...Zach loves kids. If your friend is scheming, a kid is the way to do it." Bobby thought Keith sounded self-righteous.
Bobby was livid at Keith accusation. His face was mottled, and he had to hold onto his leg to keep it from twitching. "Jason doesn't know how to scheme. He's never had the opportunity. Jason has never seen anyone, period."
"Why's that? It seems a bit unusual for a gay guy over eighteen to be that clueless."
"He hasn't had the time to get a clue. He worked as a drudge for his grasping father and stepmother. Just as he escaped their clutches and went to UNM, Ann got pregnant, and they sucked him back in."
"Ann?" Keith asked.
"Ann was Jason's evil stepmother, literally. She and Evan, Jason's father, robbed Jason blind then died driving drunk. Jason doesn't know that."
"How could Jason not know?"
"He was in college in New Mexico on a full soccer scholarship at the time. He had no time to get a handle on the truth. Jason played soccer, studied hard, and worked part-time, not for himself, but to send stuff home to Kitty."
"Why was that?" Keith now exuded curiosity.
"They told him Ann lost her job." Bobby's face was burning. "They died, driving drunk leaving Jason as the guardian and sole provider for his then three-year-old half-sister, he was only twenty, about to turn twenty-one."
"He didn't have to take responsibility. He could have left her to social services," Keith said.
Now he's trying to provoke me. Bobby settled down and continued, "Jason loves his sister. He gave up his scholarship and came back to Kitty, a house that was falling apart, and inadequate insurance. Until recently, besides caring for Kitty, he worked two jobs and was still barely able to keep his head above water. He's had no time to learn to be devious."
"Unlike you." Keith projected amusement.
"Unlike me," Bobby blandly smiled back at him.
In a mercurial change of mood, Keith said, "That's tough about the parents for him and the kid." Keith's face softened. "He's making good money here, and he gets along well with all of the staff even though they're aware Zach's interested in him, and that's unusual."
"Jason is clueless. He's a hard worker and loyal to a fault. He'd never take advantage of anyone. Everyone likes him, but he's prone to having people take advantage of him."
"Yeah, that happens. Gay guys can be the worst bitches. I've seen them in action in too many bars. I don't allow it here."
Bobby raised an eyebrow.
"I hear an occasional complaint from one of the bartenders but other than him no one thinks Jason is getting special treatment, so I pay no attention to the whiner. Jason works harder than anyone in this club. He doesn't try to take advantage of the fact that Zach's hot for him. He's a good worker, and they know it."
"If you know that about Jason, why are you yanking my chain?" Bobby asked, curious.
"Because it's so eminently yankable." Keith smiled blandly.
"Listen, Jason's doing well enough that he could quit his second job. He's happy here. I don't want the new job to be in jeopardy if Zach takes the notion to move on from whatever this is. Jason is finally making enough so that his gut doesn't wrench every time he opens the mail." This time it was Keith with the raised eyebrow. "Finally Reggie and I don't have to bring food to the house under the guise of wanting to eat dinner with him and Kitty. In the last year, he's lost at least ten pounds by doing without."
Keith seemed to be listening intently.
Bobby sized up Keith trying to determine if he could trust him. "I'm his best friend. I can't stand by and let Jason and Kitty get hurt by someone who is doing a drive-by and they would be because Jason is more involved than he knows." Bobby stood and put his hands in the pockets of his cargo shorts.
"Surely he not that naÃ¯ve, he must know Zach's interested."
"Jason thinks that Zach comes around for Caroline. He thinks Zach likes him, but only as a friend. He told Jason Caroline was lonely and didn't have anyone to play with her. Jason responded because Kitty is alone too. Jason would do anything for Kitty, even starve himself to get her what he thinks she needs."
Keith leaned back in his chair as if he made up his mind. He looked up at Bobby, "I think Zach's committed to this relationship."
"Committed as in forever committed? I can't let anyone near Jason with intentions of being something less. It wouldn't be fair to either him or Kitty." Bobby's hands came out of his pockets to rest on the back of the chair.
"I'm positive that Zach is all in. I looked at his phone yesterday--he erased all of the numbers for his usual sex-overs. The only places I've seen him go besides Jason's house are here, Gloria's, and his house in Asbury Park. I think I can say that he's in love. He hasn't said it aloud to me yet, but he has all the symptoms."
Bobby raised an eyebrow, "In love?"
"Yes, in love. We need to discuss this over a drink. Follow me out to the bar and we'll talk about what to do to help our friends." Bobby followed Keith down the small corridor that had two doors on the left-hand side. Bobby peered through the glass portal. It looked like a stockroom. He trailed after Keith to the second door that led directly to the largest bar of the five bars in the club.
Keith stepped behind the bar and put two shot glasses on the counter. Bobby pulled up a backless maroon leather and wooden stool and sat down.
Keith said, "Name your poison."
"Jameson, neat." Bobby caught Keith peering at him from the corner of his eye. Bobby took a ten from his wallet and put it on the bar.
"None of that." Keith shoved the money back at him. Bobby shrugged and put it back in his wallet.
Keith poured them a generous shot apiece. After a few minutes of silence with neither man willing to speak first, Keith sighed and began to talk. "I think we have a problem here. Zach won't reveal his feelings for Jason unless he knows there is at least a small chance that they are reciprocated."
"Why would that be? He must know. Jason shows his feelings, his emotions are easily read." Bobby's leg was twitching.
"Zach's been dumped before. Someone he cared about left him when his injury made it apparent he could no longer play pro football. No dollars, no Daniel."
"What a prick. Jason's not like that at all, but there is a problem. Jason isn't going to admit how he feels about Zach because he doesn't know how to act with a potential lover or even how to let him know he's interested." Bobby grimaced in frustration.
Keith cocked his head; brow creased. "I can see that. Almost every single guy in the bar was eyeing him up when he came in with you. They weren't even on his radar. It was as if he didn't notice. Doesn't he have any idea how attractive he is?"
"Jason has never even dated. He can't seem to wrap his head around the fact that Zach might feel something more for him than friendship. Remember this is his first boyfriend."
Keith sipped at his whiskey.
Bobby continued, "Jason has no vanity. He's self-effacing. I believe that if Zach returns his feelings, Zach will be it for him. However, Zach is going to have to pony up first. Jason doesn't know how." Bobby downed his shot.
"Zach needs a trigger. He loves him and wants to help. He hasn't said anything, but he always makes sure that Jason doesn't get a dead station. Jason is always working the busiest bar in the place."
"Are you sure the other bartenders don't resent that?"
"Everyone here knows about Jason's precarious financial position and sympathizes. The fact that Zach doesn't talk to me about Jason, not even in terms of the job--that's very significant. We discuss all of our employees. We're like family here. However, Zach needs an opening to act." Keith finished his shot.
"What kind of opening and why won't he talk to you about Jason, you're his best friend, right?" Bobby moved his stool further in toward the bar.
"Exactly? Why doesn't Zach talk about Jason? Is he ashamed of him?" Bobby's leg started tapping out a rhythm.
"I teased Zach about Jason the morning after that first day he accompanied the three of you to the park. He went ballistic."
Bobby chuckled. "That's a good sign, but why."
Keith laughed. "He doesn't want to call too much attention to him. He's afraid I'll make a move to seduce Jason. I won't--but he's still afraid."
"Why not? Jason's attractive."
"It's not that. Of course, he's attractive. I already said so. Frankly, I don't think that even if I was so inclined, to make a move that is, Jason would even look at me. He sees Zach and has stars in his eyes. Zach is just as bad."
"It's gotten that far? I've been at school and soccer practice, so I haven't been around them as much to keep an eye on Jason and Zach. That's one of the reasons I was worried. I need to know what's going on, that Jason and Kitty are safe." Bobby's leg started to tap the polished wooden floor.
"This is the first time that Zach's seen someone for something more than a booty call since Daniel dumped him."
"Why did this Daniel leave him? Zach told Jason he had insurance that paid out the rest of his contract and that was why he believed in good insurance on the job. Besides that he's going to school to get his doctorate in psychology. In fact, there's money in that profession plus prestige and a good paycheck even if he becomes a college professor. It makes no sense that Daniel didn't know Zach had insurance."
"Zach never thought to mention it to him. Zach's parents were dead, and he was mourning them. Money wasn't on his mind. As far as Daniel knew, once Zach's knee went the first week in training camp, he was broke. After that, Zach was toast."
"It's telling that this is the first time he's put any effort in a relationship in so long a period. I still have reservations."
"Yes..." Keith invited him to share.
"What if he gets tired of Jason and now that he's open to a relationship, he decides to dip his wick somewhere else? That would devastate Jason and I'd be the one left who had to pick up the pieces." Bobby shoved his shot glass away.
"I know Zach. He doesn't want to spook Jason. He's afraid to make a move because, he doesn't want to scare him off and not be able to see Jason anymore. He adores the little girl. He talks about her all the time. I know the name of the cat Zach got her and that it rides around in a doll carriage." Keith wiped down the bar in front of them.
Bobby laughed. "That's Eloise. Kitty puts her in a sunbonnet."
"And the cat lets her. I've got to meet Miss Kitty. She sounds like a force of nature. Another?" Keith held up the bottle.
"No thanks, it's barely afternoon and I need to be functional for the rest of the day." Keith put his elbows on the bar placed his body within a hair's breadth of Bobby.
"Are you gay?" Keith waited for an answer, from Bobby. Keith's black eyes sparkled.
"That was a nonsequitur. My sexuality isn't in question here. That's not what we're discussing. I thought we were talking about Jason and Zach. What made you ask me that?" Bobby's face turned red as he tried to deflect the question.
"I watched you the night you first came in with Jason. You didn't keep your eyes to yourself. You feasted, especially when Jason wasn't looking and when I made the remark about bartenders being bitches you knew exactly what I was talking about." Keith gazed at Bobby knowingly
Bobby knew he had to give it up. "I'm bi, but you're the first to notice. My parents are older than most parents of someone my age. They expect grandchildren. Mom and Dad accepted Jason, but I'm not so sure about how they'd feel if I told them I was gay."
Keith pounced. "You said gay, not bi."
Bobby laughed. "You caught me...so now you know my secret. Even Jason doesn't know I'm gay." Bobby frowned. "Are you going to tell the general public now that you're sure? I'd like to tell Jason in my own time." Keith poured Bobby another shot.
"I shouldn't have this, I have to drive."
Keith shrugged. "No, I'm usually not a gossip, except when it affects someone I consider family. As far as your second shot is concerned, there's a furnished apartment upstairs where you can go to sleep it off if sleeping is what you want to do. It would be easier to hang around here, eat something, and then drive home later. We have things to talk about."
Bobby nodded his head. "I agree. I'm convinced. So we need to talk about how we're going to get our two best friends to pull their heads out of their respective asses and admit they love one another."
"There is that and a few other things, like are you available for a bit of fun?" Keith leered at Bobby like a villain from the silent movies.
"Whoa, don't go there. I told you I'm not out and don't plan to be for the foreseeable future." Bobby's lips thinned.
He is attractive. Keith kept pushing. "You don't have to be out to fool around. Do you have any experience?" Keith asked obviously not accepting the fact that Bobby wouldn't respond. He has as much as I to lose as I do if he gossiped. I don't have a fuck buddy right now. He's gorgeous; I better stay on topic if I want to get out of here whole.
"That's none of your business. As I said before, I came to talk about Jason and Zach. However, for the record, yes, I do. I don't spend all my time with Jason and Kitty." Bobby bristled.
"Why not Jason? What's wrong with him?" Keith asked his face, serious.
"Nothing's wrong with Jason but ewwww...I've known Jason since I was seven. That would be like fucking my brother." Bobby sat up, straightened his back and downed his second shot. I'm apparently not planning on driving.
"Do you think Jason has a crush on you or any of the other guys on your Ocean Township Champion Soccer Team of 2010?" Bobby was startled and not amused. Except for Jason and me, all the guys from 2010 are straight.
"You were listening to us the night we came to the club." He tried to stare Keith down.
Keith shrugged. "It's my joint. You had eleven guys at the table. I always watch large groups. I don't want my place busted up. Answer the question."
"No, he doesn't. All the other guys are straight." I'd swear to that. "Besides, like I said, Jason had no time to date."
Keith leaned back on his barstool and laughed. "I wouldn't be so sure..."
"About what?" Bobby was incredulous.
"About your so-called straight friends."
"You're kidding, who--never mind, I don't want to know." Bobby knew he sounded indignant, but he couldn't even conceive how this might be true.
"There are other people besides you who aren't out for various reasons." Bobby watched as Keith nonchalantly sipped at his drink after dropping that bombshell.
"Who then?" Bobby peered at Keith daring him to name names.
"The kid with the limousine. I've seen him here more than once trying to chat someone up."
"Reggie...you've got to be kidding." Bobby was flabbergasted.
"Yes, he's the one. He keeps trying to hit on one of my bartenders. I think it's Mark. Mark shot him down because he thinks Reggie is a rich college boy just looking for a good time and has more money than sense. Mark wants a relationship not a guy who thinks he's slumming."
"Reggie's not like that. He's a good guy and has been a good friend to Jason. He's pulled Jason out of a hole more than once. He wouldn't hurt anyone. If Reggie made a pass after hiding all these years, he's serious."
"Maybe he's sweet on Jason," Keith mused as he poured himself another shot.
"I don't think so. Isn't that a bit too much for the middle of the day?" Bobby raised an eyebrow and looked pointedly at the open bottle.
"Are you my mother?" Keith asked with belligerence.
"No, but I don't want to see you fall into a bottle because you're lonely," Bobby said with a sigh.
"How do you know I'm lonely?" Keith's lips pursed.
"Because maybe like me, your best friend has found someone else to hang out with." Bobby knowingly gazed into Keith's eyes. "Maybe you had a crush on Zach."
"No, not Zach, never Zach, we're too much alike." Keith protested as he capped the bottle and put it back on the top shelf. "You could always keep me company," Keith teased, lips forming a smirk.
"Keep it in your pants. I came over here for Jason and Kitty's sake." If that were the case, I could have left after the first drink once he reassured me Zach was serious; I damn well better get out of here now. This man is too attractive and, therefore, dangerous to a continued stay in the closet. Bobby pushed his stool away from the bar and stood about to leave.
Keith put his hand on Bobby's arm. "Stay, I always revert to a tease when I'm uncomfortable. You hit too close to home. Zach is the brother I never had, and I miss hanging out. Besides, I'm way too old for you."
"You don't look that old to me. You look damn fine. Just how much of an old man are you?" Bobby laughed. "You don't look like you have one foot in the grave yet." Bobby took a cocktail napkin from the pile on the bar and began to shred it.
"I'm um... thirty-six." Keith hedged.
"I'm twenty-three," Bobby told him, "not too bad of an age difference. Dad is thirteen years older than Mom."
Keith's eyes widened, evidently surprised. "You appear and speak as if you're older than you are."
"Old enough to make you want to run around the table to fuck me from the way you're leering, but right now I have to play nice; you're Jason's beau's best friend. The sounding older thing--I think it comes from having elderly parents and being an only child. No one ever talked down to me, so I had to learn to keep up. As far as my appearance is concerned, as Popeye said, "I am what I am.'"
"Don't get me wrong, I think you look damn delectable, but I won't go there, you're too young." Keith shook his head as if that bothered him.
Doesn't seem to bother him that I'm still here bantering. Bobby lifted an eyebrow, having come to a decision. "Too young even for a little bit of fun? I'm only too young if you plan to get serious if you don't..." Bobby shrugged his shoulders. "I'm open to suggestions."