Mason Ritter does not want to go to Puebla, Mexico with his long-time boyfriend, Miguel. He claims he does not want to deal with the hassle of traveling from San Antonio to Puebla. He doesn’t like the way Miguel pretends Mason is just his good friend when they’re around Miguel’s father. He doesn’t want to take the time off work. But in reality, Mason only has one reason to avoid the Cinco de Mayo fiesta in Puebla -- Anton Rocha.
Anton Rocha is engaged to Miguel’s sister, Pedra. Anton Rocha is off-limits. Anton Rocha is also the most desirable, intoxicating man Mason has ever met. And Mason is in serious danger of losing his heart before the end of the fiesta.
“What about you and Miguel? I don’t know how the two of you met.”
“It’s not a very interesting story. We met at a company Christmas party. We were both pretty drunk. There was a collision. And then kissing. Miguel asked for my number, and I was so surprised when he actually used it that I couldn’t turn down his invitation for dinner.”
“I’m not surprised. I would have used it, too.”
Mason wanted to push the table out of the way, crawl onto Anton’s lap, and kiss him until he forgot his own name. Instead, he finished his beer. “You wouldn’t have even needed to ask for my number.”
He thought there was a flush creeping up the back of Anton’s neck, but the other man rose and faced him before he could be sure.
“I’m getting another beer. Would you like one?”
Mason never took his gaze away from Anton as he crossed the room, ordered two more bottles, and pulled a few crumpled bills out of his pocket. Mason thought he should get the next round, if Anton was willing to stick around for a third drink. If they even thought it was a good idea to keep drinking together. Just getting a bit of buzz with Anton might prove to be dangerous.
When Anton returned, Mason studied him for a few moments before speaking. “If you don’t mind me asking ... when was the last time you were with a guy?”
“Four years. Not since I moved to Puebla.”
“Then why ...” Mason paused, wondering when he had become such a masochist. “Why take the risk you took with me?”
Lime juice trickled down Anton’s thumb, a single drop that he completely ignored as he lifted the bottle to his mouth. He took a long drink, then another, the beer half-gone by the time he set it back down.
“You took a risk, as well,” Anton said. “Anyone could have seen us. I think we both took the risk for the same reason.”
But Mason immediately understood the risks were different. Losing Miguel over a single kiss would be painful, but Mason could survive it. He had lost boyfriends over less, and he hadn’t vowed a lifelong commitment to Miguel.
“Honestly, I’d be willing to take that risk again.” Mason licked his lips. “Not that I’m suggesting we do, or think we should.”
“No, we shouldn’t.” His gaze drifted back to the crowd. “But that doesn’t mean the wish to disappears.”
“So we’ll just ... pretend that the wish isn’t there until I go back to San Antonio. That’ll be for the best. Right?”
“The best. Yes. I think so.”
A young couple, their hands in each other’s back pockets, were the next to descend on the jukebox. While Anton watched them make their selections, Mason watched Anton. Pedra didn’t even realize how lucky she had it, he decided. Did Anton consider himself bisexual then? Or gay and settling for the life he thought he wanted? So many questions, not nearly enough beer in him yet to ask them.
“Is San Antonio so different?” Anton finally shifted his attention back. “If I was Miguel, and we were there, would you and he be able to be yourselves right now?”
“More or less. There are still places it’s best for openly gay men to avoid, but it’s gotten better over the last decade. And I have friends who tell me it’s even better in Austin.” Mason leaned forward. “Do you ever get to be yourself, Anton?”
“This is myself.” But the evasive duck of his eyelashes said otherwise.
“But you’re going to live the rest of your life pretending you’re cured of something that’s not an affliction.”
“No, I’m going to spend the rest of my life with a woman I adore. Not everyone can be as lucky as you are, Mason.”
Mason’s first impulse was to argue with him, but he understood that even though they were sitting at the table, they were living in two different worlds. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have ... I was out of line.”
Anton’s mouth canted into a sad smile. It panged even more when Mason realized the sadness extended to his dark eyes. “You said what you believe. Nobody should ever be faulted for being honest.”
“Even if the honesty isn’t exactly asked for or prudent?”
“We’ll just blame the beer.” He lifted his bottle in a salute before tipping it to his mouth again. “Though if I drink much more of these, I think I’ll be blaming it for more than a few words.”
“Anton ...” Mason rubbed his face. “If you keep saying things like that, I’m going to forget that I’m trying to keep my hands to myself.”
“You won’t,” Anton countered. “You’re a better man than that.”
“What makes you say so?”
Pushing away his empty bottle, Anton shifted to face him more directly than he had since they’d sat down. “I’ve seen you with Miguel.” The intimate tone of his voice sent another shiver through Mason, and he wished irrationally that Anton would go back to looking at everything but him. “I’ve watched you set aside your own needs for his. I’ve listened to the way you two are together. I didn’t give you the answer I should have earlier, when you asked why I took the risk with you. I should have told you that I thought the man you are was worth the risk. And the fact that I didn’t just goes to prove why pretending is still best.”
Mason didn’t know how to respond. Long seconds passed, and he still didn’t know how to respond. But he did want to be the man Anton thought he was. At that moment, he felt more like the sleaze ball ready to cheat on his boyfriend many, many times with a man that, objectively, he barely knew.
“I think I like the man you are too much to pretend forever.”