Zeke Eng is unlucky in love. Divorced a year ago, he has yet to move on from what ended up being a truly bad decision. His friends keep trying to set him up with men they think will at least give him a night of fun, but Zeke is just not into that. Even with his hesitance to try something new, though, there’s a guy who’s been jogging through the neighborhood in the early mornings, and despite himself, Zeke is intrigued.
Dax Bowie likes to jog in the mornings for exercise. He flirts and smiles and is everything Zeke is not, and Dax loves a challenge. He’s an easy-going guy, but he can’t seem make any headway with Zeke. Trust is a problem and Dax has to figure out how to breach that barrier and become friends, and maybe more. Will Zeke and Dax find some middle ground?
“I’m a morning person and I forget not everyone is the same way.” He grinned. “Nice to see you wide awake and scowl-free, though I like that in a man.”
“Dax, you don’t even know me,” I said as he took the wine and beer and beckoned me to follow him inside.
“I know people like you. How’s that?” he retorted, winking at me as he put the white wine in the fridge and added the beer to a large tub of ice. “Thanks for bringing drinks, though you didn’t have to. What’s your name, anyway?”
It was hard to scowl in the face of such cheer. “Zeke Eng.”
“Nice to meet you, Zeke. Look, I’m just like my mom. She loves grumpy, scowling men, which was why she married my dad. He will sometimes refuse to smile on principle, just so she has to work to make him laugh. They’re a riot.”
“Your parents sound like a lot of fun,” I said as I watched him grab paper plates and bags of plastic utensils.
He handed me the plates. “You would like them. I know my mom would love you.”
“A little early to be meeting the parents, Dax,” I said as I followed him back outside to the grill and set the plates on the long table behind the grill where salads and desserts were already laid out. “So, did you move here from downtown or something?”
“Yeah,” he replied as he turned the meat. “I had a condo near the stadium, but I wanted something a little quieter, with room to spread out. So here I am.” I put the cooked meat on a tray as he went to tell everyone that the food was ready.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in each other’s company while tending the grill. Dax made sure everyone had a good time, including me, and it was undemanding. He made me laugh time and again, which would shock my buddies if they could see me now.
I told Dax about working with software and building my company from scratch. He told me that he had been an athlete all through high school and college, was an alternate for the Olympics, got his economics degree, and now worked part-time as a fitness model, in-between occasional consulting jobs. Since he earned good money, he invested in a variety of projects from greenspace to affordable housing and LGBTQ initiatives, which gave me an idea.
“My friends and I do an annual LGBTQ+ fundraiser and we’re always looking for sponsors. I can send you information, if you’re interested?”
“Hell yeah! Hold up, I have a card somewhere.” He dashed inside for a second and then came back almost immediately with a thick business card that had his name, number, and email address. The picture of him in swim trunks and nothing else, body fit and brown eyes intense, made me leak, just a little bit.
I cleared my throat and took the card from him. “Thanks. I’ll email the info tonight. I don’t have a card to give you right now but --”
“Don’t worry, hon. I know where to find you.” He blew me a kiss before handing a grape soda to one of the neighbor kids who’d come up to the table.
I shook my head and smiled. “You don’t have any boundaries, do you?”
“What’s the point in hiding what I feel? I am who I am. My parents accepted me and encouraged me to be myself and ignore the haters. I really appreciate that, since I know it’s not that easy for people like us.”
“Another reason my friends and I do the fundraiser every year. Hey,” I said, setting aside my empty beer can. “I had a great time, but I have to get some work done tonight. Thanks again for overlooking my rudeness this morning. I’m really sorry about that.”
“I told you, I like you rude.” He grinned, then his smile gentled. “You do seem more relaxed now, though. Maybe spending time with others in a stress-free environment is good for you.”
“My friends say that all the time, with the caveat that sex must be involved, somehow.” I rolled my eyes. “According to them, I’m practically a hermit.”
He laughed as he grabbed the empty meat tray and inclined his head toward the house. I followed him inside, carrying platters and utensils. “Is there a reason you’re a hermit?” he asked as he started cleaning the tray in the kitchen sink.
I set my stack on the counter next to him. “Bad divorce, stupid choices, you name it. I just ... got stuck, I guess.”
“Well, if being here this afternoon helped at all, then I’m glad.”
“It did.” I kissed his cheek, enjoying the hint of stubble.