Just when barbecue boss Spencer Worthington is convinced nothing in the world could be hotter than Colorado Springs this summer, along comes Ethan, sizzling ribs with his dad at a rival booth. Just looking at him makes Spencer sweat, and when Ethan’s dad reveals himself to be a homophobic heckler, Spencer’s temper flares. Conflict erupts, and a passerby proposes a civilized solution: a reality TV cook-off -- such as the one she happens to produce -- to settle the score. May the best meat win.
Seeing an opportunity to win a cash prize and Ethan, Spencer signs on. But when his secret sauce goes missing at the height of the competition, all signs point to sabotage, and he neglects to look before he leaps to conclusions. Now the money and Ethan are both on the line, but how can Spencer keep his cool in this heat?
Most of the houses in Colorado Springs, including the one Spencer grew up in, were of the modern, customize-your-countertops, choose-one-of-three-floorplans in our wildlife-sounding subdivision variety. Moose Run, Wolf Pack Woods, Free Pheasant Farms were all laid out in neat rows or elaborate cul-de-sac curlicues of interchangeable beige homes whose residents wore sweatshirts all summer long while the central air whirred away. The house Spencer lived in now, in the heart of downtown, pre-dated both air conditioning and sweltering Colorado summers, relying more on shade trees and strategically placed windows to maximize refreshing cross breezes.
In other words, when he and Ethan climbed the stairs from the back porch to Spencer’s kitchen, it felt like walking into the coal-shoveling hold of a Victorian-era steamship. “Sorry I don’t have air,” he said.
Ethan was red in the face and sweating, but he shook his head, no big deal. “You never needed it until a couple summers ago,” he said. “And even still, it’s only a few days a year. I don’t blame you.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Ethan said, wiping at his forehead with the corner of his sleeve. “I was kinda planning on getting sweaty anyway.”
Spencer smiled. Up to now, he had noticed -- or at least assumed -- a certain expectation that the “chaser,” having caught what he was chasing, would take charge. He was accustomed to having to coddle and cajole, especially the really heavy guys, who often found it difficult to leave a lifetime of body-shaming experience on the floor with their pile of clothes, and he was always on top. But Ethan knew he was sexy, and he acted like he was sexy, which was wildly titillating even as it kept Spencer feeling like he was one or two steps behind. Spencer had the How a Chaser Seduces a Chub script down pat; Ethan hadn’t even glanced at it.
Ethan refused Spencer’s offer of a cool glass of water, but jumped at a Bud Light. “’Zat the famous sauce?” he asked as Spencer rooted through a half-empty twelve-pack in the fridge.
Indeed, the secret to Spencer’s success sat on the top shelf, where he figured most normal people probably kept their milk or their juice, in two jugs that looked like he’d either gotten them at a moonshine runner’s estate sale or from his friend in Disneyland’s band of backwoods bears; all that was missing was three big X’s scrawled across the front of each one, but both men felt that the Triple-X motif would still manage to work its way into the evening’s entertainment.
“Yup.” Spencer handed Ethan a beer, set one on the counter for himself, and grabbed a smaller, slimmer glass bottle from the refrigerator door before he shut it. “This is left over from Pride,” he said, twisting the yellow plastic lid off. He took Ethan’s hand in his and let a few drops of the speckled orange sludge spill onto the big lug’s finger.
Ethan had his finger in his mouth, and was muttering sounds of approval, when Spencer said, “Of course, it’s better on a piece of meat.”
“I bet it is,” Ethan said. He pulled his finger from his mouth with a pop, then hoisted Spencer up onto his kitchen counter.