Dallas, along with a few friends, is attending a singing contest to cheer on a friend who is a drag performer. Except he falls in utter lust with the hostess of the club, Peter, AKA Pepper Prince. Finagling a date, they spend hours talking into the night and Dallas gets a second date. Even though they're hitting it off, Peter is skeptical of Dallas' honesty and acceptance of Pepper's inclusion in his private and professional life. Can romance win the heart of a man who's been hurt in the past for simply being the person he is? History says no, but Dallas isn't like anyone Peter knows, and is determined to prove it.
This story is also available in Mixed Tape Series Volume #2.
Dallas obediently followed Liam, Brady, Carson, and Javy into Paper Dolls, slapping the door charge into a waiting hand as one by one they slid from nighttime reality to surreal charade. Each received a small blue ticket when they entered, like a carnival ticket, and were told to hold onto it. Dallas slipped his into a pocket.
The nightclub was huge inside, with a wide open floor, a broad stage, center walk, and racks of lighting overhead. Dark fabric drenched the walls, like heavy velvet curtains. Tables and chairs spaced out the floor, with more room at the bars. There were small candle displays in the middle of each table. In anticipation of the coming competition, a small cup held half pencils beside it. It was all prepared for the evening. In the dimmer lights of the pre-show moments, there was an air of class to the club. There wasn't anything seedy about Paper Dolls. Dallas was proud of Liam's boyfriend for having made it this far in the singing competition--the final round. They all had high hopes for Chantilly, or when he was off stage, Chance.
The five chose a table close to the stage. At the rate the tables were being claimed and filled, it was clear Liam hadn't been joking when he'd said they needed to get there early. It looked like most of North Carolina was there for tonight's talent battle.
"Is this competition really that big?" Dallas asked loudly enough to be heard over the playing music and chatter.
"It's fuckin' huge," Liam said, leaning close. "The winner of this gets to go to Las Vegas and compete with the big girls."
"Wow." That tidbit got Dallas to sit a little straighter in his seat. He was cut off from asking more by a waiter nearing their table.
"Evening, fellas. Anything from the bar?" A hot, young thing stood by their table, canting a hip to write on a pad perched on his tray. He offered a sexy smile to go with the rest of his drippin'-in-sex flirt. Considering all he wore were hot pants and short boots, he had a lot of flirt going on.
"Are you old enough to serve?" Brady asked, sweeping him over with a single, brazen, visual examination.
"Twenty-one, and I've been carrying trays since I was fourteen," he retorted. "I make better tips doing this than tossing tamales."
Dallas snickered, leaning on his elbows to cross his arms on the table. He gave Brady the chill-out stare. "Ignore him. A pitcher to go around. I'll cover the first one."
Carson raised his hand. "Oh, we need a round of shooters. Sex With Me! Love those. To toast Chantilly!"
Their waiter perked up. "Oh! Are you hunks Chantilly's cheering section? She warned us you would be here." He gave them all a return smile, full of sass. "I'll have to keep my eye on all of you! It'll be my pleasure," he purred with a wink. To Dallas, it looked like it was aimed directly at Brady.
When he was gone, Liam said, "He's young, Brady. He's not your type." Brady snorted, trying to make it look like he wasn't following that sashaying walk as their waiter covered tables.
"Does Chantilly have a chance?" Dallas asked Liam.
"You've heard him sing. He's got a Celine Dion voice."
"It takes guts to do drag or impersonate," Carson added. Javy slung an arm around Carson's shoulders in agreement, tugging him close. Carson molded into Javy's side without argument. "I couldn't do it."
"They're not all impersonators," Liam pointed out. "Chance won't tell, but he said there's a couple who do the regular nights who are transitioning. But yeah, I guess you do have to want to entertain on some level."
Just then, their waiter returned, sliding the pitcher, shot glasses filled with Carson's go-to, and a mug for each onto the table.
"What's your name?" Brady barked a little sharply.
With the tray pinned to his hip, he met Brady's bold gaze straight on. "Miguel. What are you, a cop?"
"Yes," he crooned with a devilish growl.
"Prove it," Miguel challenged.
Brady lifted enough to withdraw his wallet and aired his badge. Miguel leaned close, giving it scant attention to dismiss it with a shrug. "The toy department has better looking ones." He sniffed with an uninterested air and whirled, blowing off Brady.
Dallas watched all of this as he poured, filling the mugs. He tried hard to not snicker.
"Brave little shit," Brady muttered. "I bet he loses all that bravado once he leaves here."
"Maybe, but I'm doubting it," Dallas said. He took a sip of his beer.
Carson palmed his shot glass. "To Chantilly!"
A cheer went up from the five and they downed their shots. Javy shook himself on the after burn, making Carson giggle. "My big baby," he crooned, wrapping a hand around Javy's jaw.
It looked like Javy said something as he nuzzled into Carson's throat, but it was too loud all around them to have a clue as to what. They patiently waited for the beginning of the show. Dallas was glad they'd come early and snagged a table. It was getting to be standing room only.
The lights flickered and a roar erupted filling the club. Everyone had their chosen favorite for the competition. Friends and lovers, gay and straight, men and women, they filled the tables now, ready to cheer.
Dallas had seen Chantilly on stage, and had heard Chance when he was just floating around his and Liam's apartment. He hardly did a thing without a song falling from his lips. It was like music was his center. Liam was Dallas' best friend from high school, which meant Chance had a built-in support base. Between all of them, they were tight. He grinned as Javy whispered into Carson's ear, earning a burning blush.
Those two... They had collided in an explosion of brilliant color when they'd finally admitted they were crazy about one another.