Alan's trying to get over a broken heart. Only, in his friends' opinion he's taking too long. Coerced into going out dancing with them he meets Matt Hanson, a man as different from Alan's ex as night is from day. But can Matt help heal Alan's heart, or is it too soon to even try? And will Alan's ex try to wreck Matt and Alan's fledging romance? Looks like it will take more than just the joy of Christmas to make their season bright...
What's a guy to do when the one he thought of as his 'one-and-only' walks out of his life and into the arms of some rich old dude who had sworn to give him everything I couldn't. Of course, at that time I would have if I only could, but price tags on Gucci or Versace products have a habit of making me sweat profusely. I still had nightmares about the two thousand dollar tag from last Christmas. The one and only Yule Oliver and I spent together. But one really shouldn't dwell on the petty things of life...and they didn't come much pettier, or prettier damn it, than Oliver. Oh, but there I go again, dwelling on the guy whose way of humiliating me had to rank as scuzzier than anything politicians at election time could sling at one another.
Enough. Time to go searching for fresh pastures and hot guys new. Pardon the blatant paraphrasing. Except my heart really wasn't into it. When you think you've found the perfect one only to find he's with you because he thought you were loaded, and hits the road faster than Dale Earnhardt ever could when the horrible truth is revealed, it's hard to go a'hunting, and most likely have the whole darned routine repeat itself ad nauseum.
Yes, Christmas was looming once again. Wasn't it just a couple of months ago that we were decking the halls and caroling, caroling all the way? Well maybe closer to ten months. Time does fly when you're having fun. Ha! Okay, so the last ten months had been pretty miserable and frankly my friends were more than a little tired of my moping and being a cranky son-of-a-bitch as one of my dearest friends had the nerve to tell me. So he was right. So what? When you've been shafted, like I was, you have a right to be cranky. Right? At least I hadn't taken to demon drink...not much anyway, just the occasional drink, only with friends, once or twice when I was alone and moping. Oh, all right, but I wasn't headed for rehab...yet.
"For God's sake, Alan, stop acting like a goddam wuss." These endearments were from my supposed best friend, Gordon Jenkins. He was trying to get me to go out dancing with him and Spencer and Ron, two other guys who say they are friends of mine, but who have cajoled and insulted me for what seems forever. At least it feels like cajoling and insulting. They probably think of it as encouragement to get on with my life.
"That's hurtful, Gordon," I whined.
"The truth often is, Alan. Now go shower and change and come out with us. If you don't say yes, we will be 'round to drag you out of that apartment which by now must reek of heartache and loneliness, or it self-pity and cantankerousness?"
"Is that an actual word?" I snipped at him.
"Well, if it isn't it should be, especially applied to you. Come on, Alan, please. It's not healthy what you're doing. I mean it, we will be over there in ten minutes if you say you can't be bothered. Christ, am I ever tired of hearing that!"
"Okay, okay." I breathed out a heavy sigh. "Rather than have the neighbors up in arms about the noise you guys make, I will join you. Where are you going?"
"The Rise of course. The best that downtown San Diego has to offer. Okay, put your glad-rags on and be ready in thirty."
"Glad-rags? Who says that anymore?"
"I do, now get going. See you in a half hour."
Grumbling, I hit 'end' and threw my cell phone on the couch. Darn it, I knew they meant well, but the thought of being surrounded by dancing queens all having a helluva time just didn't thrill me. But I did owe them. They'd all been so supportive after the 'Breakup', Gordon especially, making sure I didn't slit my wrists. I wouldn't have of course, but I might have frightened him by mumbling something like it while intoxicated.
I showered then searched my closet for 'glad-rags' having to settle for jeans and a T-shirt that had 'I AM ARE YOU? printed on the front. Such daring, you say. Right. I have to admit I am not a flamboyant queen. Not exactly boring, but not a font of wit and wisdom either. Once in a while I'll come out with something close to an amusing remark which makes my friends, especially Spencer who Gordon told me thinks I am funny, yuck it up, a bit over the top in my opinion. But really, it's never been my talent to amuse.
After dressing I combed my dark brown hair into some semblance of order. It tends to run to curls and can be a pain to make it look any kind of good. Gordon told me that it offsets my blue eyes perfectly. What a sweetie he is. Why couldn't I have fallen in love with him instead of Oliver Brant? I've always put it down to the fact that we've been friends for too long, since junior high, for us to feel anything but warmth between us...just no heat.
My cell chimed and Gordon's text, We're right outside, made me hurry to the door and run down the steps to the street. Spencer whistled as I appeared and I couldn't help grinning at his supposed flirtation. He and Ron are tight and have been for the last two years. I can almost hear wedding bells ring-a-dinging already.
"Lookin' good!" He greeted me with a big hug as did Gordon and Ron. I suddenly felt that this 'going out' was the right thing to do. Warm affection spread through me as my friends pushed me into Gordon's SUV amid lots of quips and laughter and off we sped downtown.
The Rise is a happening place and has been for several years. It's nearly always busy and tonight was no exception. The blast of music and cold air assailed us as we piled into the bar, Spencer and Ron heading straight for the dance floor where despite the a/c most of the guys were shirtless and working up a sweat.
"See anything you like?" Gordon asked me.
"Yeah, that sign saying 'Draft Beer Sold Here'. What're you having?"
Gordon shrugged. "Same as you, I guess. Just don't get hammered tonight, Alan, like last time. No shots."
I glared. "You ask me out then you put restrictions on what I can do or drink? Where's the fun in that?"
"I want you to have fun, just not so much that you can't remember the fun you had, when you wake up tomorrow."
"What'll it be, gents?" The bartender gave us a gleaming smile and a wink. Cute...very cute. And new, if I wasn't mistaken.
"Uh, two Stellas, on tap," I told him, taking in his naked chest, his pecs shining with a fine sheen of sweat.
I watched as he pulled our pints, his biceps flexing nicely under smooth, tan skin. He saw me looking and grinned. Nice smile. Too bad the almost white blond hair and tan reminded me of Oliver. I averted my gaze and turned to look at Gordon instead. He was busy admiring the new bartender's cuteness, too. Gordon's a bit of a hunk himself. Tall with auburn hair and green eyes, he's a definite stunner and gets a lot of attention from both sides of the aisle.
I poked him in the ribs. "I'll get these," I said sliding a twenty across the counter. "Keep the change." The cute bartender deserved more of a tip really, but I figured I was going to have several more beers before the night was over so he'd do all right.
"Thanks." He winked at me again then dashed off to fill other orders.
"Cheers." I clinked glasses with Gordon.
"Cheers. Let's go watch Spencer and Ron dance."
"Okay." We pushed our way through the crowd surrounding the dancefloor until we could see our friends boogying like madmen. They really could dance and quite often got the floor to themselves when the other guys would stop to watch their amazing moves. I'm not the jealous type but I really did envy the way they made it all look so darned easy...and exciting. Me, I'm a klutz on the floor, no dancer from the dance am I.
"Care to dance?" This from a tall guy with buzzed hair and some serious muscles was directed at Gordon, not me, thank goodness. I mean the guy was hot, but me falling over my own feet, and probably his, too? No way, JosÃ©. I'd be suffused with embarrassment and the guy would disappear into the night never to be seen again...at least not by me.
Gordon hesitated and looked at me.
"Go on," I said. "I'll take care of your drink." He smiled and handed me his glass then disappeared into the throng, the tall guy's hand on the small of his back. Okay... I drifted over to the bar so I could put Gordon's drink on the counter and stand guard over it. I scanned the crowd looking for a familiar face. One or two I recognized as regulars but they were way too busy yakking to be bothered with me so I leaned against the wall, closed my eyes, and let my mind wander back to the last time I was here...with Oliver of course, although I would've been better off being on my own, like now.
He'd wanted to dance and I didn't, or couldn't really. He got mad and pouty then stalked off onto the dancefloor and twirled and gyrated all by himself until a couple of guys joined in, and in no time they were rubbing all over one another. Alan, the forgotten man. It wasn't like this hadn't happened before. In the weeks preceding the Christmas season any time we went to a bar Oliver turned into a social butterfly, flitting on invisible gossamer wings from one guy to another greeting them like they were long lost buddies. In reality he might have met them once before, sometimes not at all, if he decided they were hot enough to grind against.
Gordon had asked me why I put up with it. Good question really, and one to which I had no good answer. It wasn't as if I enjoyed being humiliated. I'm not a masochist. I would try to remember the Oliver I knew when we were alone together, when he was so loving and affectionate, gazing at me with lust-filled eyes. If only he'd enjoyed kissing as much as I did. Other than that, he was dynamite in bed, weaving his supple body over and under me, offering his plump little ass for my delight. Until I met him, I'd never had such great sex, and in retrospect that was why I put up with it. Shallow, I know, but what the hey? I knew it wouldn't last. He was too perfect for me, or as Gordon put it, too much of a gold digger. When he found out there was a very limited amount of gold to dig, he set his sights on a richer horizon. It didn't take long.
Richard Longfellow (not kidding, that was his name) was the sucker who stole Oliver away from me. 'Stole' is probably not quite the right word. One wave of the Longfellow checkbook and Oliver left me quicker than a shot from a hunting rifle. Their gazes met across a crowded room and Oliver did some really fast flitting, latching onto Mr. Longfellow right in front of me, and never looked back. He didn't come home that night and when I got back from work the following day all his clothes and countless bottles of colognes and lotions were gone. Not even a note.
"Fuck him," Gordon had seethed, angry on my behalf. "You're much better off without him."
Easy for him to say, but it sure as hell didn't feel like I was better off in the weeks that followed Oliver's departure. I heard through the grapevine that Longfellow had taken Oliver on a world cruise on the Queen Mary to be followed by a European tour. Well, I certainly couldn't compete with that, I thought sadly. I earned pretty good money at Financecorp. I guess my better than average apartment in the Mission Hills area of San Diego had impressed Oliver to the point that he thought I was a member of the well-off brigade. When in fact, like most guys my age, twenty-seven, I was still paying off college loans and depending on credit cards for any extravagance. Until Oliver I had been somewhat thrifty, ever conscious of an article I read that stated the only thing between doing okay and joining the ranks of the homeless was the lack of a couple of paychecks.
When Christmas rolled around Oliver's wish list was a mile long and there was just the hint of a threat that should any one item not be fulfilled certain physical enjoyments might be off the table. Hence the two thousand dollar Visa bill I had just recently paid off. So maybe I was better off, but damn it, there were times when I still missed the little fuck.
"Penny for them..."
Startled by the deep voice, my eyes flew open and met the light gray ones of the guy standing in front of me resting his elbow on the bar, a questioning smile on his very nice mouth.
"Sorry, didn't mean to startle you."
"Oh, that's okay," I said pulling myself together and pushing away from the wall I'd been leaning against. "I was just thinking about things."
"I could tell." He parted his luscious lips in a bigger smile. "Worth more than a penny, I bet."
I grimaced. "Not really. Some things are best forgotten."
"Ah." He eyed my glass which was almost empty. "Get you another?"
The cute bartender, as if on cue, waltzed over to where we were standing. "Ready for another, gents?"
The guy with the yummy mouth chuckled. "I'll have a Dewar's rocks and the same again for...?"
"Uh, Alan...but --"
"Matt." He held out his hand as the bartender waltzed off to get our drinks. "A pleasure to meet you, Alan."
"Nice to meet you." He took my hand in a warm firm grip. "But you didn't have to buy me a drink," I managed to say after a sharp intake of breath, the result of his hand holding mine. I've never been a believer in that instant 'zing' when a stranger takes your hand, but there it was, that 'zing' that made me feel warm all over.
"How about if I be the judge of that?" Matt said. "I'd very much like to share a drink with you, if that's all right."
"Well, if you put it that way." He finally released my hand and I hated the loss. Just then Gordon showed up with tall guy in tow. He looked at me, at Matt, then pointed at his drink.
"Mind if I take my beer?"
"Not at all," I said, handing it over. "Gordon, this is Matt."
They shook hands, smiling. Gordon turned to his new friend. "And this is Stuart. Stuart this is my best friend, Alan Carlson, and uh, Matt."
Stuart gave us both a little wave before he grabbed Gordon's arm and started to pull him away. Gordon laughed. "Okay, coming. See you later guys."
"Gordon seems nice," Matt said watching them run back to the dancefloor.
"My BFF since junior high," I told him. "He was really great when--oh, but you don't need to hear about that, sorry."
"Maybe I do need to hear about it." He smiled over the top of his glass. "I'm a good listener."
"I'm sure you are, but I am not going to bore you like I have my friends with my tale of woe. Suffice it is to say that it was a mistake, and it is over."
Matt gently touched the back of my hand with his fingertips. "And you are still hurting, I think."
Pathetically so... I shrugged trying to ignore the little tingle his fingers had left behind. "Makes no difference, really. I'll get over it eventually and definitely will never make the same mistake again."
"Brave words often repeated."
"And I mean every single one." I met his gray eyes with what I hoped was steely resolve. "I do."
He chuckled. "I believe you..."
"But thousands wouldn't. I know the end of that saying." I took a long swallow of my beer. "However, I aim to prove the naysayers wrong."
"Good for you. Would you like to dance?"
His question took me by surprise. "Uh...let me spare you the pain of having your feet tromped on. I have two left ones. Believe me it wouldn't be any fun for you."
"How about if we wait for a slow one? I can shuffle out of the way with the best of them."
I laughed. "You're cute."
"Thank you." He threw back the rest of his drink and took my hand. "C'mon. I want an excuse to hold you in my arms."
What? I resisted for a moment and of course he just had to show that he was stronger than me, so I gave in. Actually I was looking forward to being in his arms. I had a feeling I'd like it. I know, I know, I had already said my heart wasn't into playing the field but Matt was kinda different. He sounded sincere, not flaky like you know who...and what the heck, it was just a dance, right?
I met the surprised looks we were getting from Gordon, Spencer and Ron with a smug smile. The strains of Unchained Melody, an oldie but goodie filled the air around us as Matt pulled me into a loose embrace. He was slightly taller than me, I'm just shy of six feet, so it was easy to press my cheek to his. When I did, he tightened his arms around me and I sank against the lean muscles of his body he pressed to mine. Now I was close enough to smell him, a faint touch of cologne amid what had to be Matt's own masculine scent. Nice, really nice.
Oh, my love, my darling
I've hungered for your touch
A long lonely time...
The words were a bit over the top for a first dance with someone you just met, but at that moment it felt good and right and he did an excellent job of avoiding my errant feet, so no pain or embarrassment this time around. He kissed my neck and I turned my head so he could find my mouth which he did, wasting no time in taking my lips with a gentle kiss. Again, nice...
I opened for him and our tongues touched but he didn't push in, just licked under my top lip and sucked a little on the tip of my tongue. It was enough for a frisson of pleasure to coast down my spine straight into my balls and make me hard as stone. Is he hard, too? I pressed my erection against his fly and, oh yeah, there it was, good and hard behind the denim. The song ended all too soon and once again everyone jerked into frantic motion to some tune I didn't know, but I knew enough to get off the floor before I made a fool of myself.
What now? I thought, pulling the hem of my T-shirt lower to mask the bulge at my crotch. Have another drink? Talk some more? Is he going to ask me back to his place or want to come to mine? No, don't do any of that tonight. Not knowing him for an hour or so. He seems nice. He's hot and handsome, but you don't do that one-night-stand thing. No, sir.
"So..." Matt put a hand on my shoulder and guided me back to the bar. "I'm afraid I have to go in a few minutes. I'm catching the red-eye to Seattle. I have a business meeting in the morning."
"Oh." Well that took care of that. All my worrying for nothing...disappointment taking its place.
"One for the road?" As if he'd figured my answer would be yes, he nodded at the bartender who swooped down on us with what had to be a perpetual smile on his cute face.
"What can I get you?"
"Dewar's rocks... Don't worry, I'm Ubering to the airport," he added with a smile at me.
"That's good. Uh, I'll have the same, thanks, but this time it's on me."
"Comin' up," our bartender chirped and zoomed off.
Matt stroked my hand reawakening my cock. "I'd like to see you again, Alan. Is that possible?"
"Totally possible. When will you be back?" I asked while taking my billfold from my jeans' pocket.
"Saturday late afternoon. I'll call you if you give me your number."
I chuckled. "Good idea...here." I took his phone and added my number. He called it right away.
"Just checking," he said with a grin. Our drinks arrived and we toasted each other after I paid the bartender with a better tip this time.
"You two make a great looking couple." He winked then shot off again to the other end of the bar.
I gazed at Matt, taking in his sandy blond hair and gray eyes, generous mouth and slightly dimpled chin. "He's half right." I kissed him lightly on his lips. "You are a great looking guy."
"Last time I looked, a couple meant two." He kissed me back then encircled my waist with his arms. "I wish I didn't have to leave. I want to get to know you a whole lot better." His eyes crinkled at the corners as he smiled at me. "A whole lot better."
"Me too," I murmured, pressing myself into his embrace. "Roll on Saturday." A series of throats being cleared meant my pesky friends were in on the staring game. "What?" I snapped.
"It's late," Spencer said, "and Ron has to get up early so we have to leave, sorry. I'm Spencer by the way." He stuck his hand out at Matt who shook it firmly.
"And this is my soon-to-be husband, Ron Parker."
"Pleased to meet you," said Ron also getting a handshake. "Sorry we have to take him away."
"That's okay, I have to get to the airport anyway." Matt leaned in and kissed my cheek. "Saturday," he whispered.
"You bet," I whispered back. I watched him stride away and wanted to run after him.
"So..." Gordon gave me the sly look. "Aren't you glad we insisted on taking you out tonight?"
"Yes, I am, thank you," I replied demurely.
"He's a hottie," Spencer said.
"Hey." Ron elbowed his soon-to-be-husband. "Quit leering at his ass...although I must admit it's pretty fine."
I had no argument on that score.