Jim Newsome is the CEO of a food services consulting firm, working primarily for the healthcare industry. He wears a shoe lift due to a childhood accident that shortened his leg. Whenever he acquires a new client -- typically a hospital -- Jim goes undercover to get a firsthand look at the problems before reporting his findings, and possible solutions.
His current assignment hasn’t been an easy one, and Jim’s relieved it will all be over at the end of the week. Then Jim meets Lance Lamas, an orthopedic specialist. Lance tries to strike up a conversation, but Jim isn’t playing nice.
But Lance’s relentless pursuit pays off, and the two men go out on a double date with friends.
The evening ends in the best way possible, and when Jim reveals who he really is, Lance knows he wants to keep him -- shoe lift, dirty mouth, and all.
I arrived at Tony’s with minutes to spare. I was a little nervous, mainly because this was my first anything with a man in years. Work typically consumed my days and nights, unless Paula could drag me away -- kicking and screaming -- to do something fun. My jeans were stiff with newness, and my long-sleeved shirt still smelled of the store where I’d bought it. I’d even gotten a haircut that afternoon.
Paula and Bevin came up to me at the bar. “Jim, you actually made it!” She gave me a big hug, and Bevin shook my hand.
“Nice to see you, man. You’re looking good -- nothing new there,” he said.
“Back atcha.” Bevin was always a joy to be around. He was the perfect foil for Paula, and vice versa.
“And don’t act so surprised, little miss. I have been known to have a drink with you on occasion.”
“Yeah, under duress.” She leaned back in Bevin’s arms and checked me out. “You bought new clothes.” Her eyes widened. “No way. Is someone meeting you here?”
On cue, Lance popped up at my elbow. “That would be me.” I jumped a little at his voice and turned my head to frown at him, partly to hide my reaction to his sudden, and very attractive appearance. He was dapper in gray tailored slacks and a blue and white pinstriped shirt.
“Well, hello there.” Did her voice just drop a few decibels?
“I’m Paula, a friend of Jim’s. And this is my husband, Bevin.” She reached out a hand to shake Lance’s, and I stood by, like an idiot.
“Lance Lamas,” he replied. “I work, or rather worked, with Jim at the hospital. He’s mum about what he really does for a living, but he says I’ll figure it out on Monday. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”
“Sorry, no can do.” She removed imaginary lint from his shirt, but I knew she was surreptitiously copping a feel. It was only flirting, I knew. She was madly in love with Bevin. Paula just liked to get a reaction out of me.
“Why so quiet, Jim?” Her expression was coy.
“I have no words for ... whatever’s going on here.”
“Tell me something,” Lance asked after ordering a beer. “Is he always so ... difficult to get to know? It’s like pulling teeth. Though I have fun trying.” I tried glaring at Paula, willing her by visual osmosis not to say anything. To no avail.
“Oh, he’s a sweetheart, usually. But this assignment has been particularly strenuous, and he hasn’t had sex in years so --”
I gasped in outrage. “Paula!” This amused Lance, and Bevin just shook his head and offered me silent sympathy.
“Looks like I turned up at the right time, then.” This needed to end. Now.
“Okay, people. Can we change the topic or pick on someone else? Please?”
“Only for a little while. Bevin, dance with me, would you?”
“My pleasure, sweetheart.” He led her out to the crowded dance floor and they let themselves go.
“Your friends are cool, and Paula is a riot. I wouldn’t have thought you’d know anyone like that. You’re not very forthcoming.”
“Well, you are pushy. That tends to get my back up, normally.”
“So, really? Years since you had sex?”
“God, that’s the one thing you remembered from the conversation?”
“Sex is one of my favorite pastimes.”
“I barely know you.”
“I think I know you, at least a little bit.” He drank some of his beer. “You’re a strong, determined human being who didn’t let a life-changing event like a shorter leg stop you from living life as fully as possible. You’re smart, successful, and have friends who genuinely care for you and love you enough to tease you mercilessly. I admire that, more than you know.”
Lance finished his beer. He placed his hands on either side of me on the edge of the bar. He leaned in to kiss my forehead. I closed my eyes briefly at his gentle touch. My legs felt weak.
“How many years, Jim?” He leaned back far enough to pierce me with those gray eyes of his. It had been so long since I’d been touched by a man. Could I admit the truth? Perhaps I owed it to him, and myself.
“Yes and no. The game got old as the years went by, and I was tired of the looks of revulsion or pity when a guy sees me naked for the first time, and without the shoe lift. The scars on my hip, the way my body leans, it can be off-putting.”
“I find you beautiful, prickly, and charming, Mr. McAvoy. In all your imperfection. Care to dance with me?” He kissed down to my ear and bit into the fleshy lobe. I lost my breath for a second. He was turning the tables on me. Who was in charge now?
“Su ... sure. Give me a little room, though. I can’t breathe.” Lance stepped back and I took in a lungful of air. “You don’t give a guy much room to maneuver, do you?”
“When I see something I want, I go after it, no holds barred. You should remember that, for the future.”
“What future?” I asked as he pulled me along behind him to the dance floor.