Brad Kenyon hunched over his drink. His eyes bored into the dark wood of the bar, staring at the spots where the wood was peeling as he willed himself into invisibility. But a man of his height—he stood six foot four in his bare feet, and weighed a solid two twenty-five—wasn't someone who blended easily into the woodwork. Plus, he had a face that was far too famous to dwell in anonymity for long.
He busied himself with the plastic stirrer he'd gotten with the White Russian. Round and round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows. He created a white whirlpool in the center of the glass; it swirled around the cubes of ice. That was his life now. Caught in the midst of a monstrous Charybdis, being sucked down into… into what?
He wished he knew.
His first thoughts, as he'd made the mad dash from Kevin's apartment, had been to find a bar and drink himself into oblivion. But not a sports bar, or even a reasonable facsimile thereof. Too many televisions, all sports oriented, and all bound to be blaring the news. He didn't need to see it—he was living it.
He'd hopped into a cab and told the driver to just go, nowhere in particular. He'd know his destination once he arrived. And when he was tired of being driven, he told him to stop, in a seedier part of town, and sent him on his way.
So that's how he'd ended up here, at the Hotel Ferdinand, sitting in the hotel bar, along with maybe a half dozen other people. Maybe it wasn't exactly quality accommodations. And maybe Michelin would be hard put to give it one star, if that. But it was quiet, and it was out of the way, and right now, it was just the haven he needed. No one seemed to know him here. And the single sorry excuse for a TV was situated on a shelf behind the bar, tuned to some program he'd never seen before. Something with vampires. Not his style, but at least it wasn't sports.
"Is this seat taken?"
Brad turned his head away from the sound of the smoky voice. Go away. If he ignored him, the guy would surely leave him alone.
He heard the creak of wood as the stranger eased himself into the seat beside him. Some guys just couldn't take a hint.
"Can I buy you a drink?"
Is this guy blind or something? Brad's drink was virtually untouched, unless you counted playing with the straw. What was he hoping, to get lucky or something? Not tonight, pal, you're straight up out of luck here. Move along, little man.
He heard the sound of a striking match, smelt sulfur, caught the illumination from the corner of one eye. Despite himself, he turned slightly, eyeing the newcomer with misgiving. He couldn't help but notice that he held a lit candle in his hand. What the hell?
"You celebrating something?" he heard himself say, the words seeming to come from a great distance, as if reluctantly dragged out.
"No, but I think you are."
Brad swiveled fully in his seat, facing his undesired companion, afraid of what he might find. Or who. This guy was a stranger to him, though; he was sure he'd remember if he'd seen someone so good looking before, especially among the vultures of the press. Even in the dim light of the bar, his looks stood out. Tawny hair swept back from his smooth forehead, well coifed. Dark eyes which fairly gleamed; a nose that looked as though it had been broken at least once, but wore its injury with dignity and sensuality. And lips that begged to be kissed.
He pushed that thought to the back of his mind. That was the last thing he needed. A one night stand. He had far bigger fish to fry.
Besides, this guy obviously knew something. Or thought that he did.
"I think you got the wrong person." Brad help up the White Russian. "And I already have a drink, as you can see."
"I can see that, Brad, just wanted to get your attention."
Brad's heart sank. So it had begun. Why had he thought that he'd be able to hide out, enjoy a drink, and escape the attention which was undoubtedly headed his way? Even in this small hole-in-the-wall hotel, he'd been outed.
Ironic choice of words.
"Who the fuck are you?" he brazened. Stripping the drink of his play toy, he took a long drink, then set it down onto its napkin, one stamped with the picture of a cartoonish bull. The hotel's logo or something.
The stranger held out one hand. The one that didn't contain the candle.
The name meant nothing to Brad. He looked askance at the proffered hand.
"Let me guess. You're a sports reporter, and you want to talk to me about tonight?"
The handsome man shook his head. "Reporter? Not me. I couldn't write to save my life. And I have no interest in sports. No offense."
"None taken," Brad automatically responded. Without thinking, he reached out and took the other's hand in his own. It was warm to the touch, sent electric tingles that traversed down his spine.
"Then what is it you think you know about me? And why the candle?" Brad was intrigued, in spite of himself.
"I know who you are, if that's what you mean. I've been looking at your face all night. On TV, I mean, not here," he amended. "A very nice face it is."
Brad felt his very nice face warm at the compliment, before focusing on the other words. The damning ones. He knew it. He'd just known that's how it would play out. Sticking his head in the sand and playing ostrich changed nothing. It was out now, and nothing to be done about it.
That didn't explain the candle, though.
"Charlie, turn on Fox, will you, please?"
At Garrison's request, the bartender clicked a button on the remote. The picture changed. What was once a pouty vampire became a sports commentator. Brad couldn't think of his name. But he knew the name of the man sitting beside him. Kevin O'Leary. Sports reporter for a growing online site. Hungry as they came. Possessed of unbridled ambition. Not to mention that he was Brad's ex.
And now he was famous as being the man who'd just outed Brad Kenyon, star quarterback, to the world.
Brad had begged him not to do it. He said it would damage his career. Ruin it. Kevin didn't care. He'd laughed, in fact. That was when Brad had punched him and ran. He eyed the asshole on the small screen, a growl escaping his lips. Make-up did hide a multitude of sins. Including black eyes.
He still remembered Kevin's parting words, as he headed toward the door of his dumpy apartment.
"This closet ain't big enough for the both of us..."
So he'd jettisoned Brad without a second thought, while remaining safely inside.
But that didn't explain this guy, this Garrison. Or what he wanted.
"I'm not into sports, just good looking men." Garrison tightened his clasp. The electricity surged between them again. "I have a place, not too far from here. No one would find you there…"
Brad searched the other man's eyes. He couldn't help but notice again how handsome he was. He took a deep breath.
"So, you don't care… I mean, about what they're saying? About me?"
"Now really, that would make me a hypocrite, wouldn't it?" The candle flickered in an errant breeze; Garrison puckered his sexy lips and blew it out, setting it on the bar.
His voice was doing things to Brad, things he hadn't experienced in quite some time. He let this handsome stranger help him from his seat, welcomed the feel of his hand against the small of his back as they headed toward the door.
They walked closely together out of the hotel and into the night, fingers twined against the evening chill. Brad couldn't help but wonder if maybe his ex hadn't just done him a big favor by outing him. Too bad that he'd stayed in the closet himself, the coward. His loss.
Once they reached his place, Garrison's first kiss erased the memories of Kevin. They spent the rest of the night in making new ones.
Until next time, take care!