Christopher Gleason stood on the sidewalk across the street from Power and did his best not to scowl at the building, or the small cluster of men waiting to get inside. It certainly wasn’t the building’s fault it wouldn’t have been his first choice, or even his second, but tonight wasn’t about him or his preferences for a night out. Tonight was about Rev and nursing his broken heart—again—and if he chose to use a bar prone to attracting the leather crowd to try and forget about that asshole Emilio, Christopher wasn’t going to be the one to tell him no.
In all fairness, he should have been better prepared for Power when he agreed to go out with Rev. After all, this was where they invariably ended up every time Rev went on the prowl. But Christopher had spent most of his day at Bonham’s, first double-checking that all the lots he was interested in were still available, then sitting through interminable bidding on more ephemera than any one septuagenarian reclusive writer should ever have owned, just to get to the larger pieces of furniture Christopher wanted. There was a Hepplewhite secretary desk in particular that he coveted, and when the bidding had gone higher than would turn him a profit at the store, he’d continued anyway, unwilling to lose his favorite piece of the estate. The final price meant keeping the desk for himself, but Christopher had walked away from the sale satisfied and pleasantly drained from a long day’s work.
It would’ve been the perfect time for a quiet night in. Feet up, TV on, drink in hand. That wasn’t what Rev needed, though. Christopher wasn’t entirely sure picking up a stranger for no-strings s*x was the answer, either, but he’d made a promise. At least Power always had excellent music and decent beer.
They waited for a break in the traffic and jogged across the wide street, bypassing the short line to head straight for the bouncer. Christopher didn’t know his name, but Rev had been coming here often enough to have an in, regardless of how many other eager young men might be gathered to enter. He stood aside and let both of them slide past, smiling down at Rev at the same time.
“Why don’t you just hook up with him?” Christopher asked once they were inside.
Rev was already craning his neck to see past the throng of men at the bar. The low throb of dance music had even those who weren’t on the main floor swaying or nodding to the beat, and the smell of beer, sweat, and sheer hunger prickled the back of Christopher’s throat.
“Him.” Christopher jerked a thumb at the front door. “The bouncer.”
“Jimmy?” Rev tore his attention away from the crowd to glance back, an amused smile brightening his wide, friendly features. That was another reason Rev always came back to Power. He had a smile for everyone, even in the throes of heartache. Toss in the slender body, his long, almost delicate fingers, and the eager puppy vibe he’d probably have when he was sixty, and there wasn’t a man in the building who could resist. None except Christopher anyway. He’d known Rev too long to think of him as more than a hyperactive little brother. “I’d have to wait until he got off work.”
“God forbid you should have to wait.”
“Yes, God forbid.”
Christopher laughed and gave Rev a small push toward the dance floor. “Go enjoy yourself. If you need me, you know where to find me.”
Rev didn’t wait, melting into the crowd. Heads turned as he passed. Christopher imagined more than one hand reached out to grope. Sure in the knowledge Rev was getting exactly what he needed to forget about his bastard new ex for a few hours, Christopher’s annoyance dissipated. He’d been planning on having a nice drink at home anyway. There was no reason he couldn’t do the same here.
He found an empty seat at the far end of the bar and, after ordering one of the imports Power was famous for, settled in to enjoy the music. More than one set of eyes landed on him appreciatively, but he took care not to return the favors. He wasn’t looking tonight. If Rev found someone and turned down Christopher’s taxi services, maybe then he’d consider it. Maybe. Considering how tired he was, it would have to be somebody special.
Christopher was careful to nurse his drink, mindful of the fact that he was still the designated driver. A few of the men on the dance floor tried to make eye contact and lure him away from the bar, but Christopher politely shook his head. It wasn’t always easy to brush people off in Power. It attracted a certain amount of pushy and aggressive people who perceived the word no as a challenge, not a dismissal.
He pushed his empty glass across the bar and wasn’t exactly surprised when a voice behind him said, “I’ll get your next one.”
“Not necessary,” he said automatically. “But thanks anyway…”
He turned around as he spoke, to give his would-be admirer the courtesy of eye contact during the refusal, fleeting as it might be. The words faded away, however, when he saw not the leatherman he expected, but the kind of expectant blue gaze and shy smile he might have found hanging around one of the college campuses in town.
The young man wasn’t one of Power’s usual. Blond hair flopped across his forehead, the scruff framing his strong jaw and full, sensual mouth only slightly darker. Though his navy pullover highlighted broad shoulders and a defined chest, he looked too cerebral to live in a gym to get that body. Intelligence lurked in his eyes, and combined with the modest tilt of his head, gave Christopher the distinct impression of a dedicated scholar.
A very hot scholar.
“I’m the designated driver tonight,” he said, suddenly wanting to give him a better explanation for turning the offer down. “But I do appreciate the thought.”
He nodded at his own glass. “What about some ginger ale? Or Coke?”
Accepting the offer paved the way to further intentions, even if the young man wasn’t drinking alcohol himself. Christopher knew he should refuse if he wanted to discourage him, but the only good reason he could come up with to turn him down now would be to see if his ass looked as good as his front when he walked away.
He could always check it out after one drink, though.
“Diet Coke, then.” He stuck out his hand, too many years of practice to prevent him from doing so. “I’m Christopher.”
“Gage,” he said, taking Christopher’s hand in a firm grip. “I’m actually glad you don’t want another beer. Now I won’t feel like such a freak for ordering a soft drink at a bar.”
“Are you driving for someone, too?”
“Oh, no. No, nothing like that. Who are you driving? A friend? A…boyfriend?”
“Friend.” He looked automatically for Rev, wondering if he’d managed to find the respite he needed. When he didn’t pop up right away, Christopher turned back to Gage and slid sideways, making room for him to come closer, justifying it by telling himself Gage would have to pay for the drinks anyway. “There’s no telling where he’s gone off to, though. What about you? Are you here with friends?”
“Actually, I just moved to the neighborhood. So I’m sort of scoping everything out. Trying to get the lay of the land.”
“I should be the one buying you a drink, then, not the other way around. Though if some of these other guys find out you’re new to the area, they’ll probably duke it out over who gets to be on your welcoming committee.”
Gage smiled a little self-consciously. “Do you think so? Nobody’s ever been willing to fight over me before.”
“Clearly, you’ve been hanging around the wrong people.” He was all too aware Gage hadn’t taken a seat yet, or even moved closer to accept the invitation Christopher had already extended. Christopher might not have wanted the company when he’d first approached, but now that he’d had the chance to speak to him for a minute, he didn’t want to lose it. At least, not right away. “Come here. Let’s get you your refill.”
“Oh, right. Thanks.” He slid onto the stool, his leg brushing against Christopher’s as he settled. “Ask anybody back at home, and they’ll tell you I’m definitely hanging around the wrong people.”
“Well, I don’t have anybody back at home to ask, now do I?” Unable to resist giving Gage a small smile, he gestured for the bartender to come over. “I’ve just got you.”
“If that’s what you want.” Gage grimaced and shook his head. “That didn’t sound as good as I thought it would.”
Christopher watched Gage while he ordered their drinks. His nervousness was adorable, especially accompanying the face he pulled. The disparity between the boldness in offering to pay for Christopher’s and the lack of confidence in his own words was intriguing, even more so because Gage had absolutely no reason to be unsure of himself. Christopher hadn’t been kidding about the other men in the bar descending on him like flies to honey. If Gage even blinked in someone else’s direction, Christopher had no doubts that guy would come running.
It was entirely possible he saw Christopher as safe compared to the other patrons. A lot of guys were physically imposing, in standard leather gear or ensembles meant to exude power. Christopher hadn’t had time to change after leaving Bonham’s. All he’d done was take off his tie, open the top few buttons of his white shirt, and pull it free of his waistband. He still wore his suit jacket, even. That practically screamed sedate and boring.
Gage made him want to be something else entirely.
He waited until the bartender was gone before leaning a little closer. “So what do you think of your neighborhood so far?”
“It’s…good. Different, though. Very, very different. Nothing like I’m used to. Not that I really knew what to expect. I mean, I’ve never seen a place like this before in my life. I didn’t even know what to make of it when I came in here the first time.”
“And now that you’re actually in?”
Gage played with the straw in his glass, twirling it around what remained of the ice. “I still don’t really know what to make of it. Like, I don’t really get why everybody’s in leather. Is that just a California thing?”
“No, that’s a Power thing. If leather’s not your scene, there are plenty of other places around the city you can try.”
Gage looked him over. “I guess it’s not your scene?”
“It can be, if I’m in the mood for it. But I’m not as into the costume as I am the man inside it.” If Gage was going to take a long look, so was Christopher. He dragged his gaze downward, lingering on Gage’s chest before crawling farther down to settle for long seconds on his groin and the definite bulge in his jeans. His own c**k had been half-hard since first spotting Gage, but such close proximity had him stiffening the rest of the way, his balls heavy as he debated pulling Gage out to the dance floor the next time the music slowed down. He tore his eyes away with difficulty, smiling to defuse how obvious he’d been. “I’m not really advocating going naked all the time. No matter how that sounds.”
That startled a laugh out of Gage, but he stifled it quickly. “I knew you didn’t mean that you wanted to see me naked. I mean…I knew you weren’t advocating constant…nudity.” The bartender left two glasses on the bar, and Gage quickly grabbed his and took a deep swallow. “It’s too bad, though. I think you’d look good in some leather.”
“Only some?” He wasn’t interested in his drink right now, not with the way Gage’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he gulped down his drink. “Do I want to know which pieces you have in mind, or do I get to pick and choose?”
“You’d have to pick and choose.” Gage leaned closer, his smile not faltering. “I don’t really know what the different pieces are.”
His lips were wet, glistening in the dim light. Christopher had the irrational desire to match the tilt of Gage’s body and seal their mouths together, just to get a sample of what the younger man tasted like. Recognizing how out of character that was for him was the only reason he didn’t.
He wasn’t sure why he was being so flirtatious. This wasn’t his style, even when he was in the mood for casual s*x. Christopher took things slow. He liked doing it right, whether it was for an illicit f**k in a closet, or a long-awaited quiet date. Hitting on somebody he didn’t know, who was probably still in college, and debating at the same time how long it would take to get his hands beneath the clothes that stood in his way was something Rev would pull, not him. Except here he was, unable to turn away, matching Gage’s smile with a soft one of his own.