Ian picked up his cell phone on the third ring and Asher didn’t wait for the friendly hellos before blurting out the reason for his call. “Is that guy you tried to set me up on a blind date with, Timmy, is he still interested?”
There was a long pause on the other end of the line. Asher pinched his thumb and forefinger across the bridge of his nose while he paced around his living room. He hated to bombard his best friend like this. For weeks Ian had begged Asher to meet this guy from Milo’s art gallery, but he had kept avoiding the young new artist, and now he was calling out of the blue to see if the man was still interested in meeting tonight.
“His name is Tyler and you’re suddenly interested in him now?” Ian sounded skeptical. Asher could hear it in his voice as he questioned why Asher had a sudden change of heart. “I thought you had your hot straight boyfriend--”
“Fuck you, Ian!” Asher growled, letting his irritation show. “I already told you that Michael is not my boyfriend, he was just a friend. I don’t have a boyfriend and you know it!”
Before Ian could continue to question his friend’s motives, there were several loud bangs at Asher’s front door. Asher rolled his eyes at the interruption. He asked Ian to find out if the guy was still interested and if so, was he available to meet up with him later that night.
“Jeez, this day just keeps getting fucking better by the second,” Asher sarcastically mumbled as he went to investigate the banging at the door.
Yanking the doorknob with more force than was needed, Asher was ready to yell at whatever unlucky stranger was standing on the other side of his door. “What the hell do you--” His words were cut short by Mrs. Nguyen frantically waving her hands in the air as she jumped around in the hallway. The older woman’s words were a jumble of English and Vietnamese and the only word Asher was able to distinguish was the word ‘flood’.
“Shit,” Asher growled as the tiny woman grabbed his hand and dragged him down the hallway towards her apartment.
Watching Tyler scan over the menu, Asher tried not to be obvious that he was staring. He would sneak a quick peek before quickly glancing back to his own menu when the attractive guy looked up. The game went on for several minutes, but when the waitress returned to take their dinner order, Asher realized that he hadn’t bothered to actually read any of the dishes printed on the laminated menu.
“Can we please have a few more minutes?” The waitress frowned as Asher turned his attention back to his date.
Tyler’s eyes sparkled in the candle light when he smiled. “Did you find something more appetizing than what’s offered on the menu?”
A blush crawled up Asher’s cheeks. He hadn’t expected the man to be so handsome. Milo had said his co-worker was really sweet, which usually translated to mean that Tyler had a wonderful personality, but would be majorly lacking in the looks department. Asher shook his head and chuckled. He wasn’t shallow or one of those obnoxious guys who only dated men that looked like male models, in fact he was attracted to guys that were overly masculine. Which might be why Asher hadn’t been on a date in months, and yet while he was sitting here with a very attractive guy, who happened to be available and interested, Asher was still thinking about the sexy straight guy he couldn’t have.
Tyler’s hair was short and he wore it in the same gelled style as Michael, but that was where the similarities ended. Where Tyler was blond, blue eyed and fair skinned, Michael had warm chestnut colored hair, deep dark brown eyes and rich sun kissed skin.
The sound of his name caused Asher to jump. His hand knocked over the glass of water sitting beside his plate. “Oh my god!” Asher gasped as the water cascaded across the tablecloth.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” Tyler said, as he placed his napkin over the puddle to soak up the spill. “You looked like you disappeared for a second.”
Quickly adding his napkin to Tyler’s, they had the accident under control by time the waitress made her way back to the table. “Are you two ready?” She gave them a forced smile. It was the look people gave when they disapproved of openly gay couples. Asher had experienced it several times before in the past, but he never got used to narrow minded people looking down their bigoted noses at him.
Asher glanced back to Tyler and gave him a wink. Too embarrassed to admit that he still had no clue what food was on the menu, Asher nodded his head towards Tyler, “I invited you here tonight as my date, so you should go first.” Asher already knew that whatever the man ordered, he was going to ask for the same. The waitress wrote down how they wanted their food cooked before heading to the bar for two glasses of wine.
“So, Milo told me that you’re friends with Ian,” Tyler’s fingers fumbled with the silverware. Asher watched him try to hide his nervousness, but when the guy started tapping the handle of his fork against the knife, the tinny melody gave his anxiousness away. Reaching across the table, Asher covered Tyler’s hand with his. A warm sensation spread up his fingers making the hairs on the back of his arm stand up.
“I must be more nervous than I thought. When Milo called this afternoon to ask if I still wanted to meet you, I didn’t know what to expect.”
“It’s okay,” Asher smiled at the man sitting across from him. “Ian and Milo believe it is their duty to make everyone as deliriously happy as they are and have appointed themselves honorary matchmakers for all gays in the tri-state area.”
Tyler laughed as he agreed with Asher. Their conversation was light. It quickly steered from mutual friends to their chosen careers. Asher wasn’t embarrassed to work as a bartender, yet he was grateful that Tyler took the lead in the topic of conversation.
Listening to Tyler talk about the different galleries that have displayed his work, Asher’s cell phone suddenly vibrated on the table. When Michael’s name flashed across the screen, Asher inhaled sharply. It was an involuntary response to seeing the man’s name on his phone. Tyler watched Asher quickly swipe his thumb across the ‘reject’ tab.
“If it’s important--”
“It’s not,” Asher cut Tyler off before nervously chewing on his bottom lip. Just as he looked up to apologize to his date for the interruption, the phone started buzzing again.
“Maybe you should take that,” Tyler softly suggested. Asher could see the hurt in the man’s bright eyes. Shaking his head, Asher rejected the call for a second time which brought a sexy grin to Tyler’s cute face.
“Is this guy a jealous ex-boyfriend or something?” Tyler asked. Asher shook his head and laughed.
“No, he’s most definitely not my boyfriend!” Asher fought for air between chuckles. Tyler’s blond brows knitted together in confusion. “Michael’s as straight as they come,” Asher informed him. “He’s just a friend…sort of. We kind of had a huge argument earlier today.”
Tyler’s eyes widened. “Then you should talk to him,” he insisted.
Shaking his head, Asher told him, “Don’t worry about it. He can wait until tomorrow.” Picking up the phone to turn it off, it buzzed in Asher’s hand for a third time. Instead of an incoming call, Michael sent a text message. Careful not to show any reaction to the desperate message, Asher read Michael’s plea to, ‘please call me,’ as the phone powered off and the screen went black.
Asher took each breath, slow, calm and steady. He was out on a date with a gorgeous guy, so why was he still thinking about Michael Waters? Asher had to stop his mind from lingering on someone he would never have a chance with and just enjoy tonight. Tyler was handsome and talented, he had shown true concern over the argument Asher had with Michael, but most important, he was gay. This might actually go somewhere. Tonight could lead to a relationship, which Asher hadn’t had in a long time.
It was time to pull out all of the stops. With his sexiest smile, Asher turned his attention back to his date. “So, Tyler,” Asher paused before flicking his tongue over his full lower lip, letting the man’s eyes settle on his seductive pout before continuing to charm the handsome young artist. “Tell me more about you and your artwork.”
The guy’s blue eyes lit up as he explained the latest piece that he had been working on while Asher pushed all thoughts of Michael Waters out of his mind.
Bang! Bang! Bang! The fists pounding at the front door didn’t stop. They paused for a few seconds only to start again in a new set of wood splintering blows.
“Christ, its two o’clock in the morning,” Asher rubbed his sleepy eyes as he stumbled across his darkened apartment. His light brown hair was stuck out from his head in every direction. The breeze blowing through the open windows of his apartment was balmy with the summer heat.
“Mrs. Nguyen, I already showed you how to shut off the water in case the toilet overflowed again,” Asher grumbled at his elderly neighbor before reaching the door.
Sliding the lock on the door, Asher swung it open, expecting to find the old woman waiting with another emergency. The lady was sweet, but she was a walking catastrophe, every week the woman had some sort of crisis that she wanted Asher to handle.
Instead of finding his needy neighbor, Michael Waters stood in the dim hallway outside of Asher’s apartment. His eyes were red rimmed and bloodshot.
“What are you doing here?” The gravely sound of sleep still thick in Asher’s voice.
Michael’s eyes darted around. He looked everywhere except at the man whose door he had been beating down in the middle of the night. Michael looked upset. His hair was disheveled, his face was pale, and his fingers trembled as he rubbed them across his temple and winced from the touch that appeared to cause the man more pain than soothe his frazzled nerves.
“If you came to apologize, Mike, you don’t need to,” Asher’s words were barely a whisper. “I promise you, I’m not mad anymore, but it’s really late, so go home and we’ll talk about this--”
Michael suddenly kissed Asher. The touch was unexpected. Asher’s lips parted when he gasped in surprise. Michael took it as an invitation to deepen the connection and his hot tongue skimmed past Asher’s teeth exploring the secret recesses of his mouth. Someone moaned. Asher was unsure who it was, but at this moment he didn’t care. The kiss was wonderful. The smoldering taste of whiskey was still fresh on Michael’s breath.
The air was humid in the hallway. It dampened the fabric along the front of Michael’s shirt. Michael closed the space between them and wrapped his arms around Asher’s body. Someone moaned again. Michael rubbed his hands over Asher’s bare shoulders, tracing his way up until he was cradling the back of Asher’s head. The contact was explosive. The thin material of Asher’s gym shorts couldn’t hide the erection in his pants.
“Come on Ash, get rid of whoever’s at the door and come back to bed.” Tyler’s voice called from inside the apartment.
The sound of another man broke the spell. Michael stumbled away from Asher. He stood there trembling as his eyes peered into the darkness. The light suddenly turned on in the bathroom, washing white light over Tyler’s lean frame. The man didn’t bother to close the door as he walked around the room naked with his penis bouncing proudly in front of him.
“I shouldn’t have come here.” Tears pooled in Michael’s wide eyes as he backed into the shadows.
“No, Michael, wait!” Asher grabbed his arm, but Michael jerked his shoulder, easily shrugging away from the touch. “I can explain,” he pleaded.
“This was a mistake. I’m sorry,” Michael’s soft voice disappeared in the darkness. His head and shoulders both drooped as his feet raced toward the staircase before vanishing into the night.
Thanks guys for reading! I'm sorry that it's taking me longer than normal to reply to your reviews. I love hearing from readers. This story is so important to me, but I've had some major health issues that I've been dealing with in real life. I'm trying to write everyday to keep my mind off an uncertain future.
It means so much to have your encouragment and support! Thank you, KC