If there’s one thing I hate more than airports, it’s getting on the actual plane then taking off then waiting in agony for the landing. Okay, I’ll concede that’s more than one thing, but maybe the whole process can be counted as one. At any rate, as far as I’m concerned, it’s all fucking torture, and I generally solve the problem by not flying. However, traveling to my brother’s wedding in Seattle was a bit too far from San Diego for me to drive there and back over a weekend. So, a living hell in the skies for three hours it had to be. Then, of course, there was the return flight which I would have to agonize about all over again in a couple of days.
Jeez, what I do for love of family. After navigating the annoyingly long line and snippy TSA agents at security, I made a bee-line for the bar. A good stiff Scotch would maybe settle my rattling nerves—not get rid of them, of course, but it would go a long way to help.
“What’ll it be?” the bartender asked with a disinterested glance over my shoulder.
“Scotch on the rocks, please.”
“Single or double?”
My hesitancy in replying must have caught his attention as he gave me an irritated look, then said in a tone of long-suffering boredom, “Double’s four bucks more. Single or double?”
“Uh, a double,” I said then watched as the grouchy bartender upended a Scotch bottle and filled the shot glass with my favorite amber brew, twice, splashing it over the ice in the glass.
“Fifteen dollars.” He shoved the glass toward me and I handed him a twenty. “Change?”
“Uh, yeah.” This guy is expecting a tip after that lousy service? I stared at the five ones he’d laid in front of me. He was expecting a tip. I let the bills sit there while he moved to serve someone at the other end of the bar, then I picked them all up but one.
I turned at the sound of a deep chuckle to my left. “That’s more than he deserves.”
Whoa. The man sitting next to me was hot. How could I not have noticed him when I sat down? About my age, or maybe closer to thirty, light brown hair cut short and really arresting deep blue eyes that crinkled at the corners when he smiled. Nice teeth too, I noted as I took a long swig on my Scotch, loving the warm glow it filled me with on the way down.
“What is it they say about good help being hard to find nowadays?”
I grinned at his slightly misquoted remark. “I think it’s a good man nowadays is hard to find.”
“That too.” He held out his hand. “Jack Brenner.”
I took it, liking the warm grip. “Adam Ritchie.” Our gazes met and Jack seemed to be holding my hand for a little longer than was necessary between two men saying a casual ‘hello’ at an airport bar. But I didn’t mind at all, although I was glad I didn’t have to stand up any time soon. My hand in Jack’s was causing a definite stirring in my groin that made me shift a bit on the bar stool to ease the tightening in my jeans. When we finally did let go I couldn’t help but take what I hoped was a surreptitious glance at his crotch. Hmm… Nothing like a hot flirtation to maybe take my mind off the horrors of flying that loomed ahead.
“I’m not this cranky as a rule,” I told him, jerking my attention back to his amused expression. “Uh…airports tend to put me on edge.”
“Where you headed?” he asked.
“Coincidence, me too. Business trip?”
“No, my brother’s wedding. One of the few occasions that would convince me to get on a darned plane.”
“You don’t like flying?”
I let out a mirthless laugh. “That is a complete understatement. I totally hate flying, loathe it, scared to death of it!” I raised my glass to my lips and took another long swallow of Scotch. “I almost never do this. They say, in their infinite wisdom, that it’s the safest way to travel, but I say, tell that to the passengers as their plane’s going down, not to mention the dozens of near misses they don’t even bother to report. I’ve seen them on YouTube.”
He laughed, a pleasant sound, his gaze scanning my expression—for what? Maybe he thought I was kidding. “That bad, huh?” he said finally.
“Worse. I pity the person sitting next to me. The last time I flew, the woman in the next seat got up and asked the attendant to find her another seat. I couldn’t blame her. I am a master fidgeter before and during take-off. I was making her nervous, she said.”
“Are you on Southwest flight fourteen ninety-seven?”
I glanced at my boarding pass for reassurance. “Uh, yeah. The B line.”
“I’m A, same flight. I’ll try and save you a seat.”
“That’s good of you, but after what I just told you, don’t you think it’s only fair that I not inflict myself on you? I’ll just search for an empty row and huddle by the window with my eyes closed.”
“Good luck with that.” He grimaced. “The guy at check-in said it’s a full flight.”
“I don’t mind holding a seat for you.” He grinned again. “You won’t make me nervous, don’t worry.”
I tried not to stare too hard at him, but it was difficult. It’s not every day you get to sit next to someone as hot as Jack Brenner. As sneakily as I could, I took in the breadth of his shoulders, and the well-defined pecs. I could see the outline of his nipples as he turned to pick up his drink and the fabric of his shirt pulled tight across his chest. I had to shift on my stool again to relieve the stiffening of my cock. I wondered if he was single-o, like me, or if he was even gay. I was getting a relaxed vibe from him that made me think he might bat for my team. Although what I’d do about it was another thing. I’ve never been good at casual pickups.
I cleared my throat. “You don’t mind flying?”
“I’ve done so much of it, I don’t even think about it anymore,” he said. “I’m like a robot—shoes and belt off at security, settle in, laptop out, all business until we land.”
“Oh, so this is a business trip for you?”
“Software convention at the Hyatt. I’ll be there all week.”
I was so completely into just gazing into his beautiful eyes that I almost missed it when he asked, “Where’s your brother’s wedding being held?”
“Oh, uh…Collingswood Country Club, just outside of town. You know it?”
He shook his head. “Can’t say I do.”
“My dad’s a member, so he got some kind of deal.”
“Isn’t it usually the bride’s family that pays for the wedding?”
I chuckled. “There is no bride.” Oops. That was out of my mouth before I realized I’d said it. I’m just so used to people knowing I’m gay. I waited for understanding to dawn on his face, followed by either disgust or amusement. He didn’t strike me as the homophobic type, but what did I know? I’d only been sitting talking to him for maybe twenty minutes, tops, and with the recent shift in the political arena, maybe I’d been a trifle careless. But what the hell, I wasn’t going back in the closet to please anyone. “Sorry, that just came out. I’ll clarify—my brother is gay and is marrying a man, Bryan McAllister. They have been boyfriends for over five years, so they figured it was time. I hope you’re not shocked or…”
“Not shocked. Surprised perhaps.”
“Yes. I figured you for the gay brother.”
I laughed. “What was your first clue? But you’re right, I am. My brother and I, we’re twins. Russ and I are both gay.”
“That’s great, and in case you were wondering, so am I.”
Of course I had been wondering, and an irrational part of me hoping, but before I could ask the ‘are you single?’ question my cell pinged and I glanced at the text on the screen. I frowned…from Zack?
Hey Adam, lookin frwd seeing u happy as hell ur comin up. See ya.
“No, no…” I smiled at Jack’s somewhat concerned expression. “Just a friend I haven’t been in touch with for ages. He’ll be at the wedding…”
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had an actual text from Zack Kennedy. We’d had a thing a few years back. He’d been hot in bed but his drinking habit had been a real turnoff for me, and from what I’d heard from Russ, things hadn’t improved there. And now he was ‘happy as hell’ he was going to see me? Don’t know why but I got just the teensiest bad feeling that something was up with him.
The bartender chose that moment to loom in front of us. “You guys want another?”
Jack shook his head. However, what with the impending flight and this text from Zack, I more than ever felt in need of a little more fortification. “Uh…yeah, but just a short one this time. Don’t want them banning me from getting on the plane.”
I chuckled, but my attempt at humor was lost on Grouchy. Until I’d mentioned boarding the plane I’d almost forgotten why I was sitting at this bar. Jack was good company and I, perhaps foolishly, wished I had a chance to get to know him better. Well, if he managed to save me a seat, we’d have a few hours’ more conversation, at least.
As the gloomy bartender slid my second drink toward me, our flight was announced.
“Don’t rush,” Jack said, glancing at his watch, “we have a few more minutes till they get organized.”
I should have listened. Instead, I threw my drink back faster than was perhaps wise, invoking a coughing fit that brought tears to my eyes and embarrassed the hell out of me.
“Here, stand up.” Jack steadied me as I slid off the stool still hacking away, my face hotter than a lava flow. I wished I could’ve just fallen through the floor out of sight of the other passengers who I knew were all staring at me as if I was about to expire any second. Jack was rubbing my back and standing so close I could feel his hard, muscled chest, and even through my mounting hysteria I was aware of something else…blood draining from my brain into my groin.
Get a fucking hold of yourself! I blinked at him through teary eyes. “God, I’m sorry,” I hiccupped. Seems my arousal had helped stall the coughing to a manageable degree. I stepped away from his comforting back rub which, if it continued, would definitely result in an embarrassment of a different kind.
“Okay now?” he asked, his expression one of concern mixed with some amusement. He picked up his carryon and my backpack. “We should head for the gate.”
“Right,” I wheezed. “Thanks, I feel a lot better.”
He handed me my backpack and together we hurried toward the departure lounge. We had to part company once there as we were in two different boarding lines.
“I’ll save you a seat,” he whispered before leaving me.
I hoped he could but the airline with their ‘first come, first served’ policy frowned on that practice and if someone argued the point with Jack he was more or less obligated to give the seat up. My rattled nerves were back in force as I stood there watching the line ahead start moving toward the departure gate.