His arse hit the ice.
This was going to be so embarrassing.
He really should have looked where he was going and taken more care. It wasn’t that he meant to show off in front of the kids when they’d goaded him into demonstrating how he could skate backward. But that was how he found himself crashing into another body, a rather large male body, then scrabbling, unsuccessfully, to try to get himself up as he apologised. Iestyn heard the kids laughing. How the hell was he going to get up and retain some sort of dignity? Whose bloody idea had it been to come on this skating trip from school, and why had he volunteered to go? He heard a voice—a rather gorgeous lyrical voice—say something, but he wasn’t sure what. He found himself looking up into the face of the most handsome man he’d ever seen.
“Would you like some help getting up?” the vision said, holding out a hand.
Iestyn took the help offered and let the good-looking stranger pull him to his feet. He was shocked to find, when he’d stood up, that the man appeared to be significantly taller than his own nearly six feet.
“Thanks,” he said, brushing the ice from his trousers. He glanced over to find the kids staring at him. “What? You’ve seen a man fall over before, haven’t you? Even a teacher.”
But they just kept on staring at the man who had helped him up.
“Sorry about that lot. Honestly, you can’t take them anywhere, and thanks for hauling me up. I’m not very good at this lark, really.” He didn’t want to stare but he couldn’t resist looking the man up and down. His rescuer was impressively built with blue eyes and blond hair that seemed determined to defy any sort of styling.
“Yeah, that much is obvious but don’t worry. I can cope with men falling at my feet. I get it a lot, though usually it’s because they’ve just missed tackling me. The blond, godlike creature held out his hand. “Sorry. It’s not often that I have to introduce myself. My name is Dan Morgan.”
“Ah, judging from the reaction of the kids, I should have heard of you.”
A smaller man, who was standing behind them, sniggered at his comment.
One of the boys rushed forward. “Can I have your autograph, Dan?” he asked.
The other kids came forward too, offering whatever they could find for him to sign.
“You don’t have any idea who I am, do you?” the younger man said as he signed the autographs.
“No, sorry. I don’t, but obviously the kids do, so you’re either some sort of pop star or, from what you’ve said, a sportsman. I’m guessing rugby.”
Josh, a character in Iestyn’s form, stepped forward. “Take no notice of Mr Jones. The only game he plays is chess. He wouldn’t know one end of a rugby ball from the other.”
“Well, to be fair, they are actually pretty similar,” Dan replied.
Iestyn frowned at Josh, not for the first time, then looked back at Dan. “So you play rugby then, and I should know this because?”
“Bloody hell, sir. Sorry, but he’s Dan Morgan.” Now it was Josh’s turn to frown. “He plays for Glamorgan Giants and Wales. Most experts reckon that he’s going to be Welsh captain for the Six Nations. Call yourself Welsh, sir!”
“Actually, that’s rather a moot point. I may be called Jones but I wasn’t born in Wales, despite my father’s best efforts. I was born in the Highlands of Scotland, because we were on holiday and I came earlier than expected. My dad was gutted, I can tell you.”
“Sounds like an interesting story,” Dan said. “Perhaps you’d like to tell it to me sometime soon, maybe over dinner.”
Iestyn Jones blinked a few times and wondered if he’d heard right. Had this guy just asked him out? Dan had to be at least ten years younger than him, not to mention six inches taller.
Dan passed him a card that said “Ring me” and gave a number. He smiled and walked back to greet his friend who had been standing some distance away. Watching him go, Iestyn held onto the card and twirled it in his fingers, not sure how to react to this strange development.
“You’re in there, sir,” he heard a familiar voice say.
“Shut up, Josh. Come on. I see Miss Jenkins over there tapping her watch. It’s time we weren’t here.”
“But, sir, he’s gay and you’re gay,” Josh persisted.
“Really?” He shouldn’t have been surprised. His gaydar was normally useless. “Never mind that. I don’t need a matchmaker, thank you.” That he was gay was no secret to the kids or to any of the other staff.
His best friend Julie Jenkins came towards him. “Is it right what the kids have just told me? Have you just been asked out by Dan Morgan? My God, he’s gorgeous. I can’t tell you how many women would like a piece of him.”
“Well,” Iestyn said, grinning widely. “It seems that Dan Morgan wants a piece of me.”
“So are you going to ring him, then?” Julie asked that night.
Julie was Iestyn’s oldest friend. They’d lived on the same street and gone to the same schools. However, their choice of university had parted them and Julie had gone off and got married. It had lasted all of three years before she had returned home. Now Julie taught music at two schools on a part-time basis.
It was Friday, so tradition had it that their group went out, had a few drinks, then went to one home or another for takeaway curry, pizza, or Chinese. There were six of them in their little group—Iestyn and Julie, along with Matt who taught PE, Sian who taught art, and Gareth, who had claimed to teach science—however, not everyone had been convinced of that. He’d since trained as a plumber, having found that teaching was not for him. These days they were lucky to get him out on a Friday as ‘time was money’. Still, it was nice to have a tame plumber on call.
Lastly, there was Kate, who taught a variety of subjects that ended in ‘ology’. Most people who saw them all together assumed that they were three couples, which wasn’t the case.
Except for Julie, they had all started teaching at the school at the same time and had become friends. As they were all sad and single, as Gareth often described them, they had developed the habit of going out on Friday nights. Of course, nothing was ever that simple about the group dynamic. Julie fancied Matt, who was completely oblivious—or appeared to be. Sian fancied Kate but said nothing. Iestyn thought both the other men were handsome but as both appeared to be straight—other than the occasional drunken snog—he kept on looking elsewhere. Now he had Dan’s phone number.
As soon as he’d got home that night, he’d Googled Dan Morgan. Iestyn had to admit that the guy looked great in shorts. Those thighs and shoulders were impressive, and he even looked good in a suit. There were several photos of him receiving prizes for being the young Welsh player of the year. The stories mentioned Dan’s apparently now ex-boyfriend Aron Roberts. Iestyn noted that they’d been together since high school, but there was no official announcement of why they were no longer a couple.
He disliked uncertainties and he wasn’t about to step on anyone’s toes. He knew he was an old-fashioned romantic but he didn’t like to share and he’d never really been into one-night stands. Well, not often, especially after the embarrassing incident in the bus shelter all those years ago. He’d managed to get to the age of thirty-four and had slept with fewer than ten people, although ‘slept with’ was pushing it for some of them. He’d had two long-term boyfriends but no one else since he’d had his heart broken by Steve.
He couldn’t understand why the handsome rugby international star should have given him his phone number.
“Are you ever going to answer me, or are you already imagining what he could be doing with you?” Julie continued.
“Sorry,” Iestyn replied. “I was just thinking.”
“Yeah, we can imagine,” Gareth commented. “He’s a big lad. Are you sure you can handle him?” He laughed at his own innuendo.
“God, he wishes,” Matt added. “He really is a fantastic player and he should be Welsh captain soon. Some people think he might be made captain for the Six Nations. Hey, if you get to shag him, d’you think you could get him to come to the school to talk to my boys? A local lad who made good always helps inspire them.”
“Hmm, I haven’t even decided if I’m going to ring him yet. From what I’ve read, he had a long-term boyfriend. They could get back together again. Perhaps this Dan is trying to make him jealous, and I’m not that sort of bloke.”
“Looked him up, then,” Sian said, smiling.
“Well, yeah, it’s not every day that a bloke ten years younger and six inches taller, with more than enough muscles to spare and a great arse, gives you his number. I’m knackered, not bloody dead. Well, not quite.”
“Him and his boyfriend split up a while back, according to the gossip columns,” Sian continued. “The boyfriend went to America to work and there’s no rugby there so…”
“Therefore, I repeat my question,” said Julie. “Are you going to ring him? He obviously wants you to. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have given you his number.”
“But why would he give Iestyn his number? Sorry, I know you’re my friend, but let’s face it—you’re a nerd and a geek. You’re hardly love’s young dream, are you?” Gareth, as always, said what others just thought. “And the man is fit. Whereas you consider table tennis to be active. I don’t get it. What could he possibly have in common with you?”
“Yeah, I suppose you’ve got the advantage of height, but you’re out of condition and you could do with losing a few pounds,” Matt added.
“Not to mention your hair is beginning to recede and you’re as blind as a bat without those glasses. Why you don’t wear contacts, I don’t know,” Julie finished.
“Okay, anything else before I go home and put a bag over my head? So far I’m fat, geeky and myopic, but I am six foot so that makes up for it.”
“Actually, you do scrub up well, when you try. I’ll give you some exercises that’ll tone you up. Perhaps you can start coming to the gym with me. Tell you what, why don’t you join me tomorrow?” Matt said.
“Suddenly, I’m really hungry. Think we can forgo the karaoke tonight? So what are we having and where are we going to eat?” Iestyn said.
“It’s my turn,” Kate replied. “So let’s have Chinese and pick up some more to drink. You’ll have something to work off in the morning, then.”
“Sounds good to me. Chinese is always better when there are lots of us as we can eat each other’s. Drink up and we can get going.”