Alden smiled at Evan. “We’ll find you a catch some day, Evs. It doesn’t have to be Bill, but give him a chance, you never know.”
Evan shrugged. “Yeah, you never know.”
“You could meet someone in the next five minutes, or the next five days,” Alden said. “If this vote goes our way there are going to be an abundance of weddings and receptions to attend in the coming months, and you’re friends with many of the men in that room, you’ll be on the guest lists. You could meet Mr. Right at any one of those events.”
Evan nodded. “Never know who’s waiting just around the corner, right? Could be a lover, more than likely it’s a mugger.” He smiled. “I’m going to head back in and get another drink. You coming?”
“I suppose I should,” Alden sighed. “Otherwise, with John in the kitchen, the good crystal will end up in the dishwasher and the guests will be drinking from plastic party cups.”
Evan laughed and they timed their dismount from the glider to save them both from ending up on the patio bricks. Turning toward the lake, Evan took one last look at the water and drew in a lungful of crisp, clean air, before following Alden inside.
“Hey there,” John said with a smile and leaned over to give Alden a kiss. He noticed Evan behind him and leaned a bit further to kiss him on the cheek. “Had to escape again, Evs?”
Evan rolled his eyes. “Just needed some air is all. Your friends like to talk a lot and they’re sucking all the oxygen out of the room.”
“Speaking of which,” John said with a wicked smile, “I’d like you to meet a friend of mine from work: Paul Cooper. Paul, this is Evan Dresden.”
John moved out of the way and Evan saw a man across the kitchen, butt leaning against the counter, muscular arms folded over his broad chest. His blond hair was cut very short and his eyes were bright blue sparks. Evan’s gaze locked with Paul’s and a sudden sense of vertigo swam through his head. The conversation in the other room, the back and forth between John and Alden, the startling brilliance of Bill’s teeth, all of that faded away as Paul stared back at him. Evan found himself inside a strange bubble that blocked all outside stimulus. He had never experienced a connection this intense before, especially with an initial look, and even though it terrified him in a thrillingly sexual way, he didn’t dare pull his eyes away from Paul’s for fear of breaking the timeless moment between them.
“Evan?” The sound of Alden’s voice pierced the bubble that had formed between him and Paul.
Evan blinked, shattering the spell and allowing the sounds of the party to again wash over him. Paul blinked and smiled himself, showing a narrow gap between his front teeth that Evan suddenly wanted to feel beneath his tongue. He tried to gauge if Paul had experienced the same sensation, but then Alden said his name again and Evan snapped his gaze from Paul’s to stare blankly at his friend a moment. “Sorry?”
“I said,” Alden replied slowly, “why don’t you show Paul where the bar is in the living room. And, while you’re at it, be a dear and make me another drink, will you? You’re so good at it.”
“Oh, yeah,” Evan said and shot an embarrassed glance toward Paul as heat flushed his cheeks. “Sure. Come on, Paul, the bar’s in here.”
“Good to see you again, Paul,” Alden called after them.
“Good to see you, Alden,” he replied and the timber of Paul’s voice rattled down Evan’s spine.
“So, Evan,” Paul said from behind him, “have you known John and Alden very long?”
Evan nodded, walking up to the bar in the sitting room that was miraculously empty of people, and turned to face him. Paul’s stare was intense, his expression calm and searching, blue eyes locking on Evan’s face like heat seeking missiles and seeming to draw every desire to the surface of his skin. Evan could only manage to hold Paul’s gaze a moment at a time before he had to force himself to look away.
“I, um, I have known them a long time,” Evan stammered. “I met Alden in college.”
“You went to college together?” Paul frowned. “You don’t seem as old as Alden.”
Evan laughed, a little too loud, he could tell, but he seemed to be having trouble controlling the volume of his voice. He cleared his throat and nodded as he mixed Alden’s favorite drink: an old fashioned. “Yes, you’re right. He’s older than I am, but he was going back to school to finish his degree. We became friends about seven years ago, two years before he met John.”
“Oh, yeah?” Paul leaned against the bar and Evan almost groaned aloud at the size of Paul’s hand. A flash of fantasy seared his imagination: Paul’s hand around his cock, stroking slowly as Paul’s tongue slipped into Evan’s mouth. He could imagine running his own tongue along the edge of Paul’s teeth, feeling the small gap between the two in front as his orgasm climbed steadily up from his balls.
“What’re you making?” Paul asked, interrupting his thoughts.
“Pardon?” Evan looked down to where he crushed sugar in the bottom of the glass. “Oh, this is an old fashioned. It’s Alden’s signature drink.”
“Looks pretty complicated,” Paul said.
“Yep, just like Alden.” Evan added bitters, whiskey, and a lemon twist, then held it up and waved a hand around the glass. “Tah dah. The old fashioned.”
“Very nice,” Paul said, his smile revealing two dimples that made Evan catch his breath. “Can you handle a whiskey sour?”
Evan made an “oh please” face and turned back to the bar. As he mixed Paul’s drink, he asked, “So, you work with John?”
“That’s right. I’m his assistant editor at the station. I just started there a few months ago.”
Evan nodded down at the bar top, his mind placing Paul at KBIT, the news station where John worked as a sports editor. In his mind, Evan could see Paul sitting in a dark editing bay, blue-eyed gaze locked on the small monitors in front of him as he tried to find the perfect clip of a football or hockey game. His big hands would press buttons and turn knobs as he chewed on the straw from his drink at lunch.
“Is John a merciless boss?” Evan asked, glancing up with a smile.
Paul shrugged and grinned. “No, not merciless. He knows what he wants, just not always how to ask for it.”
Evan stopped in his drink preparation and gave Paul an assessing look.
“What?” Paul asked, blushing. “Was that too mean?” He leaned in closer and whispered, “I sometimes forget to use my mental filter.”
Evan breathed in his scent. It wasn’t a cologne, but something masculine and clean, then he blinked and looked away. “Sorry, I… No, it wasn’t mean at all. It was actually a very astute description of John. Most people just see his bluster.”
He glanced at Paul and their eyes locked again. Evan felt the same vertigo he had experienced in the kitchen addle his brain, the party sounds fading away as if he and Paul were the only occupants of Alden’s large, lake front home.
“The numbers are coming in!” someone shouted from the other room, snapping him out of his trance.
Evan took a breath and dropped his gaze, his system flooded with adrenaline and testosterone. He had never experienced anything like this before and had no idea how to deal with it. When he met Paul’s gaze, it was like a magnet grabbing steel and he could not look away. What the hell was this about?
A shout of surprise that sounded like it came from John in the upper level of the house roused Evan from his internal musing, and he grabbed both drinks. Holding up the chilled glasses, he flashed Paul his brightest smile and said in a sing song voice, “And that, class, is how you make an old fashioned and a whiskey sour. Questions?”
Paul chuckled and reached out for his drink, but before he could take it, Evan heard a sound from behind him followed by shouts of alarm. It was a familiar, galloping sound and a knot of anxiety tightened inside him as he realized what it meant. He tried to will his legs to move, but he wasn’t fast enough and, before he could set the drinks on the bar or press himself against the wall, a heavy, solid body struck him from behind, furry legs clamping around his waist and driving him to the floor. As he collapsed beneath his attacker, Evan saw the contents of both drinks fly from their glasses as if in slow motion, watching helplessly as the sticky, sugary bronze of the old fashion coated Paul’s chest, and the concoction of sour mix and whiskey splashed across Paul’s crotch.
Then he was on the floor, the empty glasses rolling away across the cream carpet as the large, furry form started humping him from behind. He knew it was Bandit, of course, Alden and John’s Great Dane that only humped Evan and did it every chance he got. Evan tried to break the dog’s grip around his waist, but the animal was strong and he could not squirm away as Bandit humped him fast and rough.
People streamed into the room, drawn by the commotion, and laughter soon followed. Evan’s cheeks grew hot in embarrassment and his forehead burned where it scraped across the carpet from the force of Bandit’s motions. He heard Alden enter the room, scolding Bandit and shouting to John for help. Evan’s hips lifted and fell as Alden tugged repeatedly on the dog’s collar, trying in vain to dislodge the Dane. The crowd in the room laughed harder, none of them offering to help, and Evan’s forehead scraped hard across the carpet.
Finally, Evan felt the dog’s grip on his hips loosen and he crawled away. He got to his feet and turned, attempting a dignified stance despite the situation. The crowd grew quiet, most of them holding a hand over their smiles, some with eyes watery from the force of their laughter. The man Evan had been talking with in the other room, the man with the very white teeth, Bill, if he remembered correctly, knelt near the fallen glasses, one hand hooked alongside Alden’s through Bandit’s collar. The dog coughed and gagged from the force of Alden and Bill’s struggles, tongue hanging out and brown eyes gazing up at Evan with unabashed glee. Paul was nowhere in sight and Evan felt an odd mix of relief and disappointment.
“Well,” Evan said with a huff as he smoothed out his clothes, “that wasn’t any worse than my junior prom.” The room exploded in laughter and, smiling as brightly as possible, he nodded to the group and turned for the stairs.