“So, would you guys like to tell me the whole story?” Shane asked, after their first round of shots.
Mike looked like a lost puppy, and Jared still waited for the good buzz to start. He didn’t plan on helping his two friends finish the bottle, but he licked his lips in satisfaction. “The whole story?”
“Mike, why don’t you just go for what you want?” Shane was direct, and Jared loved that about him, yet, right now, his protective side surfaced in an instant.
“Mike is shy like that. And such complications --”
“I’m a dumbass and a coward.” That was Mike, who took the second shot and threw his head back to make the booze all disappear down his throat.
“Hey, you’re not at all a coward. A dumbass either,” Jared replied, feeling a familiar sting at the way his best friend saw himself. Mike had always been like this, shy and unsure. Jared had tried to make him think otherwise, but he wasn’t sure he was helping much. Adrian tended to be rougher in his encouragement, but that approach hadn’t worked too many wonders.
“Yeah, I am.” Mike looked down and sighed so deeply that his shoulders slumped.
Jared caressed his back, and a bit of frustration grew inside him. Why wasn’t he better at this? Mike had no reason to think badly of himself.
“Why is that?” Shane intervened. He poured another round with confidence. Jared wondered, for a moment, if they weren’t going through that bottle too fast.
“Because I should just go work someplace else.”
It looked like that particular logic eluded Shane because he looked at Jared, in search of an explanation.
“That would solve everything,” Jared said. “Once Mike is no longer an employee working under Ryan --”
“Under Ryan.” Mike snickered and hiccupped.
“Easy with the booze,” Jared warned. “In a nutshell, no one would have everything to say against them if they weren’t boss and employee.”
“So, Mike only needs to hand in his resignation, and then that’s all. He could go ahead and be with Ryan.”
“Yeah, pretty much. But that means a lot to Mike. He worked hard to get where he is now.”
“Mike, what do you think?” Shane’s attention turned to the person being the main topic of that conversation.
Jared felt a bit annoyed. Was Shane trying to ignore what he said? But, in a way, it was only fair. Mike could speak for himself, and it was only because of Jared’s overly protective nature that he often found himself obliged to speak in his friend’s name.
“I don’t know. I’m afraid to quit my job. What if Ryan’s not the one? Then what do I do?”
“You find another job,” Shane said promptly. “What’s the full half?”
Mike twiddled his thumbs. “I guess it’s that Ryan is the one and that I might not be a homeless person for long.”
“Homeless?” Shane turned toward Jared, in search of additional explanations.
Still miffed over being ignored earlier, Jared kept his mouth shut.
“If I quit, and I don’t land another job soon, I will be unemployed. Then, the months will pass, with me out of a job. I won’t be able to pay my bills, and my landlord will kick me out.” Mike was talking without pausing for a breather. “Then, I’ll be homeless.”
Shane’s eyes grew wide. “Is he always a worrier like this?”
Jared quirked an eyebrow. “Are you sure you want to ask me that?”
A puzzled look welcomed his words. Jared looked away, feeling a bit guilty. After all, Shane was just trying to help. He was the one jaded, trying to jump and notice the slightest sign that he was taken for a fool.
“Yes, I’m always like that,” Mike replied, oblivious at the exchange between the other two people at the table.
“You don’t mind me saying, Mike, but aren’t you too ... What’s that word? Self-absorbed?”
“Self-absorbed? Mike?” Jared crossed his arms over his chest. “He’s the selfless guy I know.”
Shane didn’t seem fazed by Jared’s display of annoyance. “Then that’s the problem. He thinks that he is the root of all problems and the only one with all the solutions.”
Jared bit his lips in thought. “Yeah, I guess that’s true.”
Shane nodded shortly. Jared could swear Shane had stared a bit too long at his mouth right that moment, but it was gone, so it could have been nothing but his imagination.
“Mike, you’re not going to be homeless.” There was finality in Shane’s words.
“I’m not?” Mike didn’t appear for one moment, insulted by Shane’s characterization of his person.
“If you ever run out of options, which I don’t think it’s possible, and if you’re half the brainiac Jared tells me you are, you’ll find a job fast. Also, you can always stay with one of your friends. Jared here cares for you like he’s both your momma and papa. Do you see him letting you live on the streets?”
Jared was speechless, and so was Mike.
Shane continued. “Let’s play your worst-case scenario. My good guess is that you never really thought of it to the end. So, you’re out of a job. For months. You don’t have a place to stay. Ryan’s not the one.”
Each of Shane’s sentences was met with exclamations and grumbles from Mike. Jared was still a complete mute.
“Here’s the solution. I’ll hire you. I don’t know as a what, but cross my heart, you won’t be out of a job for long. Jared here, I bet he will let you sleep in his bed, you lucky dog, until you’re eighty. And Ryan? Well, I’m sure there will be someone else if he’s not the guy you think he is. Which, again, I think you might be wrong in worrying about it.”
Astonishment was too little a word to describe what Jared felt. That little personal envy that Shane inserted at one point hadn’t been lost on him, but that wasn’t all. Simply put, things stood like that. Jared was too caught up in helping Mike never feel the slightest discomfort, and now, in a few minutes, he had been proved that he had been wrong all along.
He stole a glance at Mike. His friend was staring at Shane like he had just had the epiphany of a lifetime. “You’re absolutely right.” Mike’s voice was a whisper, but his shock wasn’t of the unpleasant type. He grabbed his glass again and downed it in one gulp. “I’ll quit.”
“Atta boy.” Shane smiled, and Jared wanted to pinch his cheek, mostly because he was envious of him and his problem-solving skills than anything else.
Mike sunk into his seat and giggled. “I can’t believe I couldn’t see it until now.”
“You saw it, but --” Jared intervened.
“Not really,” Mike replied. “I was too busy thinking of what could go wrong. Just like you, J.”
Jared opened his mouth and closed it. Mike giggled again. All right, this one was toasted. “Maybe you just had a shot too many, Mike.”
Shane placed a warm hand on his shoulder. “Let the boy grow up a little, Jared. He might puke his guts and curse his life tomorrow, but he’ll be a man.”
Jared had a mind to argue, but the satisfied smile on Mike’s lips convinced him to let it go for now. “Sleep on it, Mike. It’s not all bad advice Shane here offers.” He turned his head to stare down the imp who was getting his tail in all things that weren’t his business. A naughty smile was the answer. No wonder there. “Do you always offer jobs to people you barely met?”
Shane shrugged. “It’s a solution. I didn’t say it was the ideal one.”
“That’s not what I asked.”
Shane winked at him. “I know.”
Jared shook his head and smiled. Yeah, it was a solution, and one to offer Mike a bit of peace of mind while he could work on his own. Shane wasn’t just a cowboy; he was a smart cowboy. “You put me to shame as a best friend.”
“Nah, no way.”
“Yes, you do.”
“This tequila is so awesome!” Mike interrupted them. He licked his lips noisily. “How about more?” He raised his glass and then pushed it toward Shane, who was the designated bartender as it seemed.
Jared couldn’t argue with that. And if Mike would be sick tomorrow, he had just the remedy for a hangover.
“Guys, I’m afraid we hit the bottom.” Mike hiccuped.
Mike pointed at the empty bottle. “We drank everything.”
Jared had a dazed look on his face, and the only one who seemed to be still in full control of himself was Shane. Mike had to admit inwardly that he was a big fan of the guy. If only Jared could see how awesome he was. Maybe he could play matchmaker somehow. Maybe there were books on how to be one, and Mike only had to google them. Right now, though, there were more pressing matters, like figuring out if getting on his feet was a good idea or not. The room was not spinning yet, but his legs were all jelly.
“We could have more,” Shane suggested. “It’s on my tab, so don’t be afraid to splurge.”
“That’s not fair,” Mike slurred. “You’re my future boss, so I should butter you up while I still have money.” Another hiccup made both Shane and Jared snicker. “Hey, how come I’m the only one toasted?”
“We might have a bit more practice under our belts,” Jared explained.
He was talking. Mike wanted to laugh so hard. Jared and Shane had sunken into the love setee they were sharing, and they leaned against each other as if that was the only thing keeping them from melting to the floor. Mike closed one eye and framed his friends with his hands improvising a rectangle. “You know, you two look great together.”
Shane didn’t say a thing, but Jared snorted. “Shane would look great with anyone. You know, make everyone shine by association.”
“No,” Mike protested, keeping his improvised frame up with some difficulty. “There is just something about you two, side by side like this. You fit. Shane is so dark and sexy, and you, J, are so cute and soft.”
“Soft? I’m not soft,” Jared said and tried to straighten up. Shane’s arm was around his shoulder, so he eventually gave up on that feat.
“I mean, your face,” Mike continued to argue. “You’ve always been the prettiest of all of us. No wonder Chris wanted you, even with a husband at home. He couldn’t resist you.”
Jared’s face darkened. Mike swallowed; of, fuck. His mind was all fogged up, but even so, he realized what a horrible thing had just left his mouth. “Oh, shit, J, I’m sorry.”
Jared waved, but he wasn’t smiling anymore. “No worries, Mike. Water under the bridge.”
“No, no.” Mike shook his head with vehemence. “I shouldn’t have said such an insensitive thing. It’s not your fault Chris is a cheater.”
From the corner of one eye, Mike could tell Shane was watching their exchange with growing interest. Clearly, he was the least drunk of them all.
“And you’re not just pretty,” Mike rambled on. “You’re also smart and funny and a good cook. And the best friend I could ever have.”
“Mike, honey, don’t worry.” Jared reached him with one hand and caught his arm. “Don’t sweat it. I mean it. I know exactly who’s fault it was that Chris thought he could take advantage of me.”
“His,” Mike said with aplomb.
“Mine,” Jared replied, and his voice was hard when he said that.
Mike fell silent. “You know what, guys? How about you put me in a taxi so that I can hit the hay? You can stay here and have fun.”
“No way I’m going to leave you to ride in the backseat of some unknown car. I’m taking you home.”
“We’re taking you home.” Shane stood up and offered Jared his hand.
To Mike’s relief, Jared took it and didn’t seem as upset as earlier. “You are so cool. The best. Both of you.”
Jared smiled at him, and the hardness was gone. “You’re drunk, Mike. Let’s get you home.”
Mike was pleased to see that being on his feet was not that big an ordeal as he had expected. He turned slightly and risked a look at Ryan’s table, something he hadn’t done for the entire evening. His eyes met Ryan’s in an instant as if that was meant to be. He smiled, and Ryan smiled back. Even if the music blared around them, and the light wasn’t that good, Mike could clearly see that.
That was it. Shane was right. The full half and everything. Mike put all his strength into anchoring himself on his feet. Then, it felt like his entire body moved on its own accord.
“Mike,” Jared called for him. “Mike.”
His friend’s surprise was clear as day, but Mike couldn’t stop now. He walked over to Ryan’s table, his eyes never leaving his prize. When he stopped inches from the table, Ryan’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.
Now or never. Mike steeled himself and bore his eyes into Ryan’s. The other people at the table interrupted their conversation and turned in their seats to look at him.
All eyes were on him now. If he backed down, he was a total coward. Mike raised one hand and cut the air with it.“I quit.”
That move almost caused him to lose his balance, but Mike managed to turn it into an impulse for a pivotal pirouette that put him on his way back to his friends who were looking at him in awe.
His face was stretched into a big grin. Jared caught him into his arms. “Mike, I thought you would sleep on it.”
Ah, Jared was worried. Mike patted his head. “Don’t worry, J. It was long overdue.”
“Mike, can I have a word with you?” That was Ryan, but Mike found it difficult to turn and look at him. His feet were done for, and if Jared didn’t hold him, Mike was sure he would be a puddle on the floor.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Armstrong,” Jared said in an apologetic tone. “Mike is not quite himself right now. Please, don’t mind him.”
“All right. Will he be okay? Will you take care of him?”
There was genuine worry in Ryan’s voice, but Mike no longer had the strength to take the reins and follow up on his act of courage. “It’s all good now,” he said, but his forehead was on Jared’s shoulder, and his friend could barely hold him.
A stronger arm wrapped around his, and Mike moved his head to see Shane. “You’re the best cowboy that ever lived, Shane.”
“We will take care of him, Mr. Armstrong,” Jared said politely. “No need to worry.”
“Okay. But, please, here is my card. If you could send me a short message to tell me that Mike got home all right, I would be grateful.”
“Of course,” Jared replied.
“We will talk on Monday, Mike,” Ryan said, and his voice was stern.
Couldn’t Ryan just see it already? Mike would have explained everything at large, but his mind was jiggly pudding, and his feet were no better. Yeah, they would talk on Monday.
“Monday,” he shouted and raised one arm.
Jared caught him and dragged him along. “I’ll never let you drink again, Mike.”
“Tequila,” Mike hooted and then made a poor impersonation of a popular cartoon character of Mexican descent.
Jared clamped one hand over his mouth for a second. “Now, let’s get you out of here before we all get thrown out by the personnel.”
Mike kissed Jared’s cheek as soon as his mouth was free again. “I love you, J. You’re awesome.”
“Yeah, I know. And you really can’t hold your liquor.”
If Mike had said that he could remember how he got out of the club, into a cab, and back home in his bed, he would have been the biggest liar in the universe.
“Will he be all right?” Shane asked. “If I’d known he was such a lightweight, I wouldn’t have let him drink so much.”
“He will be fine. I’ll leave all the instructions on what to do the first things he wakes up, and he will surely call me. He didn’t have that much to drink, but I think he drank too fast.” Jared shook his head. “It had happened before, which is why I am not as worried as you might think I should be.”
“I don’t think anything,” Shane said. “You’re the boss here since you’ve known Mike for much longer than me.”
“You sure hurried to give him advice.” Jared didn’t want to sound pissed, but he was a little and couldn’t hide it.
“Sorry if I trespassed. It wasn’t my intention.”
Jared turned with a smile toward Shane. “I meant it. Not all the advice you gave Mike tonight was bad.” He tucked Mike in and brushed one hand against his forehead. Mike was already snoring and in dreamland. There wasn’t anything else left for him to do here.
“Can I know which one was not that bad?”
“Mike needs to be a little more courageous. His natural shyness, although endearing, might just stop him from being his best self. And also, happy, in this case. Ah, I almost forgot. I’ll send Ryan a quick text.”
“The poor guy looked like an angel from heaven struck him down.” Shane chuckled. “I’m not sure he understood the situation.”
Jared laughed, too, while he typed fast. “That’s true. But it’s all on Mike to explain it. And I won’t get involved since I don’t want Ryan to think that Mike has bragged all over the place about sleeping with the boss. It’s just that, the three of us, we don’t have many secrets worth keeping from each other.”
The midnight air had cleared his head a little, as well as his need to care for Mike, but Jared could feel the buzz from earlier returning, in the warmth of the room. Maybe they all needed to head over to the bed, after all.
“The three of you,” Shane said.
Jared threw him a guilty look. “I didn’t mean to make you feel excluded. We’ve known each other since forever. But I hope we’ll all get to know you, too.”
“What about you?”
“What about me?”
“Do you want to get to know me?”
“I’m pretty sure what I said covers that.”
Jared stood up from Mike’s bed and closed the bedside lamp. Shane walked out of the room without being told what to do. With the spare key he kept for such occasions, Jared locked the door to Mike’s apartment and followed Shane outside. It looked like there was some conversation they needed to have.
“Shane,” he asked, the moment they were out in the street again. “Give it to me straight. Who was the guy you said you liked tonight?”
“You guessed it.”
Jared fell in line with Shane and took the offered arm. There had been no talk of asking for a cab and be on their way, too. A walk on quiet streets at midnight sounded like a good idea right now. “I didn’t guess anything since I asked you who it was.”
“You wouldn’t have asked if you hadn’t known already.”
Jared sighed. Well, Shane wasn’t the type to beat around the bush, so he shouldn’t be, either. “You were talking about me.”
Shane disentangled his arm from Jared’s hold and then hooked it over his shoulders. It could look friendly to anyone who might have seen them walking at that hour, but Jared knew better. Shane’s body heat was coming at him in waves, and it felt so good. There was a kind of tiredness making his legs heavy now, and it wasn’t just the booze. It wasn’t all unpleasant, either.
“We are friends. We decided that.”
Shane remained silent as they continued to walk. “Yeah. But there are all sorts of friends in the world.”
Jared shivered lightly, and Shane pulled him close. “Beats me what you’re trying to say, right now.”
“Chris was that guy, the married one.” Shane didn’t ask. He was just stating facts, and now Jared had no idea what Shane wanted to know.
“He broke your heart or something.”
“Or something,” Jared admitted.
“So, you don’t want a boyfriend right now.”
“That’s pretty much what I told you before.”
“But you want a friend. You want me as a friend.”
“Yes. You’re an awesome guy. I would hate to lose you only because we met at the wrong moment.”
Shane seemed lost in thought again. “How about another drink, Jared?”
“Maybe we had enough.”
“The night’s still young, and I’m your newest friend. You can’t let me drink by myself.”
“Are you trying to get me drunk, Shane? That’s not very nice of you.”
“It’s my plan.”
“Oh, I really didn’t think you would admit it like that. Why do you want to get me drunk?”
“It worked the first time,” Shane said.
“Ah, but then I wasn’t drunk. I had only a few shots, and I wanted it. I won’t be a hypocrite and blame it on the booze.”
“That’s good, then. Still, how about not calling it a night just yet?”
“You know what, Shane? I’d like to spend more time with you. But not drinking. I want to see you dance.”
Shane looked pleased with the prospect. “Then, we could just go back and dance some more.”
“Nah. I’m not sure that’s my kind of club, anyway. I want us to go something where you can truly display your talents.” Jared pulled out his phone. “There must be a place where they offer other types of entertainment. I think I found it.” It wasn’t the type of place where people would waltz, but it was the next best thing.
Shane observed him. “You say you want to see me dancing. Don’t you want to dance with me?”
“I just want to watch you.”
“You’re a bit mysterious. I thought you didn’t keep secrets from your friends.”
“I’m sure you still have plenty yourself. This is all about me getting to know you. You want that, right?”
“Sure. In return, I’ll ask for something, too.”
“Of course. Anything.”
That question mark had to be a trap, but Jared didn’t think much of it as he walked right into it. “Anything,” he confirmed again, with renewed conviction.
Jared watched as Shane offered his dancing partner his hand, and together, they began twirling on the dancefloor. Social Latin dances had been the closest thing he had found to test Shane’s talents, but that wasn’t the only thing he wanted to check. It was clear as day that Shane had dancing in his blood. Whether it was rumba or cha-cha, so far, he had proved a redoubtable contender in the amateur dance competition that took place that night.
With keen eyes, Jared took in how Shane placed his hand on his partner’s back. Tango was a passionate dance, and if there was something there to see, that had to be it. Shane’s execution was flawless, and his partner, an attractive brunette in her late twenties, seemed enraptured with him.
Jared brushed his fingers against his lips. Shane had a body to die for. His face hovered over his partner’s as the music played. The beautiful brunette coquettishly let her eyelids drop, and, for a moment, it seemed like Shane was about to kiss her. But, he just kept her there and didn’t move until the last note died.
“What a beautiful performance!” The announcer clapped his hands and hurried on the stage.
The couples rushed out, and Shane, after saying something to his partner, jogged over to the place where Jared said. His eyes were shining, and he exuded sexiness more than before if that was possible. “So, what did you think, Jared?”
“I clapped until I couldn’t feel my hands. If you and the beautiful lady you danced with don’t win first prize, there’s no justice in the world. Now quick, hurry back because they’ll call your number.”
Shane had a mysterious smile. “I don’t think I’ll win. There were plenty of talented people here tonight.”
“Are you kidding me? You were amazing.”
Shane let his eyes travel back to the dancefloor. “In your eyes, maybe I was. But, just in case I don’t win, can I have a consolation prize?”
Jared didn’t quite know what to make of that. “Sure thing you can have that. Hey, your partner is waving at you. Go, go.”
The announcer called each couple, and then exchanged a few words with them. A meter would measure the public’s reaction for the dancers once they were presented. Jared had meant every word; his hands were already numb.
He watched in disbelief as Shane and his partner came in third. Right away, he hurried to meet Shane. Seeing how much passion he put into his dance, he must have been pretty upset.
“Aw, Shane, I’m so sorry,” he started.
Shane’s partner eyed him with interest and smiled slyly. “So, this is Jared.”
Jared offered his hand. “Yes, that’s me.”
She shook his hand and offered her name, but then she quickly excused herself as she needed to hurry back to her friends.
“What a beautiful lady,” Jared commented. “I bet she gave you her number.”
Shane took him by the shoulders and guided him back to the table. “What do you bet?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t mean it like that.”
Shane chuckled. They sat, and Jared pushed a drink in front of him. “I thought you needed some refreshment.”
“That and my consolation prize.” Shane put the glass down after taking a sip. “Juice? I thought you would ply me with stiffer stuff, now that I lost.”
“I can’t believe it. You were so amazing out there,” Jared said. “And if you want alcohol, we can call the waiter.”
“No, juice is fine.” Shane looked at Jared, and his eyes were warm. “You said I could ask anything.”
“And I’m also entitled to a consolation prize.”
“Two times, yes.”
“Then I want you to come home with me tonight.”
Jared swallowed, sudden nervousness a ball in his throat. Wasn’t that all that he had thought the entire night while dancing with Shane, drinking with him, watching his hands holding an attractive woman, and trying – and failing – to quench the jealousy rising in him like a tide? No, he hadn’t thought of anything. All night, all he had done had been to fight off such ideas. He was Shane’s friend, and nothing else.
“But we are just friends, Shane,” Jared said, with a note of regret.
Shane studied the glass in front of him. “I told you, Jared. There are all kinds of friends in the world.”
Jared froze for a moment. Then he shook his head. “You can’t mean what I think you mean.”
“You’re thinking … what? Friends with benefits?”
“I believe that’s the term.” With those words, the sexy twang was back, and the charm was turned on to the max.
“You want a boyfriend, Shane. I can’t be that.” Jared’s voice was quiet.
Shane was looking anywhere else but at him. “I don’t want that. I want a friend I can feel good with.”
“Wow. I mean --” Jared found his words with much difficulty.
“You wanted to check something tonight, Jared. What did you find?”
Jared took a careful sip from his glass. Was he that transparent?
“Do you know why I didn’t get first place?” Shane changed tack, without apparent reason.
“Why?” Jared could feel his throat drying like the Sahara desert at noon.
“I lacked passion. My dancing lacked the passion needed to impress the people here.”
“I must argue with that. Your moves were so precise, so --”
“Void of passion. Because I wasn’t dancing with the one I want,” Shane said. His voice was calm and measured, but Jared felt a bit afraid that there was a volcano underneath, threatening to erupt.
“I don’t know what to say.” It was the truth. It wasn’t fair to use Shane only because Jared felt attracted to him. It would be wrong.
Shane took his hand and caressed it. “Come with me tonight. We could be awesome friends. With benefits.”
“But I would take advantage of you like I did the first time,” Jared objected, albeit feebly.
“That’s where the part with benefits comes in. I’d get as much of this as you. And we would be even, don’t you think?”
Jared had a feeling Shane was, indeed, much smarter than he let on. He hesitated, his mind still on the obligation to push Shane and such a tempting offer aside.
“We’d have fun, the way I see it,” Shane said. “You don’t have to get entangled in a new relationship until you decide you want one again.”
“That could be a long time. I don’t want to keep you from finding --”
“If I’m suddenly sweet on someone, you’ll be the first to know,” Shane said in a solemn voice. “Because you’re my friend. And it’s you I want. It’s not that complicated, right?”
Right. Jared risked one look at Shane. “So, it’s just a sex thing?” he asked in a quiet voice.
“No. We’re friends. But you don’t have to do anything, like buying me chocolate on Valentine’s Day and all that.”
Jared laughed. “I give chocolate to Mike and Adrian every year on Valentine’s Day.”
“Then you’ll have to give me some,” Shane said. “Here is what, Jared. Give me a kiss, and I’ll know if this works out. I have a feeling it will.”
“Give you a kiss? Here?” Jared looked around, a bit panicked.
Shane laughed. “I can wait until we’re out of here and alone.”
Jared didn’t object when Shane took his hand and dragged him outside. Was he really going along with this?
Shane didn’t wait long. There were at a fair distance from the club when he pulled Jared under an awning. Jared didn’t protest one peep when Shane pressed him against the wall and put his lips on his. He couldn’t breathe, but he didn’t want to, anyway. There were so many other better things to do than that, like letting Shane take his mouth, over and over, making his head spin and his feet float above the ground.
“It’s not fair that you’re such a great kisser,” Jared said the moment their kiss broke.
“I’m putting my money where my mouth is. How was it, babe? Tell me you didn’t like it, and I’ll walk away right now. But be honest with me.”
“It’s just a sex thing,” Jared murmured under his breath.
“What, babe?” Shane’s voice was playful now, and the endearing term didn’t help Jared think clearer now.
“I would lie if I said I didn’t like it. You’re good at this, Shane.”
“So? What do you say? Do you want to be friends with benefits with me?”
“I feel like I shouldn’t,” Jared moaned.
“It’s okay if you say ‘no’, but how many times did you hook up with someone, and he sucked? Not in the fun way.”
“I guess … plenty of time,” Jared agreed.
“So I save you the grief of having to deal with that. You already know you like it, how I do you. I won’t bother you like a jealous boyfriend, and you’re free to do what you want. Plus, I’m not married.”
Oh, so Shane knew how to play dirty. But Jared realized one thing. That was a safe bet, what Shane offered. They didn’t have to think beyond that, and they didn’t have any obligations. And it felt good. And Shane knew how to make love so well. And maybe getting laid on the regular would help him see things clearly.
A whole lotta benefits.
Shane hovered, his lips close to Jared’s. “What do you say, babe? You’re in?”
Jared closed the distance between them. “I’m in.”
They had never stopped kissing on the backseat of the cab taking them home. They hadn’t while climbing up the stairs, to Shane’s apartment. And not once inside. It was a performance of sorts that they had managed to be in the bedroom, completely naked and that without letting their lips part for more than a couple of seconds at the time.
“Do you still have that box of condoms?” Jared asked.
“You’re the one I started it with, and you’ll be the one I’ll finish it with.”
“Hmm, big words.” Jared caressed the coverlet with his hands. Shane’s bed was so comfortable. And maybe all the night’s excitement was getting to him because his eyelids were heavy, and his body was sinking into the mattress like it wanted to belong there.
Shane kissed him again, and some of the fogginess cleared. Giggling, Jared began kissing back, and he allowed Shane to take off his clothes.
For a moment, as Shane stood at the foot of the bed, looking perfect with his strong chest and hard rock cock, Jared wondered briefly whether he wasn’t in his right mind anymore. Maybe he wasn’t, but he was also young and bound to make mistakes.
At least, this looked like the right kind of mistake. Shane laughed and pulled him by one leg toward the edge of the bed. “When you look at me, with those naughty eyes, you make me lose myself a little.”
Jared snickered. “Really? Like this?” He cocked his head and threw Shane what he hoped to appear as a come-hither glance.
Shane bit his lips and closed his eyes. “You’re killing me, babe.”
Was this bedroom talk for friends with benefits? Jared had no idea since he had never had one of those. But Shane maybe knew, and Jared wondered if he was one of a long string of such friends.
Shane didn’t allow him to dwell on such thoughts. Their bodies glued and fused as Shane struggled to prepare Jared. There was not much need for that. Tonight, he felt relaxed and happy, unlike in a while.
Jared dragged his nails over Shane’s naked back. “How do you know to fuck so well? Just how many friends with benefits have you ever had?”
Shane laughed but didn’t change his rhythm. Jared dug his heels into the small of his partner’s back. It looked like Shane didn’t mind as he continued his ample swing of the hips that made Jared shiver with soaring pleasure.
“You’re my first.”
“You liar.” Jared bit Shane’s chest since he couldn’t reach anywhere else.
“Cross my heart.” Shane hissed but didn’t say anything.
“If I stumble over other friends with benefits around here, I’ll kick your ass.”
“Do that. You won’t find anyone.”
Shane buried one hand in Jared’s hair and pulled his head back to kiss him again. With any other guy, Jared would have thought that a Neanderthal move. But, with Shane, everything was different, even sex, for the sake of it.
It had to be in the way he kissed, not artful, but firm, like he put in it everything he had. Their mouths melded, while Shane hammered his ass with passionate abandonment. Jared couldn’t remember feeling so much pleasure and so free at the same time.
Shane had to be the best friend with benefits in the world. He could be a little liar, saying that Jared was the first. Jared could allow it. It wasn’t that big a deal. At the moment, Shane was his friend with benefits, and, as funny as that sounded, Jared believed every bit of it.
The rhythm died down after their first crush. Jared couldn’t help laughing. There had to be a mess between them, as Jared had let go to quite a bit of pent up pressure. Shane kissed him gently as they came by to their senses.
“Would you mind seconds?”
“Are you kidding me? Of course, I won’t. But I’ll sleep here in the morning. I still remember what a wreck I was the first time.”
Shane showered his face with kisses. “You can spend all day here if you want.”
“I wouldn’t want to overstay my welcome.”
“We could hang out. Do you have any plans with Mike and Adrian? We could hang out with them, too.”
Just like friends, of course. Jared had no choice. “Sure. Let’s do that.”
Shane helped him turn gently on his belly. “I love watching your ass swallowing my cock. It’s the best view in the world.”
Jared laughed. “You’re a little kinky, Shane. But I like it. Just give it to me like you really mean it.”
“You don’t have to tell me twice.”
Jared giggled and shivered when Shane bit his shoulder. Having a friend like that was completely new, but it felt so damned good.
“Do your neighbors ever wonder what could be happening in your apartment?” he whispered breathily, as Shane moved again, making his eyes roll in his head.
“Because I’m sure we’re making a lot of noise.”
“I’ll get a new bed. But don’t hold down your sweet voice. I want to hear I’m making you feel good.”
“Even if your neighbors will give us the evil eye tomorrow?”
“It’s a risk I’m willing to take.” Shane snuck one arm under Jared’s chest to hold him. “Now, hold on tight, babe. Here comes the thrill ride.”
A thrill ride? Shane was an entire amusement park. Jared closed his eyes and let his body lead, for once.
Mike woke up with a huge throbbing in his head. Ah, what the hell had happened? Had someone clubbed him almost to death? He groaned as he fought to open his eyes. With some difficulty, he managed to clear his vision and throw a look around. It looked like he was home, in his bed, which was a big relief.
He needed the bathroom. His mouth was a cat cemetery, and his feet listened to him like they were made of wood, not flesh and blood.
The water splashed on his face had a bit of the desired effect. Mike mumbled to himself while brushing his teeth, rinsing, then brushing again. So, last night must have been pretty wild. He had gone out with Jared and Shane, and they had had ... Right. An entire bottle of tequila.
That sure as hell didn’t seem like such a swell idea right now. At the moment, it had looked like fun. Yeah, Mike had had fun with the boys, and since he wasn’t a lot of fun, usually, that was a victory of sorts. He hadn’t made a fool of himself in front of Shane, who was new to the group, and he hadn’t been a spoilsport.
Or had he? Mike stopped, his toothbrush in mid-air. Suddenly, a sensation of dread began to grow inside him. He had gotten pretty wasted last night since he couldn’t drink so much without making a mess of himself.
Ryan. The memory of seeing his boss, aka love interest, at the club, had been a pretty big surprise. He had gotten the chance to point Ryan to Jared, and his friend had told him that Ryan was an absolute stunner. Of course, he had done so without drawing Ryan’s attention. After their awkward episode, Mike had wanted nothing but to remain invisible to Ryan the rest of the night.
Mike shrugged. He was pining over his boss. What was new? The boys had been fun. Shane had given him some good advice on how to stop being a total coward. Like how he could bite the bullet and quit.
That meant that he needed to work on his resignation letter, which Ryan wouldn’t find too bothersome. Then, he would explain everything …
Oh, no. Mike dropped the toothbrush into the sink and hurried back to the bedroom. He found on the nightstand some instructions from Jared about what to do if he felt hangover. That was the least of his worries right now.
The chances were he was unemployed. There was one way to find out if that was true. With trembling hands, he grabbed his phone.
Jared jolted when his phone began to ring. For a couple of seconds, he stared around, wondering where he was. The reality of the previous night came crashing down on him while the phone continued to ring.
Someone handed him the phone. “I think it’s Mike calling.”
Jared closed his eyes and then grabbed the phone. “Yeah, Mike, how are you feeling? Resignation? Oh, yes, you did say that. Calm down. I’ll come over.”
He didn’t dare to look at Shane after he ended the conversation with Mike. But he needed to face the music eventually. Shane placed a concerned hand on his chest. “Is everything all right?”
“Yeah. Yeah. I mean, Mike just realized that he had handed Ryan his resignation last night. I need to go talk to him.”
“Okay? Would you like me to come, too, or I’ve done enough?”
Jared smiled despite how he felt inside. “Don’t worry about that. It’s only the growing pains, right?”
Shane caressed his chest. “We can still hang out, right?”
Jared bit his lips. “Yeah, sure. As friends.”
He pushed himself up and began collecting his clothes from the floor, without risking one look in Shane’s direction. “Shane, listen, can you do me a favor?” he said after he was finally decent.
“Let’s not let the guys know that we --” He swallowed his words.
“That we’re friends with benefits?”
“Sure thing.” Shane was nothing but accommodating. “It will be our little secret.”
Jared nodded. “Yeah.”
“See you later?” Shane climbed out of bed, and Jared moved his eyes away from the big dick swinging around.
“Yeah. Sure. I should go. Mike is in a lot of pain, as it seems.”
Shane began getting dressed, too. When he brushed by him, Jared wondered if Shane hadn’t just made a move as if to kiss him.
No, of course not. Morning breath and all that. Plus, they were just friends. They didn’t kiss outside the bed, right?
And this was a story where Mike finally did the right thing, but in his own style, and Jared accepted that there are many types of friends in the world. Please let me know in the comments below what you thought of the chapter. I'm always happy to hear from you.
All the best,
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