Eight nights and eight gay bars later, Marc stood in front of another and wiped his sweaty palms down the front of his suit pants. He’d loosened his tie and undone the top button of his shirt, but he still felt hot. He was nervous, as he’d been every night he’d decided to start searching, but at least he was doing something and not acting the coward he’d been before he’d spoken to his sister.
He still hadn’t made that final decision about what would happen when he found the man who matched the image, but for his own peace of mind he needed to at least find him and see if the mirror was right. Then, and only then, would he choose what to do about him.
Ignoring his twisting gut, Marc shoved open the door and walked in. The bar was like the last few he’d been in, clean and filled with music and men. A few glanced up at him as he entered, while some took more interest. Marc carefully and slowly looked around the room. He’d quickly learned that if he seemed to be searching for someone in particular, no one approached him. It was only when he looked lost or unsure did men come up to him. It had been embarrassing at first, but after several nights of being sidled up to and offered drinks, he’d gotten used to it. He was getting some pretty good experience in turning men down.
Gazing around the slightly dim interior, Marc noted the dark paneled walls, the timber floors, and the half-crescent booths that lined the walls. Together they all seemed to hint at a bygone era. Quaint, and not what he expected. Marc actually felt a little more comfortable than in the other places he’d been in, and a little more optimistic--until his scrutiny included the faces of the men in the bar and came up empty. He sighed, disappointed, the tension in his body worse than it had been before he’d stepped through the door. Contemplating a future entirely different from the one he’d planned was scary enough, but he was also beginning to worry about what would happen if he didn’t
find the man he was looking for. What would his life be like then? Empty? Lonely? Not wanting to even think about the possibility, Marc squared his shoulders and decided to wait. It was early, and the man might still turn up. Spotting an empty booth tucked away in a corner, Marc started toward it, then stopped dead in his tracks.
A man angled toward him from what appeared to be the bathroom. He was tall, his long, jean-clad legs bringing him quickly across the wooden floor. Slim hips, slim waist, flat stomach, broad chest and shoulders covered in a tight black T-shirt and a loose button-down shirt. As the man got closer, Marc focused on his face. Strong jaw, full lips, straight nose, beautiful dark brown eyes, and dark, almost black, hair.
In that instant, as the man glanced his way, as their eyes met and held, recognition hit so powerfully that Marc nearly staggered backward in shock because the recognition he felt didn’t just come from the physical apparition which strode in his direction, but the absolute and unmistakable knowledge that this man belonged to him.
Stunned, Marc stood rooted to the spot, his body suddenly becoming alive with an awareness he never expected to feel. Something pulled at him, something deep inside which woke up and started a little happy dance while a hot need lit up every nerve ending until Marc thought he’d combust. It was obvious what was happening to him, but even as Marc tried to refute it, his stomach clenched at the sight of those long legs coming toward him. His heart skipped a beat, his mouth went dry, but worse, so much worse, was his cock undeniably stirred at the interest which suddenly flared deep within those dark brown eyes. What the fuck?
No. No way!
He wasn’t gay, he knew he wasn’t, but despite that conviction, Marc wasn’t stupid enough to try to deny his body wanted this man, especially when he passed and Marc turned to watch, awkwardly appreciating that broad back and tight ass and inexplicably wondering how it would feel to run his hands over every muscled inch. He groaned, low and deep in his throat. What the hell was he thinking? But it was at that point Marc realized he was
still thinking. Though his body had gone completely gaga, he was still able to process thoughts and feelings and knew he could easily separate the two. Relief flooded him. He could still walk away from this if he wanted to.
But he didn’t want to. Not yet. Marc didn’t need to remind himself he’d gone looking for this, looking for love, but was he going to find it in this man? According to Stella his soul was already bound to him, and the last few seconds had just proved his body didn’t seem to be having a problem, but what of his heart and mind? He hadn’t felt that love-at-first-sight thing, which was another relief, but now he had to make the decision whether he wanted to offer his heart to someone who might not even want it.
He settled his gaze on the jean-covered ass now seated at the bar, and his body gave a small shiver of awareness. Disconcerted at the way his body was reacting, Marc wondered how far it was willing to go, or how far he was willing to let it. Taking a deep breath, Marc took a few hesitant steps toward the bar. His stomach roiled, but he wasn’t sure if it was because of nerves or excitement, until his dick started clamoring for some sort of contact with the hard body he now approached. God. Unbidden thoughts and images made their presence known, ones he would never have contemplated before now, and disturbed, Marc pushed them deep into the back of his mind. His body might want, but Marc definitely wasn’t ready to admit he desired sex with a man. Not even this man.
The guy turned toward him as he sat down. Marc gazed at him for a second, at the face he knew he would never be able to forget. He was just how Marc had seen him in the mirror, but more compelling, more alive and real. He was not just an image anymore. He was flesh and blood, skin and bone, and though Marc reserved judgment on how all this was going to pan out, he couldn’t deny the effects this guy had on his psyche.
Drawn to him in a way he hadn’t thought possible, Marc couldn’t help but stare for a moment until the guy cocked an eyebrow over dark brown eyes which stared back. Realizing he needed to do something and not just sit there, realizing also this was his last chance to change his mind, Marc put both faith and fate in his hands and held out one, hating the fact it was shaking a little.
“Hi, I’m Marcus. Marc. Can I buy you a drink?”
The man glanced at Marc’s hand and then slowly took it. His grip was firm, warm, the palm and the tips of his fingers as he curled them around Marc’s slightly rough, calloused. Marc felt the heat of his touch, but before he could reflect on it, the man let go, skimming his thumb over the softer skin at the back of Marc’s hand. Marc shivered.
“Liam. And no, I’ve already got one.” He smiled, and Marc felt his gaze drawn to Liam’s mouth. He had a wide mouth with full lips, and one side turned up at a crooked angle.
“That’s okay, I can wait until you’ve finished that one,” he said, recognizing with surprise he’d just checked Liam out, again.
“You might be a long time waiting. I don’t drink more than one a night.”
“Oh.” Marc was suddenly at a loss. Was that a let-down? Was he being rejected? He hadn’t actually gained any experience in picking up a guy, so didn’t know, but Liam’s smile was still there and so was the interest in his eyes.
“You’ve never done this before, have you?” Liam asked, saving Marc from racking his brain about what to say next.
Liam leaned back against the scarred timber bar, his arm extended. “Didn’t think so, but I don’t know if I’m flattered or offended.”
“Offended?” Shit he wasn’t supposed to offend the guy. “Why?”
“Do I look like an easy lay?” Though Liam’s tone had a teasing edge to it, there was something harder in the look he gave Marc now.
“No! You don’t look anything like that at all. It’s just that, well...” This was it. This was where he explained about the mirror. It was only fair he told Liam what he was after and why, because coming on to Liam without him knowing the reason was tantamount to telling a lie, and Marc didn’t lie. During rehearsal he’d tried to make it sound logical and perfectly reasonable. Now, however, as he launched into his speech he began to realize how stupid it sounded, and by the look Liam gave him, he seemed to think so too.
About halfway through, Marc knew he was making a big mistake and ground to a halt. He was never going to explain the feeling he’d got when viewing Liam’s image in the mirror, never going to convince him of the deep-seated knowledge that what he’d been told was true, and never in a million years was he going to be able to describe what he’d felt upon seeing him or how his body had reacted, and he realized now he shouldn’t have tried. Liam leaned away from him, and Marc wished the ground would suddenly open up beneath his feet. Liam took a big swallow of his beer and carefully put the bottle back on the bar.
“Let me get this straight,” Liam said, squarely landing his gaze on Marc’s face. “You saw me in a mirror, realized I’m the man for you, you’re not gay, but you want to spend the rest of your life with me?”
“To be honest, I’m still trying to figure that out. You’re supposed to be my true love, but I’m not sure how that could work. I mean, I know it’s supposed to, but, well...”
“I’m a man.”
“So why the fuck are you talking to me?”
Liam looked decidedly pissed, and though Marc knew why, it was hard not to be upset. “Because I needed to find out. If the mirror was right and you do belong to me, then I honestly couldn’t turn my back on you, on loving you.”
“Belong to you? Are you for fucking real?”
Oh God, this was not going well. “Look, I know this sounds crazy--”
“Can’t you hear me out?” Now Marc was pissed. Shit, couldn’t the guy have just believed? But then why would he? Why would anyone? Marc knew if the roles had been reversed, he wouldn’t.
“I think you’ve said more than enough.” Liam stood, and Marc panicked. He grabbed Liam’s wrist and quickly realized how strong Liam was. His arms were solid muscle, and despite Marc using all his strength, Liam was easily able to pull free.
“Wait, please. Maybe I should try to explain it a different way.” Was
there a different way?
“There’s nothing to explain. I don’t do relationships or crazy guys. Try someone else.” Liam turned; Marc grabbed his arm again.
“There isn’t anyone else,” Marc said anxiously, fully coming to terms with what all this meant. Liam was the one. Liam was his one chance at love. That’s what he’d been shown, what he’d felt, and despite not understanding why, Marc wasn’t willing let his chance go. Even if the person he was supposed to love was a man. Why didn’t matter anymore, nor did how. It just was. He tightened his grip. “Can’t be. That’s what I was trying to say. You’re mine.”
Liam turned back, and something deep within his eyes flashed. “I don’t belong to anyone, Marc.”
Marc knew if he hadn’t been so focused on Liam, he might have missed it. As it was he seriously didn’t know if he was right or not, but even as Liam denied the future they could have together, Marc was sure he saw longing deep within those dark brown depths. It floored Marc simply because the way Liam was acting, he would have said Liam definitely didn’t believe in love.
Encouraged, Marc strove for a way to change Liam’s mind. “Maybe not now, but couldn’t you at least be open to the idea? Wouldn’t you like having someone special in your life, someone special to come home to, talk to, share your problems with?”
“I just told you I don’t do relationships.”
“What if I was gay? Would that make a difference?”
A sigh of exasperation passed Liam’s lips. “You said you were straight.”
Marc nodded, then twisted his lips in what he hoped was a semblance of a smile. “Well, that’s the weird part. When I saw you walking across the room, my body reacted in a way I definitely hadn’t expected.” Not sure if he was saying the right things, Marc waited, fully aware he was still holding on to Liam’s wrist. Liam’s skin was warm against his, the strength of muscles different, but surprisingly not unpleasant.
Liam glanced down at where Marc held him, his gaze jerking back up when Marc unconsciously stroked his thumb across the back of Liam’s hand the way Liam had done to him earlier.
Thankful he’d grabbed Liam’s attention, Marc relaxed a little. “It wanted you.” He said it simply, because that was how it had felt. He may not be okay with the idea just yet, but his body definitely was.
“It? Is your body a separate entity or something?” There was amusement in Liam’s tone, which Marc was grateful for.
“Right now it is. To be honest, I still can’t get my mind around the idea of having sex with you.”
“You’re really fucked-up, aren’t you?”
Marc wasn’t sure if Liam meant that as derogatory term, or if he was just stating the obvious. He was
fucked-up, but still determined to do this. He just had to prove to Liam he could. “I guess, but that still doesn’t alter the fact I want you.”
Liam sighed and sat back down on the stool to face him. “Marc, you seem like a nice guy. Fucked, but nice. But you’ve got the wrong man. What you’re looking for, I can’t offer you. I don’t do relationships. I don’t even date.” Before Marc could ask, Liam continued. “I hook up. I go with guys for sex, that’s it. I don’t want anything more in my life.”
If Marc hadn’t seen the look in Liam’s eyes earlier, he might have believed him, but that coupled with the experience with the mirror had Marc knowing otherwise. He thought for all of one second before realizing what he had to do to get Liam to change his mind. “So, if I offer sex, will you go out with me?”
Liam rolled his eyes but didn’t get off the stool to leave again, which Marc took to be a good thing. “Fuck, you’re pushy.”
Marc grinned. “I know, but then I’ve got a lot to lose if I don’t persuade you to at least give this a try.”
“Just one date. Please. See if you like it.”
“I’ll only like it if there’s sex involved. Do you really want that, Marc? Do you really want me pushing inside you, fucking you?”
Marc inwardly winced--he couldn’t help it, but then he nodded. “If that’s what it takes, yes.”
“Prove it.” Liam slid off the stool and moved closer, his hip brushing the inside of Marc’s knee. As if it’d been touched by an electric current, Marc’s body became fully aware again, lighting up and seeking more contact. Marc bit back a curse, shocked at the way his body was instinctively reacting.
“How?” he asked, holding himself still, willing his body to behave. Though he acknowledged it was definitely going to make it easier when it came to having sex with Liam, it was still fucking strange.
“Kiss me.” The words were softly spoken, and at first, Marc didn’t know if he’d heard them correctly.
“Kiss me,” Liam repeated. This time it was a challenge.
Was Liam serious? He looked serious. Marc shook his head, conscious of the people around him and how his stomach did a somersault at the idea. “I don’t do public displays.”
“Pity.” Liam moved away.
Liam stopped, waiting. The challenge was now in his eyes, and Marc was all too aware if he didn’t kiss him, Liam would walk away, and this time Marc wouldn’t be able to stop him.
Knowing he had no choice, not if he wanted any chance to pursue this, Marc gave in, hoping Liam wasn’t always going to be so demanding. “Okay,” he said, trying not to sound intimidated or afraid. How did you kiss a guy? Was it different from a girl?
Liam nodded and then sliding a hand along the top of Marc’s thigh, placed himself between Marc’s legs. Marc tensed, overly conscious of the strongly muscled thighs wedged against his, of the heat of Liam’s hand, the pressure of his fingers, of the fact that a man was caressing him, holding him. He chanced a look into Liam’s eyes and saw something he hadn’t expected--amusement edged with desire. Shit, was Liam just playing with him, or did he really want Marc to kiss him?
This close, Marc could feel Liam’s warm breath fanning across his face. It smelled faintly of beer, and as Marc licked his lips, he swore he could almost taste it. The pressure on his thigh increased as Liam’s gaze dropped to his mouth before focusing on him again. Was that a nervous gesture, or was Liam just impatient?
“You gonna do this or just keep staring at me?”
Both, Marc decided and couldn’t help a little smile. Liam tightened his grip, and Marc felt a distinct brush of a thumb against his thigh, and without any warning he became instantly hard.
Never, not once, had the touch of a man done this to him. Hell, not even a woman had managed to evoke such a response from just a touch so quickly. Yet whether it was because he was expecting it or he’d already become used to the idea that his body was betraying him in ways he never envisioned, Marc didn’t react, until he saw the brown in Liam’s eyes darken to almost black. Liam had noticed, and it was his reaction which got to Marc.
He shook, fighting the need to get off the stool and either run out of the bar or throw himself into Liam’s arms. He wasn’t going crazy, he knew he wasn’t, but goddamn this was hard to take. As if he understood, Liam relaxed his grip, but he didn’t remove his hand. Another challenge, and Marc knew he had to rise to it, or he would never earn Liam’s respect, and getting that was tantamount to getting Liam to believe him. At the glint in Liam’s eyes, Marc took a deep breath and forced himself to relax. He could do this. He had
to do this. Sitting at eye level with Liam, Marc couldn’t miss the light lift of Liam’s mouth, one side turning up in that crooked way of his.
“Whenever you’re ready,” Liam goaded.
With his stomach twisting in desire--something Marc tried to ignore--he leaned forward. He only had one moment to change his mind, one infinitesimal speck in time to really consider what he was doing before it was too late. Or perhaps it was too late from the moment he’d seen Liam’s image in the mirror. Either way, Marc didn’t stop. Instead he closed his eyes against the expectation in Liam’s and slowly met Liam’s lips with his own.
That was when he froze. Overwhelmed and suddenly scared shitless he’d fuck it up, he couldn’t seem to remember what to do. The only thing he was conscious of was the panic that was eating him up from the inside. Forcing it down, Marc also forced himself to do something other than just sit there like a moron. He took a mental deep breath, then carefully and oh so slowly slid his tongue against Liam’s lower lip.
When Liam opened up for him, Marc nearly froze again before finding an inner strength to inch into the damp recess beyond. Shaking, he cautiously explored, probing the soft bed of Liam’s tongue, the edge of his teeth, the silky glide of the inside of his cheek while inwardly applauding himself on getting through this.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Liam pulled away, an appalled expression on his face.
Startled by Liam’s abrupt outburst, it took Marc a couple of seconds to figure out what he meant. “Kissing you.”
“That’s not kissing; that’s more like a medical examination.” His expression turned into a disgusted frown. “Christ, if that’s how you kiss, forget about it.”
Frightened he was blowing it, Marc snaked an arm around Liam’s waist, stopping Liam from pulling away. “Sorry,” he stammered. “It’s just that I’ve never kissed a man before. It’s different.”
“I wouldn’t know.” Liam’s body tightened beneath Marc’s restraining arm, but he didn’t put any pressure on it to pull free.
“Let me try again. Please. That’s not how I normally kiss, I promise. I was just...” God, what the hell was
he doing, analyzing?
“Are you sure you want to? You look about ready to throw up.”
“No, I’m fine, and yes, I want to.” And he did, Marc realized. He really did.
Liam compressed his lips, but then he sighed. “Look, I get this is your first time, but you’re obviously thinking about it way too much. A kiss is supposed to be enjoyable, so stop worrying about it and just do it, okay?”
Marc nodded and took a deep breath; then as he exhaled, he thought fuck it. He grabbed the back of Liam’s neck and, while pulling him close, leaned in, and this time when their mouths met, he didn’t freeze. Without thought he pushed his tongue inside and with a hard sweep encouraged Liam to suck on it. The sudden blast of pleasure was a shock, but taking Liam’s advice, Marc didn’t think about what he was doing and pulled Liam closer, cradling him between his thighs. Heat spread from where they touched, and Marc instinctively opened his legs wider, overly aware of how close his straining prick was to Liam’s. He deepened the kiss, working his mouth over Liam’s soft one. Without the distraction of fear, Marc was surprised at how responsive Liam was, how perfectly their mouths fit together, and how amazing Liam tasted. His fingers tightened a little on Liam’s waist, and Liam’s palm curved around his hip. The heat melted into Marc’s skin, making him even more conscious of what he was doing, but for some reason he didn’t care, until somewhere in the middle of his first proper male kiss, he groaned, and Liam groaned with him.
Tearing his mouth away, Marc sucked in a hard, sharp breath and only just managed to stop from bringing trembling fingers to his lips. Well, fuck!
Suddenly remembering he was supposed to be trying to make an impression, Marc quickly schooled his features and willed his now throbbing body to calm down.
“Better?” he asked, glad his voice didn’t betray how hard his heart was racing or how much he wanted to do that again.
“Much,” Liam answered, his tone low and gravelly.
Marc searched Liam’s eyes, looking for and finding approval, and seeing something he hadn’t expected--Liam affected by the kiss just as much as Marc was. “So, will you meet me here tomorrow?” Marc asked now, more hopeful than he was a few minutes ago.
“You really want this, don’t you?” Liam asked.
“More than I can explain. And I did try.”
Liam sighed and then slid out from between Marc’s thighs, but it was only to sit back down on the bar stool. The look he gave Marc this time was less promising.
“Please just come out with me tomorrow, and we’ll see how it goes.” Marc didn’t want to plead, but he wasn’t above it if it got him Liam.
Liam’s slight nod made Marc sigh in relief. But that relief was short-lived as unease began to thread back into his veins. He’d just made a date with a guy. A guy he’d just kissed, in public. Not sure if somewhere along the last few minutes he’d lost his mind, Marc knew he needed to go, needed to think about what he’d just done, what he’d promised to do. He climbed off the stool, thankful he’d got his body back under control, hoping he could keep control of it long enough to get him out of here with some dignity intact. But he couldn’t just leave without first making sure Liam would keep his own promise.
“Can I have your number?”
Liam’s eyes narrowed. “I’ll be here. I don’t go back on my word.”
Marc finally tore his gaze away and pulled a coaster toward him, then spotting a pen on the bar, wrote down his number and passed it to Liam. “Will you take mine?” At Liam’s questioning gaze, Marc added, “In case something goes wrong.”
Liam looked at it but didn’t pick it up. Though disappointed, Marc decided not to push his luck. Liam was obviously not used to men insisting on dates. Hell, Marc wasn’t used to making them. He eyed the door, needing that escape.
“Thank you,” he said, not sure what he was thanking Liam for. For the date? For not throwing him on his ass the second he’d started talking about the mirror? The kiss? Shit, Marc didn’t know. Probably all three, though he was thinking about the kiss more than anything else.
At the door he paused and looked back and was a little disheartened when he saw that Liam hadn’t watched him walk away, but then he saw Liam pick up the coaster and fish out his mobile phone. Marc suddenly grinned, feeling stupidly happy, and then instantly confused he felt that way. How could he be happy? He was a straight man who’d pretty much sealed his fate with a gay guy. Liam had it right. He was crazy.