Once Jake and Caroline left, Ryan started prepping for the end of the evening. Since the bar closed with the restaurant, he had already given last call. By the time his customers had downed their drinks and left, he’d already finished most of the bar cleanup, but since he’d sent Caroline off, he had to complete her closing prep too. Ryan wanted to go to the concert so he kicked it into high gear, cleaning up and restocking for the next day lickety-split. He had some flirting of his own to do.
Luckily, he kept a survival kit in his Bronco for just such an occasion. He ran out and retrieved his gym bag then hightailed to a bathroom stall. After he removed his shoes and socks and stripped off his uniform shirt and trousers, he used some wet towelettes to tidy up his body before applying fresh deodorant and changing into the T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. He shoved the other clothes in the bag and dug around in the side pocket for his mints and a condom. He popped a few mints in his mouth and shoved the condom in his pocket.
After saying his farewells, Ryan headed in the direction of the concert at the pier. He needed only to follow the sound of eighties hits to find it, but locating the cute blond in the crowd might prove a little more difficult.
Ryan strolled up to one of the stands serving beer, and as luck would have it, he recognized one of the guys in line ahead of him as the redhead at the table with his blond quarry. The ginger ordered four beers, handing two to a very tan, skinny-almost-to-the-point-of-scrawny girl in shorts and a bikini top standing next to him.
As he ordered a beer he didn’t intend to finish, Ryan kept an eye on the couple as they returned to their group. Just as he suspected, they led him to the sexy blond. The girl handed off her second beer to another girl, who was being slobbered all over by the short, stocky, brunet guy that had eaten with the blond’s group.
“Yes! Brewskies!” the stocky guy said, relieving the redhead of his extra beer, lifting the bottle in the air as if to toast, and grinning like a loon.
Ryan stood behind Tanner, observing the blond. Ryan smiled, loving how into the music the guy was, dancing as if his friends weren’t right there next to him. After checking their IDs, Caroline had warned Ryan this guy was young, just twenty-two. What was I like at twenty-two?
He crinkled his nose. Oy…maybe seven years is too much of an age difference… What am I thinking? It’s not like I have to marry the guy.
Though he hadn’t been able to bring himself to admit it to Caroline, Ryan had been looking to settle down for a while now. A young, likely closeted soldier was probably not the best candidate for such a lofty goal. On the other hand, if blondie was up for a good fuck, what the hell?
A SLIGHT SHIVER breezed up Tanner’s spine as the same sensation from the restaurant rushed over him. He looked over his shoulder, and his heart started dancing. The fine-as-fuck bartender was right there. Oh my God! Oh my God…stay cool, Tanner. Stay cool.
Their gazes met, and the bartender lifted his chin, nodding in acknowledgment.
Cautiously, his belly simmering with nervous energy, Tanner glanced over to his friends. Jake was long gone, and as luck would have it, Brent and Derrick were distracted by the two women they’d beered into paying attention to them.
Tanner’s heart raced like Earnhardt headed for the checkered flag. Saying a little prayer to prevent his roommates from noticing him slipping away, Tanner turned and walked toward the bartender. As their eyes locked again, Tanner’s pulse reacted. When the man offered an enticing smile, Tanner mustered up the courage to speak. “Hi.”
“Hello, I’m Ryan.” He offered his hand and Tanner took it, giving it a firm shake.
Tanner recognized the name and hoped he was right. “Are you the waitress’s friend?”
“Guilty.” He ran a hand through his dark brown locks, pushing them away from his forehead. “And you are?”
Ryan tilted his head forward. “Nice name. So, Tanner, it’s sort of loud here. You want to go somewhere?”
Tanner’s whole body tingled with excitement. He was tongue-tied but managed to utter, “Uh-huh,” while nodding. While leading the way, Ryan tossed his almost-full bottle of beer into a nearby trash can.
As they slipped off into the shadows, Tanner took his first look at Ryan’s behind and sucked in his breath. He was wearing basketball shorts that showed off the curves of his tight ass. He followed in Ryan’s footsteps, ducking under the pier with him.
“You can still hear the tunes playing but at least we can talk without yelling now,” Ryan said as he turned to face him.
Tanner fidgeted. Unsure of what to say or do, he asked, “Are you a local?”
Ryan shook his head. “Nah. Caroline and I are teachers. We live a couple of hours away, but her aunt owns Sharky’s, so she comes here to work during the summers. This year, she asked me along.”
Tanner smiled shyly, unable to pull his gaze off the beautiful man in front of him. Now that Ryan wasn’t behind a bar, Tanner had a much better view. Ryan was exactly his type: clean-cut, but masculine. With his high cheekbones, piercing eyes, and sensual lips, Ryan could easily grace the cover of a magazine. He had sun-kissed skin, a perfect complexion, and a strong jawline. Plus, as a bonus, he had either been blessed with straight teeth or someone had forked out dough for dental work when he was younger—what a smile! Not wanting the conversation to drag, Tanner asked, “What do you teach?”
A slight blush rushed over Ryan’s cheeks and he averted his gaze for just a second before bringing it to Tanner’s face again. He tittered and then answered, “Drama…but I promise I’m not a queen.”
Tanner snickered. “That must be a fun job.”
Ryan smiled and nodded, his eyes lighting up as he answered, “Actually, yeah. I teach classes in drama and chorus, but I get to put together a couple of productions a year. This past year we did Grease
and Legally Blonde: the Musical
. It was a blast. How about you? How do you spend your days?”
“Nothing as interesting as what you do. I’m in the military, but I’m more of an office drone, tallying up the inventory. It’s sort of tedious, but the people I work with keep it lively.”
“So are you at that Military Ocean Terminal nearby?” Ryan shifted his weight from side to side as he spoke.
Tanner bobbed his head. “Yeah, it’s a temporary duty assignment. My actual job is a logistics specialist.”
“I hear that place takes care of a lot of the ships that are quietly patrolling our coast and keeping us safe,” Ryan said. His gaze roamed downward from Tanner’s face as if drinking in the length of his body. Tanner trembled slightly, his heart banging so hard he was certain Ryan could hear it. Ryan reached out and touched Tanner’s arm. “You cold? You’re shivering.”
Tanner tried to play off his uneasiness by making a joke. “I’m not cold. I’m just worried I’ve been lured down below the pier by a terrorist trying to pry info from me.” He snickered and gave Ryan a smile, tilting his head.
“You caught me,” Ryan replied. “Now I’m going to tie you up and drag you off somewhere for interrogation.” He stepped in closer, placing his lips by Tanner’s ear. “I have ways of making you talk.”
Tanner nearly lost his breath. Ryan’s body was so close his heat and the smell of his citrus-scented shampoo permeated Tanner’s senses. For a moment, Tanner forgot they were still in a public place and nearly grabbed him, but the sounds of nearby revelry brought him to his senses. “Is your place all right? I’ve got my truck.”
In the pale light, Ryan’s eyes were the color of storm clouds, giving him a sexy, mysterious flair while his chiseled jaw and high forehead gave him the appearance of a mature man rather than a pretty boy. Tanner stood frozen, watching the man’s face, holding his breath as he waited for the answer, but after what was likely only a few seconds but had felt like an eternity, Ryan replied, “Lead the way.”