I can see the headline: COUPLE FOUND STRANGLED IN PAINT AISLE; HOME STAGER SUSPECTED
. Ace Hoffman’s shitty afternoon had bled into the evening, turning his mood sour and sharp. His last appointment of the day was supposed to be a simple design consultation. But two bickering homeowners simply would not agree on the colors to paint the rooms of a house they were selling. These people needed marriage counseling more than a home stager. After the twentieth swatch they held up for the living room, Ace was ready to scream, “For fuck’s sake, you’re from Johnson County! Pick beige and be done with it!”
Showing remarkable restraint, he swallowed every tempting obscenity and gently guided them to their purchases—then got the hell away from them.
After a late dinner and a life-restoring drink at his favorite Irish pub, Ace still needed to unwind. The last thing he wanted to do was spend another Friday night alone in Lawrence, Kansas. With no boyfriend—and no real prospects—Ace decided to stay in Kansas City to find a warm body for the night.
Times like this, he really missed Atlanta’s hot and varied gay nightlife. His favorite stops, the friendly guys, the comfort of knowing he was at home in his surroundings…
He headed to Sparks, an unassuming establishment in Kansas City’s midtown area, suddenly eager to be surrounded by the scent of men, by their sweaty skin and lustful eyes. As he entered the dark room, he could feel the atmosphere like a balm on this itch he needed scratched.
It was exactly the sort of crowd he would have expected on a Friday night in summer—the perfect mix of loose and tightly wound. Just being in the presence of all these men of such wonderful variety was enough to ease some of the tension in his body.
He had no real objective tonight. It was a little like going to a bookstore just to browse, rather than to look for a specific title. He wanted to stumble on something good—on someone
Ace caught the eye of the bartender, Jimmy, and through the crowd, ordered a whiskey. Jimmy slid his drink over, brushing his fingers.
“Got your eye on anyone tonight?” Ace asked.
“Only the man of my dreams.” Jimmy sighed theatrically and nodded to the end of the bar.
Ace followed the gesture, and his breath stopped.
There stood the most masculine man he’d ever seen. Not masculine in a muscle-head way or in a leather-daddy bear way—just classically male. Tall, broad shoulders tapering down to—oh damn, that ass. Dark, nearly black hair and a perfectly sculpted beard. Well-tanned skin—was that his natural skin tone, or did he spend a lot of time outside? His dream man was dressed in a sharp black suit, looking simultaneously cool and hot, detached from the swirl of less-dressed bodies around him.
Give the man a fedora and a cigar, and he could have stepped out of a 1940s noir film.
Then Mr. Hot turned and caught Ace’s open stare. Ace wasn’t prepared for those eyes—those gray-blue points of light, holding him in place with their intensity. It made his cock wake up to say hello. He licked his suddenly dry lips. The other man’s gaze never left his.
“Ah, damn it. I shouldn’t have told you,” Jimmy said, drawing Ace’s attention away from the delicious hole he was falling into.
“You mean you haven’t welcomed him to town yet?” As Ace had discovered on his first visit to Sparks, Jimmy’s unofficial position at the bar was one-man welcoming committee for all new customers.
“Haven’t seen him before, but that’s not to say he’s not from here, of course,” Jimmy said. “Look at him. He clearly needs to relax. So tense.” He sighed dreamily. “The things I could do to loosen his muscles.”
Ace too saw the tension in their shared subject, who was now glancing around disinterestedly, as if he was simply checking out the scene. But the tightness of his bearing told Ace he didn’t know how to go after what he wanted.
I can fix that.
“What a shame you’re stuck behind the bar on such a busy night, ambassador.” Ace grinned at Jimmy, who huffed in return.
“Why must you steal my fun? You know I wouldn’t play for keeps. No matter how tempting.” Jimmy craned his neck to get another glimpse of Mr. Hot.
“Sorry, buddy.” Ace laid down some cash for his drink. “I’m feeling a tad impatient tonight. I’d better get over there before somebody else cuts in line.”
“Good luck, cutie.”
That Jimmy was a good guy. Ace spared a small moment of regret for depriving Mr. Hot of his proper welcome, but that thought disappeared when he took another look at him.
The only one welcoming him tonight will be me.
Ace slowly worked his way through the crowd, ignoring the one or two interested gazes he could feel following him. By the time he reached his target’s proximity, the dark-haired man’s attention was on the sweaty dancing men on the floor. Ace sidled up next to him.
“You’re a little overdressed for this joint,” Ace said, leaning in close to the man’s ear. “Not that I’m complaining. You do wonderful things for that suit.” He let his gaze linger over every ripple in the fabric, up and down his beautiful body.
“I wasn’t aware there was a dress code,” Mr. Hot replied, turning to face him.
Oh my God, that voice
. Deep and rumbling with a hint of teasing, that voice vibrated in Ace’s own lungs and skin.
“It’s more of an undress code.” Ace grinned and shifted slightly closer.
Tall-dark-and-rumbling glanced around them. “I can tell.”
“Are you meeting someone here?”
“I think I’ve already met someone. Right here.”
Ace shivered under the hungry visual inspection. He tried to shake it off—keep this simple, scratch that itch. That’s what a Sparks hookup was for, not for finding a soul mate.
“The guy you’ve met is Ace.” He stuck out his hand. “Who’s the guy I’ve met?”
Ace shook his hand and felt a bolt of lust at the contact. God, he’s turning me inside out already
. “So, Zane, can I get you another drink?”
Zane considered his glass, then turned his gaze back to Ace. “I’m good. For now.”
Ace took a long drink from his glass to fortify himself, the whiskey instantly burning and warming his blood. “At the risk of sounding like a cliché, do you come here often?”
Zane laughed. “Couldn’t come up with anything more clever?”
Ace soaked in that deep laugh. He wanted more of it.
“My clever pickup line was about the undress code.” Ace grinned. “And you didn’t answer my question. Are you new in town? Or new to the scene?”
Zane’s face went tight and uncomfortable.
He doesn’t want to talk about it. Doesn’t want me to know something. Oh God, please not another closet case.
“I don’t get out that much,” Zane finally said.
“Well, since you’re out now, let’s take advantage of it.” Ace put his drink aside and took Zane’s hand. “Dance with me.”
“I don’t dance.”
“It’s not ballroom. It’s foreplay. Come on.”
Zane resisted for a moment, and Ace tugged on his hand more insistently, turning up the wattage on his smile.
They wormed their way into the center of the dance floor, and Ace didn’t let his hands leave Zane’s body for a moment. Zane was right, he wasn’t much of a dancer, but Ace wasn’t concerned with technique. He wanted contact, as much as he could get.
The heat of all those bodies in close proximity made Ace’s skin slick with sweat, and he could see the glisten on Zane’s throat as well. Zane’s sharp outfit not only had to be stifling, but it also cast him as out of place.
Time to fix that.
“I do love this suit,” Ace said, “but you really need to loosen up.” He gently undid Zane’s tie and flicked open the top button of the shirt. Then Ace pressed his face against the newly bared skin and took a deep breath. His eyes rolled back in his head at the scent—musky, sweaty, salty. How could this man smell so perfect in the middle of Sparks? He wanted nothing more than to run his tongue over every inch of Zane’s body, but he settled for savoring the feeling of their hips pulled close as he led their combined movement to the beat.
Zane brought his hands down to cup Ace’s firm ass and moaned softly.
“So what brings you out tonight?” Ace asked, close to his ear.
“It’s my birthday,” Zane said.
“Really? Want me to give you a present?” Ace cocked an eyebrow and grinned. “Or do you prefer to do the giving?”
Zane looked surprised. “You do both?”
“I love sex,” Ace said, punctuating his words with a sharp thrust of his hips into Zane’s crotch. “All of it, everything I can get. I want to taste it all, experience everything. Anything less is cheating yourself. You ever bottomed?”
“Uh, hell no.”
Ace shrugged. “You’re missing out.” He swirled them both around the dance floor pressed tightly together, his hands memorizing the shape of Zane’s ass. “It’s electric and rearranges your blood cells and nerves and echoes inside you. Topping is tight and hot and powerful. But bottoming is an out-of-body experience. I highly recommend it.”
“Not really my thing.” Zane pressed his mouth to the curve of Ace’s neck and lightly bit the sweaty flesh he found there. Ace tilted his head to allow him more access, and Zane took it, teasing the earlobe, licking up trickles of sweat. The scratch of Zane’s beard drove him wild, and he wasn’t content with only feeling it on his neck.
“What is your thing, then?” Ace was in danger of losing his sense right in the middle of the dance floor.
“Mmm, your ass.” Zane switched to the other side of Ace’s neck to continue his torment. “Your ass is my thing right now. Wanna fill you up, touch every bit of you. Taste you, see if you’re as sweet as you look.”
Zane’s growling words connected directly with Ace’s cock. He’d wanted this man from the moment he’d saw him, and now he was determined to have every dirty thing Zane was promising. They needed to get off the dance floor. Now.
“Come home with me,” Ace purred into Zane’s ear.
Ace pulled back and frowned. “Just no?”
“Not home.” Zane’s eyes had gone dark with lust. “Is there someplace here?”
A bolt of hunger shot down Ace’s spine.
“Depends on what you have in mind,” he said, his tongue thick in his mouth.
A gleam lit Zane’s eyes. “I want to find a dark place in the back and bend you over and fuck you until you forget your name.”
Ace swallowed to clear his clogged throat. He took Zane’s hand in his own. “This way,” he said in a low rasp.