Thomas sipped his iced tea while waiting for his friend to arrive for dinner. He loosened his pale-blue tie and pulled it off, discarding it altogether. Damn things were definitely uncomfortable.
Finally he watched his best friend and former lover, Matt Loring, approach his table. Tall, slim, and dark haired, Matt smiled and leaned over to plant a very brief kiss on Thomas’s cheek.
“Been waiting long?” Matt asked, sitting across from him in the booth.
“Nah, not too bad. How’s it going?”
Matt paused to order a cola from the waitress who stopped at their table and then turned back to Thomas. “All right. Good. Josh was sorry he couldn’t make it.”
Josh was Matt’s new boyfriend. When Thomas and Matt broke up, they had decided they definitely made better friends than lovers. In spite of that, Thomas still felt a twinge knowing Matt had found someone who made him happy.
Someone who wasn’t you.
Okay, so maybe he was still just a little hung up on Matt, but he really was glad for his friend. It was more he still hadn’t found the one
himself more than anything else.
“Josh have to work?”
“Yeah, he volunteered to do some extra shifts at the fire station. We’re trying to save enough money to buy our own house,” Matt explained. He smiled at the waitress who’d brought his cola. “Can you give us a few more minutes to look at the menu?”
The waitress agreed and disappeared again.
“That’s great news about getting a house together,” Thomas managed to say without choking on the words. Really, he was
okay with not being with Matt. Hadn’t it been Thomas who had said he didn’t think things really worked for them as a couple? He just wanted to find that special someone himself, and he was beginning to think it wouldn’t happen ever.
Matt smiled. “Yeah, thanks. I really owe it all to you, Tommy.”
Thomas winced at the nickname and set his menu down on the table. “How’s that?”
“You know how. Dumping me and then introducing me to Josh. I love you, you know?” Matt reached across the booth and briefly squeezed Thomas’s hand.
“Yeah, yeah.” Thomas waved to lighten the mood. “Have you decided what you’re going to have for dinner?”
“Hmm. You do that a lot.” Matt peered at the menu.
“Whenever we start having a serious conversation, you change the subject. As a matter of fact, you did it all the time when we were together. Used to make me crazy.”
“Well, now it can make some other guy crazy.”
Matt looked up at him, an eyebrow raised. “Have you got someone in mind?”
He pushed away the sudden image of a sleeping, angelic-looking Clark Sterling out of his mind. “Not really.”
“Come on, I can see there’s someone. What’s up, Tommy?”
Thomas was saved by the waitress coming to their table to take their order. He ordered spaghetti, and Matt ordered a salad. When the waitress departed, he pretended to be scanning the crowd.
“You won’t get away that easy. I know you, Tommy. You have someone in your sights.”
“Something strange happened at work yesterday, that’s all.”
“Yeah, I…I sort of caught my boss watching gay porn on his computer. Well, actually he must have fallen asleep while watching it,” Thomas said, dropping his voice to make sure no one would overhear. The restaurant wasn’t that far from the firm, and he would be absolutely mortified if anyone from work was there and listening.
Matt stared at him, looking dumbstruck. “Clark Sterling?”
“Keep your voice down. Yes.”
“Wow. Is he as gorgeous as he looks in the magazine pictures?” Matt asked.
“Actually those pictures don’t do him justice. He’s a freaking god. Absolutely beautiful.” Thomas sighed.
Matt laughed. “So you have a crush on Clark Sterling?”
He felt himself blush. “No, of course not. Well, maybe. Okay, yes. And the thing of it is, I think, well, when I woke him up—I think maybe he’s interested in me too.”
“Shit,” Matt muttered. “You are so lucky. First you get a job there, and now you’re on Clark Sterling’s radar.”
Matt had taken the bar exam the same time Thomas had, and Thomas knew Matt had been jealous when he’d been hired on as a law clerk at Sterling’s firm. Once he passed the exam, he’d be a lawyer there. Or so he figured, given what he’d been told in the interview. Matt had interviewed there too, but he hadn’t been hired. He was working at a rival firm.
“What are you complaining about? You got a job, a good one, and you have Josh.”
Matt nodded. “True. Even so, you are still lucky. Although, from what I hear, he’s something of an ass. Didn’t you say everyone’s afraid of him?”
“Well, yeah, and I might have imagined his interest anyway, and even if I didn’t, that doesn’t mean either of us will do anything about it. He’s my boss, and he is
pretty scary too.” Thomas shrugged. “I saw him this afternoon, and he barely acknowledged me.”
“Well—” Matt’s cell phone chirped to life playing some well-known concerto. He picked it off the table and glanced at it. “It’s Josh. Do you mind?”
Matt scooted out of the booth, phone to his ear. “Hey, baby.” He disappeared down the aisle.
Thomas sighed, sipped his iced tea, and wished it were perhaps something a little stronger. He took out his own cell phone, intending to call his office voice mail to check for messages. When Matt sat down across from him once more, he didn’t even look up.
“That was fast.”
Thomas froze. The voice was familiar, but it didn’t belong to Matt. He glanced up and into the charcoal-gray eyes of Clark Sterling. He blinked. His stomach plummeted. “Mr. Sterling?”
“Clark, remember?” Clark smiled. “You were saying something about being fast? Maybe, but I don’t believe in waiting around when there’s something I want.”
Thomas swallowed and hoped his face really wasn’t as flaming red as the heat he felt indicated. “I thought you were my friend returning.”
Clark nodded. “Ah, your friend. Pretty boy. Is he your significant other?”
“No, just a friend.” Thomas prayed very hard that Clark hadn’t just heard what he said to Matt about him. Shit.
How the hell could he find out without spilling his guts? “I didn’t know you were here. When did you arrive?”
The other man gave him a mysterious smile. “I’ve been here a while. In fact, I went ahead and asked the waitress to bring my dinner to your table. I hope you and your friend don’t mind.”
Thomas stared, unsure what to say. He felt like a big fool. Instead, he sat there silently gazing at Clark’s male beauty. He wore a gray suit that matched his eyes perfectly, a crisp white shirt, and a pale-pink tie. Thomas’s mouth watered.
didn’t mind, but could he speak for Matt?
“Hello,” Matt said, arriving back at their table.
Clark stood up. “I’ll let you have your seat back. Clark Sterling.” He held out his hand and shook Matt’s when he offered his.
Clark frowned. “Loring? Sounds familiar.”
“Yes,” Matt said, smiling easily. He slid into the booth. “I interviewed at your firm, but you hired Thomas instead.”
Thomas cleared his throat.
“Right. No hard feelings, I hope,” Clark said.
“None,” Matt said. “Want to join us?”
“I’d love to. I had just invited myself as you were returning.” Clark motioned to Thomas. “Move over a bit, won’t you?”
He had no choice. He moved over and allowed Clark’s big, imposing body to sit next to him. Thomas bit his lip. The man smelled good. A mixture of some spicy cologne and maleness. He couldn’t quite explain it, but Thomas liked it. Too much. His cock perked up. He shifted.
“Everything all right with Josh?” Thomas blurted out, trying to pretend Clark Sterling sat this close to him in a restaurant booth every day. The man’s thigh pressed against his, and Thomas had a feeling it was no accident.
“Yeah, he was just on a break,” Matt said. He glanced at Clark. “Josh is my boyfriend.”
“I gathered as much,” Clark said.
The waitress approached and set down Thomas’s spaghetti, Matt’s salad, and…Clark’s steak and baked potato.
Clark smiled in his direction. “Spaghetti? Aren’t you worried about splashing marinara on your white dress shirt?”
Thomas looked down at his shirt, dismayed. “Fuck, I didn’t think about that.” Then he felt his cheeks heat. “Sorry.”
Clark laughed. “I’m not your mother, Thomas.” He grabbed the green cloth napkin in front of Thomas. “Here, let me.”
Thomas held his breath as Clark leaned toward him and carefully tucked the napkin in the front of his shirt, his long, elegant fingers lingering on Thomas’s throat. Their gazes caught. Thomas swallowed. His achingly hard cock strained against his slacks.
Matt made a little noise, drawing their attention to him. “I just thought of something I really have to do.” Matt pulled out his wallet, plucked out some bills, and tossed them on the table. “I’m going to take off.”
Matt stood up. “It’s totally cool, Tommy. No one wants to be the third wheel.”
He could not let Matt leave him alone with Clark.
“Nice to meet you, Matt. See you around?” Clark said.
But Matt had already walked away.
“No need to panic, Thomas.”
Thomas didn’t miss the amusement in Clark’s voice. “I…uh.”
“Look, I’m going to be straight with you,” Clark said, his gaze dropping to Thomas’s lips. “I heard what you said to Matt about me.”
“You were right.”
“I am interested in you.” Clark brushed his thumb across Thomas’s hand, sending shivers up his spine. “Really. But there’s a problem.”
“Problem?” Thomas felt like a fool, unable to form regular thought.
“Yeah, I’m your boss.” Clark smiled, his gaze rising from Thomas’s lips to his eyes. “You want me to fire you?”
Thomas frowned, his heart thudding. “What?”
“I’m kidding, Thomas,” Clark assured him. He moved his thumb to stroke Thomas’s wrist. “You know what?”
“I think I can make an exception for you.”