Chris opened the trunk of his car and checked his watch. He’d lost track of time and most likely missed seeing any dancers. The show was only a few hours away. Ah, well. He lugged the box through the hotel complex. Up ahead was the theater; he could see the giant posters for the Erogenous Zone from here. Chris paused in front of a life-size photo. They must have updated the posters, because he didn’t see Jesse.
Wait, there he was, hands on his hips and a big-assed grin, looking like he fit right in. Weird how all the dancers seemed so similar when oiled and shirtless, a cookie-cutter idea of what a sexy man should look like. Even the beefier ones or the guy with longish hair didn’t stand out from the others.
There had to be an admin office. He looked around, checking for a hallway or some kind of signage. He’d never been to the theater before, but he’d thought about coming down to watch rehearsal, see what Jesse did for a living. Jesse had invited him, but the idea of watching his roommate bump and grind felt kind of weird.
He found the office, but it was closed.
Now what? He shifted the box. It wasn’t heavy, just awkward. Maybe he could leave it with someone.
From around a corner a young guy appeared. Dress pants, dress shirt, a black vest with a name tag. Perfect.
“Hey,” Chris called, “you work here?”
The guy, tall, blond, and with one of those faces that was all cheekbones and eyes, stopped and scowled. “Why?”
Great. The only employee around, and it had to be one with an attitude. Chris half held out the box. “I wanted to drop this off. It’s a bunch of costumes.”
Mr. Attitude—Devon, according to his name tag—deliberately folded his arms. “Do I look like a stripper?”
“I don’t know.” Chris looked Devon up and down, taking his time. If the guy was going to be an asshat, he deserved to be messed with. “Do you?”
“Puh-lease.” Devon rolled his eyes. “I’m the bartender.”
Huh. This was the guy who had replaced Val? Chris hoped the cranky bartender didn’t depend on tips to make ends meet. “So can I leave this with you?”
“No. I have to get the bar stocked, ready to open. You’ll have to come back later.”
Devon stared at him, a smug little smile playing around his mouth. It was clear he expected Chris to do some groveling or maybe argue, but that was so not happening. Chris didn’t say anything, just waited him out patiently. In his line of work as a blackjack dealer, he met a lot of people with overinflated egos, and it took more than a bartender with a chip on his shoulder to get a rise out of him.
Devon gave a long-suffering sigh. “I guess I could find someone for you. Wait here.”
He turned and headed back the way he’d come.
Chris set the box down and slouched against the wall. Five minutes later he was starting to think the bartender had had the last laugh. He’d have to try again another day. What a pain in the ass.
“You’ve got a delivery?”
Chris straightened. From farther down the hall, a man wearing jeans and a T-shirt strode toward him. The guy was a few years older and big. Broad shoulders, powerful arms, dark blond hair pulled back in a no-nonsense ponytail. Sexy little goatee that was more stubble than beard. Nice.
Chris bent and picked up the box. He waited as the man came closer. Striking blue eyes full of good-natured intelligence, a few threads of silver shot through that dark blond hair. Very nice.
“Devon said you had a delivery.”
Chris mentally cursed out the bartender. What an airhead. “Not exactly.”
He explained about the costumes. When he mentioned Jesse’s name, the man’s face lit up, but he waited for Chris to finish speaking. “…but the office was closed, and that bartender wasn’t the most helpful guy.” Or the brightest bulb in the chandelier.
“Yeah, Devon’s kind of self-obsessed.” The man’s tone said Devon was old news. “So how do you know Jesse?” he asked with more animation.
“We were roommates.”
The big man examined him. Under that curious gaze a tendril of heat unfurled in Chris’s gut, like the first wisps of smoke from a fire. Down, boy.
Chris looked up at him from under his lashes. “That’s me. And you are…?”
Oh, God. He held his breath. Please don’t be Chaz. Don’t let me be warm for that asshole dance captain.
.” Mike offered his hand. “I’m a friend of Jesse’s.
Damn, this was Mike? Chris’s preconceived idea of Mike didn’t mesh with the hot guy standing in front of him. Why had he never been lucky enough to be at home when Jesse brought Mike around?
“Chris Bennington.” He juggled the box to shake hands and made a quick save as the cardboard slid toward the floor.
“Whoa.” Mike grabbed for the box too, fingertips brushing Chris’s and causing that tendril of heat to twist and curl.
Chris relinquished his hold. “You’re the props manager, right?”
“Uh-huh.” Mike smiled as if pleased that he knew.
Chris had a sudden urge to finger comb his shaggy hair into submission. He stuffed his hands in his back pockets instead and rocked back on his heels. “So can any of the stri—dancers use that stuff?”
Mike grinned at his automatic correction. “Most of this will probably fit Tyson, and he’ll be glad to get the clothes. His washing machine chewed up a pair of jeans just last week.”
“Uh, he doesn’t wear that stuff at home, does he? Call me crazy, but I’d hate to walk down the street in pants someone could rip right off me with one good tug.”
Though the idea of being undressed by this guy flitted pleasantly through his mind.
Mike laughed. “No, but the guys are responsible for maintaining and washing their own costumes.”
“Right. I knew that,” Chris said. Way to make a good impression.
Their gazes met, and Mike’s smile grew smaller but didn’t fade altogether. There was speculation in those eyes. Maybe a question. Chris let his interest show for a couple of seconds before he lost his nerve and dropped his gaze. Chickenshit.
“I’ll put this in the locker room. I don’t have a lot of time right now, or I’d show you around.” Mike glanced at the box. “Thanks for bringing this down.”
“No problem. I should have done it sooner.”
Mike leaned in a little. “I could show you around another time, or maybe meet for coffee? Catch up on what Jesse’s been doing in New York.”
Chris hesitated. Which one of them was supposed to catch up? He’d talked to Jesse just last week. About to say so, he paused. Maybe Mike and Jesse didn’t keep in touch, or more likely Mike was hitting on him. Did Chris want him to? God, he was crap at this stuff.
He jumped as a man appeared at his elbow as if from nowhere. He’d been so focused on the big blond he hadn’t heard the other guy’s approach.
The man called out a greeting as he passed. “Hey, Mike. How’s it going?”
The guy kept walking, waggling his hand from side to side. “Same old, same old.”
Chris allowed himself the briefest of glances at that muscular, denim-clad ass. Was he one of the dancers? He carried a gym bag slung over one shoulder and was built like someone who’d look good naked, not all pale skin and jutting hip bones. Chris’s gaze flicked to Mike. Had he seen him sneak a peek? Hard to say.
Mike jerked his chin toward the man’s receding back. “That’s Brad. He’s one of our senior dancers.”
“Oh…great,” Chris said, which was totally lame.
Mike discreetly checked his watch, and Chris straightened, recognizing he’d been dismissed. Well, no wonder. He sucked at normal-sounding chitchat. “I guess I should let you get back to work.”
Mike smiled, laugh lines appearing around his blue eyes. “Anytime you want to get together, just let me know.”
“Thanks.” Chris swallowed. Maybe he was imagining the flirtatious tone, but he couldn’t stop thinking of their sweaty bodies heaving together. He shook his head to clear it.
“It was nice meeting you, Chris,” Mike said.
Chris liked hearing Mike say his name. For the first time he realized if he dropped the R, his name sounded like kiss
. “Same here,” he murmured.
Chris left, aware the other man was watching him walk away. He wondered if that sharp gaze had slipped to his ass. His gait stiffened as he tried to minimize any wiggle of his hips.
Had he just been cruised, or was Mike simply looking for an update on Jesse? He honestly couldn’t tell. He really was crap at this stuff.