Authors: Lane Hayes
5032 Capital Circle SW
Suite 2, PMB# 279
Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of author imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Better Than Friends
© 2014 Lane Hayes.
© 2014 Aaron Anderson.
Cover content is for illustrative purposes only and any person depicted on the cover is a model.
All rights reserved. This book is licensed to the original purchaser only. Duplication or distribution via any means is illegal and a violation of international copyright law, subject to criminal prosecution and upon conviction, fines, and/or imprisonment. Any eBook format cannot be legally loaned or given to others. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact Dreamspinner Press, 5032 Capital Circle SW, Suite 2, PMB# 279, Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886, USA, or http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/.
Digital ISBN: 978-1-62798-809-4
Printed in the United States of America
For my best friend, who also happens to be my husband, Bob.
“Friendship at first sight, like love at first sight, is said to be the only truth.”
never been one to believe in love at first sight. In fact, I’m still not convinced I do. However, I do believe in a wild and crazy “do things you wouldn’t normally do” attraction at first sight, because it happened to me. Some people bring out something inside us we weren’t aware was there. Some people are the key to us beginning to understand ourselves. While it’s true I wasn’t my usual sane self that day, there was no denying right from the start there was something special about Jack.
One year ago….
was one of those quintessential picture-postcard days in DC with brilliant blue skies the color of the ocean and fluffy white clouds. Gorgeous cherry trees in full-blush pink bloom provided the perfect backdrop for an April wedding. The ceremony was being held on the lush grounds of a historic Federal-style mansion in Georgetown. I’d been looking forward to attending my first same-sex nuptials. It felt like a particularly significant event to me because I’m gay. The grooms were well-connected, successful businessmen in the city, so no doubt there would be some interesting people watching at this posh affair. Everything looked amazing, and the atmosphere was practically buzzing with celebratory energy.
I would have been too if I hadn’t listened to that fucking voice message on my cell before I’d arrived. I was generally known for being upbeat and cheerful. “Life of the party” might be pushing it, but I wasn’t someone who was prone to bouts of negativity. Today, however, I could feel the tension radiating through my body, effectively marring my usually positive attitude. My family had a knack for spoiling even the merriest of occasions. I felt a crushing wave of guilt I couldn’t seem to shake. It didn’t matter that they were three thousand miles away on the other side of the country. I was rocked by familiar feelings of anxiety and inadequacy. I shook my head, hoping it would help shake my dark mood as I took in my surroundings.
Beautiful and important-looking people were greeting one another or looking for their seats before the ceremony began. Many of the attendees were wearing designer dresses and tuxes, which was entirely appropriate for a late-afternoon wedding. I had opted for a dark gray Armani suit worn with a floral-print bow tie for a little extra pizzazz. I considered myself one of those guys who could easily blend in with the proverbial wallpaper if I didn’t put myself out there either by being sociable or wearing something… well, eye-catching. Most of the time, I went for friendly because paying too much attention to my wardrobe on a consistent basis wasn’t my thing. Perhaps I was more casually attired than some, but I certainly didn’t look out of place. I looked like what I was… your average everyday gay man spruced up for a wedding. Tall, lean, brown hair with the faintest hint of auburn, and brown eyes. My friend Matt’s boyfriend recently likened me to a young Bradley Cooper, and although I graciously accepted the compliment, I had no illusions I was movie-star handsome.
This bright, beautiful day belonged to Jay and Peter, easily two of the best-looking men on the planet. That may sound like an exaggeration, but damn… in this case, it was the honest truth. I had come to know Jay and Peter over the past couple of years through my friends, Matt and Aaron. Matt was my former roommate and one of my best friends from law school, and Aaron was his sexy boyfriend. Aaron was also Jay’s best friend and, today, his best man. Aaron would stand beside Jay while he recited his vows to the seriously hot Peter. Matt had been asked to play guitar for the festivities, and I knew he’d practiced like a madman. I had no doubt, however, he’d pull it off beautifully.
I spied an empty chair at the end of the back row and made a beeline for it. I smiled politely to the older woman in the chair beside mine, who took my overture as a sign that I wanted to make a new best friend. What was it about me that made perfect strangers think they knew me? I must look like everyone’s cousin, nephew, or grandson, I mused. I scanned the crowd surreptitiously while my new friend, Aunt Betty, chewed my ear off about her sweet, great-nephew, Jay, before she moved on to the lovely weather and the gorgeous gardens. I nodded in all the right places as I noted that I knew or had met less than ten people out of the two-hundred-plus in attendance. Oh well. I knew the champagne would be flowing freely soon enough.
I spotted Peter waiting under the ivy-and-cherry-blossom arch for his groom just before the ceremony was set to begin. I was hard-pressed not to stare at him. He wore his black tuxedo like a second skin, giving the simple design an elegant, impressive quality not every man could pull off. He was chatting quietly with a beautiful, tiny woman I knew was his best friend, Kelly. I had heard from Aaron that she was his best man—or woman, I supposed. She had long raven hair and was wearing a gorgeous long, formfitting black silk dress. I have a true appreciation for beauty, and it was hard to not stare at Peter and Kelly. Until my attention was diverted by my first glimpse of Him.
That’s Him, with a capital H, because wow… he was stunning. He appeared out of nowhere, walked straight up to Kelly, and gave her a warm hug and a peck on the cheek before he turned to wrap Peter in a friendly embrace. Peter looked surprised at first but then gave the guy a show-stopping smile and patted his back affectionately. They talked for a brief moment, and when he turned to find his seat, I had the oddest sensation I was getting my first good look at someone significant. That may sound weird, but I was transfixed. I also decided I may have been a little hasty racing to the back row. I wished I had a better view. From what I could see, he was dreamy. Tall like Peter, maybe six feet three or four, with dark, wavy hair worn long enough to brush the collar of his black tuxedo coat. He had sharp, even features and the muscular build of a linebacker, but the longish hair made me think rock star or even pirate. I wondered if he had any tattoos before I stopped my pointless reverie and tried to focus on what Aunt Betty was saying next to me. This may have been a gay wedding, but that didn’t mean the guests were all homosexual, or unattached for that matter. I gave a half laugh and stole one more glance of Peter’s sexy friend slash relative, only to find the man in question staring straight at me.
I gulped when our eyes met. Even from a distance, his gaze felt intense. I would have sworn he could read my thoughts, and since they featured him in a somewhat lascivious fashion, I was mortified. I gave a weak grin, swallowed hard, and attempted to look away, but I couldn’t. He held my stare and smiled. It was a lecherous come-hither smile, which had me turning to see if I might be sitting near his wife or girlfriend. Surely that sexy grin wasn’t for me. There was no one on my left, and that cocky grin couldn’t be for Aunt Betty wearing her Sunday best and sensible heels on my right. I briefly closed my eyes as a heated flush of embarrassment crept over my fair skin, leaving me feeling flustered and bewildered. When I glanced up again, he was gone.
As my blush faded, I smiled. Peter and Kelly’s friend, relative, or whoever he was would no doubt end up being straight, married, and a father of three, but he was delicious. The thought of spending an evening at a boisterous gay wedding reception stealing glances at a gorgeous mystery man was enough to clear all the cobwebs left over from my brother’s earlier message. Today was for fun. Tomorrow I would deal with the rest.
was beautiful. Peter and Jay had written their own vows, which were the perfect combination of humorous and heartfelt. I was grateful I’d remembered a handkerchief when Peter’s voice cracked as he spoke of finding Jay, who made everything in life brighter, lighter, and simply better. Aunt Betty patted my arm kindly as I sniffled. Damn, I was a sucker. Matt played and sang “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz. It was light and sweet and set a celebratory tone to carry the gathering into the reception starting immediately on the lawn.
I said my good-byes to my new friend and made a beeline to the nearest bar under an alcove adjacent to the mansion. Happily, I was the first in line. I ordered a gin and tonic from a cute young bartender and stepped aside, wondering what to do with myself. Now that the ceremony was over, I was feeling a little out of my element. Everyone I knew well was busy having pictures taken. I took a deep drink from my glass as I wandered back toward the garden, where the photographer was wrapping up the wedding photos. Aaron had mentioned earlier that the bulk of the pictures would be taken before the ceremony so the party wouldn’t be held up. Jay and Peter looked incredibly handsome and very happy. I couldn’t help wistfully wondering if I’d ever find someone I cared enough about to spend the rest of my life with. I let out a humorless chuckle at the very real issue of barely having time for any social life let alone meeting someone new. Lately I’d been putting in eighty hours a week on average at my firm. My love life had certainly suffered as a result. It was a good thing my right hand hadn’t developed carpal tunnel, I thought sarcastically.
A loud cheer from inside the mansion area had me turning just as someone was walking toward me on the lawn. My arm was jostled, sending part of my drink down my sleeve. I dabbed quickly at it with the tiny napkin I’d been holding, thankful I’d ordered gin and not red wine.
“Hey, sorry about that. My bad. Can I get you a refill?”
My breath caught as I looked up into the bluest eyes set in the most interesting face I’d ever seen. It was Him, the pirate. Fuck. I sounded like the back jacket of one of the romance novels my mom used to devour when I was a kid. But, in a way, the description fit perfectly. Up close, he was even more impressive than when I’d first spotted him before the ceremony talking to Peter. His shoulders were massive. He was large and muscular without looking cartoonish. His features were sharp and even on his sinfully handsome face. He had what some might call devilish good looks.