From across the crowded room, I glimpse the round caramel face glowing with inner contentment. Then I see the gold-winning smile, and instantly I’m hooked. He doesn’t notice me, though. How can he? People are elbowing each other to gain the front position, wanting to be the first to shake his hand or pat him on the back. I don’t know who is or why he’s so popular, but now I’m determined to find out.
I turn to my cousin, Ethan, who’s standing next to me, and tap his arm. “Is he why we’re here?” I don’t need to point, and by the sly look on Ethan’s face, he knows exactly who I’m talking about.
“Yes,” Ethan says, that one word resonating his annoyance.
“But…” My throat locks, like it did back in high school when I went to ask Grayson Ball to the prom. That didn’t go so well. “Who is he?”
“Oh, Tobias,” Ethan says in his crotchety tone, “please don’t make a fool of yourself. You can’t afford to have your jaw broken again.”
A broken jaw. That’s what I got for asking Grayson to the prom. Despite our regular hookups in the woods behind the school, where we took turns sucking each other off, he wasn’t gay.
“Just tell me who he is,” I say askance.
Ethan takes a long sip of his wine, turning slightly away to survey the room. He’s doing it all on purpose … to torment me. Just like when we were kids. “What’s a boner?” I’d asked him one day, when we were ten, on the way home from school. He smirked and kept walking. Ethan was older, and I thought that meant he knew everything … about life and boys. That’s why I looked up to him. But he could be a cocky son of a bitch. Back then and now.
I kick his foot. “Ethan!”
“Sean Mendonça. He’s a writer.”
“Do you know him?”
Ethan throws me a knowing look. “We wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”
“So you can —”
“Absolutely not,” Ethan interrupts, his eyes on fire and locked on me. “I’m not playing matchmaker. And if you need to get laid, there’s a gay bar two blocks down the street.”
I focus on the crowd, searching the faces for his, but I can’t find it. He’s hidden behind his fans now clamouring for autographs and selfies. I’m annoyed that they’re taking up all his time. Shouldn’t he be working the rest of the room? Really, I just want him working me — to feel his reddish-brown lips touch mine, the weight of his arms wrapped around me, to inhale every single breath of him.
Then it happens, as if God hears my prayer and answers it. He bursts through the multitude, shaking hands along the way as he nears Ethan and me. My mouth goes dry, my stomach clenches and, oh God … my cock quickly swells.
“Sean, I want you to meet my cousin, Tobias,” Ethan says, almost with a snicker. “He’s a big fan.”
“A pleasure,” Sean says and grips my hand.
Our eyes lock, and Sean doesn’t immediately let go. I’m not sure he’s ever planning on letting go. Maybe he’s waiting for me to say something, but I just stare back at him. His dark-brown eyes hold me in a trance, my mouth agape and unable to say a word. The unexpected elbow in my side makes me wince. I shoot a menacing look at Ethan, turn back to Sean and finally spit out, “He-Hello.”
The handshake is over, yet the chill cast over my body remains as Sean moves off.
“Smooth,” Ethan says, chuckling. “Is that how you pick up guys?”
I punch Ethan in the arm and stare him down. Like he used to do with me when we were kids. It was his way of announcing his arrival, leaving me to explain — unconvincingly — the bruises on my arm to my mother. “What the hell was that? ‘He’s a big fan?’ You made me look like an ass.”
Ethan, rubbing the spot on his arm where I hit him, sucks his teeth. “You did that all on your own.” He steps past me and folds into the crowd.
I stand there, my heart racing, scanning the faces again. He’s there, a few feet away — the man who has me under a spell, makes me feel buttery inside. The man I want to love me forever. Crazy, I know … because I don’t know him. But isn’t that how relationships start? Out of curiosity and attraction? Or maybe even a weird, unhealthy infatuation?
Our eyes meet. I can feel my lips curling into a smile. When Sean winks, I’m rock hard in a flash. I hold myself back. I want to walk over to him, take his face in my hands and press my lips to his. And let the kiss go on forever.
Then he’s gone, one more time devoured by the throng. I sigh, swept up in an emptiness always riding roughshod over my life — the aftereffect of one failed relationship after another. I snatch a wineglass of the tray of the passing server and take three big gulps. Drinking takes the edge off, yet I know I should stay sober. Sober, I won’t make a fool of myself. Sober is safer. I rise up on the tips of my toes and look for Ethan’s buzzed head. I see him near the bar and edge my way towards him.
I take two, maybe three steps when I feel a hand on my shoulder. I turn around, and my gaze latches onto those dreamy eyes. I’m seventeen years old again and trembling like I did while waiting for Grayson to respond to my invitation. The silence tortured me then. It tortures me now. I try to speak, but I can’t.
Sean smiles. “I hope you’re not rushing off.”
“No … I…” I swallow hard. Why can’t I say anything?
“Things should die down in a bit,” Sean says. “If you don’t have any plans, maybe we could go for a drink?”
I just stare, blinking magnificently.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” Sean chuckles. “I’ll find you.”
He’s gone again.
I do not — cannot — move as my heart swells. My face starts to hurt because I’m smiling so hard, already imagining our first kiss and the life we’ll build together. Suddenly, it hits me: this is my ‘prom’ night, and I’m there with the most popular guy in the room. Okay, it’s not exactly a prom, but it is a moment that could dramatically change my life.
The big question is … am I ready?
Oh, hell, yes.