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Catch Me (Kitchen Gods Book 2) by Beth Bolden (1)

CHAPTER ONE

Wyatt couldn’t take his eyes off him. Not his face, with those dark eyes and those cheekbones. Not his hands, cradling the single glass with its inch of golden liquid. Definitely not the way his arm muscles rippled under his tan skin. Considering how many guys were packed into this bar, including the mostly naked ones dancing on the stage, that the man had caught and held Wyatt’s attention was an undeniable accomplishment.

Under any other circumstance, Wyatt would have opened with that line when he approached him. But that wasn’t happening tonight, or any other night.

He was definitely cute though, with smile wrinkles around his dark eyes, and close-cropped brown hair. The loose, graceful way he held himself made Wyatt believe that he had a very decent set of muscles under his t-shirt and jeans. None of that explained why Wyatt couldn’t look away. Maybe it was that the man didn’t smile as much as he should. Only occasionally his very white teeth would flash, a contrast to his tanned skin, but it never felt like the smile reached his eyes.

Maybe it was the way he had so easily garnered every other person’s interest in the bar.

Maybe it was because he was Ryan Flores, and the first “out” professional baseball player in the history of the game. He’d come out a few years before, right before the draft, and after spending a year or so in the minors, had broken out in a huge way during a Dodgers’ playoff run. So what might have become only a footnote in the history of Major League Baseball instead got a whole paragraph.

It was a Thursday night, and Wyatt had come to Temple, one of the most famous gay bars in West Hollywood, hoping for a few beers, a chill night, and some well-deserved ogling of the gorgeous dancers. One of them had always reminded him of his ex, Nate, and now that Nate’s memory had faded to a pleasant afterglow rather than acute bitterness, Wyatt had thought he might appreciate the similarity a little more.

Wyatt had not expected to run into the Los Angeles Dodgers’ hottest property, and it was making his previously desired chill evening not very chill at all. But everyone always said he was adaptive, and this was basically true, so Wyatt had decided that people-watching worked too, especially when the people-watching was so god damned excellent.

Person-watching, mainly.

It was unexpectedly entertaining to watch groups of interested guys approach Ryan’s VIP area, be ushered inside, and then promptly ushered back out five minutes later. He’d watched close to fifty guys try to flirt with Ryan Flores, and while there had been some vaguely flirtatious behavior in return, it was clear nobody was getting anywhere with him fast. Wyatt, who also wanted Ryan to smile more, understood both their desire and their frustration.

There was too much hesitation and assessment in Ryan’s eyes, and not enough pure enjoyment.

It was a problem. It wasn’t Wyatt’s problem though; he had enough of those. He didn’t need to add yet another to the pile.

“Want another?” The cute bartender with the white fluffy angel wings sauntered up and gave Wyatt another inviting look. They’d been offhandedly chatting whenever the bartender had a free second, and on another night, when Wyatt’s attention wasn’t so laser-focused on another man, he might have stuck around past closing and given the angel a ride home. Maybe another kind of ride, too.

He was absolutely hot—ripped abs paired with those wet-dream angel wings and dark eyeliner emphasizing his killer baby-blue eyes. There was a glint in them that promised he’d be very good—or maybe if Wyatt was lucky, very bad.

It wasn’t his fault he looked too much like Kian, one of Wyatt’s roommates back in Napa. Since Wyatt felt very brotherly towards Kian, it was not a comparison the bartender would have appreciated. Not with the way he kept eyeing Wyatt.

“No, thanks,” Wyatt said. It would only be his third; he was definitely sober enough to get home, but he didn’t feel like drinking. He didn’t know you could feel too sober to get drunk.

Definitely too sober for this crowd, anyway.

“I don’t think I’ve seen you here before,” the angel said, undeterred by Wyatt’s refusal.

“I’m visiting for a few days,” Wyatt said shortly. It was insanity, but he didn’t want to flirt with the hot angel bartender. He didn’t really want to flirt with anyone.

Lie.

The person he wanted to flirt with was acting like he was holding auditions for his next boyfriend, and Wyatt, while generally optimistic about his chances with guys, was sure he wouldn’t qualify.

Broke. A line chef at a prestigious restaurant, but only a line chef. Painfully single. Even more painfully, still mostly in the closet.

“You know, he’s never been here before either,” the angel said, gesturing up to where Ryan was holding court. His voice was bitter around the edges. “You sure you’re not here to see him? You’ve been staring at him all night.”

“Pretty sure,” Wyatt said.

The angel made a face, which contorted his pretty features. Wyatt had a feeling he didn’t often fail to pick someone up when he made the effort. But it wasn’t the bartender that Wyatt wanted to make smile more.

“You’re cute and all,” the angel said, a sharp glint in his blue eyes, “but I don’t think you’d stand a chance with him.”

Wyatt shrugged. “Not trying to,” he said. It was clearly past his time to go, if he’d succeeded in pissing off the hot bartender.

It just happened that the moment he was ready to leave was also the same moment Ryan decided to venture past the velvet rope of his private section.

His security flanked him as he made his way onto the dance floor, just as Wyatt was trying to wade his way around the edges. Some idiot designer had decided that the dance floor should be between the bar and the exit, and while undeniably keeping everyone going longer, it also made leaving annoying.

Wyatt heard a wave of interested noise wash over the dance floor, and through the customers milling around the bar. Everyone turned Ryan’s direction. Not because he was the cutest guy there, or the most ripped, or the most unclothed, or anything obvious like that. It must be because he was rich and famous, Wyatt assumed. A real VIP at Temple on a Thursday night.

Even though he’d spent all night looking, Wyatt deliberately turned his head away from the dance floor. He didn’t want to know who had captured Ryan Flores’ attention enough to risk leaving his cushy, secure prison.

He couldn’t possibly be jealous over a guy he’d never even talked to. And yet.

The crowd was sweaty and close, the music thumping loudly in his ears as he skirted the edges of the mass of dancing bodies as best as he could. His ass got groped three times, and Wyatt was pretty sure at least two of those were deliberate. He kept his eyes on the big double doors of the exit, not meeting anyone’s eyes. He didn’t want to get drawn in; what he needed was some air.

Finally he broke through to the other side, but the crowd on this side near the door was even pushier, shoving him back and forth a lot more aggressively. Wyatt wasn’t a small guy—he was almost six foot, and had the long lean build of someone who worked hard for a living and liked surfing and rock climbing in his spare time—but he was getting jostled definitely more than he was used to.

The first sign something was wrong was that the bouncer at the door looked at him weirdly. But Wyatt didn’t look back behind him, even though in retrospect, he really should have.

Wyatt burst through the open door and skirting the line to get in—on a Thursday, no less, he thought incredulously—and headed toward the next block, resting against a brick wall to catch his breath.

“I think this is when I should ask you where we’re going.”

Wyatt glanced up and nearly fell over.

Ryan Flores was standing in front of him, arms hanging loosely at his sides, an expectant look on his face, and the hint of a smile. Like Wyatt’s shocked expression was very amusing.

“What are you doing here?” Wyatt demanded. Suddenly a lot of things made sense. Like why it had been so difficult to reach the door. Why guys had started shoving. Pushing. Trying to get to something behind him. Why he had felt like he was swimming upstream against some very determined fish. Why the bouncer had looked at him so oddly. Because it probably hadn’t looked like Ryan was going with him, but following him.

Ryan smiled now, crooked and far more inviting up close than Wyatt had anticipated. “I thought you might know the answer to that. After all, you were staring at me for at least two hours.”

“Three,” Wyatt answered without thinking.

These things happened to other guys, maybe, but they didn’t happen to him. Wyatt shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans. Better to have them out of the way, better not to let himself start taking things—or touching things—before he figured out what the hell was going on.

“There you go,” Ryan said matter-of-factly.

“I still don’t understand,” Wyatt said cautiously. He glanced around Ryan now, afraid they’d been followed by the crowd, but surprisingly, nobody had wandered over or was really paying any attention to them. It turned out that removed from the VIP trappings identifying him as someone important, Ryan looked like a normal guy.

Ryan smiled again, bigger this time, and it did devastating things to Wyatt’s chest region. He had been right about wanting him to smile more, but it was far more treacherous than he could have ever imagined. He reminded himself that Ryan was a problem that he didn’t need, but the argument wasn’t exactly persuasive.

“You rescued me from the crowd. What a mob scene,” Ryan said. He was a terrible actor, like he wasn’t even trying. There was a conspiratorial glimmer in his dark eyes, and Wyatt wanted to just swallow the lame story and take him up on everything he was offering.

What would be the danger in that? Wyatt swallowed hard.

“At least,” Ryan continued, “you could be a gentleman and offer to take me home. Especially after I followed you out here.” He arched an eyebrow, and Wyatt wanted to be pinned underneath him, skin to skin, muscles clenched, the next time he did that.

“I could do that.” Wyatt didn’t even recognize the sound of his own voice. It wasn’t like he didn’t hook up occasionally. There was a decent gay community in Napa, and San Francisco was only a few hours away if he wanted something even more anonymous. But he’d never hooked up with anyone famous or anyone he’d helplessly stared at from across the bar for three hours.

“I brought my bike,” Wyatt added. “I hope that’s okay.”

Ryan grinned. He’d smiled more in the last two minutes than Wyatt remembered from the last three hours. That couldn’t have something to do with him, could it? “You wanna take me for a ride . . .” Ryan hesitated.

“Wyatt,” he said, flushing, embarrassed that he hadn’t introduced himself earlier. “I’m Wyatt.” Flustered, he extended his hand, reminding him of the last job interview he’d gone on. Which was stupid, because this wasn’t anything like that.

But Ryan took it anyway. His hand was big and ridged with callouses—similar to Wyatt’s own knife-scarred digits, but just different enough to be exciting. Electricity flowed, making his fingers tingle, and he gripped Ryan’s hand harder. Ryan’s eyes crinkled with amusement.

“I’m Ryan.”

“I know,” Wyatt said stupidly. They weren’t even shaking hands anymore, but holding them, and Wyatt wanted to hold more. He wanted to hold it all.

He wanted to know what those callouses felt like, deep inside him. He wanted to know if Ryan laughed in bed. He wanted to know if that tan went everywhere, or if there was paler, softer skin in places that the public didn’t see.

Wyatt ignored the voice that said he couldn’t have those things, and gripped Ryan’s hand harder. He could be a different person, at least for tonight.

“Take me home,” Ryan said quietly, earnestly, and Wyatt knew he was asking for something else completely.

He fully intended to take Ryan up on every single damn thing he was offering.

His motorcycle was around the corner, and when Wyatt tugged Ryan the right direction, to his surprise, Ryan held onto his hand. Refused to let go.

Wyatt told his ramshackle closet to fuck off, and they held hands the handful of blocks to where his bike was parked.

His hand was damp with nerves and the sharp pings of excitement flooding through his veins. His mind was swamped with a hundred fantasies, a thousand things he was dying to do with Ryan. But Wyatt knew he was only going to get a few hours. Maybe. If he was really fucking lucky. So he settled for the one that kept pushing itself to the forefront, and let out a shaky breath as Ryan settled behind him on his bike and wrapped his arms around Wyatt’s waist.

His grip was tight, and Wyatt let his own hand drift down, fingertips grazing the muscular forearm resting against his t-shirt. He swore he felt goose bumps, and told himself to focus, before he killed them both.

Ryan hadn’t told him where he lived, and that was fine by Wyatt, because he had no intention of taking him home just yet. He’d grown up in the LA area, before going to culinary school in New York, and the first thing he’d done when coming back to the west coast was re-acquaint himself with all the best biking roads around Mulholland and the Santa Monica mountains. He took them now, opening up the throttle, feeling the wind rush through his hair, Ryan’s arms a steady, exhilarating pressure, never letting Wyatt forget what was at the end of this drive.

Well, not quite the end of the drive.

He took them to his favorite lookout, the one he’d come to as a teenager on his old shitty Indian, when he’d needed to get away from his brothers.

He wasn’t running away from his brothers now, and he had a split second of nerves as he pulled into the dirt turnoff. Ryan’s hands tensed around him, and then relaxed again. Wyatt parked his bike, and twisted in the seat, still ready to offer an apology, when calloused palms reached up, cradled his cheeks, his chin. Then Ryan’s mouth was on his, and it was scorching with determination and purpose, tongue almost immediately in Wyatt’s mouth, and he could only think, I’ve got to feel those lips and that tongue on my dick before the night is out.

It would be okay—he could be fine with only hooking up with Ryan for one night. He had to be. Because he couldn’t imagine Ryan meant anything else. He was a broke line chef, not even a sous, who was still hiding from his grandmother.

There wasn’t a lot that Wyatt could be proud of, but Ryan wanted him, and he intended to make good on it. Ryan climbed off the bike and Wyatt swung his legs around, leaning back against it, cradling Ryan between his legs.

His hands searched under Ryan’s t-shirt, encountering tight, warm skin, only the tiniest bit chilled from their ride, and all those muscles he’d imagined he would find. Rippling abs, a pec that fit flawlessly into his hand. A tiny pebbled nipple that made Ryan groan into his mouth when Wyatt flicked it experimentally.

As far as Wyatt was concerned, Ryan went for his belt buckle too soon. Yeah, he was definitely hard, and he imagined Ryan would be too, if he followed the soft trail of hair down his chest, through the cut muscles of his abdomen. But he didn’t want it to end so fast. He wanted more than just a quick, blazingly hot hand job. Even if they were on his bike and the road was just over there and anyone could drive by.

There was only a dim streetlight a few hundred yards away, but Wyatt could still see the dark intensity of Ryan’s gaze as he pulled back. “You don’t want to?” Ryan questioned, and there was definite disappointment in his voice.

Wyatt’s voice was rough. “I’ve spent the whole night imagining this. Of course I want to.”

“Then how do you want it?” Ryan gave Wyatt an experimental stroke through his jeans and his boxers, and he groaned. Yeah, he wanted those graceful and calloused hands all over his dick, but he also wanted his swollen lips wrapped around his cock. He wanted Ryan to bend him over the leather seat and open him wide to the cool night air, his thumbs brushing the inside of his cheeks and the furl of his hole. He wanted to fuck Ryan until they were both crying with it.

He wanted too much, and he’d experienced enough of life to know you never got everything you wanted. It was always better to temper your expectations. The problem was Wyatt couldn’t do that tonight.

Not with Ryan.

He was still a stranger, but it didn’t matter. Every time Ryan touched him, he went out of his mind. Every time Ryan smiled, it was the sweetest, most satisfying moment Wyatt had experienced in months. Maybe even in years.

But Wyatt knew he couldn’t say any of that to Ryan. Not when he was clearly just looking for a quick hookup, so he kissed him instead. He wasn’t stupid enough to believe that a kiss could make Ryan understand, but without the words, it was all he had.

He couldn’t whisper it, and he couldn’t scream it from the top of the tallest building in LA. His mouth, his hands, his body. That’s what he had left.

Wyatt knew Ryan couldn’t understand, but it was easy to imagine he had, because the kiss morphed from a solid wall of heat to something softer, something less driving and more meandering. A kiss that meant that they could take their time, even if they were on the side of the road.

Ryan followed Wyatt’s lead and his fingers drifted up his abs, to his chest, touching everything under his t-shirt that he could reach.

Between kisses, Ryan murmured, “Are you sure you aren’t a pro athlete?” He paused. “You’re built like a fucking wall.”

Wyatt took that as the compliment it was. “I’m actually a chef,” he admitted.

Ryan laughed a little into the corner of Wyatt’s mouth. His lips felt two sizes too big, and achingly sensitive, but he couldn’t stop kissing Ryan. Couldn’t get enough of the wondrous drugging feeling that took him over whenever their lips touched. Like everything, even if it all felt like it was going to shit, would be okay.

His dick was a solid, throbbing reminder that he was horny as hell, and just groping every inch of Ryan he could wasn’t going to be enough. Or vice versa.

Finally, before Wyatt could say, maybe I’ve finally had enough, Ryan exhaled with a sharp, ragged breath and begged. “Can I, please?” he murmured into a particularly sensitive spot just behind Wyatt’s ear. And because Wyatt didn’t give a shit what Ryan wanted to do—he wanted whatever Ryan wanted—he simply nodded.

Ryan’s hands went back to his jeans, unbuttoning and unzipping them, gently and carefully so that they didn’t send the bike toppling over.

Not for the first time, Wyatt wondered if maybe he should have let the fantasy go, but then Ryan gestured for Wyatt to prop himself up against the bike, and lowered his mouth to the wet patch on his boxers.

His fingers dug into the leather seat, trying to steady himself, to control himself, as Ryan flicked out his tongue, tasting the wet of his pre-come on the cotton. When Ryan groaned, Wyatt had to echo him. It was so damn good already, and he’d barely touched him.

“Please,” Wyatt whimpered, because even if he was dying to, there was no way he was going to last. And if all he got was some teasing, he would cry. He wanted Ryan’s mouth on him, those sinfully full lips taking in his cock.

“Please what?” Ryan asked, fingers trailing up his bare thigh, tugging down his boxers finally. He knew what Wyatt wanted, he just wanted to make him crazy with need.

“Please . . . your god damn mouth,” Wyatt ground out.

The moment Ryan’s tongue curled around the head and then he sucked, Wyatt knew he was a dead man and the last five minutes of his life were going to be fucking brilliant.

“Knew you’d be good at this,” Wyatt grunted, trying to be gentle as he reached down and cradled Ryan’s head.

Then Ryan slid the rough pad on his finger to the back of his balls and pleasure exploded, whiting out his vision, making it almost impossible to avoid pressing Ryan’s head down, begging him to take in more, to give him more.

There was only a split second before Wyatt knew he couldn’t contain the building pressure anymore, and curled his hands possessively around Ryan’s face, feeling the shape of his dick against Ryan’s cheek, and it was all over.

The orgasm was like a roaring wave, overtaking him, emptying him out of everything—except this endless need to do it again, and again, and again.

“Sorry,” Wyatt breathed out after he was able to speak again. “I’m so sorry.” He’d been sort of rude, coming with almost no warning, assuming that Ryan would swallow.

But Ryan’s expression as he stood was anything but pissed off. In fact, he looked smug as hell as he reached for Wyatt’s hand, and placed it against his crotch. It was wet, and Wyatt stared at Ryan as he realized what had happened.

“You shouldn’t be sorry,” Ryan said. “Clearly I thought it was pretty damn hot.”

The only problem with that was that now Wyatt wasn’t going to get to take Ryan apart with his mouth, and his tongue and his fingers, or his cock. It didn’t feel fair, and it left him feeling sort of hollow, now that this otherworldly encounter was drawing to an end.

“Well, uh, I just . . .” Wyatt didn’t know what to say. His brain still felt sluggish after the orgasm of the millennium.

“It’s okay,” Ryan said, giving his thigh a reassuring squeeze. “I was staring at you too. And doing my own share of fantasizing. It was sort of inevitable.”

“If you say so.” Even though he’d had plenty of guys tell him how hot he was, Wyatt always had trouble accepting it. Especially now, from someone like Ryan. He could have had anyone he wanted, and he’d picked Wyatt.

“I do,” Ryan said, and leaned over, kissing him again. Wyatt tasted himself on Ryan’s tongue, and told himself that even if this was just a passing, quick thing to the other man, he wasn’t going to forget. He would remember the rippled smoothness of skin over muscle, the strangled gasp Ryan had made when he’d pinched his nipple, the taste of his come on Ryan’s tongue.

Finally, it was time for the inevitable. “I guess I’d better get you home,” Wyatt said. “I promised I would.”

“You strike me as the kind of guy who tries to keep his promises,” Ryan said casually.

Wyatt thought he was, unless you were counting the many lies he’d told his own family about who he was. He nodded.

“Then, I guess there’s nothing else for you to do,” Ryan said, shooting Wyatt another one of those dimpled grins. It hurt that he seemed so casual about it, like none of this really mattered. And, Wyatt reminded himself, it probably didn’t. Not to Ryan.

That was okay. Wyatt would have to be okay with it.

Ryan told Wyatt his address, and he punched it into his phone, quickly flicking through the map to make sure he knew the route. Wyatt only realized as they were near their destination, making their way up the coast, towards Santa Monica, that even though he’d had his phone out, Ryan hadn’t given him his phone number.

It was hard to enjoy that last five minutes of Ryan wrapped around him, the cool night air whistling past them, because that hurt. It shouldn’t have, because Ryan had never made him a single promise, or made a single assumption, but it still god damned ached.

But Wyatt didn’t want to be that guy, the one who overshared and overstayed and didn’t know when to quit, so he just smiled, and then smiled more, as Ryan got off the bike in front of the big double-gated entrance to his mansion.

“Thanks for the ride,” Ryan said, and leaned over, brushing a single kiss across Wyatt’s cheek. Somehow, that meant more than some torrid, heated kiss, but it still hurt more than Wyatt could have guessed when Ryan turned to go.

“See you around,” Wyatt said stupidly, because he didn’t know what else to say. He’d had hookups before, but none of them had ever felt like this.

It had never felt like someone had carved his heart out of his chest and had taken it with them when they left.

Ryan turned, and flashed Wyatt one last smile. “Yeah,” he said, clearly amused by Wyatt’s choice of parting remark, “I’ll see you around.”