“So what’s the story on Legs McGee?”
Matthew made the question sound like an afterthought, idle curiosity meant to fill a lull in conversation instead of something he’d been patiently waiting to ask for the last hour.
He’d officially gone ’round the bend. Why else would he choose to spend a Friday night at his brother’s boxing gym, eating cold ham off a paper plate and working up the courage to approach a man he didn’t know? He wasn’t the obsessive type and, the last time he’d checked, he wasn’t into guys. But the slender fitness demon on his second set of come-hither squats had been taking up his attention for days. And he was definitely a man.
If he’d had any doubts on that score, the clinging nylon shorts that were threatening to Free Willy at any moment would have been confirmation enough. They were a menace, those shorts, and the same pair he’d worn a week ago when Matthew stopped in to harass his older brother, William, and see how preparations for the grand opening were shaping up.
“Whose legs are we talking about?” Rory asked. “Are we swapping sex stories now? Because that would make this a party and you know I’m down for that.”
He winked at Matthew before handing a napkin to Robert Wayne, William’s brother-in-law and the man Matthew needed to grill for information. The three of them were set up on stools around the front desk, plates heaped with baby potatoes, glazed ham, homemade rolls and leftover lasagna.
Matthew had learned that there was always lasagna at their family gatherings. The wife of one of his cousins, Tasha Finn, had a particular fondness for it. His family had recently quadrupled in size, so these little details were necessary to keep everything straight in his head.
The blond, blue-eyed Rory had dressed for comfort instead of a party in an old pair of scrub bottoms and an oversized superhero t-shirt, while Robert gave off a young Denzel circa The Pelican Brief vibe with his white shirt, rolled up sleeves, and a snug pair of slacks.
He still looked like a salesman instead of the manager of a boxing club, but William assured him that would change once the man relaxed.
Robert finished chewing his ham before trying to speak. “I think Matthew’s talking about Mr. Impatient, the guy who managed to wrangle a membership out of William before my ads were even put in the paper.”
Finally. “That’s the one.”
“I’m not sure what his story is, but it must be a good one,” Robert said. “The grand opening isn’t for another six days, but he’s come in every day for the last two weeks and stays for hours, which means I stay for hours, even when the workers aren’t around.”
Those workers were the reason Matthew hadn’t noticed Legs right away that first day. He’d been watching them install new lighting and pondering over how far his brother had come from backroom brawls for cash and debt collection, when the leggy man throwing wild punches at the recently installed heavy bag finally registered on his radar.
For Matthew, the earth may as well have flipped on its side. In the short time it had taken William to run upstairs to his apartment and grab the latest sonogram of his unborn son, everything had changed.
He’d made the appropriate sounds of praise over the snapshot of his nearly-baked nephew—who from that angle honestly looked like an alien hybrid with dimples—and left far sooner than he’d planned in an act of blatant self-preservation.
It wasn’t every day a man was hit by that kind of lightning. The “Surprise! You like peen!” type of thunderbolt. It would’ve been unusual if he hadn’t needed a moment to recuperate and take stock of himself.
Surprisingly, his dark night of the soul had lasted less than twenty-four-hours. A possible record in the family as far as orientation epiphanies went, but then Matthew had never been one to procrastinate or deny the facts. His desire was a fact.
So he’d come back the next day, and each day after that. William believed Matthew was working up to asking for a lesson or two in the fine art of bare-knuckle boxing from his big brother.
He didn’t have the heart to tell him he was wrong.
Bronte, Matthew’s sister-in-law, believed he wanted a closer relationship with her husband after the last few years of strained distance.
There was some truth in that, but that was why he was back in town full time, not why he’d been hanging around their property like some right creepy stalker.
Matthew hadn’t told either of them the truth. That the last four days of rushing from his boring IT job to Finn’s Ring was solely about staring at a half-naked stranger while he sorted through his new desires, and letting his curiosity about the man who’d caused it grow into a full-on obsession.
It wasn’t something he could slip into casual conversation. Particularly not when the two of them were so busy with preparations for the dual births of business and babe. Their plates were full enough, so Matthew kept himself preoccupied with his new hobby—blatant ogling.
Legs, focused on his daily workout and whatever music was blasting in his ear buds at all times, never seemed to notice, no matter how obvious the ogling got.
And since the man was choosing to wear that scrap of fabric that pornographically outlined his cock and continuously rode up between the cheeks of his ass, it had gotten pretty damn obvious.
Matthew had grown up around muscular Irishmen—burly brawlers and bruisers all—but he could honestly say he had never seen a man with an ass like that. It was a luscious, meaty handful that tempted him towards indecency at every turn. He’d spent the majority of his free time imagining all the things he wanted to do to it. The rest of the time he’d spent researching gay porn sites to see if certain positions were even possible.
All that had done was given him more ideas. But at least his left hand was getting one hell of a workout.
“You’d think he lived in the spare room upstairs,” Robert continued, as if Matthew wasn’t distracted by thoughts of a lascivious nature, “but I saw him wrestling with that monster car of his one night while I was locking up. Bronte thinks it belongs to his boyfriend.”
Matthew came to attention and bristled at the word boyfriend. “Monster car?”
“One of those cool cholo-style lowrider beauties I used to want back when I first got my license. Bright blue and loud, with all the bells and whistles. Even has a set of fuzzy dice. That’s a lot of machine for him, and he looked about as out of place as a little old lady behind the steering wheel.” Robert lowered his voice, glancing surreptitiously over at Legs before continuing. “Bronte says a boyfriend borrow is the only logical explanation.”
“And now we all know a little more about Robert than we wanted to.” Rory flipped his hair out of his eyes, leaning back precariously on his stool to study Legs in more detail.
“You’re right, though. He doesn’t look like a pimped-out lowrider. But then he doesn’t look like a boxer either. Sweet is the word that comes to mind. A sweet stripper, with a hint of that Jane Austen meets vampire ponce-itude about him.”
“A sweet, old lady vampire stripper? I never want to know how the two of you describe me.” Matthew pushed his barely touched plate away and bit his tongue before he could say more in defense of his crush.
Not that he’d admit it out loud, but he got where Rory was coming from. Legs had soft sable curls, high cheekbones and wide, deep-set brown eyes that made him look like an angel. An angel that happened to have bow-shaped lips that Matthew wanted to explore for days. He could almost feel them around his cock.
Something he definitely shouldn’t be imagining if he was driving his boyfriend’s car. Unless he was unhappy with the wanker—then all bets were off.
You could solve all your problems if you’d just nut up and talk to the guy.
Matthew sighed. He’d almost done it a half a dozen times, but something always held him back. He felt stuck. Unable to move forward, but unable to leave and risk the possibility of someone else swooping in to steal Legs away from him before he worked up his nerve.
It was hell on his social life. He’d turned down invitations every night so he could continue to put himself through this torture. What kind of masochistic idiot had two thumbs and would rather watch a man hold the plank position for an hour instead of experiencing all the tactile entertainments available at the local kink club?
As recently as last week he’d been a club regular. Back when there were all manner of things that flipped his personal switch, instead of just one oblivious man.
Light bondage? He was in. Spanking and role-play? Sign him up. Anal? As long as he was driving, it was, as they said, all good.
It wasn’t a lifestyle choice by any means, but it was always good fun, usually educational and his family didn’t own the club, which was a rare plus. There had been plenty of opportunities to experiment with the men there as well, but he’d never been tempted.
It wasn’t that he had any phobias about having sex with a man. He’d even imagined it once or twice with certain movie stars that had accidentally slipped into his spank bank. But he’d always chalked his arousal up to the taboo nature of it all.
When he’d started getting to know the American side of his family tree, though, he’d wondered if there was something more to it than that. It would be impossible not to, since a majority of his cousins were either bi, gay, poly or some combination thereof.
Only your cousins? Don’t forget about your sister, Calamity.
As if she would let him.
He supposed that was why it wasn’t his interest in a man that shocked him as much as the intensity of it. He experienced arousal and desire like anyone else, but he’d never confused it with necessity or, God forbid, love. He never believed a basic, physical reaction was more important than food, or air, or the old movies he enjoyed in his spare time.
He was a rotten cock to admit to it, but he’d forgotten the names and faces of most of the people he’d slept with since he’d arrived in the states. What was worse, before they’d gotten together, he’d known that he would.
True love and passion were for people like William. Or his parents, may they rest in peace. They were the emotional, impulsive creatures that wore their hearts on their sleeves. Sometimes to the detriment of the people around them.
Matthew had long ago decided to avoid that trap, and nothing life had thrown his way had changed his mind.
Was that why he hadn’t done anything about Legs yet? Because he felt something more than basic compulsion for the first time in his life? Because he couldn’t dismiss him from his mind, even when he tried?
Was he that much of a coward?
The idea that he might be had made a hash of his peace of mind, which could explain why he’d brought along reinforcements in the form of Rory Finn. Cousin Rory was always good for a laugh, always there for his family and Matthew genuinely admired his style.
Most importantly, he always managed to swipe the largest share of leftovers from the monthly family dinners. It was a trick he’d love to learn and as good an excuse as any to invite him along.
“I don’t have a thing for vampires, if that’s what you’re hinting at,” Rory finally muttered. “And those shorts are practically a thong. You did ask for a story.”
“Not a story,” Robert interrupted with a smirk. “Legs McGee’s story.”
Matthew sent Robert a speaking look. “Unlike you, I can’t find out his actual name with the stroke of a keyboard, Nora.”
“He shoots, he scores,” crowed Rory. “Seriously, not to change the subject, but I love your mother.”
Robert frowned. “You might feel differently if you were the only child—out of seven—named after a romance author instead of a famous literary icon.”
Rory pinged a small, cold potato at his chest. “She is an icon, and one of the most well-known authors in the world. Ask my Aunt Ellen. Maybe if you read a few of your namesake’s books, you’d have more luck with the ladies.”
Robert flipped him off before leaning back on his stool and typing something into the laptop he’d set aside in order to eat. “His name is Garcia. Oliver H. If you want more than that you can ask him yourself. The last thing we need is an invasion of privacy lawsuit before we officially open.”
“His name fits my story if anyone’s interested. Although the vampire is now a sad orphan stripper with no one to love him.” Rory shoved the used paper plates back into the plastic bag he’d brought their dinner in. “Now that your belly is full and you’ve gotten the info you were angling for, why don’t you tell us what’s actually going on in that extra Irish head of yours, Matthew?”
His name is Oliver.
Matthew shrugged. “I was curious, that’s all. Like you said, he doesn’t seem like he belongs here.”
“You think you’re being smooth, don’t you?” Rory’s blue eyes, so like his own, saw right through him. “You told me you thought your brother was nervous about the grand opening and we should support him with a friendly visit and my leftovers. But we’ve been here for an hour and he’s still nowhere in sight.”
“Of course not. He and Bronte are at their third trimester dance class.” Robert’s mirth was evident as his gaze flicked between Matthew and Rory. “Then they’ll stop by my parents’ house for at least an hour, longer if William and the old man get to talking. It happens the same time every week. I’m surprised Matthew didn’t tell you.”
Matthew knew there was no point in looking innocent, so he didn’t try.
“I’m going to want more information on that dance class, Robert. For blackmail purposes.” Rory crossed his arms and stared Matthew down. “Lying to a blood relative? The shame must burn. Meanwhile, Robert and I are trying to share a meal and swap sex stories, and you’ve hardly taken your eyes off the other side of the gym. You’re just curious? If I hadn’t heard all the gossip about what you’ve been up to at Owen’s old club, I’d think you were—”
“Okay, he’s interesting,” Matthew admitted. “A mystery.”
I can’t stop thinking about him. I feel like I’m losing my mind.
“A mystery you’d like to solve,” his cousin nodded sagely, as if he’d been expecting as much. “Like my three-pickle problem. Is that the kind of mystery you’re talking about?”
When Matthew didn’t deny it, Robert groaned. “Hell, he’s in love. And there goes another potential wingman.”
“Unless you want to start hitting the gay bars,” Rory agreed with a laugh.
“No offense, Finn, but it’s a woman I need.”
“You need to read her books. That’s all I’m saying.”
“Will her books explain why Matthew is drooling after a vampire stripper when he was into girls until about five minutes ago? Because that’s what we’re talking about.”
Rory chuckled. “I can’t believe I got you to say vampire stripper.”
Matthew ran a hand through his hair, lowering his voice to a harsh whisper. “Oi! I’m sittin’ right here. What say we focus on the desperate man, lads?”
They both obediently turned in his direction. “Grand. Yes, I got you here under false pretenses, but I had a reason. Robert is a marketing guru and you’re the go-to on navigating difficult situations. I happen to be a man in need of guidance and potential rebranding, since my usual sales pitch is aimed at the opposite sex. If that’s not a prickly problem for you to solve, I don’t know what is.”
“Pickle problem.” Rory blinked in surprise. “Wait. Robert, can you record this on your phone? I think we’re being asked for dating advice.”
“Sure, now I’m Robert.”
Matthew wanted to snarl in frustration, but then he noticed Oliver starting his lunges. God love those damn lunges and the perfect ass they’d created.
“I’m not sure I know how to approach him here without coming off like a wanker. If we were at a club, maybe, but… I just realized tonight that I’m not sure if he’s single. I’m not even sure if he’s gay.”
Rory’s smile was practically angelic. “Trust me, he’s gay. And you definitely have it bad. Luckily, you came to the right OG.”
“Original Gay,” Rory clarified for Robert. “Solomon may be the oldest but he was living in the deepest closet created by man until a few years ago. Owen was a serial womanizer and kinky bastard, like our boy Matthew, so there is a precedent. Seamus was trapped in perpetually single dad-pants, and Jen was engaged to a limp-noodled loser instead of living it up with two hot bisexuals.”
“What about Brady?”
He quelled Matthew with a look. “Brady is a giant anomaly. Also his fiancé could have this place bugged for all I know, so let’s leave them both out of it just to be safe.”
“I can see why my sisters like you,” Robert laughed.
“All the Waynes adore me. I’m the LGBT EMT that’s the GOAT.”
Rory shook his head sadly at Matthew’s confused frown. “Greatest of all time? You’re only twenty-three, my little shillelagh. How can you not know that? Jake knows that.”
Jake was the eldest son of Seamus Finn, the first family member they’d met in Ireland before William had rushed his two siblings across the ocean to keep them out of trouble and away from his old boss.
“There is nothing little about my shillelagh,” he insisted. “But your excessive use of initials has forced me to close your advice-giving window. Robert? You’re up.”
Robert lifted his hands in surrender. “I appreciate the guru status and the confidence, Matthew, but I’m a breast man, so I’m not sure how to help you. And the last time I tried to set my brother up on a date, things went so wrong I was temporarily voted off the island.”
Rory smiled victoriously, but Robert wasn’t finished. “The reason I set it up was because Hugo had spent a lot of time suffering instead of going after the man he really wanted. So maybe that’s an answer. If you want to make a move, just get off your ass and do it. If you fail, at least you tried. But if you keep waiting, a well-meaning relative might play matchmaker out of the goodness of their heart and makes things a million times worse.”
Matthew instantly slid off his stool and Rory scoffed. “Don’t pretend that worked. Just do it? He stole my advice window and gave you a sneaker slogan. I’m telling the family to vote you off the island again,” he said to a grinning Robert.
Robert rolled his eyes. “He doesn’t need to rebrand or navigate anything. He just needed to run it by someone who wouldn’t judge him and get the go ahead. He has it now. What’s the problem?”
“That’s not what he said,” Rory corrected, stepping over to Matthew. “Don’t tell Nora, but I partially agree with him.”
“You do know I can hear you, right?” Robert asked curiously.
“You’re nervous because it’s new, but try not to overthink it,” Rory said, ignoring him. “It’s not that different from dating a girl from the club. You’re still just a guy, standing in your brother’s gym, asking another guy if he’s open to anal.”
“Jesus, Rory,” Matthew swore, laughing despite the knots in his stomach. “You’re not helping.”
“Yes, I am. Just go say hello.” Rory put his hand on Matthew’s back and pushed lightly. “Report back after this assignment for further instructions and a cookie.”
Matthew hesitated, before walking slowly in Oliver’s direction. Was he really going to do this? Just go up and introduce himself to the man who’d thrown him so off balance he no longer knew which end was up?
Getting this impromptu dinner together had been the best idea he could come up with, and he wasn’t feeling all that confident about it at the moment.
But then again, his current plan of waiting for Oliver to make eye contact or initiate their meeting himself was a giant fail, so at this point Robert was right. Other than being rejected in a way that might scar him for life, what did he have to lose?
You are a sad excuse for a Finn.
He wasn’t sure where his confidence had gone. He’d hooked up with women he barely knew with less grief than this more times than he could remember. Holding back wasn’t his style, and to be honest, that could be a contributing factor to his nerves.
Maybe he’d blown the situation all out of proportion, and this awkward introduction was just what he needed to break the spell. Oliver H. Garcia might not be as mysterious or intriguing on closer inspection.
Stranger things had happened.
The man in question turned his head, as if suddenly sensing Matthew’s presence beside him. “Can I help you?”
God, he hoped so, because he had the sneaking suspicion he’d forgotten how to breathe and the ground was falling away beneath his feet.