“Hey, wait,” I said as Cass pulled me out the back door, “I came here with someone.”
He looked up at me and blinked. “With someone?” He brow wrinkled together. “Who’s ‘someone’?”
Oh, yes, he did not like that idea. I had to suppress a grin that I wasn’t the only one who was feeling jealous tonight.
“A friend,” I assured him.
“He can wait,” Cass said, pulling me with him toward one of the standing patio tables at the back that was empty. I almost moved to set my beer on the table (or glorified railing-turned-table really), then remembered I’d left my drink with Tony.
Cass took a sip of his own drink then set it down, eying me. It took me a moment to remember my shirt was hanging open, and I quickly moved to button up. “Oh, leave it!” Cass said with a half-laugh half-snort. “Open or closed I know what you’re packing.” It was true, but it felt odd just the same—he wasn’t the only one taking in an eyeful and I wasn’t used to the attention. Within a moment the sexy atmosphere from the dance floor had detoured into awkwardness.
Cass stared at his cosmo or whatever it was. “I’m still mad at you.”
Right. I wasn’t sure if I was annoyed or impressed that he could collect his thoughts right now. But in any case, “We should talk.”
“Maybe somewhere less,” I waved a hand, “chaotic.”
He gave a brief “hmm,” then took another gulp, setting down his now-empty glass.
“You’re drinking a lot for the guy who was supposed to be the designated driver,” I remarked, then winced at how paternal I sounded.
Cass just shrugged. “All I need is one strong drink at the start of the night and then I chase it with a lot of water—and dancing—and I’m good to drive home by the time the bars close up.”
“That’s your first drink tonight?” I held up my hands when he glared. “Sorry.” I was definitely past the age where I could (or wanted) to go out dancing til dawn and then drive my ass back home rather than collapse.
He must’ve read my expression as he asked with a grin, “And you? You’re drinking too I assume. Who’s your designated driver?”
“I took a cab from another friend’s place. He lives in the city and goes out of town a lot, so I house sit some weekends and it works out for us both.”
His eyes widened, briefly, and I realized what I’d just said. We were out, away from our responsibilities, and now I’d just told him there was an empty, private apartment available to us, all night. Christ.
“We could talk there,” Cass suggested.
Oh, yes, we could talk, and do a lot more. But the talk had to come first, and I wasn’t sure it would happen in that order.
When I hesitated, Cass grabbed my hand, “More dancing first.”
I pulled back. “Why’d we come out if you just wanted to keep dancing?”
He shrugged again and I could see the agitation inside him he was trying to hide. “Like you said, it’s not really the place for it and…” he sighed, “maybe I deserve a night to not think or be practical. That’s why I came out with Lance. But then you were here…” His head flopped back with a groan. “So we should do the reasonable thing, but I don’t really want to discuss why things won’t work out with us. I’d rather have a little fun first. For once.”
How was I supposed to argue with that? Did it matter if we talked about our heavy issues tonight or tomorrow? At the same time, I knew I was making excuses. Then Cass tugged me again and I went. I wouldn’t let anything go too far, not until I told him everything like I’d promised TJ, but I could let us enjoy the moment before then.
When we got back to the dance floor, Tony was talking up a twink at the bar and Lance joined us, which helped keep Cass and I from humping each other. And I had to admit, it was fun. I remembered when I used to go clubbing—how much I used to love the music vibrating through my chest, the energy of everyone around me. The sweaty, sexy bodies all packed in. Though if Cass hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have stayed out on that floor very long. I didn’t have the same energy in my thirties (as cliché as that was), but seeing him let loose and be so in the moment, well, that made it amazing. Dancing with him in my arms occasionally didn’t hurt either. And, ok, Lance was kind of hilarious, so I could see why Cass liked him.
Though the little bastard did like grazing up against Cass and grinning at me, just to get a reaction. Cass always managed to catch him in the act, and since Cass looked pleased at my possessiveness, I couldn’t stay mad. Considering we had moved to a different level in our relationship—even with a conflict between us—things probably shouldn’t have felt so damn good or easy. But they did.
After an hour or two, however, I’d reached my limit—and so had Cass. His one drink limit had been passed a couple times over. I’d kept the waters coming, but he was starting to sway a bit too much on the dance floor. Tony had left earlier with a “companion” (as he preferred to call his one night stands), so at least I didn’t have to worry about him.
“He can’t hold his alcohol, can he?” I asked Lance as we tried to make our way toward the doors, steadying Cass between us.
Lance smiled as he steered an oblivious Cass around a barstool. “He usually knows his limits and sticks to them. Tonight,” he said, eying me warily, “he had things on his mind.”
“Need to pee!” Cass said, suddenly rushing to the bathroom. Lance and I followed, and I made damn sure Cass took an empty stall instead of a urinal where we was going to be assessed by whomever came in and out.
“You’re protective of him,” Lance said after the stall door shut. “That’s good.”
“So are you.” He shrugged. And because he was definitely a no-bullshit kinda kid, I went ahead and asked, “Have you two fucked?”
His eyes went wide. Was that not kosher to ask? Then he burst out laughing. “No, dude. We aren’t compatible that way.”
Something eased inside me, then he had to add, “We explored a bit, fingered each other and stuff to see what the whole prostate hubbub was about, but fucked? Hah!”
He clamped me on the shoulder. “Down boy,” he said with amusement as Cass stepped out of the stall.
As we headed back toward the doors, I asked, “So where to now? Are you ok to drive or should I call you guys a cab?”
Since we were on a busy street, it didn’t take long. Which I was damn thankful for considering Cass had decided to lean up against me and doze. He felt so right with his head resting on my shoulder, but it was stirring things up inside me and the evidence was going to begin to show at any moment if we stayed that way.
The cab stopped and Cass tripped himself inside. I climbed in to make sure he was settled, then heard the door shut behind me.
“Have a good night!” Lance said through the open window. “Take care of our boy.”
“What? Get in here, you’re taking him home!”
He stuck by the door and didn’t budge. “Nope. I know you two have stuff to work out and tonight’s been fun but you need to talk to him.” He eyed me with too much knowing. “He’s been a mess all day. Deal with it.”
With a sigh I fell back in the seat. Lance gave a cheerful, “Night, night!” and the cab pulled away. He was right, of course, and I wanted to strangle him.
I gave the address of Tim’s place off the Golden Mile downtown and though the cabbie didn’t say a word, his glance back at me was inquisitive. It was rough times for most people since the housing market crash and I didn’t blame the guy for giving me a look. I’d known Tim since before he’d made his money and I knew most of it came from sound investing and supporting programs that helped a lot of the communities I photographed. He was one of the good guys. A shame so many people with wealth only thought about themselves. It gave a bad name to the others who actually gave a damn.
When we arrived I made sure to tip the driver well and guided a sleepy Cass inside to the elevator.
“Where are we?”
“Heading to my friend Tim’s place.”
He looked out the glass windows as we rode up. The view of the lake was pretty spectacular. Cass’ eyebrows rose higher as we went. “This is, uh, swank.”
I chuckled as the elevator chimed.
“Where’s Lance?” he asked as I punched in the security code to the apartment.
“Good question. Still at the club I guess. He made sure we got a cab ok then went off.”
“Hope he’s ok.”
I opened the door and told him, “He hadn’t had much to drink—unlike yourself.” I chuckled. “So he should be fine.”
Cass shook his head; he seemed to be sobering up a bit. “He takes too many chances. I don’t like to leave him alone.”
“I’m guessing he goes out on his own a lot when you’re not visiting, though?”
“Yeah.” Cass gave a pout and drifted around the apartment, gliding his hand over the smooth black leather of the furniture, and the plush white carpet under his feet. (When had he taken off his shoes?) “Mmm, feels nice.” He made a little humming sound and grinned. Then again, maybe not so sober.
“These are pretty nice digs. Who is this guy…to you?”
“A friend and a colleague of sorts. He started a company that works to connect corporations looking to invest with NGOs and social programs that need support. Sometimes he uses my photography for presentations to get the investors interest for less documented programs.”
“That was a lot of words,” Cass said.
“You asked,” I retorted with a smile.
He sat on the edge of one of the sofa’s backs and tilted his head as he looked at me. “You were pretty sexy tonight.”
And that was the cue to get him to bed. To sleep.
“Come on, Cassanova. I’ll show you to the guest room.”
“Bedroom? You read my mind.” He grinned and pushed off the sofa toward me.
“You need to sleep it off, Cass.”
“There’s other ways to work the alcohol out of my system.” He stepped closer.
God, this had to be the worst timing in the world. The hardest thing was not knowing how much of this was honestly Cass and how much was horniness exacerbated by vodka.
“Will,” he tossed back with a mocking chuckle. He moved in to kiss me and as hard as it was (and I do mean hard), I put a hand out to stop him. He looked down at my fingers on his chest with a frown.
“If this is going to happen, it’s not going to be like this,” I told him.
“Because we’ve been drinking, for one. I’d like us to both be cleared-headed if we’re going to move this thing between us forward.”
“You’re scared,” he snapped in a way that was so unlike him I knew for certain this wasn’t the right time.
“Maybe, but,” I slipped my hand around the back of his neck and brought him close, until his chin brushed my shoulder, “I want our first time to be when we're sober, and when I can have you spread out on my own bed, to take my time with you.”
I didn’t mention that even if we were sober, there may or may not be lube and condoms for us to snag here. Cass was a smart kid, I doubt he’d have been up for barebacking, so the issue of safe sex would’ve hit him at some point—but it was something that never left my mind. Maybe it was a marker of my age; I still remembered things like the AIDS quilt, and the days when a positive HIV test was a death sentence. Not that I was old enough to be sexually active during that time, but it left a damn deep imprint all the same.
“We still need to talk too, before anything else. And that will require a clear head too. And coffee.”
Cass grumbled, but nodded. I felt him take a breath and pull back—then he leaned back in and put his lips over mine.
It was a sweet, soft kiss. He didn’t try to deepen it, and we stayed locked in the lovely moment, simply savoring the connection, until he released me with a grin.
I smiled back and chuckled softly. “Take care of yourself and get some rest.”
Cass snorted and gave a little wave as I pointed him towards the bedroom.
I gave the kid a hell of a lot of credit. He was young: ready and willing and hard. Yet he’d known better than to push, or maybe he remembered he was still mad at me.
I watched him go with an ache of need growing in my chest, but I savored it. We’d crossed a border—the pretense of friendship had fallen away and the wait and anticipation of what came next would be frustrating, exciting, and… I needed to get some sleep. There was a lot we had to wade through before then.
I flopped onto the couch and flipped off my shoes. Tomorrow would come soon enough.