by E.E. Grey
An aspiring Broadway writer, Jamie spends most of his time working as a bartender and bothering his roommate, Drew, to actually write down songs for the musical they’ve been working on for two years. When Jamie meets Roman, a Broadway dancer, his dreams come to a sudden potential realization when Roman gives his book to a well-known director. Jamie’s feelings for Drew, however, may get in the way of his own happiness, especially when it comes to Roman and the prospect of Jamie’s dreams finally coming true. (M/M)
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Chapter 2: One-Liners
“Jesus, I can’t stand it in here,” Drew said, not even bothering to lower his voice as he grabbed yet another bottle of wine from under the cabinet of their make-shift bar in the corner of the darkened room. It was someone’s loft apartment; the living room alone was twice the size of their whole apartment. “It’s like if perfume and sushi teamed up to commit evil on the city.”
Jamie flashed a smile at the woman taking the glass of champagne from his hands despite her frown as she glanced at Drew. When she’d left, he turned to Drew.
“Why don’t you go take a break? Have a smoke. I’ll handle it.”
“You’re a saint.” Drew said sincerely, squeezing his shoulder and tearing off the ugly black vest Laurel had forced them to wear for the night. Usually there was no uniform but private parties always meant uniforms so people could tell them from the guests.
Honestly, Jamie was just glad to have a moment of quiet as Drew left. He hadn’t had much time to focus on the party since they’d arrived. Even though he was the bartender, that didn’t mean he couldn’t try to make some new contacts. The party was filled with Broadway professionals. If he could just meet one, it might be the break he needed.
“Come on, Merryn,” someone said from behind him as he rummaged for more clean glasses. “Did you see that ridiculous pre-show routine of hers? She’s a bigger diva than you.”
“I am not a diva,” came a woman’s indignant voice. “I’m not the one who gets weekly facials.”
“It opens your pores. Got to keep my face pretty for that starring role I’m sure to get.”
“In your dreams.”
Someone rapped on the counter top and Jamie straightened up.
“Barkeep,” said the guy. “Three glasses of the red and don’t skimp. It’s gonna be a long night.”
Turning, Jamie reached for the bottle but he stopped with his hand outstretched as he caught sight of the guy behind him.
The guy stood a couple inches shorter than him, slightly stocky but clearly in shape, with a boyish face, a dimple on his left cheek even when he wasn’t smiling. Sandy-blond hair swept into his green eyes purposefully and he smiled when Jamie paused a second too long.
“Red,” Jamie repeated quickly, grabbing the bottle and glancing at the two girls next to the guy instead. The woman with long, wavy brown hair crossed her arms as she watched him, and the other dark-skinned girl gazed across the room.
It wasn’t often that Jamie froze when presented with good-looking guys, but maybe he’d just gotten over it considering he lived with Drew. Though this guy wasn’t exactly traditionally good-looking—he looked more like an exceptionally-tall hobbit with good hair—he reminded Jamie of a Disney prince somehow. It was probably the hair, or maybe his green-ish-blue eyes. Whatever it was, it made Jamie’s hand shake slightly against the glass as he finished pouring.
“Here you go.”
The guy smiled, handing the glasses around to the girls. He turned back to Jamie, who had made to put away the bottle.
“You do this often?”
“Serve private parties?”
“No, uh, I work at a bar down in Brooklyn. Don’t normally make it across the bridge.” He didn’t usually get chatted up by hot industry guys either.
“You should. Manhattan is a great place to be.”
The brown-haired girl next to him shook her head and took a sip of her wine. “Come on, Roman. Stop playing footsie with the bartender. Jenna wants to talk about the ‘In the Treetops’ number in the second act.”
“That can wait for rehearsal.” He waved her away.
Jamie felt the flush on his neck at the girl’s words. He put away the bottles on the counter instead of meeting the guy’s eyes. Considering he worked in a bar, he should have been used to people hitting on him, but most of the people who did were women, and they were usually drunk. It wasn’t quite the same.
The girl rolled her eyes. “Come on, Sidney. I’d rather not watch a train wreck.” She grabbed the other girl’s wrist and tugged her away into the crowd.
Jamie found himself glad that the guy didn’t go with them, swirling the wine in his glass and smiling at Jamie. It wasn’t exactly the contact he’d hoped he would make, and he didn’t stop his mind when it wandered to dark rooms and groping hands as he watched the guy finger his glass.
“What?” Jamie asked finally. He should stop thinking about tongues and fingers and heat pressing against his skin. It had been a while since he’d thought about that. The few times he’d hooked up with guys since coming here, they’d been at dim clubs, in dark, dirty alleyways that always left Jamie feeling unclean, but it wasn’t like he wanted a relationship from any of those people, any of those interactions.
“Just wondering why I’ve never seen you before.”
“Because I live in Brooklyn?”
The guy smiled, flipping his hair from his eyes. “I just meant, with such a pretty face. Feel like I would have noticed you anywhere.”
The flush grew and Jamie coughed awkwardly. “Do you use that line on every bartender?”
“It is an open bar. Gotta tip you somehow.” He winked. “I’m Roman, by the way.”
Jamie wasn’t sure if asking if Roman wanted to hook up in a closet was a good idea. The last guy who’d shown any serious interest in him had been David, and Jamie had absolutely no desire to repeat that relationship. Even as his mind flit back to the drugs, and David’s nagging voice telling him he’d never make it in New York, he hesitated to say anything else to Roman, scratching the back of his neck instead and glancing around the room.
Lots of unfamiliar people milled around, sipping wine and congratulating each other on an opening night well done. The furniture here cost more than Jamie’s whole month’s salary, he was sure. There were no tears or rips or dents in anything. It was pristine.
Sometimes he felt so out of place.
“I take it you’re part of the show?” Jamie said at length. Roman wasn’t David, after all. It didn’t have to be like David. They could just hook up. Of course, this was all in his head. He didn’t even know if Roman was interested in that kind of thing. “Let me guess, stage crew?”
“Oh,” Roman said, clutching his chest with fake hurt. “Ouch. Surely I’m not that unattractive.”
Jamie shrugged, though he couldn’t hide his smile. “I don’t know any stage crew so I can’t really make a fair comparison.” Roman was, in fact, one of the most attractive people Jamie had seen in New York, and he wasn’t completely sure why Roman was still talking to him.
“Let me assure you that stage crew are no match for me,” Roman said, leaning over the bar.
Jamie smiled slightly as he uncorked another bottle of wine and poured a glass for a woman who came up beside Roman. When she left, he set it on the bar top. “Sorry, but I’d have to see it to believe it.”
“I am insulted that you don’t believe me.”
“Well, I just met you,” Jamie pointed out. “For all I know, you could be stage crew and you’re just lying so I’ll like you more.”
Roman’s smile grew wider and something fluttered in Jamie’s stomach at the sight. “So that means you like me already?”
Jamie didn’t know what to say, fiddling with the hem of his vest. Could he take it back? Did he want to?
“Well, I mean, you don’t seem as strange as some people I’ve met,” he said because honestly, how can you know you like someone after five minutes of talking? He certainly liked the way Roman looked, and there went his mind again with the dark corners. It had been too long.
“What bar do you work at?” Roman asked when Jamie got too distracted wondering if Roman was as strong as he looked.
Jamie shook himself sharply. “It’s the one on Fifth Avenue, right near the—”
“Alright, I’m back. Let’s serve some more self-important assholes.” Drew stepped in behind him, smelling strongly of cigarettes and making a face at his vest as he grabbed it off a box of wine glasses. As he pulled it on, he grumbled to himself. “When we get home, we’re ordering pizza and I’m getting you drunk.” He buttoned the last button and caught sight of Roman. “Who are you?”
Couldn’t Drew have taken five more minutes? Just five, Jamie thought woefully. Instead, Roman was glancing between them as if gauging how to respond.
Roman smiled instead, though, at Drew. “I was just leaving. It was nice to meet you, Jamie.” He grabbed his wine glass and headed into the crowd.
“Who was that?” Drew asked as he left.
Jamie didn’t reply, watching Roman leave. Roman glanced back for a second, meeting his eyes and smiling. Something tugged at his gut, and Jamie paused. He probably shouldn’t—he was supposed to be working after all—but he wanted to. He wanted to go after Roman. Drew did it all the time, so why couldn’t he?
“I’m gonna take my break,” Jamie said instead, yanking off his vest and leaving Drew rolling his eyes behind him.
Jamie wasn’t sure what he was doing. He didn’t even know if Roman was interested in him. His heart hammered as he scanned the room; he saw the girls Roman had been with but no Roman. Great. He’d lost him.
As he looked again, his eyes lit on the staircase by the wall. Roman was climbing it, alone. Without stopping to question what insanity had taken hold of him, Jamie followed. He wasn’t even sure what he was going to do once he got up there, but Roman was the first person in a long time that he’d even thought about talking to. Lately, the work of dating or even hooking up had seemed monumental and certainly not worth it.
At the top of the stairs, he almost ran into Roman, who was coming out of the bathroom. He paused when he saw Jamie, a small tilt to the corner of his mouth.
“Just washing my hands,” he said, holding them up as proof. “Did I forget to return my glass?”
Jamie didn’t do this a lot, and definitely not at industry parties where he should have been more worried about making an impression on people who could help his career. Instead, he was standing outside the bathroom with a hot actor and debating the best way to say this. “I was just thinking about what you said,” Jamie said, words tumbling ineloquently from his mouth.
“What did I say?”
“That you’re not stage-crew pretty.”
Roman smiled. “I’d like to think I’m dancer pretty, soon to be lead actor pretty.”
“I think you’re right.”
“Do you use that line on all the actors you meet?” Roman asked with a cheeky grin.
“Just the nice ones.”
They still stood alone at the top of the stairs. No one else had come up. For a moment, a palpable silence fell between them. Drew was downstairs, complaining about working, and Laurel expected him to be the responsible one and keep an eye on him. He felt like that was all he did lately—keep Drew in line. So much for that one.
“And how nice are you?” Roman asked after a minute.
The last time Jamie had done something like this, it had led to six months of utter hell, but David had been over a year ago now. It was long over. He wanted to do this, to have a tiny bit of release from the stress of his life. It didn’t have to be a big deal. It could just be fun. It was with that thought that he pushed Roman inside the bathroom and locked the door behind them.
“What about the boyfriend?” Roman asked as his back hit the sink, rattling the items sitting on top.
Jamie’s fingers stilled on Roman’s zipper and he frowned. “Boyfriend?” Glancing up, he caught Roman’s gaze on his face, Roman licking his lips as though he wasn’t too concerned with the answer. Arousal stirred in Jamie’s stomach at the sight, along with a flicker of unease at how much he’d missed doing this with someone who wasn’t a drunk fling. They were both sober.
“The guy downstairs who’s going to get you drunk later,” Roman replied, slightly breathless.
“Oh, that’s, that’s just Drew.” Jamie shook his head. Drew wasn’t who he wanted to think about right now. Drew wouldn’t care he was doing this. He probably didn’t even notice he was gone. “He’s not—we’re not—”
“Just checking. I’m not into helping people cheat.”
“No,” Jamie said swiftly. His hand rested on Roman’s zipper, and if he took too much longer, he might talk himself out of this.
Leaning into Roman, he kissed him first, almost tentatively, but Roman’s hand moved to his jaw, kissing back and Jamie’s worries melted away for a moment. This was something he could do.
Getting the zipper undone, Jamie slid his hand under Roman’s waistband, curling around his cock. The first time Jamie had done something like this, it had been in high school and he’d been terrified the whole time of being caught. He had never spoken to that kid again.
Roman’s mouth was soft but firm against his, insistent but not sloppy, and Jamie pulled away when he got Roman’s jeans over his hips. Sliding to his knees, he didn’t stop to second-guess himself. It would have been entirely too easy to do. Instead, he licked the palm of his hand and slid it over Roman’s cock, hearing the soft change to Roman’s breathing.
Stroking quickly, he leaned in, licking up the underside slowly. His heart beat hard in his chest, partially out of nerves. He didn’t even know Roman, but between the Book and trying to keep Drew from getting fired, he felt like he had no control. This was something he could control, something that he wanted.
Roman wasn’t loud, biting his lip as Jamie took his prick in his mouth and sucked. He kept his hand pressed to the sink, fingers curling against the porcelain. He seemed to be trying to keep quiet, and since there were people not twenty feet away, Jamie was glad. After all, he was supposed to be working, not sucking off strangers in the bathroom.
Still, he didn’t hold back, sliding his hand in time with his mouth and getting a rush of satisfaction when Roman bit back a groan and squeezed his eyes shut. Roman was even hotter like this, with his neck stretched back, and Jamie could stare at the sharp line of his jawbone, the smooth skin of his neck, unmarred by tattoos unlike Jamie’s.
“Shit,” Roman cursed a minute later. “Shit, Jamie, I—”
He moved faster, holding Roman’s hips still and sucking. His own cock throbbed in his jeans, but he liked the way Roman gasped for breath, biting his lip to keep quiet when he strained against Jamie’s grip. This was how it should be—Roman actually focused on him, running a hand through his hair, not too high on drugs to forget what was happening.
Jamie pulled back just as Roman came, grabbing a handful of toilet paper to clean them both off. He watched Roman’s face, a wave of satisfaction coming over him as Roman leaned against the sink, breathing hard. If there was one thing he knew he was good at, it was this. Even David had agreed there.
Jamie sat back on his heels. In the moment, he hadn’t thought about what he would say now, how he would explain this, but Roman didn’t ask for an explanation. Instead, he let out a long breath when Jamie rose and tossed the toilet paper in the trash.
“I knew there was a reason I let Merryn drag me to these parties,” he said, pushing back his hair. He smirked. “That was not quite what I expected.”
Jamie didn’t know what to say. If he let himself think about it, he could come up with a million reasons why it had been a bad idea, but he didn’t. He’d wanted to do it, so he did, but he did wonder for a second as Roman pulled his pants back up if he should have. Who said Drew was the only one who got to hook up with random people? Laurel probably would have said it just wasn’t in Jamie’s nature, but he’d done it before. It hadn’t always ended well enough, but not much did in life.
“I don’t know about you, but that’s not the kind of tip I usually give to bartenders,” Roman said and reached for Jamie, sliding a hand in his back pocket. For a second, Jamie was too surprised to react, but Roman pulled out Jamie’s phone instead. Typing something in, he smiled. “You should call me.”
“Gonna prove me wrong about the stage hand thing?” Jamie asked, taking the phone Roman handed back.
“Sure as hell gonna try,” Roman replied, stepping around Jamie and opening the door. Jamie remained for a moment, catching himself smiling stupidly at Roman’s name in his phone. It had just been a blow job. Nothing to get too excited about. He forced the smile off his face. He had to get back to work and back to Drew, who’d probably insulted half the guests by this point.
Tucking the phone away, Jamie checked his reflection in the mirror, rubbing at his reddened mouth. He hoped Drew wouldn’t notice, but then, these days, Drew barely noticed anyone but himself.
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