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)
|How did you get here?|
Chapter 5: Subtle Invitations
“This is what New York is all about,” Drew said as he pushed open the door to a small café. The smell of coffee and pastries practically smacked Jamie in the face.
“Over-priced coffee?” he asked with a grin, following Drew inside and plopping down at a table by the window. They’d only been in New York for two days, but already, Jamie could just feel that it was where he should have been his whole life.
The café was small but on a busy street, tables set up outside for people to enjoy the breezy summer day. Drew pushed his hair back and grinned at Jamie, gesturing around them.
“This is what you wanted, right? You’re gonna make New York your bitch.”
Jamie wouldn’t have gone that far, but he couldn’t help the excitement coursing through him. New York was going to change everything, and Drew was with him to make it happen.
“We need to find jobs,” Jamie said instead, and Drew shrugged.
“How about a piano bar? I could get discovered as the next great talent and you can ride my coattails to the top.”
Jamie snorted despite himself, laughing and shaking his head.
“I was just remembering that time in high school when you threatened to punch me if I told anyone about you doing music.”
Drew nodded thoughtfully. “I didn’t want to be different. It’s harder to be yourself in high school, though you never seemed to have a problem.”
“Maybe, but it got me shoved into plenty of lockers.” Jamie was so glad to be done with school, done with Florida, done with David, for good. This was a fresh start for both of them. Nothing holding them back. “I’m glad you admitted you’re a great musician.”
Drew smiled. “I’m glad you made me.”
“Did I do something to piss you off?” Drew grumbled into his oversized mug of coffee, brows furrowed heavily.
Jamie jerked out of his thoughts, watching Drew twitch back upright as he tipped sideways in his chair. “Why?” He grabbed a packet of sugar from the holder in the middle of the table and shook it to the bottom.
Around them, the café was dotted with people, the smell of scones and muffins wafting from the back. Out the window, grey sky peeked through the gaps between tall buildings, reflecting silver in the windows.
Drew glowered across the small round table at Jamie. “Because you fucking dragged me to a café at nine in the morning on my day off. Is this about me saying you don’t go out? ‘Cause I didn’t mean get up earlier. I meant, go out later.”
“We need to talk about the show,” Jamie said, noting the way Drew immediately seemed to tense up at the mention. He didn’t used to do that.
Drew looked barely awake, clutching his coffee like a lifeline, inhaling the scent like it might act as a reviver.
He was dressed haphazardly, in a wrinkled tee shirt and jeans that probably hadn’t been washed in weeks. Jamie purposely didn’t stare at the way the collar hung loosely over his collar bone. Instead, he turned his own coffee mug around in his hands and glanced out at the sidewalk.
“What about it?”
“Well, we’ve been working on it for almost two years now, and you’ve only given me half the songs, if you count scribbles on napkins.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Drew took a fortifying sip.
“If it’s not finished, we’ll never find a producer.” If they never found a producer, they would just end up working at the bar forever, and Jamie wasn’t sure he could do that. “We need to keep working on it. I’m still editing, but if you could just get another few songs…”
Drew set down his mug, pushing a hand through his hair and rubbing the bags under his eyes. “I can’t write anymore.”
“What do you mean? Of course you can write,” Jamie scoffed. Drew had written a song just last month.
“No, it’s, it’s hard,” Drew said slowly, holding onto his mug tightly, and Jamie frowned.
“Writing is hard, but I still do it. You’re just tired. If you didn’t go out so much, you could work on it more.” If Drew spent half the time he did on dates working on songs, they’d be done by now. He’d seen Drew sit at the piano at work, staring at the keys, almost as if willing notes to come out of his fingers, but they didn’t. It wasn’t that hard. If Jamie could do it, so could Drew.
Drew had agreed to come, to move to New York and work on the show, but since they’d gotten there, they’d done less work than ever. Drew wouldn’t have agreed to come if he didn’t want to. He was a great songwriter but he spent his time out of the apartment, away from his notebook. Distracting himself wouldn’t get anything done.
“What does it matter anyway?” Drew said finally. “We don’t have a producer.”
“Because at some point, we want to get one. I don’t want to work in a bar the rest of my life.” Jamie hadn’t come to New York to spend the rest of his life working as a bartender. He could have moved to Miami and done the same thing.
“Neither do I.”
“Then you should write the songs down on something other than cocktail napkins.”
Drew shook his head, frowning at Jamie. “Why are you so adamant all of a sudden? Is that guy you went out with a producer?”
Jamie stopped with his mug half-raised to his mouth. “What guy?” His throat went dry when Drew scoffed.
“The one you left work early for. I’ve known you for six years, Jai. I know when you go on dates.”
Jamie didn’t know what was worse—that Drew had known the whole time or that he didn’t care. Not that Drew should care. Jamie could go out with whomever he wanted. He hadn’t told Drew because it was just a date, just a simple date. He could be a casual dater. After David, it sounded like a much better option than coming home to Oxy pills scattered around the apartment and unfamiliar clothes tossed over the couch.
Jamie set down his mug, hating the flush on the back of his neck. “He’s not a producer. He’s none of your business.”
“Whatever.” Drew drained the rest of his coffee. “You keep working on the book. That’s the most important part, right?” Standing up from the table, he grabbed his jacket off the back. “I’m going out tonight. Don’t wait up.”
“Drew!” Jamie turned as Drew stepped past him and out the café door. Drew didn’t come back, though, and Jamie shivered in the cold air coming in through the door. So much for a timeline.
He knew what “going out” meant and he didn’t want to think about it. He shouldn’t even care who Drew went out with. They were just nameless, meaningless girls. It had been years since Jamie had had his stupid crush on Drew. He was completely over it, except that nagging twinge when Drew brought home yet another girl. Shaking his head, he forced the thought from his mind. He was over it.
The truth was, that of all the time he’d been in New York, Jamie hadn’t met very many people. When they’d first moved there, Drew had wanted to explore, to go out and meet people, but as time had gone by, he’d only gone out to pick up girls. Jamie wasn’t sure Drew even enjoyed that.
Jamie worked too much to make friends aside from the bar regulars like Trisha, the girl who worked in a ridiculously expensive boutique, although she hoped to design her own clothes someday, or Ken, the intern in the mayor’s office who could barely afford his rent let alone to go out. Jamie slipped him free drinks sometimes as he complained about the rest of the interns.
Finishing his coffee, Jamie pulled on his jacket, leaving a few crumpled dollar bills on the table. He would have to find his own distraction tonight.
When Jamie had texted Roman earlier, just to see what he was doing, he hadn’t expected to end up backstage at a Broadway show. Drew had already left for his “date” and Jamie didn’t think he could stand sitting around waiting for him to get back. He needed to get out, go somewhere, just stop thinking about what Drew was doing.
Backstage was a rush of people in glittery costumes hurrying around, girls rushing to their places and people yelling for marks and cues. Jamie stood off to the side, trying to stay out of the way, but entranced by the view, the performers on stage twirling around in their elaborate dance numbers.
He could just see it. Someday he would be standing there as the writer, having jumped through all the hoops to get it done. Drew would have finally finished his songs and some beautiful actress would be singing them as guys in tight pants danced around her.
Roman came off the stage, sweat glistening on his skin as he grabbed a towel and grinned at one of the other guys.
“Hey, Jamie,” he said breathlessly, wiping off his forehead and checking the stage. “How’s it look?”
“It looks amazing.” Jamie couldn’t suppress the grin on his face as he stared out at the stage. “You’re amazing. It’s…”
“Amazing?” Roman laughed, tossing the towel away.
Jamie nodded uselessly. David would never have invited him to something like this. Well, David would never have wanted to go anywhere where there wasn’t a thudding bass and tons of drunk people.
“I’m glad you’re so easily impressed with me. Most New Yorkers are perpetually jaded.”
“Oh, sorry,” Jamie said quickly, stomach sinking. David had used to call his enthusiasm for Broadway nauseating.
“No, it’s nice.” Roman smiled at Jamie in a way that made Jamie think of candle-lit bedrooms and rose petals. It was a strange feeling.
Jamie caught himself staring at Roman a second later, at the red bowtie around his neck, brown pinstriped pants, the way his chest moved quickly as he tried to catch his breath, straining under his white shirt. Looking away, he crumpled the program he’d snatched earlier.
“Oh, look,” Merryn said as she breezed by in a dress so sparkly it was almost blinding. “The bartender.”
“Hi, Jamie!” Sidney chirped as she whipped past as well, in the same dress.
Someone shouted something and Roman’s head lifted sharply. “That’s me. Don’t move. I’ll be back.”
He gripped Jamie’s arm for half a second before flitting off again. Jamie moved out of the way of the stagehands. Roman stepped out on stage for another number and Jamie bit his lip, leaning against the wall and watching the curve of his ass in those pants as he danced.
“So be honest,” Roman said as he unbuttoned his shirt and Jamie didn’t look away, catching a glimpse of Roman’s taut stomach. Roman tossed the shirt over the back of his dressing room chair. Other dancers changed as well, but Jamie kept his gaze on Roman’s station. “Too many costume changes, right? I can barely keep track every night.”
Roman grabbed a tee-shirt from off his station and pulled it on.
“Quit complaining, Roman,” one of the other guys said, smacking him on the head as he passed. “You know you love taking your clothes off.”
“Fuck off.” Roman laughed, shaking his head and turning to Jamie. “You have to get going or do you have some time?”
Jamie met Roman’s gaze. “I’ve got time.”
Roman smiled as he grabbed his jacket.
“Roman?” Merryn’s voice came from around the corner of the door. “You decent?”
“Like you care.”
She stepped inside, barely acknowledging Jamie. “I’m going out with Sidney. You want to come?”
Roman glanced at Jamie. An excited flutter raced through his body at the glance, and Jamie ducked his head, fiddling with the zipper on his jacket.
“I think I’ll pass,” Roman said after a second.
“Fine. I’ll be back later.” Merryn breezed away, leaving the two of them alone in the dressing room.
Roman pulled on his jacket. “Apparently my apartment is going to be empty, if you’re interested in a nightcap.”
Jamie smiled and followed Roman out of the dressing room and towards the street.
“It must take a lot to get you drunk,” Roman said as he handed Jamie a beer and sat down on the couch next to him. “Being a bartender and all.”
“I guess,” Jamie said with a shrug. He was acutely aware that they were alone—not just alone like in the bathroom at a party, but alone alone. “How long have you been a dancer?”
“Professionally? About five years. I moved to New York as soon as I turned eighteen, but I’ve been in classes and programs since I was six years old.” He shifted closer to Jamie. “And how long have you known you were a brilliant writer?”
“I wouldn’t say brilliant,” Jamie protested into his drink. “Mostly I started because I didn’t have anyone to talk to as a kid, but when Phantom of the Opera came out, it became an obsession. I must have watched it a thousand times. My mom may have hid it a couple times. I think I was in love with Gerard Butler.”
Roman smiled. “You knew all the way back then, huh?”
He shrugged and took a drink. “Hard not to when all the other kids could sense it. They were like crocodiles after blood.”
“Kids are cruel,” Roman agreed and Jamie nodded. He had a million stories of being shoved into lockers, pushed down in the hall, called names. Luckily, school was long over.
He watched Roman for a minute. A few weeks ago, when he’d pushed Roman into that too-fancy bathroom, he hadn’t expected to end up here. Drew never saw his one-night stands again. Jamie hadn’t thought he’d see Roman again when he’d started it, but now that he had, he wasn’t sure what to categorize it as. Roman was certainly good looking and funny and a sharp contrast to David, who would never have asked about his writing.
“Why’d you give me your phone number?” he asked suddenly, unable to stop himself.
Roman paused. “Despite what Merryn says, it’s not every day I get a blow job from a bartender, especially in a renowned director’s bathroom. Aside from the fact that it was awesome, you were cute, and obviously, I had to redeem my honor and prove you wrong about the stagehands comment you so grievously made.” He smiled and Jamie felt a flutter of something unexplainable under his skin. “But that’s not why I keep calling you.”
“And what is?”
“I like talking to you,” Roman said seriously. “You’re not caught up in the drama of the industry. You’ve got an actual head on your shoulders. You’re smart. And you aren’t afraid of Merryn.”
“Only sometimes,” Jamie pointed out but he smiled when Roman scooted closer.
“I want to ask you something,” Roman said, setting his beer on the table.
“If it’s about the show; yes, I admit fully that you are much hotter than the stagehands.”
“No.” Roman smiled. “Though you’re completely right. I was actually wondering about your roommate.”
“Drew?” The question caught Jamie off-guard. They hadn’t really talked about him much, and he didn’t see what he had to do with anything.
“You said he was straight, right?”
“Are you sure?”
“Why?” Jamie asked. “You want to date him?” It was a joke but the thought of Roman wanting to date Drew over him was off-putting.
“Of course not,” Roman said, shaking his head. “You just seemed close.”
“He’s my best friend.” Jamie shrugged. He guessed what Roman was getting at, but he didn’t really want to have a talk about Drew or his previous relationships. He really didn’t want to bring up David, of all things.
“So when do I get to meet him? I mean, you’ve met Merryn and we both know what a pleasure she can be.”
Jamie hesitated. It was a little soon for that, wasn’t it? “You don’t want to meet him. If you think Merryn is bad…” He smiled slightly, but he could see Roman about to ask why, so he did the only thing he could think of in the moment and kissed him. It wasn’t that, eventually, Roman might meet Drew. He just didn’t see the point so soon. Besides, Roman meeting Drew would probably be all sorts of awkward.
Roman let Jamie kiss him, his lips soft pressed against his, mouth opening to kiss him back.
Jamie’s heart hammered loudly as he kissed Roman, leaning in towards him, feeling the warmth radiating off his body. It had been a long time since anyone had reached for him, warm hands sliding over his back and pulling him in closer.
Roman’s fingers dug into his back as they slid down on the couch, Jamie on top for the moment. His hands hit the couch on either side of Roman’s head and he broke the kiss, staring down at Roman’s reddened lips, the way he licked them slowly and tilted his chin up as he smiled.
“Come here,” Roman murmured, pulling Jamie back by his neck, and their mouths collided.
The warmth of Roman’s mouth combined with the slide of his other hand down his back, pushing under his shirt, fingers grazing up his lower back, sent a shiver through him. He sucked in a short breath at the press of their bodies, Roman’s hips pushing into his.
“Mmm,” Roman hummed against his mouth, tongue sliding in against his slowly, sucking on his bottom lip. His hand slid into Jamie’s hair, and Jamie exhaled shakily a second later.
His eyes were closed, and he concentrated on the feeling of Roman’s fingers digging into his waist, the way Roman’s mouth slid down his throat. His body felt like it was taut like a string, ready to spring apart at any moment. It had been so long since he’d felt like this with anyone. He didn’t care if they fucked or if they just kept doing this.
His skin burned and he sought out Roman’s mouth again.
It wasn’t until Roman’s hand slid down over his ass and pulled him forward that he felt it, the hardness growing in his jeans, the heat rushing down, and his eyes widened.
He pulled back sharply, pushing himself up onto his arms. Roman’s hands stilled on his body, and Roman blinked up at him, mouth gently parted.
“What? What’s wrong?” he breathed. His eyes flicked down Jamie’s body for a second.
Staring down, blood pounded in Jamie’s ears, a loud rush that seemed to obscure any other noise. A momentary panic had taken hold, completely unrelated to anything he was feeling. His mind flicked to Drew and the girls Drew brought home. They meant nothing to him as far as he could tell, but he kept bringing them.
“Are you okay?” Roman asked a second later, trying to push himself up, but Jamie’s weight held him down. “Jamie?”
Jamie blinked down at Roman beneath him. Roman wasn’t like those girls, a one-night kind of thing. This was different. The longer the pause went on, the more concerned Roman looked, trying to shift up, but Jamie stopped him, hands on Roman’s arms.
“If you don’t want to,” Roman said finally, “you can say—”
“No,” Jamie said quickly, shaking his head. “I do. I do want to.”
Roman arched an eyebrow. “Okay,” he agreed, drawing him in for a soft kiss. “How about we move this somewhere more comfortable?”
Jamie smiled, his heart beating faster when Roman’s hand closed around his wrist and tugged him off the couch.
|How did you get here?|