Just a Stranger
The excitement of meeting a stranger in a club can’t be beat. Loud bass sets the rhythm to Michael’s primal urges as he flirts with Andrew, a cute guy offering the promise of a hot night with no strings. Still, when their night is done, Michael admits there was something about Andrew that left him wanting more. Months go by with no sign of Andrew until Michael moves back home to help after his father’s heart attack. Once there, Michael is completely amazed to find Andrew living in his hometown. Despite surprising “complications” in Andrew’s life, Michael vows to take advantage of this second chance to make Andrew more than just a stranger.
THE club Andrew had wandered into was not his usual scene, but he wasn’t looking for that. He was looking to get laid. He figured in a place with pulse-pounding music that drowned out conversation and lighting that made everyone seem mysterious and attractive, he would easily find someone else wanting the same.
Generally, he wasn’t a clubber. He liked sports bars and mellow restaurants. But since his “generally” of the past few years had included almost zero adult social contact of any kind, he’d decided to skip to the main event and make the most of this one night he’d been able to wrangle as his own. He didn’t need game updates or five courses or even conversation. He needed available and no strings and—oh, that guy right over there.READ MORE
Andrew darted from the bar and pushed through the gyrating crowd toward a dark corner where the dance floor melted into a semicircle of plushly cushioned loungers. As he approached, his intended glanced at him and looked almost guilty at getting caught. It gave Andrew the sense that this guy had been checking him out in return, and that emboldened him, while his throat went dry and his stomach lurched with the strength of instant attraction. The guy smiled hesitantly. Andrew realized he had stalked over there as if on a mission, and while that was true, it was also enough to make him laugh at the absurdity and relax a little.
“Uh, hi!” Andrew yelled, and he almost rolled his eyes. Not exactly a suave lead-in. He felt himself blush and almost turned tail, but the guy squirmed around enough to make room on the lounger and patted it. He leaned into Andrew once he’d sat down.
“Hiya yourself! I’m Michael.”
“Michael. Hey, hi. Hey.”
They stared at each other, and Andrew forgot to even blink. Even in the strobing, ever-changing colored lights and dimness, Michael was gorgeous and perfectly typed to get Andrew’s motor revving. He had a strong jaw that led to a cleft chin. He was olive complected with liquid dark eyes and equally dark, clean-cut hair.
Someone jostled into them and Andrew managed an apologetic smile. To distract himself from simply staring more, he downed his beer. He and Michael sat in the cacophony of techno beats and writhing bodies, an island of silent stillness. Andrew began to peel the label from his beer bottle.
It was almost pitifully comical that he’d homed in on the one person seemingly feeling as awkward and out of place here as he did. He was so bad at this, and so very out of practice. Maybe he should have gone to a sports bar or not bothered at all and just gone home.
“Wanna get out of here?”
“What?” Andrew whipped around to squint at Michael and their noses brushed. Tingles erupted from his nape and spread down along his skin in a delicious cascade that made him shiver.
Michael’s eyes danced promisingly in response, and his squared, blunt thumb swept into Andrew’s upturned palm. That only made Andrew shiver more. Michael grinned and leaned under Andrew’s ear again.
“I asked if you wanna get out of here!”
“Yes! I do, yes—with you!”
Andrew almost groaned because, good lord, at one point in time he had known how to be a real person around other real people, but he figured his answer hadn’t been completely inept when Michael’s grin softened to a happy smile.
Michael pried the empty bottle from Andrew’s hand and set it on a waiting side tray, then hefted him to stand. Andrew was a few inches taller and slim, while Michael was broad, with firm, wide shoulders that tapered to a trim waist. His movements were economical and smooth, which suggested physical labor or a good bit of effort put in at the gym. Either way, Andrew appreciated the results. He flattened his hand on the flex of Michael’s abs, just visible under a thinly stretched tee. That action made it Michael’s turn to shiver.
It was enough to ease a laugh from Andrew, and he led the way toward the main entrance. He liked when Michael snagged the center belt loop of his jeans at the back to keep them connected while they threaded through patrons and laden waiters and randomly strewn tabletops. He waggled his butt for show.
Once outside Andrew let out a long, relieved sigh.
“If you hate that kind of place so much, why bother going in?”
Andrew went for cheesy and bold. “I was looking for you.” He flashed the crooked, charming grin that used to get him out of all kinds of scrapes when he was a teenager, then into better opportunities once in college. It still had its uses today.
Michael groaned. “Well, you found me, and here I am, so I think that earns me at least knowing your name.”
“Oh.” Andrew’s smile turned wry. “Sorry? I didn’t realize I hadn’t—I’m Andrew.” He carefully didn’t give his last name and held out his hand. “Nice to meet you.”
They shook and Michael lingered at the touch. He studied Andrew intently as if he’d noticed Andrew’s reactions had gone from embarrassed and open to shuttered away again. But Michael didn’t call him out on it, and Andrew was relieved.
“So, back at you.” Andrew nodded at the club. “If you hate that kind of place so much, why were you camped out on their uncomfortable loungers?”
“Buddy of mine’s birthday. I think he’s still in there somewhere. Don’t worry, he won’t miss me.” Michael shrugged almost apologetically and finally let go of Andrew’s hand. “Where to?”
Andrew had to ball his hand into a fist, then release it a few times to get normal feeling back after their handshake. Even then it was as though his hand burned and the warmth was spreading up his arm.
“Actually, I have no idea. I’m not from Indy.”
Michael eyed him speculatively, and Andrew found his disarming grin again.
“I’m on a business trip, some conference thing, and was on the verge of doing not-very-businesslike things to my boring colleagues. I thought rather than get into criminal activities, I’d let off some steam.”
“Horticulture or pharmaceuticals?” Michael asked sharply.
“Excuse me?” Andrew blanched. He didn’t actually want to say. He liked Michael a lot—too much already, truth be told—but he’d promised himself he’d do this, enjoy it, and give away as little as possible.
Michael pulled an annoyed face and waved his hand in the air, then he nudged into Andrew to start them moving again. “Now I’m sorry. Jeez. There are only two big conventions in town this weekend, so deductive reasoning and all.”
“Do you make it a habit to keep up with any going conventions, whether they interest you or not?”
Andrew watched as Michael chewed on his lip in such a way that made him want to lean in and follow suit.
“No, I kinda have to know—I’m a cop. Detective, even. It takes up like, three-quarters of my life? Sometimes it’s hard not to be that way in the other quarter. It’s a bad habit.”
“Yeah. I can see how that’d happen.” Andrew had cooled more than a fraction, and he knew Michael felt it too. He hadn’t meant to, didn’t want to, but there it was. His walls were ever present and returned full force far too easily. Michael wasn’t the only one there with some deeply ingrained habits.
They wove into the parking lot, and Michael stopped them next to a generic four-door. The warm September night was humid, and the streetlights coated everything in a mellow, dusky haze. Andrew stared at the vague dome of the sky mostly reflecting Indianapolis’s muzzy glow and discovered he missed being able to take in a night sky densely packed with stars. He’d become a small-town guy by circumstance, but he was discovering he fit there far better than he ever had in the city.
“Okay, look, I was going to tell you that I happened to know the perfect place for after-midnight coffee and pancakes and invite you there. I was also going to be awesome and charming and really funny about asking, then the whole time we were at my favorite diner, I was going to flirt with you mercilessly and play footsie under the booth. After that, I was going to mention the diner was walking distance from my apartment.”
Michael scratched at the back of his neck in a disarmingly adorable tell of uncertainty, then straightened.
“But the truth is, I just want to skip to the ‘my apartment’ point in the proceedings. And I really like you? A lot. But I don’t usually do this, like ever, so I can’t even say I’m out of practice. And I’ve put you off by asking too much about you already—and I haven’t even asked that much—so I can only imagine how breakfast tomorrow would go, and now I’m rambling which is another terrible habit of mine that, I’m told, becomes endearing after about a decade of knowing me and learning how to tune me out.” His eyes widened. “I didn’t mean to imply we had to, you know—”
Andrew took pity on Michael, and he also had to tamp down the stirrings of more-than-physical interest Michael’s endearing ramble had disturbed in him. He cupped Michael’s face in both hands and gave him a sound kiss, one that set off those sparks and fireworks he’d had hints of in the club. He trembled when he finally pulled away. Andrew told himself it was only horniness and having been dry and frustrated for so long, nothing more. Michael sucked in a breath, then pursued Andrew’s withdrawal, grabbing him close into another kiss.
A loud, playful whistle finally separated them. Andrew came back to the world to find he had Michael pinned to the generic four-door. Michael’s hands were in Andrew’s shirt and pants while Andrew had Michael’s wonderfully slinky hair tangled in his fingers.
“Wow, okay.” Michael let the words out on elongated syllables and shallow breaths. “Guess I didn’t ruin things after all?”
“Does your car have a siren?”
Michael looked at him blankly, and Andrew arched his eyebrows.
“I like pancake breakfasts. But I find I’m in a real hurry to get to what comes before that, so I’m hoping with you being a cop and knowing your way all around this city that you can, you know.” Andrew twirled one finger in the air and made woo-woo noises.
“Oh, right. Yeah, I do! C’mon.” Michael boosted out from between Andrew and the car, then held the door open.
Andrew wasn’t even buckled in when Michael had the siren blaring and the car squealing out of the parking lot. It was an entirely irresponsible abuse of power—something Andrew could easily tell wasn’t Michael’s ordinary habit—but it did wonders for his ego and mounting desire to get straight to business when they got to Michael’s apartment.
“For the record, Detective, I don’t usually do this either. Try, never.” Andrew cleared his throat and shifted in the seat. He knocked his elbow into Michael’s arm and smiled in the hope he didn’t sound desperate and dorky, but Michael only nodded with understanding and smiled back.
He watched Michael drive, competent and obviously thrumming with the same anticipation that had Andrew strung tight, and decided he’d only have regrets tonight if he walked away. Andrew wasn’t lying. He never did this. He didn’t date, not seriously or casually. He hadn’t even seen another guy naked outside of movies or the local YMCA locker room in years.
Michael cut the siren off a short distance before they turned into a nondescript parking area with an expanse of condos that looked like badly designed ski lodges. Michael curled his top lip ruefully. “Not my taste, but it’s in my budget and takes care of itself. I don’t exactly have a lifestyle that allows for gardening.”
Andrew didn’t complain, certainly not when Michael rushed him from the car up a narrow sidewalk and into the ground-floor unit. Michael didn’t bother with lights, just fumbled the door closed and locked again before pushing Andrew up against it. Andrew moaned and opened his legs, then met Michael’s seeking mouth in a dangerously appealing kiss.
They spun each other around and groped their way out of clothes and down the hall until Andrew backed into the bed and fell abruptly over onto it. He blinked rapidly when Michael snapped on a small side lamp. For a moment, he had those stirrings again, somewhere between his heart being glad that Michael seemed to be an actual nice guy, and his brain whispering they should get to know one another after this and how great that would be.
He bottled that thought up tight and banished it to some hidden recess that would hopefully never open again. Michael’s life was here in Indianapolis, and it didn’t even have room to mow some grass. Andrew’s life was hours away and had no room to add anyone else, not even a nice-seeming guy who could turn out to be really great.
He levered onto his elbows and grabbed Michael down onto him, bit, then sucked Michael’s full lower lip into his mouth. Michael melted against him with an encouraging groan. Andrew hummed intently and set to kissing Michael with thorough pleasure.
Andrew loved kissing. He loved making out and the sensations that could overwhelm his whole body when the kissing was good. Michael was very good. He fit against Andrew in the just-so way that allowed their hands space to explore and intermittent breaths without ever having to break contact. They teased each other in complementary moves and parries, with bites and swirls of tongue, then went back to open-mouthed kisses.COLLAPSE