I told him, of course. I wanted his take on it all. But when I finished, he was quiet. I lifted my head to look at him, and found him bright-eyed and biting his lip.
"Cary? What are you thinking?"
"I'm feeling kind of hot from that story." He laughed and the warm, richly masculine sound swept a lot of my irritation away. "He's got to be so confused right now. I would've paid money to see his face when you hit him with that bit he wanted to spank you over."
"I can't believe he said that." Just remembering Cross's voice when he made that threat had my palms damp enough to leave steam on my glass. "What the hell is he into?"
"Spanking's not deviant. Besides, he was going for missionary on the couch, so he's not averse to the basics." He fell into the couch, a brilliant smile lighting up his handsome face. "You're a huge challenge to a guy who obviously thrives on them. And he's willing to make concessions to have you, which I'd bet he's not used to. Just tell him what you want."
I split the last of the wine between us, feeling marginally better with a bit of alcohol in my veins. What did I want? Aside from the obvious? "We're totally incompatible."
"Is that what you call what happened on his couch?"
"Cary, come on. Boil it down. He picked me up off the lobby floor, and then asked me to f**k. That's really it. Even a guy I take home from a bar has more going for him than that. Hey, what's your name? Come here often? Who's your friend? What are you drinking? Like to dance? Do you work around here?"
"All right, all right. I get it." He set his glass down on the table. "Let's go out. Hit a bar. Dance 'til we drop. Maybe meet some guys who'll talk you up some."
"Or at least buy me a drink."
"Hey, Cross offered you one of those in his office."
I shook my head and stood. "Whatever. Let me take a shower and we'll go."
I threw myself into clubbing like it was going out of style. Cary and I bounced all over downtown clubs from Tribeca to the East Village, wasting stupid money on cover charges and having a fabulous time. I danced until my feet felt like they were going to fall off, but I toughed it out until Cary complained about his heeled boots first.
We'd just stumbled out of a techno-pop club with a plan to buy me flip-flops at a nearby Walgreens when we ran across a hawker promoting a lounge a few blocks away.
"Great place to get off your feet for a while," he said, without the usual flashy smile or exaggerated hype most of the hawkers employed. His clothes - black jeans and turtleneck - were more upscale, which intrigued me. And he didn't have fliers or postcards. What he handed me was a business card made from papyrus paper and printed with a gilded font that caught the light of the electric signage around us. I made a mental note to hang on to it as a great piece of print advertising.
A stream of quickly moving pedestrians flowed around us. Cary squinted down at the lettering, having a few more drinks in him than I had. "Looks swank."
"Show them that card," the hawker urged. "You'll skip the cover."
"Sweet." Cary linked arms with me and dragged me along. "Let's go. You might find a quality guy in a swanky joint."
My feet were seriously killing me by the time we found the place, but I quit bitching when I saw the charming entrance. The line to get in was long, extending down the street and around the corner. Amy Winehouse's soulful voice drifted out of the open door, as did well-dressed customers who exited with big smiles.
True to the hawker's word, the business card was a magic key that granted us immediate and free entrance. A gorgeous hostess led us upstairs to a quieter VIP bar that overlooked the stage and dance floor below. We were shown to a small seating area by the balcony and settled at a table hugged by two half-moon velvet sofas. She propped a beverage menu in the center and said, "Your drinks are on the house. Enjoy your evening."
"Wow." Cary whistled. "We scored."
"I think that hawker recognized you from an ad."
"Wouldn't that rock?" He grinned. "God, it's a great night. Hanging out with my best girl and crushing on a new hunk in my life."
"I think I've decided to see where things go with Trey."
That made me happy. It felt like I'd been waiting forever for him to find someone who'd treat him right. "Has he asked you out yet?"
"No, but I don't think it's because he doesn't want to." He shrugged and smoothed his artfully ripped T-shirt. Paired with black leather pants and spiked wristlets, he looked sexy and wild. "I just think he's trying to figure out the situation with you first. He wigged when I told him I lived with a woman and that I'd moved across the country to be with you. He's worried I might be bi-curious and secretly hung up on you. That's why I wanted you two to meet today, so he could see how you and I are together."
"I'm sorry, Cary. I'll try to put him at ease about it."
"It's not your fault. Don't worry about it. It'll work out if it's supposed to."
His assurances didn't make me feel better. I tried to think if there was a way I could help.
Two guys stopped by our table. "Okay if we join you?" the taller one asked.
I glanced at Cary, and then back at the guys. They looked like brothers and they were very attractive. Both were smiling and confident, their stances loose and easy.
I was about to say, Sure, when a warm hand settled on my bare shoulder and squeezed firmly. "This one's taken."
Across from me, Cary gaped as Gideon Cross rounded the sofa and extended his hand to him. "Taylor. Gideon Cross."