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” Danny crossed his arms over his chest and tucked his hands under his armpits, hunching his shoulders. Gabe stared at him, blue eyes widened in surprise, his expression a little stunned. “Well, why not?” “Because I can’t. I’m busy.” All of Danny’s defenses were up, working overtime just to withstand the threat of Gabe’s charm. He couldn’t risk looking Gabe square in the face; he’d crumble under the force of just one smile and he knew it. So Danny only took quick little looks at Gabe’s slightly crooked nose, his silky red-gold hair, his soft pink lips, before staring at the ground again. “What do you mean, you’re busy? It’s Friday night. What could you possibly be doing?” “Stuff.” He knew it sounded lame, but it was the stunned disbelief in Gabe’s blue eyes as he stood just inside Danny’s doorway that pushed Danny over the edge. As if Danny couldn’t possibly be doing anything on a date night--nothing except waiting for Gabe’s call, that is. “I’ve got things to do. Surprise. So find someone else to hit up at the last minute to go to the movies with you.” “But, what…” Gabe’s exasperated little huff of disbelief made Danny want to hit something. Made Danny want hit Gabe, and how crazy was that? He loved Gabe. Loved him hopelessly, and had done from practically the minute they’d met. “What could be more important than dropping it to spend time with you, you mean?” Gabe stopped twirling his key ring around the fingers of one hand to peer into Danny’s face. “Dude, what is up with you? What are you so pissed about? Geez, all I did was ask if you wanted to go to the movies.” “At the last minute. Just like every time.” Shoving his hands in his pockets to keep from smacking the shit out of Gabe, Danny tried to hold the words in, but they wouldn’t be stopped. “Just like every other goddamned time. After I asked you on Monday if you wanted to do something on Friday and you said you didn’t know. Like it’s got to be so spur-of-the-moment spontaneous that you can’t possibly plan that far ahead. Like you’re so fucking special that I’ll drop everything just to spend time with you.” “Jesus, Valdez, what is your problem? What are you, my girlfriend? I have to call you three days in advance or you’re busy? What the fuck.” It was Gabe’s turn to stuff his
hands in his pockets and—shit—it wasn’t fair how even the curl of his lip when he snarled was attractive. Gabe was funny and charming and breathtakingly beautiful—and he was Danny’s best friend. He was also infuriatingly oblivious to the fact that his best friend was in love with him. Normally Danny didn’t let himself get this angry with Gabe. One look in Gabe’s blue eyes, one smart-assed grin from Gabe’s mobile, expressive mouth and Danny melted. He was helpless in the face of Gabe’s personality and had been from the minute they’d met in freshman comp, back in college. “My problem is…” Danny stopped. He was about to say something he couldn’t take back. He took a good, hard look at Gabe and every one of the dozens of times Gabe had done this exact same thing flashed through Danny’s head “My problem is that my best friend is a one-way.” “A one-way?” Mouth falling open, Gabe stared. “You’re calling me a one-way?” “I thought I was pretty clear, yeah.” It was a surprise how freeing the truth was. Danny’d said the words and the world hadn’t stopped. His heart was pounding like he’d just run five miles, but he was still standing and Gabe was still gaping at him. “You think… ” Gabe’s jaw worked, but all that came out were incoherent sputters of incredulity. “Okay, I guess there could be some confusion over the best friend part. But, yeah, I was talking about you.” Now that he was rolling, the words just kept coming. All of the resentment and frustration he’d let build up came pouring out. “You’re a one-way, Gabe. You’re selfish and self-centered and it’s always all about you. Like it never occurs to you that other people might have another idea or different plans. It’s always what you want, when you want it.” “That’s bullshit. That is such bullshit.” “Yeah? So what was the last thing you and I did together?” “I don’t know.” Gabe shrugged and Danny’s gaze was immediately drawn to the hunching of Gabe’s shoulders under the thin material of his t-shirt. From there it was an easy thing to skim down to the tanned forearms showing beneath the long sleeves Gabe had shoved up to just below his elbows. The fine golden hairs that showed there glinted in the late afternoon sun. “Okay, I remember. We went to the mall last week.” Danny’s answering smile was small and bitter. “Saturday afternoon. I was home washing my car. You called from two blocks away and said you needed help finding a present for your mom.”
“So? You didn’t have to go. You could’ve said no.” “Yeah, I could have. ” Gabe was right and it only added to Danny’s anger. “But I didn’t. Because it was you. I never say no to you.” It didn’t help at all that Gabe’s bewilderment was genuine. It honestly didn’t occur to him that someone else might have alternate plans that didn’t include him, let alone that those other plans might take precedence. “So what’s your problem, then? We went to the mall and you found that dopey flower thing—which my mother loved, by the way—for her birthday. Big deal, Danny.” Shoving a hand through his hair, Gabe looked up, blue eyes on full display. Clear, appealing, showing a glimmer of hurt behind the confusion. “Danny, can we just cut the crap and go? It’ll be fun. Come on.” “You don’t know, do you? Can you really not get it?” Danny knew he was on shaky ground, but he’d probably already blown the friendship, so what else was there to lose? “Get what? That my best friend thinks I’m a selfish fuck?” Hands on his hips, Gabe’s eyes glittered with anger and hurt. “Oh, you mean there’s more?” “Yeah, there’s—oh, just forget it, Gabe. What’s the point?” So what if that Saturday it’d been Danny’s birthday, too? Just because they’d been friends for almost five years and Gabe still didn’t know that birthdays were kind of a big thing to him, or even when Danny’s was, for that matter--it didn’t have to be a big deal. They stood looking at each other, and Gabe didn’t seem to know what to do next any more than Danny did. It was Gabe who broke the silence, finally. “I didn’t know you felt that way. Any of it. Is that really how you see me?” “No. I…” The reflexive denial was out of Danny’s mouth before he could think; rushing to smooth things over like he always did, so that Gabe wouldn’t bail on the friendship and Danny could keep hanging around. Just this once, though, he wanted beautiful Gabe to see him for what he was and how he really felt, regardless of the consequences. “Yeah, Gabe. It kind of is.” Turning his face away to hide the tears that suddenly welled in his eyes, Danny pressed one hand over his eyes. Gabe would leave now. He didn’t take criticism well and Danny’d witnessed more than one verbal evisceration in the past when some poor fool had had the bright idea to mouth off to Gabe. If Gabe was feeling benevolent, maybe Danny’d get away with only a little minor scarring.
Danny braced himself when Gabe drew himself up, sucked a breath in and blew it out. “Well. I guess I’ll just get my selfish ass out of here and go the movies by myself, then. Maybe Vince wouldn’t mind a, what was the phrase—last-minute, spontaneous—call.” “Spur-of-the-moment spontaneous,” Danny corrected him automatically, and then wanted to kick himself. Vince. The new guy at Gabe’s job, who’d been sniffing around to see what he could get for himself. He’d love to take Danny’s place, no doubt imagining a lot more perks than actually came with the position. “Right. Spur-of-the-moment.” Gabe was already pulling himself together, twirling the key ring again after fishing it from his pocket and glancing repeatedly at the door. “So, uh, I guess I’ll see you around. I’ll be sure and call first. Way in advance.” “Yeah. See you around.” God, would he just go, already, so that Danny could cry in private? There was a ball of anxiety forming in his stomach and throwing-up wasn’t out of the question. “Danny?” Gabe’s hand was on the doorknob, as he turned to go, so Danny couldn’t read his eyes. “Yeah?” “I didn’t know. I’m sorry, man.” Gabe looked back and the diffuse fall sunlight lit up his reddish-gold hair, his eyes were hooded and sultry-looking. It was that mouth, though, that completely undid Danny. It was pink and it looked soft and Danny’d never tasted it, not even once. Not sure how it happened, the next thing Danny knew, he had Gabe by the arm and was pushing him back against the door, his gaze fixed on Gabe’s mouth. He wanted to feel those lips. If Gabe was going to walk out of his life, he wanted to go at least knowing what Gabe tasted like, so Danny closed his eyes and pressed his mouth to Gabe’s. For a moment, for one breathless moment, Danny registered Gabe’s stunned surprise. Frozen and immobile, Gabe stood pressed against Danny’s front door as Danny feasted on Gabe’s mouth, absorbing the incredible flavor that was at once unique and familiar. Danny leaned into Gabe, savoring his one chance to be exactly where he wanted to be, with the only person he wanted to be there with, because any second now Gabe was going to get over his surprise and push Danny away. Instead, Gabe groaned, opening for Danny’s tongue as Danny eagerly pursued. Gabe’s chest was firm beneath Danny’s and to be this close, to finally be sharing himself with
Gabe the way he’d wanted to from the first was possibly the scariest and most thrilling thing he’d ever done. Shifting beneath Danny, Gabe widened his stance as his hands settled on Danny’s waist. And then Gabe was grabbing Danny’s ass, dragging him closer as he slanted his mouth to take more of Danny’s tongue. Shockwaves of lust reverberated through Danny. Gabe was so fucking pretty, so hot, so utterly fascinating. And he was kissing Danny back. Danny surrendered to Gabe’s tugs on him and let his rapidly hardening dick rub against Gabe’s; he let himself reach behind Gabe to hold Gabe in his arms. To press himself as close as he could so that maybe he could fuse their bodies together and he’d never have to let Gabe go. Suddenly Gabe was shoving on Danny’s shoulders, pushing him back. “Wait a second. Danny, wait.” His dick had never been happier, rubbing on Gabe and absolutely certain things were finally going to turn out they way they ought to have, at the same time his head was rejecting the idea of their bodies ever parting. Afraid of what he’d read in Gabe’s eyes, Danny shut his own tightly and leaned his forehead on Gabe’s, panting as he licked a little more of Gabe’s taste off his lips. “Don’t say it, Gabe.” Danny raised his hands to touch Gabe’s face, knowing its shape by heart already, but wanting to feel it under his fingers before the moment vanished. He let the smoothness of Gabe’s skin seep into this fingertips as the rest of his body ached, already missing the warmth of Gabe’s body next to his. “I don’t want to hear it.” “Don’t want to hear what? That you’re too smart to do something stupid like this?” “Smart, yeah, that’s me.” A bitter smile twisted Danny’s lips as he pulled reluctantly away. It had been every bit as amazing as he’d knew it would be, but damn his stupid, hopeful heart for wishing it could somehow miraculously be more. “You are smart, Danny—way smarter than me. You actually finish things that you start. And when you say you’re going to do something, you do it.” Chancing a look, Danny’s body surged with lust again at the wet, pouty look of Gabe’s mouth and the way his body had relaxed into an inviting, come-fuck-me slouch. “Look, Gabe, don’t start making excuses, okay? Now you can’t say you don’t know, so just go call Vince, all right? He’s probably waiting next to his phone right now in case you do.”
“Danny. Now you’re the one who doesn’t get it.” Gabe looked up at him from beneath his lashes and Danny remembered to the day when he’d fallen in love. It had been that same look, backed by the power in those gorgeous blue eyes, devastating in their willingness to seduce. “You deserve better. You’re a good guy and you need someone who remembers to return phone calls—one who doesn’t blow off birthdays and hope nobody notices because he forgot all about it.” “But what if it’s you that I want?” There. It was out there. He’d laid it all out and now all he could do was hold his breath and wait for Gabe to slice his pathetic heart to ribbons. “I don’t know why you would. I’m a sucky best friend and I’m an even worse boyfriend. I just can’t seem to get it right.” Gabe’s voice was soft and a little wistful and it tied Danny up in knots to hear Gabe talk about himself that way. Gabe might piss him off six days a week and twice on Sundays, but Danny loved him. “Gabe, take me to bed.” Danny held out his hand as he raised his gaze to meet Gabe’s. “Please.” “Okay, but.” Giving Danny a cautious smile, Gabe moved closer and wove his fingers through Danny’s. “Don’t let me screw this up, okay, Danny? Promise me.” Danny leaned in for another kiss, unable to resist. “Promise.”
END © 2008, Stephanie Vaughan
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