I’M NOT gay. I’m not gay. I’m not gay.
I know you’re thinking that’s a weird chant for a straight guy to have as his mantra. But I figure maybe if I think it over and over again, it’ll actually be true. I mean, I don’t look gay or anything. I’m six feet three inches tall, muscular, and have broad shoulders. That’s not small or girly. And I’m athletic. I played varsity sports all through high school, intramurals in college, and I still play in a men’s baseball league. I have a deep, strong voice. No lisp in sight. Plus, women like me. I always have a girlfriend. Always.
So I’m not gay, right? There must be some other logical explanation for why I’m standing in the bathroom with my hard dick in my hand fantasizing about the new guy at work. For the third time today. And it isn’t even lunchtime yet.
Or maybe being gay has nothing to do with all those stereotypes. Maybe being gay just means that no matter how much I wish I could, I’ll never react to any woman in the heart-pounding, sweat-inducing, breath-stealing, dick-filling way I react when Micah Trains so much as runs his fingers through his close-cut brown hair.
Shit. Shit. Shit. Maybe I really am gay.
“Ben, are you in here?”
I quickly stuffed my dick back into my pants.
“Yeah. Be out in a sec.”
My voice sounded sort of breathless, and I wondered whether it was noticeable to anyone other than me. My hands were shaking when I got to the sink and turned the handle. I know, I know. It’s pathetic.
Okay, stop acting like a teenager whose mom just caught him wanking. Nobody knows what you were doing in here. And even if they suspect, they can’t know who you were thinking about, so calm down and act normal.
But I knew it wasn’t normal to give myself a pep talk in the bathroom while a work colleague was standing at the door waiting for me. I also knew it wasn’t normal to think what I had been thinking about the new lawyer in the office. It had to stop. The fantasies, the daydreams, the images. Okay, those were all the same thing, but they had to stop.
I pulled a couple of paper towels from the dispenser and dried my hands slowly. When I was sure my pants were laying flat, all evidence of my earlier arousal hidden away, I walked to the door. Tucker Jones, one of the associates in my practice group, was waiting for me, and I instinctively averted my eyes and walked right past him.
“What’s going on, Tucker? You need something?”
I heard him sigh from behind me and knew he noticed that I hadn’t looked him in the eye. Again. I realized the guy probably thought I was mental because I always acted sketchy around him, but I didn’t see an alternative. I was worried that if I said too much or got to know him too well, he would figure it out.
You see, Tucker’s gay. And my brother, Noah, says he can tell when other guys are gay. My taller-than-me, stronger-than-me, more-athletic-than-me, hell, more-masculine-than-me brother, who’s as queer as a three-dollar bill and thinks nothing of shouting it from the rooftop. While he’s holding hands with my old roommate. Even if everyone can see them.
Funny, I hadn’t thought of Clark as my roommate for a long time. Not since I started spending time with him and Noah after being estranged from them for years. Seeing Clark and Noah as a couple changed Clark’s status, in my mind, from being my old friend to being my brother’s boyfriend. Or is it partner?
Whatever they call one another, there can be no doubt about who they are to each other. One look at the way they gaze at one another, take care of each other, and a blind man would know they’re in love. Ten years. That’s how long Noah and Clark have been together. Longer if you count the years they spent as friends, biding their time until Noah finished high school.
And I had spent those same years wondering why I couldn’t suppress the urge to see Clark naked, touch him, taste him. No matter how many women I dated or even slept with in my life, I never could suppress that urge. Nothing worked. Well, that is until I started spending time with him and my brother. As soon as I did that, it became very clear to me that Clark and Noah were the real deal. I didn’t stand a chance, and hell, I didn’t even want a chance anymore. Who would want to get in the way of that kind of connection?
So the naked Clark fantasies stopped, and I thought maybe I would be okay. Maybe I would finally be able to make something with a woman last longer than, as Noah so eloquently once put it, a tube of toothpaste. (Just between you and me, that was a generous description, because my tube of Crest has been with me longer than any girlfriend, even without counting the thing where you roll it into a tight little circle to get every last ounce of paste out of it.)
But then Micah Trains walked into the office, wearing a crisp white dress shirt, red and blue striped tie, pressed chinos, and a navy blazer, I was lost. Completely and totally lost. My old Clark fantasies had nothing on what Micah inspired in my mind. Hence the ridiculously frequent masturbation sessions that barely took the edge off my need.
Anyway, since Tucker Jones, the associate who’d been waiting for me outside the bathroom, was gay, I figured he might be able to do the same thing as Noah with that gaydar, and then he would figure it out about me. I mean, probably not, because I acted perfectly normal. But I didn’t see any need to test fate, so I had made it a point to avoid Tucker as much as possible.
“I have a conference call scheduled with a new client in a few minutes.” Tucker sounded frustrated. “Randy said he’d sit in on it with me, but his meeting’s running late, so he won’t be able to make it.”
Tucker followed me to my office. I sat down at my desk and shuffled some papers around, pretending like I had something to do, while he shifted from foot to foot. I could tell, because I wouldn’t let my eyes go any higher than the man’s knees. I didn’t say anything, so he kept talking.
“I’d take it on my own, but it’s a big client and a pretty complicated deal, and I’d feel a lot more comfortable if a partner was involved too. So can you do it? It shouldn’t take too much of your time, and it’s all billable.”
I didn’t see any way out of it, so I forced myself to nod and look up at him. “Sure. I’m happy to help out with the call. Should we do it in your office or mine?”
I blushed as soon as the words left my mouth. Did it sound like I was propositioning him? It wasn’t my intention. I mean, Tucker Jones was a good-looking guy, but he had a serious boyfriend, and besides, he wasn’t my type. I preferred somebody older than me, not younger. Somebody with a lot of confidence and a big presence. Somebody a little rough around the edges. Somebody like… women. I preferred women.
Yeah, right. Are you buying that? Because it was getting harder and harder to convince myself that it could ever be true.
I WAS working late on Friday, not because there was something time-sensitive that I had to get out, but because I didn’t have anything else to do. My girlfriend had tried to get me to go to a dinner party at her friend’s house, but I had politely declined. It had been a long week, and the last thing I wanted was the stress of being “on” all night.
I decided to go get a soda and then put the finishing touches on a Purchase and Sale Agreement. As I walked down the hallway, my mind was completely focused on indemnity clauses and whether mandatory arbitration would make sense in the context of the particular deal. (Look, I never claimed to be interesting. I’m a corporate lawyer. That’s not exactly hanging-from-the-chandeliers type of stuff, but it pays the bills.) Anyway, when I got to the office kitchen and saw the man standing there, all work-related thoughts flew from my head and my blood flowed decidedly south.
Micah Trains was leaning against the counter in front of the microwave, reading a document. His nose was bigger than average and a little crooked, like it had been broken a time or two. His short brown hair came together in a widow’s peak in front, probably because the sides were receding a bit, and a beard covered much of his face. His jacket and tie were gone, his shirt was crumpled and rolled up to the elbows, and there were little wrinkles on the sides of his blue eyes because he was squinting in the low light. And every single one of those things added up to make an incredibly sexy package. I hated myself for thinking it, but there it was: Micah Trains was sexy as hell.
I didn’t realize that I had stopped moving until Micah looked up from the papers in his hand and locked his steel-blue gaze on me. After that, it was all I could do to stay upright. I felt like my knees were buckling, and I was getting light-headed.
What was wrong with me? Maybe I was coming down with something, like a cold or the flu. Or repressed homosexuality. I could hear my brother’s voice in my head, sarcastic tone and all, but I shook it off. I couldn’t be gay; it would absolutely devastate my parents. One gay son was bad enough, but two? Well, I might as well call the funeral parlors to see if we could get a group discount rate, because it would kill both of them.
Micah cleared his throat and licked his lips. It was an innocent, subconscious action on his part, but I couldn’t take my eyes away from his mouth. What would it be like to have that tongue licking my lips? I hoped the sound of the microwave was loud enough to drown out the groan that reflexively left my body.
“Ben Forman, right?” Micah asked as he walked toward me with his hand outstretched. I couldn’t move a muscle. “We met last month when I came in to interview with all the partners, but I think Randy Desai monopolized that particular meeting, so we didn’t get to talk much. I’ve been meaning to come say hello and introduce myself more properly, but between transitioning my files over here, getting to know the new computer system, and preparing for a trial set to start in a couple of months, I’ve been swamped. So it’s taken me a little longer than I’d hoped to make the rounds.”
I heard his words. I even understood them. But I still couldn’t figure out how to make my mouth work so that I could respond. Micah was bowlegged. I hadn’t noticed that before, probably because he had been sitting or standing still every time I had seen him, but now I was fixated on the way he walked. Damn, was that ever hot.
I sighed internally. It had gotten to the point where I was finding the way a man walked attractive. I needed help.
Thankfully, my internal struggle snapped me out of my Micah-induced stupor, and I managed to take his hand and shake it without falling over or drooling. I had graduated Order of the Coif, summa cum laude from a top-ten law school, and I was giving myself an internal pat on the back for accomplishing basic bodily function control. Just great.
“Hi, Micah. Nice to see you again. So you’re settling in okay?”
Three sentences, and I got them all out without stammering. Well, not too badly, anyway. I was pretty sure Micah hadn’t noticed.
The microwave beeped.
Micah raised one eyebrow, and the side of his mouth tilted up in stomach-flipping grin. “I’m going to need to ask for my hand back so I can get that popcorn out of the microwave.”
“Oh, uh, yeah. Sorry.”
I let go of his hand and walked over the fridge, keeping my face inside it under the guise of searching for a soda, but I was actually just waiting for the blush to subside. Had I held onto his hand too long? I didn’t think so, but then everything seemed to be sort of hazy and moving in slow motion.
“Can I get you a soda, Micah?”
There. That sounded just fine. Even voice, not shaking, complete sentence. Yeah, I know you’re impressed.
“That’d be great. Thanks.”
I got the drinks out of the fridge and turned back toward Micah, feeling a bit more in control of my body and my emotions. He was sitting at the table, munching on popcorn and making some notes on the document he was reading. It would have been rude not to sit down and talk to him for a little while. He was new to the firm and one of my partners now. I should make an effort to get to know him.
I didn’t know why I felt the need to justify my behavior to myself. There was nothing unusual about taking a break at work with another lawyer. Of course, there was definitely something unusual about the way I reacted to Micah Trains. Okay, fine, maybe I did know the reason for the internal justifications.
“So tell me about yourself, Ben. I know you’re in the transactional group, that you recently made partner, and that blue’s your favorite color, but that’s about it.”
My jaw dropped. “How do you know my favorite color?”
“Because I’ve seen you around the office and I noticed that about 70 percent of your shirts are some shade of blue or a close variation, like blue checkers or stripes.”
“You’re remarkably observant,” I said.
He shrugged. “I can be when it matters.”
He pushed the popcorn bag toward me. Then he opened his soda, tilted his head back, stretching his long neck, and took a few gulps. I watched his throat work as he swallowed down his beverage.
I wanted him. There was no denying it. My entire body was tight and thrumming with need.
Why couldn’t I have that feeling with a woman? I dreaded the nights when I couldn’t come up with a decent excuse and I had to go to bed with whatever woman I was dating at the time. I was getting older and it was getting more and more difficult for me to be able to fake an interest, and I was sick of trying.
Maybe I needed to take a break from dating for a little while. Nobody would think anything of it if I was single for a few months. That’s not a red flag or anything. Lots of guys go for months at a time without a girlfriend.
A piece of popcorn hit my forehead and startled me.
“Earth to Ben.” Micah was grinning like a loon.
“Did you just throw popcorn at me?” I tried not to laugh.
The move was so incongruous with Micah Trains’s cutthroat litigator reputation. The man was supposed to be type A, a brilliant strategist, and vicious in the court room. And here he was fooling around like a teenager.
“Hey, I had to do something to get your attention.”
Oh, he had my attention. That wasn’t an issue. The problem was just how much of my attention was fixated on the man. Emphasis on the “man” part of that sentence.