“Hey, it’s Chase. Leave a message if it’s urgent. Oh, and if you’re calling about that other thing, leave your info and I’ll call you back. Thanks.”
“HEY,” Dom said suddenly, on a particularly busy night, “Steve’s here. And it looks like he brought a friend.”
Chase, who was busy shaking a martini in one hand and filling a mug with the other, didn’t even hear him at first. In fact, it wasn’t until four drinks and a brief round of flirting with a cute, busty blonde later that he finally found the time to look back at his friend. “Wait, what?”
Dom slid a freshly shaken vesper across the counter to his customer, giving her a smile and a wink before turning to Chase and nodding toward the end of the bar. “Well, unless Eva suddenly turned into a young, built, blond dude, I’d say Steve’s here on business. Especially since he’s been tryin’ to catch your eye for the last fifteen minutes.”
“Huh.” Chase blinked, following Dom’s gaze. Sure enough, his longtime friend was perched on a stool at the end of the bar, conversing cheerfully with another guy with buzz-cut blond hair and a tall, lanky frame that looked entirely too uncomfortable confined to his tiny barstool. When he caught Chase watching, though, Steve immediately raised a hand in a wave, breaking out into a wide grin. “Chase, my man! Got time to join us?”
Chase didn’t, actually, what with three other customers currently clamoring for his attention, but he figured for Steve, he could make the sacrifice. Setting a bottle of MGD down in front of his customer and thanking him for the tip, Chase made his way down the bar. “Hey, man. Thought you were gonna be at home with Eva tonight.”
Steve just shrugged. “I was, but then she randomly decided on a girls’ movie night and kicked me out,” he said. “Hormones from the pregnancy or whatever. So I figured, might as well help a friend out.” Reaching over, he clapped a hand down on his companion’s shoulder. “Tyler, this is Chase. Chase, Tyler.”
Tyler extended a hand across the counter. “’Sup?”
“Hi.” They shook, and Steve took a moment to gulp down his beer and belch before turning back to Chase.
“So Tyler here’s got a problem I think you can help with,” he said without preamble, and Chase sighed.
“Steve, man, you refer any more people to me and I’m gonna have to lease an office and make business cards or some shit.”
Steve laughed. “Well, what can I say? You’re the best. Anyway, Tyler here is supposed to go to this party Saturday night, but then he was an asshole and ended up pissing off the girl he was gonna go with—”
“Hey, it wasn’t my fault!” Tyler interrupted. “How was I supposed to know she thought we were exclusive? When have I ever done exclusive?”
Steve just waved his hand dismissively before turning back to Chase. “Anyway, that’s where you come in. Poor Tyler doesn’t want to end up the dateless loser at the party, so you think you can pull some of those magic strings of yours and get him a hot piece of arm candy?”
Chase blew out a breath. “Saturday? That’s only two days away, dude. I don’t know if I can—”
“Oh, of course you can,” Steve interrupted, giving him a friendly pat on the arm. “I know you, Chase; you’re a fucking miracle worker. Just get out your little black book or whatever it is you pull those people out of, make some calls, and save poor Tyler’s fragile reputation.”
Chase ignored Tyler’s indignant huff, instead scratching his head as he thought for a moment. It was short notice, yes, but it might be doable. He’d just have to make a few calls, see who was available.
“Okay,” he said at last, turning to Tyler. “Any particular preferences? Can’t make any guarantees, but I’ll see what I can do.”
Tyler thought for a long moment before finally shrugging. “She’s gotta be hot,” he said, and when nothing else seemed forthcoming after a few more moments, Chase couldn’t help but snort.
“Okay, well, that shouldn’t be too hard, then,” he said, pulling his phone out and flipping it open. “Give me your number. I’ll call you with any news.”
Tyler obediently rattled off his phone number and Steve grinned. “Thanks, Chase, I knew I could count on you. You’re awesome, you know that?”
“Shut up, you’re biased,” Chase answered, even as he felt the back of his neck warm at the praise.
Steve just laughed. “Hey, it’s only thanks to you that I met the love of my life,” he said, “and if that makes me biased, then I’m biased. Doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”
“Whatever.” Chase put his phone back in his pocket before nodding at Tyler. “Can I get you anything while you’re here?”
“Nah, I’m good,” Tyler said, straightening and offering his hand again. “Thanks, man, really. I appreciate it.”
“No problem.” They shook, and with one last smile Tyler gave them both a loose two-fingered salute and walked out of the bar.
Steve turned to him as soon as the door slid shut. “So you got anyone in mind yet?”
Chase laughed. “Dude, what am I, Harry Potter? Stuff like this takes time.”
“Well, you gotta have some idea.”
Chase shrugged, mentally paging through the list of contacts on his phone. “Maybe Lydia? I owe her, seeing as she hated that military ball.”
“Oh, right. But I thought she didn’t do blonds?”
“Oh yeah.” As Chase recalled, some bad drama with an ex-boyfriend had turned Lydia completely off blonds. She preferred brunets now. “Hm. Maybe Alicia, then? Last I checked her Saturday was free.”
“Well, she’d certainly fit the ‘hot’ criterion,” Steve agreed, and Chase laughed.
“Dude, you’re married.”
Steve just shrugged. “Doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a nice rack when I see one.” He reached over the counter to snag a beer, ignoring Chase’s disapproving look as he uncapped it and took a sip. “So how’d things go with that one girl… Stacy? Or was it Lacy?”
“Tracy, actually,” Chase answered, clearing off empty bottles, “but it doesn’t matter. Didn’t work out.”
“Really?” Steve sighed. “Tell me it was only ’cause she was a flamin’ bitch or had herpes or something, not because you ‘weren’t feeling it’.”
At Chase’s slightly sheepish silence, he rolled his eyes and sighed. “Seriously, Chase, this has gotta stop.”
“Hey, I can’t help it if all the girls you and Dom keep setting me up with just don’t do it for me.”
“No one does it for you anymore, Chase.” Steve’s eyes were pleading. “Seriously, man, you gotta get over this. Whatever it was that went down with Christina, you just gotta suck it up and move on.”
The sharp lance of pain at the mention of his ex-girlfriend sliced through Chase’s chest like a knife and he coughed. “It’s nothing, okay? I just don’t feel like dating right now.”
“Chase, it’s been three years—”
“Drop it, Steve. I’m not having this conversation again.”
For a moment it looked like Steve was going to push it, but at long last his friend sighed, polishing off his beer before straightening up. “Okay,” he said simply, taking out his wallet and counting out a few bills. “I’d better get home to Eva; she’s probably changed her mind by now and will want me to give her a foot rub or something. I swear, if I’d known pregnancy was this much of a hassle I would’ve adopted.”
“It’s worth it in the end,” Chase answered, collecting the money. Steve shrugged, getting up and heading for the door.
“Guess so. Oh, and Chase?”
Chase looked up, and for a moment they watched each other. Steve looked like he wanted to say something important, but seemed finally to change his mind. Instead, he shook his head and offered a small smile. “Don’t forget to call Tyler, okay?”
“Yeah.” And with a wave to Dom further down the bar, Steve turned and left.
Chase sighed and headed back down the counter, quickly plastering his game face back on when he noticed Dom giving him a slightly worried look. Turning to the nearest customer, he offered his brightest smile. “What can I getcha?”
As he resumed taking orders and mixing drinks, he steadfastly pushed what Steve had said to the back of his mind. He’d deal with it later. Right now, he had work to do.