“SO WHAT now?”

“Like I know,” Darrell said, frowning. He sipped his soda, continuing to stare. “I… I’m not sure what to do with her.”

“She’s certainly not much to look at.” Bert stood next to Darrell, his arms crossed and his nose wrinkled. “Not my type at all.”

“No argument there.” Darrell ran a hand through his hair. “And no, not my type either. I like them more….” He rotated his hips, then thrust them hard. “You know… rough and tumble.”

Bert uncrossed his arms to scratch his head. “She’s pretty plain. Did you get her to stop all of those annoying noises?”

“Lord, it took forever, but yeah, I finally got them all. I don’t know if she was worth all that work, though.” Darrell lifted his soda to take another swig, but Bert stole the can from him. “Fucker, give me back my drink.”

Snickering, Bert held the can away from Darrell. “It’s the last Coke! The last one. All’s that left is Dr Pepper, and ewww, you know I hate Dr Pepper. Don’t be a bitch.”

Darrell grabbed his crotch. “Got your bitch.”

“You talk to our mother with that mouth?” Bert held the can and took a long, slow sip of the soda, then smacked his lips when he finished.

Darrell glared as Bert drank half of the soda. “Right, like she hasn’t heard worse out of you.”

Bert plastered on his best innocent expression. “Who, me?”

“You forget I work with you, so don’t try that crap with me. You’d make a sailor blush.”

“Pot, meet kettle.”

“Shut up.”

“You shut up.”

Darrell groaned. Good Lord, they sounded like kids again. It was so easy to drop back into bad habits with his brother. “The only reason you get away with it is because you’re the baby of the family.”

“And Mom likes me more.”

Darrell thought about swatting the Coke can out of Bert’s hand, but he’d be the one cleaning up the mess. “Whatever, man.”

“Snappy comeback there, bro.”

Mom didn’t like Bert better, but he did get away with more. That was the truth. Bert, whose full name was actually Robert, had been a preemie, and as such, their mom acted like he was breakable. He wasn’t… because when they were teenagers, Darrell certainly tried to break him a time or two. The little shit was still alive and kicking.

“Bite me,” Darrell tossed back.

Darrell was the oldest at forty-three. Next came Henry, who was forty-one. He’d married his high school sweetheart, Missy, and moved to the West Coast for an unbelievable job several years ago. Their two-year-old daughter kept them busy. Finally there was Bert, who was thirty-nine, and even though he was a preemie at birth, he was now as healthy as a horse.

“Sad.” Bert shook his head. “Just sad. That’s the best you got? Must be getting old.”

“Uh-huh. I’ll remember that. Now, you think she needs any parts replaced?”

“Don’t they all?” Bert quipped.

Darrell huffed. “No idea since I’m not the one into pussy. Damn, she could probably use a good waxing too.”

Bert groaned. “Ah man, I want no part of that.”

“But….” Darrell grinned, warming up to the idea after seeing how resistant Bert was. “Think how much better she’ll look. You’d be perfect for the job.”

Bert rolled his eyes, huffed, then took a long swig of Coke. “This is because I took your Coke, isn’t it? Or was it the age joke?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“I hate you,” Bert whined.

Darrell smirked. Oh yeah, this was perfect revenge. Maybe next time Bert would keep his paws off Darrell’s soda. As far as age went, Bert wasn’t that much younger. “How much do you think we can get for her?”

Bert strolled around the shiny Classic Silver Metallic Prius. “Do you want a good price, or do you want to get enough to cover the bill the owner stuck you with?”

“He’s no longer the owner, and all I’m interested in is getting enough to cover what the jackass owes me,” Darrell said.

Bert nodded. “Gotcha. Okay, let me check the Blue Book and see what they go for. We have the title, right?”

“Yep. I slapped a lien on the car when the guy didn’t pay the bill, refused to commit to a payment plan, and basically told me to go get fucked. I was able to keep the car as collateral. She’s all mine, free and clear.”

“Okay, then.” Bert rubbed his hands together as he stared at the little compact car. “Give me a day or two to get some sort of idea what to ask for her. Let’s try to sell her on Craigslist. What do you think about that?”

“Sounds fine.”

“Well, since you’re the boss, I’m going to put your cell phone as the contact number. You’re going to need to keep the ugly little prissy thing at your house.”

“Wait, why do I have to be the one to garage it?” Darrell complained.

“Didn’t you hear the boss comment? Plus you’re the eldest. As luck would have it, my garage is full of a bunch of crap. Remember? I’m having new floors laid this week, so I can’t keep the Prius at my house. I don’t have time to deal with a bunch of people wanting to check the car out while I got that going on.”

“Oh, and I do? Okay, fine.” Darrell held up his hand to stall the argument blossoming. “I’ll take it. Just so happens I have plenty of room in my garage.” Then Darrell glared as he took one last look at the car. “Damn thing has been nothing but trouble. Oh, and Bert?”

“Yeah?”

“I hate you too.” Satisfied he got the last word, he swung his arm around Bert’s shoulders and led him out of the shop. “Come on, I’ll buy you a beer.”

“If I have to wax that thing, that’s the least you’re going to do, trust me.”

“Whine, whine, whine.” Laughing, Darrell set the alarm on the shop and shut off the lights. Oh yeah, a beer would go great right about now. He followed Bert to the parking lot. Fortunately Bert had parked next to him. “Are we going to Milo’s?”

“Yeah, I’m in the mood for one of their catfish dinners. Meet you there.” Bert unlocked his truck and got in. On the way out, Bert revved his pipes.

Shaking his head at Bert’s antics, Darrell drove out of the parking lot. He had to admit the pipes sounded good. They should. He was the one who installed them.

He trailed Bert onto the interstate, and oh joy, traffic was already a nightmare. The speed limit was fifty-five mph, which most people took as a suggestion instead of the law. The joke was the only place people drove fifty-five was in their driveways, and he was certain there was some truth to that.

A muscle car flew past and revved its engine at him.

What the hell? That was the second person to do that tonight. But instead of being threatened, Darrell frowned at the sound. Someone put the wrong type of pipes on that beauty.

Then he mentally smacked himself. It was Friday night, the garage was closed, and what was he thinking about? Not a hot guy riding his cock. Oh no. Instead he was diagnosing a car that wasn’t even in his shop with a crappy set of pipes the damn driver had snorted at him. Shit, his ’Vette would smoke that car.

Eventually the traffic thinned and their exit appeared. He followed Bert to Milo’s, parked as close to his brother as he could, and quickly met up with him in the parking lot. Together they walked to the front door. As soon as Bert opened it, a wave of noise and laughter flowed over them. Darrell’s whole body relaxed, the stress dropping from his shoulders.

He needed this. Fortune must have been smiling on them because the hostess appeared within minutes. He looked around as she led them to a booth. The place was packed. There wasn’t a dance floor, but there were a couple of pool tables in the back and big-screen TVs strategically arranged throughout. It wasn’t a gay bar per se, but there was no doubt the majority of people here were either very open or weren’t straight.

“You want to tell me why you’re sitting here with me on a Friday night instead of out with your girl?” Darrell asked after the hostess seated them and left.

Bert shrugged, the easygoing expression dropping off his face.

Darrell took note. Obviously something had happened. “Well, that was informative. Have you even talked to Heather lately?” He settled into the booth, ready to pull out whatever was bothering his brother by any means necessary.

Bert picked up the menu and opened it. He refused to look at Darrell. “A couple of days ago.”

“And?”

Bert slapped it down on the table, the blankness of his expression giving way to aggravation. “Shit, man. She keeps dropping heavy-duty hints about moving in together, and I… I like her, I really do, but I’ve made it clear I don’t want children. She does. Then there was her reaction when I told her I’m bisexual.”

Darrell remembered. “Yeah, that was pretty rough.”

Bert scowled at the menu. “She doesn’t get it. She doesn’t understand how I can like men and women. Once again she made some comment about how my hooking up with guys must’ve been only a phase since I’m with her.”

“Ouch.” Darrell cringed. No one liked being told their sexual choices were nothing more than a phase. “That was insensitive.”

“Yeah. I’m damned tired of having it thrown in my face.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know.” Bert ran his hand through his hair, then dropped it to the table, his shoulders sagging. “I honestly don’t know what to do.”

“Well, it’s your life—and you have to live with your decision—but her inability to accept you for who you are is a problem. If you sweep it under the rug, it’s going to come back and bite you. The two of you will eventually have to deal with the elephant in the room.”

Bert grimaced. “Jesus, how many metaphors are you going to use?”

“As many as it takes. Anyway, that’s my two cents, for what it’s worth.”

“That was worth five cents, at least.” Bert sighed. “I think the relationship is doomed. Her remarks about my being bisexual hurt. That’s enough of a hurdle, but the kids thing? I frankly don’t see how we can get around the fact she wants them and I don’t.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, me too.” Bert slouched in the booth. “But it is what it is, you know? I’m pretty sure there’s someone out there somewhere who’s perfect for me.”

“Well, if you find that person, ask if they have a brother, will you? Being single sucks.” Darrell paused. “I think I see the waitress coming. Want to order an appetizer?”

“Sure.”

“The usual?”

“Sounds good.”

Darrell told the waitress they wanted an order of chips and dip, and then he and Bert ordered beers to be brought before their dinner was served. They talked shop while they waited. She returned with their drinks and the appetizer.

Bert lifted his beer and drank. “Damn, that’s good.”

“Good and cold.” Darrell sipped his beer as he half listened to some weather forecaster rattle on about how this had been the hottest August they’d had in ages. Hell, he could’ve told the guy that.

He loved the South, he honestly did. There was nothing he enjoyed more than seeing hot guys in shorts, sandals, and no shirts—and less if he were lucky. But damn, he’d had enough of the humidity.

“What are your plans for this weekend?” Bert asked as he attacked the chips and dip.

“Not much, really. Most pressing thing I have to do is go to the grocery store. Well, and do laundry. Otherwise I’m going to be butt naked come Monday, and nobody wants that.” Darrell helped himself to the chips and dip too.

“Got that right.” Bert waved a chip in the air to emphasize his point. “Last thing I want to see is your hairy ass. I saw enough of it when we were growing up.”

“Not my fault you never learned how to knock before entering a room.” Darrell ate another chip. “Why, what do you have planned?”

“About the same, honestly. Need to go to the store and need to do laundry, but I was thinking if you don’t have any plans, we could get together, grill out around the pool, and knock a few beers back.”

“You just want my pool.”

“Yep. But hey, I’m bringing hamburger meat. That’s how I’m paying my way in.”

“I don’t have anything better going on, so sure.” Darrell took another sip of his beer, then mentally checked his pantry. “Add buns to the hamburger meat and you got yourself a deal.”

“Cool.” Bert double-dipped a chip.

Darrell jabbed his chip into Bert’s. “Stop that crap. I hate when you do that.”

Bert scowled and used his chip to push Darrell’s away. “What are you? The dip police?”

“I swear. You have no manners.”

“Again, pot, meet kettle.” Bert ate his chip and then helped himself to several more. “That means I got to go to the store sooner than later.”

Darrell shrugged. “You said you had to go anyway.”

“True. Need anything else while I’m there?”

“I—” Darrell’s phone beeped. “Hold on.” He fished it out of his pocket, swiped his thumb across the screen to unlock it, and read the message. Nothing like getting a booty call while having dinner with his brother. After a brief hesitation, he sent a text back and turned his phone off. “Sorry about that. So yeah, you might want to bring whatever kind of chips you want. What time tomorrow?”

“Ah, how about one? I want to lay out for a little while. Is that okay?”

“Yeah, that’s fine.”

“Cool, sounds like a plan.”

The waitress brought their orders, and they lapsed into silence while they ate. Both he and Bert switched to soda since they were driving. After they ate they decided to play a couple of games of pool.

“Are you about ready to call it a night?” Darrell finally asked almost two hours later. He stretched, popping his back. Getting old sucked.

“I guess so,” Bert said. “Are you heading home?”

“Yes. It’s been a long day. I’ll see you tomorrow,” Darrell said, putting up his pool stick.

“Okay.” Bert put his stick up too. Together they walked to the front of the bar and grill. They made their way through the crowd and outside. Humidity beat at them, and it didn’t take long before a light sheen of sweat covered his skin. Jesus, the humidity was ridiculous. It was damn sure not a dry heat.

“If you happen to think of anything else we need, call in the morning,” Bert said.

“Sure thing.” He followed Bert to his truck. “It’s still hot out here. I’m ready for some cooler weather. One o’clock, right?”

“Yeah.” Bert unlocked his truck and opened the door. “Be careful going home, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Same to you. Good night.”

“Good night.”

Darrell walked to his car and did a quick visual check. He bought the 1980 Corvette three years ago and basically rebuilt it from the ground up. He had a nice dependable truck, but this, this was his baby.

Satisfied he didn’t have any new dings, he unlocked it, got in, and started the engine. He smiled at the low, throaty purr. Now that was what a sports car should sound like.

Darrell pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and checked the text message from earlier. He called his fuck buddy back. As the phone rang, he checked the parking lot, then the restaurant. Apparently Bert hadn’t wasted any time leaving. The situation his brother found himself in worried Darrell. He was pretty sure Bert was heading for heartbreak. Darrell hated that, but there was nothing he could do.

Just before he looked away from the restaurant, someone caught his attention. One of the guys stared at him. Well, probably his car. The stranger was eye-fucking his Corvette, not that Darrell blamed him. It was a fine-looking car.

For that matter, so was the guy. He had a nice strong profile, short dark hair, and a good build. He had “boy next door” written all over him, and Darrell wanted to bend him over the Corvette’s hood.

“Hello?”

Before the guy went inside, he threw Darrell a quick smile and a thumbs-up. Well, seemed Darrell hadn’t been as stealthy as he thought.

“Hey, Don.” Darrell dragged his attention away from the stranger going into Milo’s and focused on the phone call. “Sorry I couldn’t answer earlier. I was eating dinner with Bert.”

“Not a problem, man. You feel like getting together later tonight?”

“Sure. I’m on my way home. I’ll meet you there.”

“Sounds good,” Don said.

After making the necessary arrangements to hook up, he ended the call. He was all for getting laid, but… something was missing and had been for a while. These hookups were okay for the younger guys, but Darrell had passed that point. More and more visions of picket fences, dogs, and a steady man haunted him. He was ready to settle down. Too bad he wasn’t about to meet up with the guy who just walked into the bar and grill.

There’d been something about that smile of his.