Ticket to Paradise
Damien Turnsberry turned toward Oliver, a slight frown on his handsome face. He stood there, searching Damien’s face, looking for even a faint glimmer of recognition. When it didn’t come, Oliver felt his wide smile slowly fading. Confusion grew on Damien’s.
“I’m sorry, have we met?”
Oliver’s heart fell, along with his smile. “You worked with my team a couple of months back. I work here in logistics…” We talked almost every morning for several weeks. Tons of emails.
And still, you barely notice me.
Can’t even remember my name.
Damien nodded his head, a faint smile coming to his lips. “Oh yes. Oscar, isn’t it?”
Oliver forced a smile to his lips. Oscar is close-ish. Better than nothing, I suppose.
“It’s Oliver. Oliver Higgins.”
“It’s Oliver. Oliver Higgins.”
Damien was out of his league. He was gorgeous. Well-educated. Well-dressed and looked like he walked off a cover of GQ.
Oliver was plain in every way. Forgettable.
That point was just proven.
Damien looked over his shoulder toward the direction he’d been walking, as if wanted to leave. He turned back and eyed Oliver, narrowing his eyes. “Riight. How can I help you?”
Oliver’s mouth opened. I can’t stop thinking of you. He clamped his lips shut before the words had a chance to pour out, unbidden. “I just wanted to say hello. Ask how you were doing. It’s been a while since our paths have crossed.”
Damien forced a slight grin. “Just fine thank you. And you?”
Damien took a step back. “That’s great.” He flashed a ten-gigawatt smile. “Have a nice day, eh?” He spun and walked away.
Oliver watched the man leave, cocking his head to one side and sighing inwardly. That man is perfection. He inhaled, catching a whiff of Damien’s cologne. Smells good, too.
“Oh, give me a break.”
Heat spread across his face. Oliver turned and glared at his friend, Khary, in the next cubicle. Thankfully Damien was far enough away and likely didn’t hear. “What?”
Khary brought his hands to his heart and fluttered his lashes. “Oh Damien, don’t you remember me? You’re so pretty…” Khary fluttered his lashes one last time before he scowled. “He’s not worth the adoration. Trust me.”
Oliver sat down at his office chair. “He’s Peterson’s star. He made department head by the time he was twenty-five. Damien’s up and coming in the company—it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make sure he knows who I am and what I do here. Who knows where he ends up in a few more years, you know?”
“He worked with you for weeks. And not that long ago, I might add. Not only did he take full credit for that project, but he couldn’t be bothered to remember your name. You know why, right?”
Oliver shrugged. “He’s a very busy man.”
“He makes his way through life sucking up to the people who he thinks matters and disregards the people he thinks don’t. You don’t need a guy like that in your life.” Khary sighed. “You deserve better than that schmuck.”
“He’s not a schmuck.”
Khary’s eyebrow rose.
“He’s not! He’s just…” …out of my league… “got so many other things to attend to. I don’t know how he does it. I couldn’t.”
“Sure,” Khary said. He paused, collecting a stack of invoices before tapping them on his desk to straighten them. “You need to find someone more like you.”
“In other words, set my bar a way lot lower.”
Khary frowned again. “I did not say that.”
Oliver spun his office chair until he was face to face with Khary. “Look, I took you to the club once. You saw the meat market it was—yet I wasn’t classified as meat.”
Khary had to fight men off with a stick all night. Of course they would want him. Khary was gorgeous, too.
Unfortunately straight, as well.
Or maybe that was fortunate. Had Khary been gay, Oliver would’ve been too tongue-tied to talk to him. They’d both started on the same exact day in the same department. Khary’s easy-going nature and talkative nature had broken the ice. They’d become work buddies and had stuck through the thick and thin on the job for five years.
“Yeah, I saw. Maybe they thought you were with me,” Khary said.
“I doubt that.” Khary wasn’t setting off anyone’s gaydar. The fact Khary’s girlfriend, Angie, had been there, too, and had clung to her boyfriend all night had pretty much confirmed that Oliver had been flying solo that night.
Her being there had also likely added to the challenge of getting a straight man into bed, making him a much more worthy target than Oliver.
“Maybe your guy isn’t the type to hang out in places like that. Maybe you stop looking and he’ll find you.”
“Sure.” Oliver rolled his eyes and looked back at the mountain of work he had before him. “Well, as much as I’d love to continue this fun conversation, I need to return to my underpaid, overworked life.”
Khary laughed. “You could always win the lottery and run away.”
Oliver chuckled. “Like that’ll happen.”
“You never know. One ticket might change your life. The jackpot is huge again. I bought my ticket this morning on my way in.” Khary waved a hand over his desk. “First thing I’d do is write a take this job and shove it letter of resignation. I’d pay off all my debts and then I’d go on a world tour. See everything I’ve always wanted to.”
“Angie gets motion sickness so that should be fun.”
Khary got a weird look on his face.
Oliver paused and looked at the man. “What was that look about?”
Khary’s eyebrows rose and his face got tight. “What look?”
Oliver sighed inwardly, but he had too much to do to dig into Khary’s personal life. He knew from experience that Khary only clammed up even harder when he tried to dig. After he turned back to his computer, Oliver sensed Khary turning to say something, but nothing came.
He looked from the corner of his eye, but Khary remained silent and went back to his desk. The rest of the workday was quiet. Oliver worked through lunch, trying to get caught up on a new route, but as two new projects landed on his desk, he feared he’d never find the light.
By the time he realized it was only he and Khary left in the office, it was well after six. He cast a look at his friend, who was cleaning up his desk.
Oliver shook his head. “I’m close to wrapping this up, I think. I want to stay and get it done.”
“See you tomorrow then,” Khary murmured before heading off.
Two hours later, he was finally done. After a wave to the security guard, Oliver exited through the massive, glass and metal filled foyer and out into the nearly abandoned parking lot. He walked to his car and slid behind the wheel. Once he turned the car on, he saw his tank was almost on ‘E.’
Not long after, he stood before a wall of pre-made sandwiches and wraps at the local gas station store. Of course, nothing looked appetizing. The sad thing was this was the third time that week he’d been standing there, hours after he should’ve left work. He’d buy his dinner, go home to his empty apartment, and eat, and fall asleep watching Netflix on the couch.
He grabbed the least offensive sandwich, a bag of chips, and a soda before meandering his way up to the counter. The clerk rang up his order, added his gas purchase, and then before he paid, something caught Oliver’s eye.
“Can you give me one of those lottery tickets?”
The clerk eyed him. “The Mega-Pot?”
“Sure,” Oliver said. He didn’t usually play the lottery, so he wasn’t exactly sure. But Khary’s comment about quitting and traveling the world. That sounded better than what he was doing now. But whom would he travel with if he won?
“What would you do if you won one point six billion?” the clerk asked him.
“I don’t know,” Oliver honestly answered. “Pay bills, I guess.”
“Come on, nothing fun comes to mind?”
Oliver tried to think of the last time he’d had fun. It had been that night two months before when Khary and Angie had come out with him to the club as his unsuccessful wingmen. Even though it had been a flop men-wise, he’d still had a lot of fun.
“Tour to world,” he said, parroting Khary’s words. “I guess.”
If only I could find Mr. Right to have that kind of fun with.
Just as he turned to head for the door, Damien burst through and almost ran into him.
Kismet? “Hey, Damien,” Oliver said, smiling widely.
“Oscar.” Damien barely nodded and brushed on past him.
Oliver turned to watch the man walk away and sighed. After returning to his car, he began filling up. Damien came out a few minutes later and slipped into his sports car and roaring away.
But not before Oliver saw another gorgeous man in the passenger side.
As if I had a chance in the first place.
Oliver topped off the tank before heading home—where he ate his sandwich and fell asleep watching Dumpling on Netflix.
The following morning, there was a slight buzz in the office. Oliver reached his desk and turned to see Khary already there.
“Someone won the one point six billion,” Khary said.
Oliver frowned. “Why has that got everyone excited?”
“The ticket was bought at the gas station at the end of the street. That’s where Rich bought all the tickets for the office pool—so everyone’s hopeful that they have a winner. They’re just waiting on him getting to the office to open up the safe, already spending the money they think they might have.”
Oliver thought about the ticket he’d bought the night before. Where did I put it? He reached for his wallet and fished it out before signing on to his computer and searching for the winning numbers. Once he compared his ticket to the screen… and then read them over again… and then checked to make sure he absolutely had the right day…
Oliver couldn’t breathe…
His heart thundered in his chest.
There was no way… he wasn’t that lucky. Absolutely not that lucky.
He turned to look at Khary, his hand that was holding the ticket shaking. “Khary?”
Khary turned his head to glance before his eyes got wide. He slid himself over in his chair and took the ticket from Oliver’s hand. Leaning over, Khary scanned the screen and then looked down at Oliver’s ticket.
He canted his head to the side, eyes wide. “You won?”
Oliver struggled for air. He rested his hands on his knees and drew in deep breaths. “Oh god… oh god… oh god…” He leaned over even more; sure he was about to throw up.
Khary leaned down beside him. “We need to get you the hell out of here. Come with me… and don’t say a word. To anybody.”
Oliver felt Khary’s hand sliding up under his arm. He went to his feet, knees shaking, and borrowed some of Khary’s strength to make it to the door. They somehow passed through and to the parking lot.
He sat down on one of the concrete benches outside the building. The sun shone down on him, the sky almost too blue. It hurt his eyes when he looked up. But the air was clearer… and cold… and helped with the spinning of his head.
“What do you want to do?” Khary asked him.
“I have no idea what I should do,” Oliver said, lifting his stare to Khary. “What should I do?”
Khary scanned the parking lot, looking thoughtful. He soon turned back to Oliver. “I think you need an attorney. And a financial planner… before you even turn that ticket in. Do you have a safe place to put your ticket?”
“I don’t know,” Oliver murmured.
“A safe deposit box. You need to go to the bank and get yourself one.”
Oliver drew in a shaky breath. “I don’t even know that I can think right now, let alone drive anywhere.”
Khary eyed him before reaching for his phone. He pressed the surface before lifting it to his ear. “Hey Bob… Ollie’s sick. He came in but had to run right outside again. I’m going to take him home and make sure he’s okay before I head back.” He ended the call with their boss before eyeing Oliver. “Let’s go get you protected.”
Oliver returned to work a week later, feeling lighter than air. For once, he didn’t have a care in the world.
As soon as he made his way to his cubicle, Khary smiled and spun to face him. “Clearing out your desk? Please tell me the letter you gave Bob was epic.”
Oliver sat down and clicked on the screen of his PC. “I don’t burn bridges. I turned in a two-week notice and I plan to work through it.”
Khary’s smile faded. “You have one point six billion reasons to give this shitty company the middle finger. You’ve said it yourself—you’re overworked and underpaid. We all are.”
“Exactly the reason I won’t up and quit. I like most of the people in this department and I won’t just up and abandon you or them like that,” Oliver said.
Khary eyed him a moment, silent. “Ollie, you’re a good man. Better than I’ll ever be.”
Oliver smiled at the compliment. “Look at what you did for me when I found that ticket. I wasn’t thinking straight—but you made sure the ticket was safe and helped me find an attorney. And that’s not the first time you’ve swooped in and saved the day for me.”
“What about the financial planner?”
“Met with him yesterday morning,” Oliver said. “Just before I took the ticket to the lottery office and turned it in. The first payment is coming and it’ll be wired into my account any day now.”
“Awesome,” Khary said. “Are you going to go out and celebrate?”
“Oliver! How are you?”
Oliver looked up and saw Damien standing at the corner of his cubicle. He remembered my name! His heart began to beat a little harder. “Hi, Damien. I’m good, thanks.”
“Great,” the man said, flashing that dangerous smile of his. “I heard you’ve been out sick this past week. Are you okay?”
A flush came over his face. Damien had noticed his absence? Maybe he hadn’t been ignored, after all.
“Just a bit of a bug,” Oliver fibbed. He wasn’t ready to announce it to the office that he’d won the lottery. “I’m feeling much better now.”
“Great,” Damien said. “Some of the guys and I are headed out tonight for drinks after work—maybe you’d like to join us?”
“Ollie and I are going for drinks tonight,” Khary interrupted, glaring at Damien.
“We are?” Oliver asked, frowning. He didn’t remember them planning anything.
Khary turned and captured his stare. “We are.”
“Well, if tonight’s not an option, perhaps just you and I could go out for drinks and dancing this weekend? Say Friday night after work?” Damien added.
Oliver’s heart quickened again. “Yeah… sure.”
“Wonderful,” Damien said, fishing out his phone. “What’s your number?”
Oliver grabbed his cell and slid his finger over the screen. “I’ve got yours, so I can just text it back to you.”
Damien frowned. “You have my number?”
“Yeah. We texted a few times about the project,” Oliver murmured.
“Oh, yeah… of course,” Damien muttered.
Oliver texted him and heard Damien’s phone ring. “That’s me.”
Damien looked at his screen and nodded. “Yes it is.” He turned back to Oliver. “See you Friday night.” He gave Khary a glare before leaving.
Oliver sighed once he was fairly sure Damien was out of earshot.
“I can’t believe you accepted a date with that asshole,” Khary whispered hotly.
Oliver eyed Khary. “He’s gorgeous. Of course I said yes.”
“There’s a lot more to people than looks,” Khary said. “Honesty. Integrity. Hard work. Consideration. Damien doesn’t have any of those things. And if I had to guess why he’s suddenly over here sniffing, I’d say he knows about your money.”
“In other words, I’m not good enough on my own to lure a hot guy like that?” Oliver stared at Khary, his heart breaking that a friend would think him so invaluable.
“Don’t put words in my mouth, Ollie.” He sighed. “Damien barely knew your name a week ago. Now he suddenly does?”
The thought crushed him a little… but he didn’t want to think the worst of Damien.
“How would he know? I didn’t even tell Bob about the money. I haven’t told anyone here… but you. So how would he know? Did you tell anyone?”
“I didn’t tell a soul,” Khary barked. “But seriously, Ollie. He knows… something.”
Oliver glared at Khary. “Or maybe he had a change of heart for some reason.”
Khary lifted his chin, looking as if he was going to argue more… but he didn’t. He kept his lips together tightly and slid his chair back to his cubicle without another word. The rest of the day went on like that. Oliver hated every single minute. He could feel anger coming off Khary in waves.
He didn’t understand it.
Life was finally falling into place. He had enough money to never work another day in his life. Damien, the hunkiest man alive, wanted to go dancing with him. Maybe he’d finally found his world tour partner.
And Khary could only be angry?
Was he jealous of the good things coming Oliver’s way? Khary was one of his only friends… one he’d thought he could trust. Now? He wasn’t so sure.
Somehow, Oliver made it through the week without more than the occasion word from Khary—and even those had been forced by work. Friday finally arrived and Damien had texted him with an address where they’d meet at 9.
After rushing home—to shit, shower, and shave—he got ready for the night ahead. He’d stopped one night earlier in the week and purchased a new outfit and even had them tailored to fit. With his recent haircut, new clothes, and new attitude, he felt like a changed man. He smiled into the mirror, liking the new him he saw there.
By nine, the butterflies were circling in his gut. He drove his old Camry and parked. As soon as he climbed out, the cold slapped him in the face, but it couldn’t make his smile fade. He reached the door, paid the bouncer, and wormed his way through the crowd, searching for Damien.
He found the man, surrounded by a semi-circle of sexy guys with drinks in their hands. Oliver paused a minute, not sure if he have the nerve to just walk up into the crowd and sidle up to Damien.
His newly acquired self-assurance fled in a moment.
Detouring to the bar, he hoped a drink might help give him the liquid courage he needed. He ordered a shot and downed it before ordering a second.
“Gonna get one for me, too?”
Oliver looked over and saw Damien at his side, smiling. He smiled up at the taller man; shocked Damien had sought him out in the crowd. He hailed the bartender with a smile. “One more!”
Once both shots were before them, they downed them before Damien dragged him to the dance floor. A faster song was playing and they rubbed against one another… but the song soon ended and turned to a slower, sultrier tune. Damien’s hand slid around his side and moved to the center of his back.
The air rushed from Oliver’s lungs. He drew in a deep breath to refill and was enveloped in Damien’s spicy cologne. Oliver sighed, closing his eyes, and Damien moved them around the dance floor.
More dancing and more drinks filled the night. Oliver couldn’t remember the last time he’d had so much fun. But all the drinks eventually made his bladder scream. He wasn’t used to drinking to excess and was pushing his luck as it was.
“I’m going to run to the restroom,” he yelled near Damien’s ear.
Damien leaned in and spoke next to his, making goose bumps skitter up his neck. “I’m going out to the patio to grab a little air. Meet me out there when you’re done.”
Oliver smiled and nodded before pushing his way through the crowded club. As soon as he saw the line to the bathroom, he grimaced… and remembered the fast-service restaurant on the corner of the strip mall. He’d been there before and was almost sure they stayed open late on the weekends.
Before going, he found the patio so he could tell Damien where he was going. He slipped out into the cold. There wasn’t much lighting, just the glow coming from the outdoor heaters posted here and there.
He thought he saw Damien against the railing. Oliver approached slowly, unsure.
“What’s the deal with that dude you were dancing with, Turnsberry? He’s not exactly your style.”
Oliver froze in the shadows, curious what Damien would say.
“No, but I believe he might be coming into a huge amount of money in the near future. Enough that I might be able to convince him to invest.”
“You’re going to prostitute yourself for capital? That’s a new low, Damien.”
“The kid’s had a crush on me for a while now—why not give in to his fantasies a little and maybe he’ll help me with mine. Just until I get the business going, at least.”
“And how long will that take?”
“Trust me—I won’t spend more than a minute more than I need to,” Damien said before turning to rest his back against the railing. “I’d better watch out. He’s coming to meet me out here once he hits the head.”
The other guy scoffed. “As long as those lines usually are, I doubt he’ll be that quick. Ray really needs to invest in a remodel in there.”
Oliver could only stand there, frozen. Why hadn’t he listened to Khary? Why had he thought anything had changed? Money didn’t make him a new man. He was the same old, pathetic nobody. Only now, he’d be used for his bank account.
Was that better than being lonely, though?
He lifted his stare and saw Damien narrowing his eyes.
“Is that you? It’s dreadfully dark out here tonight,” Damien said before taking a step forward, a smile on his face.
Oliver took a step back. “I have to go.”
Damien frowned before casting a glance back at his friend. “Why? Is everything okay?”
He shook his head. “No. It’s not. Have a nice night.”
Oliver spun and slipped back inside, to the throng of people. It took too long for him to force himself through the crowd. By the time he reached the front door and the cold air whipped against his cheeks, he could feel the sting of tears behind his eyes.
He stood on the curb, breathing heavily. The temperature sobered him quite a bit… as had Damien’s words.
Why did people have to be so terrible?
Oliver lifted his stare when he saw movement in the sky. Against one of the lights illuminating the parking lot, he saw a flake floating through the sky. More followed, a fine dusting quickly coating everything. He marched on; ready to go home and not totally sure he should drive.
As soon as he got close to his car, he saw someone standing beside it. He reached the back and recognized the jacket.
Snow dusted his dark, tightly curling locks. When he lifted his dark stare, Oliver saw an odd look there.
“What’re you doing here?”
“I had an idea you might need a friend,” Khary murmured. “And from the look on your face, I’d say I was right.”
“Was it that obvious?” he paused, grimacing. He lowered his head. “I suppose it was. You already warned me this would happen.”
Khary took a step forward. “What did he do?”
Oliver shook his head, looking away.
“Mother fucker,” Khary spat before heading for the club’s entrance.
Oliver followed him and nearly slipped on a slippery bit of snow. He righted himself and pushed before Khary. “What are you doing?”
“He hurt you. He needs to pay.”
Oliver tilted his head, confused. “I don’t need you to fight my battles.”
His heart beat madly in his ears. That’s all he needed, a friend jumping in and confronting Damien. All because he was too chicken shit to do it himself.
“Someone needs to let you know you’re worthy of fighting for,” Khary said, eyes narrowed.
Oliver froze, his eyes growing wide.
“If Damien hurt you, he needs to be taken down a peg or two.”
“You’d likely lose your job,” Oliver murmured.
“I hate my job. And I could get a new one in a heartbeat. I’ve had offers. There was only one reason I was staying. Now that reason won’t be there much longer.”
Oliver took a step back, confused with the emotions emanating from Khary. “What are you trying to say?”
“I think you know what I’m trying to say.”
Oliver shook, partially from the cold. Partially from the emotions running through him. “But… Angie?”
“Angie and I broke up weeks ago.”
That was why he gave me the look. “That really wasn’t my point.”
“Oh, the fact you just assumed I was straight because I had a girlfriend?” Khary asked, lifting a brow.
“Yeah, but my gaydar is on point.”
“I’m bi, so perhaps I flew under the radar.”
Oliver stared at Khary, seeing him in a whole new light. This gorgeous man, his friend… he somehow looked different. A new set of nerves twisted in his gut. “Why did you come tonight?”
“I told you. I thought you might need me.”
“Can you just spell it out and stop moving in circles?” Oliver asked.
Khary grew silent. The only sound was the snow falling—and a couple of drunken revelers laughter muffled from the other side of the parking lot.
“I like you,” Khary said. “And I couldn’t stand to see Damien take advantage of you.”
“You like me.”
Khary smiled and his face lit up. “I more than like you.”
Oliver’s mind was a swirl with emotions. He and Khary were friends, no more than that. He’d never thought of Khary as more.
But more because he’d fit the man into a box, assuming Khary was straight.
Yet why wait until now? They’d worked together for five years… and he waits until there was one point six billion in his bank account? Like Damien, Khary was gorgeous. His dusky, fawn-colored skin was smooth and was set off by his large, chocolate eyes. Wide, full lips were usually smiling.
Now he wondered what they tasted like.
But the doubt Damien had sowed grew within him. “You tell me now? We’ve known each other for five years… and now suddenly you like me.”
Khary’s face fell. He frowned and took a step back. “If that’s how little you think of me… then maybe I made a mistake coming here tonight.”
Oliver could feel the hurt coming off Khary as the man spun and then headed down the row of cars. He wanted to move, but he was frozen in place. When he finally went to chase Khary down, it was too late. Khary’s Audi roared out of the parking lot, leaving him behind.
He shivered as he watched the lights fading.
After getting behind the wheel and realizing he was definitely too tipsy to drive, Oliver reached into his pocket and fished out his phone. He called an Uber to pick him up and soon enough, he was racing home, the snow falling harder outside the window.
He crawled into bed soon after arriving home, his mind stuck on Khary, Damien, and what happened tomorrow.
Monday morning arrived much too slowly, for once. He couldn’t wait to see Khary and discuss Friday night. He needed to apologize. Profusely.
But Khary’s seat remained empty.
He approached his boss’s office slowly and knocked on the door.
“I was worried about Khary. I don’t remember him ever taking time off before. Is he okay?”
Bob looked up from his desk. “Khary has quit.”
Quit? Oliver gasped.
“Maybe I could convince you to stay on for a while longer? Now that I have two people to replace.”
Oliver shook his head. “No. I can’t.”
“It would be shame for you to leave the team in a lurch,” Bob said over the rim of his glasses.
Oliver stood a little taller. “You know what? I quit, too. As in right now.”
Bob frowned and sat back in his chair, his mouth opening to argue—but Oliver took off and headed straight to his desk. After collecting his coat, gloves, and meager belongings, he raced for the door, dropping his pass off with the security guard at the front door.
He burst through the front door and almost ran into Khary.
Oliver stopped mid-step and eyed his friend. “I heard you quit.”
“I did,” Khary said, lifting his hand—his badge in his grip. “Just dropping this off.” He eyed the few things in Oliver’s hands. “You going somewhere?”
Oliver nodded. “I just quit, too.”
Khary smiled faintly before taking a few steps forward, nearly passing Oliver.
“And then I was going to find you.”
Khary spun to face him. “For?”
“To apologize.” He paused, searching for the right words. “For assuming too much. Damien had just admitted to a friend that he only wanted my money. I have no idea how he knew, but he did. You were right. And it stung.” He sighed. “Seeing you there… someone just as much out of my league as Damien, saying he liked me? I assumed the worst in that moment.”
Khary said nothing. He just stared at Oliver.
Oliver looked down, realizing perhaps he’d lost his chance.
“You’re not out of anyone’s league. Someday, maybe you’ll realize that fact. You’re a better human being than any other man I’ve ever met.”
“I’m not good looking.”
“You are when you smile. When you aren’t worried about what others think,” Khary said. “When you’re talking about whatever geeky thing you love.”
“I’m not the only geek, Mr. Star Trek.”
Khary smiled. It had been one of the things they’d bonded over those first few days. Khary had admitted he loved all things Trek and had even cosplayed as Worf at a few cons over the years. Oliver loved a lot of things, Trek amongst them. “I knew I shouldn’t have admitted that to you.”
“Oh, but you did,” Oliver said, smiling.
“I did.” Khary said. “Because I wanted you to like me.”
Oliver’s heart flip-flopped in his chest. “Five years though? You waited until now?”
Khary looked away. “Angie confused things. I cared for her, too, but by the end… I think it was just comfortable. We didn’t share anything in common anymore.” He paused. “And then… suddenly I was at risk of losing you and some things became very, very clear to me.”
“And not about the money.”
Khary shook his head. “I could care less about the money. I mean, I’m happy for you. But right now, it seems it’s almost been more trouble than it was worth. You’ll spend the rest of your life wondering if people are there for you or that. Including me.” Khary smiled wanly. “So maybe it just wasn’t meant to be for us.”
Oliver sucked in a breath. “No chance left, hmm?”
Khary’s smile was grim. “I wasted five years of chances. It’s my fault, not yours. But I can’t live a life where you wonder about my intentions.” He backed away before turning toward the door.
Oliver watched him go, hating that he’d missed all those chances.
He turned to head for his car. After dropping off his belongings in the passenger side, he rounded the car. Lifting his stare, he caught sight of Khary’s Audi. He stopped, an idea coming to him.
Even though he wasn’t sure if Khary would listen, he had something to say. He walked over and leaned against the Audi… just as the alarm went off.
The thing blared so loud, piercing his eardrums. Lifting his gloved hands to his ears, he backed off—and hit something hard behind him.
He spun to see Khary standing there. Khary lifted his keys and clicked the alarm off.
“What are you doing?”
His ears still ringing, Oliver lifted his chin. “You stood out in the cold beside my car waiting on me. I figured I owed you the same.”
One of Khary’s brows rose.
“The first thing you thought of when you found out about the ticket was to protect me. You got me out of the office, helped me put the ticket somewhere safe. You gave me good advice, never once asking for anything in return—and I realized that it’s pretty much been that way for five years. You’d give me the shirt off your back if I asked. You’ve always been like that and I thought you were amazing for it. The fact I ever doubted you—I’m sorry. You deserve better.”
Khary smiled and locked eyes with Oliver. “Thank you.”
“So? Second chance?”
Khary stared for a moment before shaking his head. “I don’t know… you’ve got a whole new adventure ahead of you. I’ve got a new job starting next week. We’re in two different places.”
“Who’d you see going on that world tour with you?”
Khary’s stare went to his. “What?”
“You said you wanted to tour the world if you’d won that lottery. Who’d you see going with you?”
Khary was silent a moment. “You.”
“Then let’s go.”
Khary laughed and shook his head. “And what? Be your kept man?”
“Stop it,” Oliver said. “You keeping trying to protect me… so maybe you should go as my bodyguard-slash-companion.”
Khary was silent.
“I don’t want to go alone… I’m tired of being alone. If things don’t work between us, then we part ways. Move on to bigger and better things.”
Khary took three steps forward and grabbed Oliver before dragging him closer. Oliver nearly moaned against Khary’s firm, wide lips as that mouth slanted down over his. He fisted his hand into Khary’s jacket, tugging the man fractions of an inch nearer. Melting into Khary, he feasted on the man’s lips, hungry for more.
Khary pulled back slightly and smiled. “Where do we go first?”
Oliver smiled back.
One year later…
Khary handed him a piña colada with a sexy grin. “Your drink, sir.”
“I always did want a sexy cabana boy serving me drinks on the beach,” Oliver said with a smile. He took the frothy thing, realizing it was a little silly looking.
“How you can drink these fruity little drinks, I’ll never know.”
“We’re in paradise. What else would I drink?” he asked from his extra large chaise lounger in front of the ocean.
“Cerveza,” Khary said, showing off his bottle, before taking his lounger beside Oliver.
Before them, the sun set. The sky was ablaze with color: red, orange, pink, and purple. The warm water lapped at the shore, the sound lulling. It was beautiful… and so relaxing.
A warm breeze blew over him. “I never want to be anywhere cold for the rest of my life,” Oliver announced. “I think we might have to spend every winter on a beach.”
“What about skiing? And there’s something to be said for snuggling by a warm fire, too.”
Oliver eyed at Khary, recalling their visit to a ski chalet in the Alps just before they’d arrived in paradise. He slipped his fingers through Khary’s and squeezed the man’s hand tight. “I particularly liked the snuggling part.”
Khary slid off his chair and sat on Oliver’s lining his long, lean body close. “This is a private beach, so we could do some snuggling right here.”
Oliver leaned closer and pressed his lips to Khary’s. “What are you waiting for?”
Khary chuckled before he captured Oliver’s lips and slowly began to peel off Oliver’s swim trunks. “I love you, Ollie.”
Oliver sighed against Khary’s lips, surprised by the admission. He pulled back, looking into Khary’s eyes.
An Omegaverse Book
Omega Gray Tomlinson is positive he’ll remain unmated for the rest of his life. By his mid-thirties, he remains unclaimed and without prospects, and lives confined to the Omega Quadrant, where he’s sure he’ll likely end up dying alone.
When his older brother, Silver, and Silver’s alpha die in a tragic accident, his nephews come to live in his little sequestered world. Without an alpha, he knows he has little means to help support the boys. The only choice he can stomach is to offer his services as a surrogate.
Gray meets Jamie, the infertile omega who so desperately wants a child with his alpha Rohan. Immediately he senses a bond like none he’s ever felt before. It’s brotherly love at first sight and Gray decides Jamie is the one, agreeing to carry their child.
But when circumstances change, Gray is faced with new challenges, a new love interest, and a battle for the very life that grew inside him.
And maybe there’s an alpha out there for him after all…
His gaze fell on Jamie’s bright smile. “You’re here!”
Jamie rushed over and spun Gray to face the man he was there to meet.
As soon as he set sight on Rohan, the air rushed from his lungs. The man was stunning… perfectly made in every way. Big and muscled as any alpha, he wore an expensive looking tailored suit that showed wide shoulders and a narrow waist. The alpha’s scent hit Gray… and he paused to inhale a little of it. Lust washed over him, his body rocked by need. He’d just gone through his heat the week before, so he didn’t understand the sensations running through him.
Some of Gray’s cream slickened his ass. Mortification filled him. There was also no missing the sudden clench to Rohan’s jaw.
The alpha had to scent him…
Dark eyes met his before that stare swept completely over him. Gray saw lust there in that gaze and had to remind himself it was all an instinctual reaction. An alpha scenting an available omega—that’s all it was.
And in that moment, he wished he’d injected some of Avery’s scent blocker. He hadn’t even thought about it… but then, why would he? He had little experience with alphas. His father, and a few friends who’d come over every so often when he was young—but once he’d gone into heat that first time, he’d been sequestered away. Even though Rohan had an omega all his own, it wouldn’t completely subdue the animal instinct within Rohan. Jamie and Tensen couldn’t scent him… only the alpha in the room would know.
Gray couldn’t look away from the alpha’s dark, fierce stare. His body shook with need…
And the desire to bow down then and there to be taken. He snagged his gaze away, shame filling him.
Jamie babbled on, seeming oblivious to what was happening. “I couldn’t wait for you two to meet… it feels like such a long time coming. So, without further ado—Rohan, this is Gray. Gray, my alpha, Rohan.”
He lifted his stare to Rohan’s once more. The alpha’s gaze was locked on him. Gray felt his skin tingling… butterflies spinning in his gut…
All for a man he couldn’t have…
A man he might carry a child for.
Gray clenched his own jaw thinking of his womb filled with Rohan’s child. His womb clenched, too.
International bestselling gay erotica/erotic romance author Kelex lives in Hampton Roads with her twenty-something slacker kidult and two semi-loveable masses of fur who are often found snarling at the mailman or UPS driver—or pooping on the brand new carpet.
When not being a pain in her daughter’s ass, a gardening goddess, the baker of bread, the master of cake disaster, or the drinker of alllllll the coffee, she writes under various pen names all over the erotica and erotic romance genre map.
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