Thanks so much to Grace for hosting me today on Throwback Thursday!
Ren scanned the room and nearly lost the beat. Gil glanced over, eyebrow raised, and Ren blushed, sheepish. He risked another look. Christoph was still there near the bar, dapper in a trim suit, glass of white wine in hand, alongside two other well-dressed men. They must have come from the party room.
Ren’s heart jumped to full afterburner. Christoph was watching him. Great. Just great. A professional percussionist, not to mention one he’d been crushing on forever, heard him bobble the beat on a pop song. Did Christoph know he was the reason Ren stuttered?
Ren forced his attention back to their performance. Gil led them into the Rankin Family’s “You Feel the Same Way Too,” always a crowd favorite. Selena danced at the microphone, banging a tambourine as she sang. Ren couldn’t keep his gaze from wandering to the bar again. Christoph and his friends were gone.
He scanned the room. Lots of familiar faces. But—crap—Molly and Jos sat at a big table circled by people jammed close together. He had no trouble picking out the coworker who “played for his team.” He was the only one without a date or a partner. Ren glanced away before someone caught him looking.
“That’s All Right” kept the crowd packed on the floor. “Movin’ On” segued into a slower tune, and when the dancers had caught their breath, the band jumped into a rockabilly song, Amir showboating on harmonica. Ruby Red sucked up energy from the floor and fed it right back to the dancers through the music.
Selena took Gil’s place at center stage, and they launched into “I Feel Lucky.” Best lyrics ever. Ruby Red hammed it up for the crowd. As the last notes died away, the band stood and took their bows to whistles, stomping, shouts, and applause.
Gil leaned into the microphone. “Ladies and gentlemen, the band’s going to take a short break.”
Ren considered ducking behind the stage and out the fire exit. The last time Molly tried to set him up, the evening had been a disaster. Ren sighed. He couldn’t avoid Molly on her birthday. He crossed the room to her table.
“Ren.” Molly’s smile was huge.
Ren leaned down and gave Molly a one-armed hug. “Happy birthday.”
“Sit down and have some cake,” said Molly.
“I wish I could, but not during a gig. Save me a piece for later.”
Molly went around the table making introductions, leaving the coworker on “his team” for last. Not exactly subtle.
Ronald, the occupational therapist. “Ronald, never Ron.” He beamed.
Goatee. Could stand to lose twenty. Dressed like a guy who didn’t get the memo about gay men having superior fashion sense. And could he be checking out Ren any more blatantly?
Ren gave the table a polite smile. “Excuse me. I’ve got to get some water.” He faked a cough. “Dry throat.”
As he left, Ronald (never Ron) said, “I’m going to grab another beer. Anybody need anything?”
Maybe Ren could still sneak outside. He pushed through the crowd to the end of the bar and found himself face to face with Christoph, whose brows rose at the look on Ren’s face. “Are you all right?”
“I’ve got to get out of here.”
Christoph glanced over Ren’s shoulder and frowned. He wrapped his hand around Ren’s right bicep and steered him out into the large open foyer that separated the party room from the bar.
Christoph’s dress shoes clicked on the floor tiles as he guided Ren. “Just so I know what to expect, who are we dodging? Stalker fan? Former lover? Guy you owe money?”
“Did you see the man in the fuchsia polo shirt with a spray-on tan?”
“Chin hair like a schnauzer?” Christoph pulled Ren through a wide doorway into the coat room, empty this time of year. Light from the overhead fluorescent fixtures in the foyer filtered in.
“That’s the one. Well-meaning friend. Attempted setup. Total misfire.” Ren leaned against the cool concrete-block wall and exhaled. “I am a shallow, judgy asshole, and I am going straight to hell.”
Christoph’s eyebrows rose. Had he not realized Ren went for guys? Wasn’t Christoph gay? Could Ren have gotten it all wrong?
Christoph’s gaze ran up and down Ren, and Ren sucked in a breath. Not wrong at all. Christoph smiled, teasing and seductive at the same time. “So hide out with me in here for a while.”
Ren Murphy is a stagehand. He’s also a loyal friend, a gifted musician, and an inspiring teacher—but most people don’t see past his job. Ren knows that crushing on the Oilton Philharmonic Orchestra’s principal timpanist, Christoph Theoharis, is a waste of time. Christoph brushes off highly eligible would-be suitors regularly. What chance would a stagehand have? Christoph doesn’t even notice Ren’s existence—until one fateful night when chance or luck or maybe fate gets Ren Christoph’s undivided attention.
Old betrayals overshadow both men’s lives, yet each sees something compelling in the other, something that won’t let either walk away. Ren and Christoph may be each other’s best hope of finding a happy-ever-after, but to do that they’ll have to forgive old wrongs. They’ll have to let go of the pain in their past before it destroys their hope for a better future. Most of all, they’ll have to find a way to believe—in possibilities and each other.
Ava Hayden lives and writes in Alberta, Canada. When not writing, she loves reading yaoi manga and gay romance, baking, seeing plays, hearing live music, and hiking (even though she once came face to face with two grizzlies on a trail). Most of the time her life isn’t that exciting, and that’s fine by her.
Where you can find Ava
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