Pilot James uses flirting and sleeping with guys as his therapy. He likes variety and quantity when it comes to the bedroom. He doesn’t trust people, and the only way he really knows how to relate to others is through sex.
Cabe Evans is the complete opposite of his best friend and roommate, Pilot. He likes things safe and predictable. In fact, he’s been with his girlfriend, Lydia, since high school. But lately life is a little too bland, even for him, as things begin to fizzle in the bedroom.
When Lydia starts pushing for Cabe to move in with her, both men realize the feelings they have for each other might actually go way beyond simple friendship. But will Pilot’s fear of intimacy, and Cabe’s rejection of anything that deviates from his perfect life plan, destroy any chance they might have at happiness?
I’ve always loved to flirt.
Luring a guy in makes me feel powerful. Desired. In control. Plus I don’t like to get too attached to people. Casual sex is a great way to have a little fun, without all the entanglements of messy emotions. You can’t really trust feelings. They’re fickle.
It wouldn’t take years of therapy to figure out why I am the way I am. I’ll admit I have major trust issues. Cue violins, right? I basically shut down emotionally when I turned seventeen because my dad beat the shit out of me and kicked me out of his home. I’d thought my dad loved me. He’d always told me what a great kid I was growing up and that he was proud of me. He’d seen to it that we did manly things together when I was younger: fishing and hunting. I’m sure I was a disappointment because I’d sucked at all of it. I’d barely been able to bait a hook, and I’d puked the first time I shot a rabbit. But I’d tried because I’d wanted to please him.
Then I got a crush on a boy in high school, and it was like my dad decided he hated me overnight. The teachers had always drilled tolerance into our adolescent brains. I’d stupidly thought that the world was the way my Social Studies teacher, Mrs. Cleo, told me it was. I woke up real fast the day I came out to my dad.
The sad part is, I’m now twenty-three years old and I still haven’t gotten over that traumatic experience. It’s just that when you trust someone loves you, and it turns out they must not have, it’s scarring. I was lucky because I didn’t end up on the streets like some of the kids I’d heard about. My best friend Cabe’s family took me in. I still remember that humid night six years ago when, bloody and scared, I ended up on Cabe’s front porch. Cabe and his parents had always been there for me, and that night was no exception.
“Are you working or napping?” My trip down memory lane ended abruptly as Cabe waved his hand in front of my nose. His dark blue eyes were curious.
I laughed while grabbing a towel and wiping the bar distractedly. “Sorry. I didn’t notice you come in.”
“I’ve been sitting here almost five minutes,” Cabe grumbled. He leaned his chin on his palm and sighed loudly. “You’re going to get fired.”
“No way. They love me here.”
“Relax.” I popped the lid off of a cold beer and pushed it across the bar toward him. “This one’s on me.”
“Thanks. But you don’t have to do that.”
He took a sip and then bumped the bottle down with a sigh. “Jesus, what a day.”
“Work. Lydia. Life. Everything sucks right now.” He loosened his paisley tie.
“What’s wrong with Lydia this time?” I pushed some buttons on the cash terminal and swiped the credit card of another patron.
“She’s pressuring me to move in with her.”
I frowned. “Fuck that. I don’t want to have to find a new roomie.”
He laughed. “Yes, and I make all my life decisions based on what you want.”
“Look, she’s a nice girl and all, but you two fight too much already. I can’t even imagine what would happen if you moved in with her.” I shook my head.
“I know. I know.”
“I’m telling you, if you shack up next she’ll want a ring.” I studied his blank face. “Do you want to marry her?”
He shrugged. “I guess.”
I bugged my eyes. “Since when?”
“I don’t know. We’ve been dating since high school so I might as well marry her. I’m not interested in any other girls.” He sucked on his beer, looking miserable.
“Be sure you phrase your proposal just like that. That will be super flattering to her.” I laughed.
“It’s not funny.”
“Trust me, I know.” I leaned on my elbow and studied my friend. “So you’re actually ready for the whole marriage and babies thing?”
He seemed to slump even more. “Oh, God. Babies.”
“Well, if you move in with her or marry her, you know that’s coming, right?” I bit my lower lip. “Do you want that with her?” I felt weird at the idea of him settling into domestic bliss with Lydia. It just seemed off.
“Shouldn’t I? I’m not eighteen. Isn’t marriage and a family kind of the next step? Shouldn’t I be looking forward to that?”
I straightened, an odd churning in my gut. “You either are or you’re not. I don’t think you can force that shit.”
“Seems like I should be ready.” His voice was soft and he had a deep line between his dark brows.
I snorted and stuffed down the uneasiness that had invaded me. “Personally, I think you should break up with Lydia, bang some other chicks, and not take things so seriously.”
He narrowed his gaze. “I just told you, I’m not interested in any other girls.”
I shook my head. “Lydia’s the only girl you’ve ever screwed. How would you know if you’re interested in something else or not?”
He looked around, embarrassed. “Shut the fuck up, Pilot. Jesus.”
I held up my hands. “I’m just trying to help.”
“What should I do? Fuck anything that walks, like you?” His mouth was hard.
I didn’t show that his words hit home. Instead, I plastered on a big fake smile. “I have my standards.”
“Right.” He followed my gaze toward a guy at the other end of the bar. I’d been flirting with him earlier and Cabe must have noticed. “Is he tonight’s conquest?”
The guy down the way was watching us. He had blond hair, big brown eyes and a naive, sexy vibe I liked. “Oh, yeah.”
“God.” Cabe rolled his eyes. “You know, you’re the same age as me. You need to be thinking about having a real, grown-up relationship too.”
I cringed. “Don’t even jest.”
“I’m serious, dude.”
“Not interested.” I sighed and moved toward Blondie. “Don’t wait up, mom.”
“Don’t be a jerk, Pilot.” Cabe’s voice was rough as he called after me.
I just waved him off and slipped the receipt in front of my intended victim. “Hey.” I made sure my smile was my most seductive.
The guy swallowed and smiled back. “Hey yourself.”
“I’m off in an hour.”
He laughed nervously. “Okay.”
I leaned on the bar and pinned my gaze on his mouth. “What’s your name?” I already knew his name from his credit card, but I didn’t want to look like a creeper.
I held out my hand. “My name’s Pilot.”
He took my fingers and the heat of his skin sank into mine. “Like in the Bible?”
Shaking my head I said, “No. Like the airplane. My mom thought it was cool so I got stuck with it.”
He shrugged. “It’s unusual, but not in a bad way.”
He looked around the bar. “My blind date never showed.”
I pouted my lips. “Aw. What a terrible shame.”
He frowned. “You don’t suppose he took one look at me and split, do you?”
I ran my gaze over his body. “If he did, he’s an idiot.” I licked my lips for good measure. I could tell it had the effect I wanted because the pulse at the base of his throat began to beat swiftly.
He finished off his beer and sighed. “God I hate the dating scene.” He pulled out his wallet and set his credit card on top of the receipt I’d set down.
“Where’d you find this guy?”
His cheeks turned a lovely shade of pink. “Grindr.”
I smirked. “Honestly, if you just want to get laid that’s the app for you. But if you’re looking for a relationship, you might want to try something like Match.com.”
He arched one brow. “Did I say I was looking for a relationship?”
“Pfft. You have it written all over your adorable baby face.” He didn’t look like a player. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered if maybe I shouldn’t be bothering with him. He was obviously inexperienced. But damn he was cute, and I knew I’d enjoy fucking him.
I took his credit card and moved toward the register. I could feel him checking out my ass. I always wore my tightest skinny jeans when I was in the mood to pick up a dude at the end of my shift. I’d been wearing them a lot lately. I wasn’t sure if I was horny because it was spring, or if I was depressed and sex cheered me up a little.
Cabe leaned toward me waving his empty bottle. “Any luck trying to get in Blondie’s pants?”
I met his gaze, trying to keep mine blank. “Why? You want me all to yourself?”
He rolled his eyes. “Nope. I just feel sorry for the guy. You’re going to chew him up and spit him out and he won’t even know what happened.”
I handed Cabe another beer. “You’re just jealous because I can fuck anybody I want and you only get to have sex with Lydia.”
His shoulders slumped and he sipped his beer. “We haven’t slept together in ages.”
I frowned. “Why? Does she have a headache?”
He laughed. “She’s in the mood. I’m not.” He peered down at his crotch. “Mr. Wiggles doesn’t want to come out and play lately.”
I grinned at the nickname he’d given his cock when we were kids. “I did notice she hasn’t slept over in a while. Maybe you should see if you can get some blue pills.”
Scowling, he shook his head. “Fuck that. Who the hell uses those damn pills at my age? Those are for older guys.”
I glanced over my shoulder at Tom. “I can’t really worry about your limp dick right now. I have someone who makes mine nice and hard waiting for me at the end of the bar.”
“Fine. Go break the poor guy’s heart. I should leave soon anyway. Lydia’s cooking dinner for me.” He straightened. “Wait, she’s making dinner at our place. Is that going to be a problem with you bringing home Blondie?”
“Only if you mind hearing him scream with pleasure while you and Lydia eat your num nums.”
He snorted. “God, you’re such a jerk sometimes.”
I hesitated and studied Cabe’s face. “I bring guys home all the time. I’m not sure why tonight would be different.”
His gaze flickered. “Yeah. I know.” He shrugged. “Never mind. I’m just in a weird mood.”
I could tell something was bugging him. Maybe he really did need some alone time with Lydia. “I’ll see if we can go to his place.”
He laughed sheepishly. “I’m feeling a lot of pressure from her on the sexual front. Maybe I’m having performance anxiety.” He peered down at Tom, and he frowned. “Not something you ever seem to have a problem with, I notice. I was wondering if maybe we should install a revolving door in the house.”
“I’m only half kidding. You’ve been seeing a lot of guys the last few months. I don’t think I’ve seen the same one twice.”
“Nothing new about that.”
I shrugged. “I’ve been thinking about my dad a lot lately and I’d rather not.” I avoided his gaze, not wanting to seem pathetic.
“Fucking a shitload of guys helps you not think about your late father?”
I laughed snidely. “Not exactly. But it cheers me up because it’s the ultimate fuck you to him.” I flipped the ceiling the bird. “I’m gay and there’s nothing he can do about it.”
“Got it.” He nodded. He tipped his beer and his throat muscles bobbed up and down in his tanned throat.
A funny little shiver worked through me as I ran my gaze along his stubbly chin and full lips. I pulled my eyes away, uncertain of what those strange feelings were. Cabe was straight and I’d never once thought about him in a sexual way. I swallowed hard and ran a hand through my hair. It had to be all the weird feelings my dad was bringing up in me. It made me feel unsettled and nervous.
“What’s wrong?” When I looked up Cabe was watching me intently. “You okay?”
I nodded and turned to face Tom. “Wish me luck.”
“Good luck.” Cabe obliged.
I cleared my throat. “I’ll see if going to his place is cool. You need to screw that woman of yours before your dick falls off from disuse.”
“You have such a way with words.”
I ignored him and headed back toward Tom. He took his card from me and our fingers brushed. He squirmed in his seat and looked up at me. “Were you flirting with me earlier?” He sounded breathless.
I smiled. “Yeah.”
He wiped his palms on his jeans. “I never do this kind of thing.”
“What kind of thing?”
He laughed awkwardly. “Casual sex.”
His innocent act was kind of a turn-on. But I felt a pang of conscience when Cabe’s speech about me using him up and spitting him out reverberated in my head. I looked down toward Cabe and found him watching us with a funny look on his face. When I turned back to Tom he looked so hopeful I decided to ignore Cabe. Tom was a big boy. I wasn’t forcing him to do anything he didn’t want to do.
“Are you interested?” I asked quietly.
“Where would we do it?” Tom’s voice wobbled.
I smiled. “We could go to your place if you want?”
He frowned and ran a finger under his collar. “We could but um… I live with my mom.”
I laughed, having second thoughts. “How old are you?”
At least he was legal. “Hmm.” When I looked back toward Cabe he was gone. His absence left me with a strange hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach.
“I’m not a baby.” Tom’s indignant voice jogged me back to the moment.
I turned my attention to him as I lifted one brow. “Sure about that?”
He sighed and muttered, “Jesus. I’m never going to get laid if I don’t move out of my mom’s house.”
“Well, I definitely prefer guys who have their own place. A roommate is one thing, but living with your mom is kind of a major cock block.”
He surprised me when he grinned. “I know. Seriously though, I have a good job and I’m only staying with her temporarily while I save money to buy a place of my own. I have a plan. I’m not an emotionally stunted guy living in his mom’s basement. I swear.”
His sincerity got through to me. “So you work?”
“Yes. God.” His eyes were wide. “I definitely work.”
I smirked. “It’s not just like a paper route, right? You don’t ride around on a bike and toss papers on people’s porches?”
“No. It’s a real job.” He laughed.
“Is there some reason we can’t go to your place?” He narrowed his eyes while smiling. “You don’t live with your mom, do you?”
I chuckled. “No. I live with my best friend. We have a two-bedroom house over on the west side.”
“Ooh, la la.” He waggled his brows. “A house, not an apartment.”
“The thing is he has his girlfriend over tonight.”
He nodded as if he understood. “But you have your own room, right?” He tucked his credit card and receipt into his wallet.
He twisted his lips as he watched me. “So what’s the problem?”
My mouth twitched. “Maybe there isn’t one?”
“This night’s pretty much sucked. The one exception has been meeting you.” He sighed. “Getting laid would soften the blow of being stood up.”
I grinned. “That’s very analytical.”
He smiled. “I’m a software engineer.”
“Makes sense.” I poured a glass of wine for another customer as I held Tom’s gaze. I served the other patron and returned to Tom. He looked nervous as he fidgeted in his seat. “I’m not looking for anything serious.”
He nodded. “Okay.” He swallowed. “So this would just be a hookup. I can do that.” He sounded like he was trying to convince himself.
I grinned. “You sure?”
“Yeah.” He leaned toward me, his gaze warm with arousal. “I’m nervous, but I want to go home with you.”
“Are you a top or a bottom?”
He cleared his throat. “I’m whatever you want me to be tonight.”
He pumped his fist. “Yes.”
I laughed out loud. “God, don’t do that.” I looked around but nobody was paying any attention. “You’re not a virgin, right?”
He shook his head, looking insulted. “Of course not.”
I wasn’t sure I believed him. Virgins were a lot of work. I grabbed a wine cooler and pushed it toward him. “Here, it’s on the house. I have a feeling you should be a little on the drunk side for later.”
He frowned. “I’m not a virgin.”
“Shhh.” I grinned.
He held up his fingers. “I’ve had sex with three guys and multiple times each.”
My lips twitched. “Okay. I believe you.”
He grabbed the wine cooler and took a long swig. Then he bumped the bottle down on the bar and grinned. “I’ll just be here waiting.”
“You do that.”
I thought about texting Cabe to warn him I was coming home after all. But then I decided that might be even weirder. We’d lived together a long time, and I’d brought plenty of guys home when he’d had Lydia there. I couldn’t understand why all of a sudden Cabe seemed uncomfortable with the idea. It wasn’t like I was gonna have sex in the front room.
I met Tom’s amorous stare and decided I didn’t really care why my best friend had a bug up his ass tonight. I wasn’t going to fuck some guy in my car or a public bathroom because Cabe was acting weird. Nope, I was getting laid in my own bed tonight. Whether Cabe liked it or not.