More Than You Know Ch. 03
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“Come on, Stevie,” Erin pleaded. “You never get out anymore. It’s okay to spend one night of one weekend out.”
“You know I can’t. I have Ana—”
“Nope. I’ve already talked to your mother, and I know that your parents are taking Ana to the cabin for the weekend since she has Monday off of school. Try again.”
“I need to work.”
“Um,” I stammered.
“Forget it. You’re coming.”
“Erin, I shouldn’t.”
“And why not? Take a break. For one night in your life, just let yourself unwind a little. You can sit, you can drink, you can dance, you can do whatever you want.”
“Girl,” she said, dragging the word out for emphasis, “this is not an option. Meet us at Mid’s at nine. Besides, there’s someone I want you to meet.”
“Aha! I knew you had an ulterior motive.” I paused. “Erin, I can’t. You know I’m not interested in meeting anyone. No one would want a boring, hard-working gay dad anyways.”
“Uh-uh boyfriend. Trust me. This one’s different. I’m amazed it took me and Ev so long to figure this one out.”
“Ev says that every time, Erin,” I argued calmly, unconvinced. “Besides, isn’t every single one of her flavors of the week Mr. Right?”
“Give her a break. She’s being optimistic.”
“You of all people should know better. Of course, then again, you’re in happily married la-la land with Peter, so nevermind.”
“Happily married, yes. La-la land, no. Come on. It’s one night out, and we’re not setting you up. Just meet the guy.”
“Fine. Have it your way. I’ll say hello, I’ll say goodbye, and then I’ll never see him again.”
“Oh, shut up,” she shot back. “I’ll see your pessimistic ass at nine tomorrow evening. You are not spending another Friday holed up in your house watching TV or crunching numbers or whatever it is that you do to try to relax.”
“That sounds fine to me, honestly, in a white tee and some comfy shorts.”
“Whatever. See you tomorrow.”
I hung up the phone and rubbed my forehead with one of my hands. She was feeling mischievous, per usual. When would my friends see that I really didn’t need a man? I was fine on my own.
“Who was that?” Ana asked as she walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator.
“Erin.” I looked at her and saw right through her innocence. “Like you weren’t listening,” I retorted. She just smiled at me.
“Go with them. You’ll have fun. Maybe you’ll be able to relax enough to check the guy out, like you did Mr. Hunky Mechanic last week.” I gaped at my daughter. “Oh, come on, Dad. It was so obvious. Not to him, and definitely not to the airhead desk lady—’cause she thought you were all about her—but to me, it was clear as day.”
“Ana,” I began.
“It’s alright, Dad. It’s good to see you looking a little bit. Plus, Dad, for someone your age, he was hot!” Her face became a bit more pensive. “I like him, too. He actually gave me the time of day. He seemed really nice.”
“Yeah, well, he can give you the time of day and be nice when he maintains my car. Forget it.”
“Oh, come on, Dad, you should’ve asked him out or something.”
“Yes, Ana, let’s ask my car repairman out on a date, and just in case he’s wondering, I’ll reassure him that no, I was never married to a woman, but that yes, I do still have a kid.”
“Wow, that’s cool, Dad.” Ana glared at me. “It must be super convenient to use me as your baggage. ‘I’ve got a kid, and therefore I can’t date.’ Just don’t complain to me that you’re so lonely and unhappy while you’re searching for things to hide behind just to save yourself from an ounce of vulnerability in your way-too-organized, too-perfect world.”
“Ana, don’t speak to me in that tone.” She met my stare, raising her eyebrows in a ‘try-to-tell-me-I’m-wrong’ way and I paused. “I’m sorry that it sounds like I’m using you as an excuse. You think that you have all the answers now, but Ana, you are 13 years old. You’ve never had a child, you haven’t been out on your own, and you’ve never experienced companionate love, especially not like I have.”
“So what? I’m young and haven’t been in love, so that automatically means that I can’t see my dad hide behind his fears? Wrong. You are so frustrating.”
“Ana, like you said last week, this isn’t just going to magically happen, and it’s not going to happen instantly. It’s something we have to work on.”
“I understand that. But it also means that you actually have to make an effort.”
I looked at my daughter’s piercing brown eyes that saw through me so easily it was scary. She had a point, and I knew it, but she still had many years to go before she truly understood. And besides, it was my life.
“I know. You need to respect the fact that I might not still be ready, though, sweetie. That, and the fact that Luke Worthington may not be what I’m looking for. Patience is a virtue, daughter of mine.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever,” she answered, walking back down the hall to her room. I could tell she was still a bit angry Ankara escort with me, but there wasn’t anything I could do: attitudes of a thirteen-year-old girl were something that had to be dissolved on their own.
“Don’t forget to feed Luna,” she reminded me. Luna, our two-year-old German Shepherd, was a force to be reckoned with when she got hungry, and since Ana usually fed her and walked her, I’d have to write myself a note to remember.
“Okay. Don’t forget to pack your toothbrush,” I yelled.
“I know,” came the response from up the stairs.
“Of course you do,” I mumbled to myself, walking over to the kitchen to start dinner.
I stood in my bedroom and looked in the mirror. Well, it wasn’t bad. I had picked a nice pair of jeans, a nice V-neck tee, and a blazer that fit me like a glove to wear to Mid’s that Friday evening. I looked nice. I had come to terms with the fact that I would never be considered sexy in the hunky, muscle-bound, all-American definition of the word. I had always been trim. My lean swimmer’s build had stayed the same. I used to be extremely defined, the definition of ripped (sans the bulkiness, of course), with every muscle making an appearance in any motion I made to employ them. Now, at almost 35, I still had quite a bit of definition, but being a dad and having a job where I sit on my ass for most of the day had taken its toll. I tried to run for an hour and then do some weight training for my core before I went to work every morning, but if I was honest about it, I probably only found the motivation to get up at 4 a.m. about three or four days of the week. Ana and I almost always ate at home, which helped me stay trim: I knew that we ate much more nutritiously than at any restaurant. I had a little less definition in my abs than I would have liked. Aging, I decided, was a bitch. At least my arms, legs, and ass were still good.
I walked down to the kitchen and let Luna out. I grabbed my keys from their hook, but then on second thought, I put them back. I would walk tonight. It was a nice night, and Mid’s was only about a half mile away. After saying goodbye to Luna, who was looking at me rather curiously, I stepped outside into the refreshingly cool air and started walking.
“Why am I doing this?” I asked no one in particular as Mid’s came into sight. “Why, why, why, why, why am I doing this?”
I stepped inside and was immediately assaulted by the number of people there. I reminded myself that it was Friday night and that this was what normal 20- and 30-somethings who weren’t single parents with a full-time job did on the weekends. Mid’s was a unique building, almost appearing as if made of glass, and cylindrical in shape when looked upon from the outside. Inside, it was laid out in a circle: the outer wall is all windows with tables in front of them, while the inner wall alternates solid wall and floor to ceiling windows that overlook the lower level, with booth tables mounted on the solid walls. The entry level was a restaurant and bar. There are two staircases that descend about thirty feet, and the lower level is a club, where there was loud music, dancing, lights, and two more bars. Mid’s was also reputable for the fact that was both hetero- and homo-friendly.
“So, can I buy you a drink? It’s the least I can do seeing as you overpaid me by a few hundred dollars.” I recognized the sexy-as-sin voice immediately. It was deep and it had the slightest hint of a Southern upbringing. I turned around and felt my stomach churn. The man was beautiful. His golden hair was pushed back, the work of those lithe, muscular hands that were holding his glass. He wore a simple black V-neck tee shirt and a pair of faded jeans that fit like a glove, complimented by a pair of comfy-looking boat shoes. His light eyes seemed to glitter as they stared into mine. I attempted to come up with an excuse.
“Uh, well, I’m here with some friends, so, uh, I’ll get my own,” I stammered. Wow, Steven. Now the man thinks you are an inarticulate, ungrateful, and nervous person. Good.
“Well, how about I walk with you, then?” he asked rhetorically, stepping up beside me as I had started walking. His grin was sexy enough that it should have been illegal in all 50 states. “How’s Ana?”
I stared at this man. Who was he? Why was he asking about Ana? And why was there not a second drink in his hand for whatever girlfriend/fiancée/wife was waiting for him back at his seat? Clearly, he was one of the most eligible men in the city—or country, in my opinion.
“She’s doing very well. She went with her grandparents out to their beach house this weekend since she doesn’t have school on Monday. I could tell she wasn’t too keen on going alone, but she didn’t say anything, because I think she wanted to give me a weekend to myself.” I stopped. I realized how much I had just gone on. “I’m sorry, I’m rambling.”
“No, you stayed on topic. It was all about Ana. Besides, I asked, didn’t I?” He smiled at me. My heart fluttered. What was happening? When did I turn into a sixteen-year-old Ankara escort bayan schoolgirl who had developed a crush on an unattainable jock? What was wrong with me? I was torn from my thoughts as I saw Erin, Peter, Ev, and Ev’s newest boytoy all sitting in a large booth with one side empty.
“Well, this is my stop. Thanks for asking about Ana and walking me over here,” I said.
“You’re welcome,” he replied, but I didn’t understand why he was laughing to himself. I slid in the booth and was puzzled when he followed. I scooted a bit farther away, still confused, until—
“Welcome back, Luke. I see you found Steven,” Ev smiled. She looked at Erin and they both bared their teeth in Cheshire cat grins so big I thought their faces would break.
Cue my stomach dropping. Cue my bowels feeling like liquid. Cue jitters and nervousness that I hadn’t seen the likes of since I caught one of my kitchen cabinets on fire. Did they think this was funny? Had they talked to Ana? Did they think this was some kind of joke?
“Uh, excuse me, Luke,” I said as calmly as I could, gesturing that I needed out of the booth. Once I had stood back up, I looked at the rest of them, panning my way from Erin’s shining face on the inside of the booth to Ev’s laughing visage on the outside. Words failed me at the moment, so I turned and walked away.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hey, there, stud, where you going?” I heard Ev’s voice call as she caught up with me. I turned around.
“Do you think this is funny? Do you think that this is some sort of joke that you and Erin and Ana could play on me? Yeah, well, ha ha, my laughs are done.” Clearly, she wasn’t expecting my uneasiness, or whatever she saw on my face, because her smile dropped and a concerned look overtook her features.
“Hey, Steven, whoa. Slow down. There’s no joke here. And Ana? Why would I have talked to Ana?”
“Luke Worthington is my car repairman. We saw him a week ago, and Ana clearly saw how attracted I am to him and devised her own little plan—”
“Steve, I didn’t talk to Ana.”
“—on how to hook us up or whatever, but how else is a thirteen-year-old girl supposed to do it? With help from my friends, of course.” I paused. “Wait, what?”
“I did not talk to Ana,” she restated.
“Well then, how . . . what . . .” I stammered.
“First of all, listen to yourself. You sound paranoid enough to go to the crazy house. You thought Ana and I teamed up to play a cruel joke on you. Let’s be honest, whenever that happens, it’s always a good joke.” She grinned at me again, grabbing my hand and shaking it around to get me to loosen up. “Secondly, Luke is one of my best friends. I’ve known him for about four years now, and we go out all the time. To be honest, I wish I could date him.” I just stared at her. “I know what you’re thinking,” she continued. “Why can’t I date him? I’ve dated enough people, right?”
I didn’t quite know how to respond, so I didn’t bite, trying to change the subject. “Erin gave me the impression that you all were sort of setting me up.”
“Um, yes? Is that the correct answer?” She looked at me quizzically.
“But it’s Luke,” I said dumbly.
“Yes. Yes, again.”
“I don’t know that he’s my, uh, type,” I said cautiously.
“Why not?!” Ev practically shouted. I was surprised that her eyes didn’t bug out of her head. “He’s blond, he’s gorgeous, he’s built, he’s successful, he’s nice, and I’m pretty sure he’s hung. What more do you want?”
“Uh, thanks for that,” I smiled, unnerved. “That’s not quite what I meant, though.”
She walked up to me and looked me in the eye. “Steven, you are an attractive man. Luke would be dumb not to be attracted to you. He is your type. Luke is gay, Steven. He likes it up the ass—or likes putting it up the ass, I’m not sure—”
“Ev,” I interrupted, trying not to be amused.
“Yeah, sorry, you already know all those mechanics.” She snickered as I rolled my eyes at her pun. “Come on. Let’s go back. Just relax. No one’s playing a joke on you, no one’s saying you need to hook up with him, no one’s saying anything. We’re having a good time with friends and we’re introducing you. Well, we thought we were, anyways.” She smiled at me. “Honey, you are wound up tighter than a new spool of thread. This is why we brought you out. Just relax.”
“Okay,” I relented, walking back to the table with her. Luke had already slid over on the seat, and so I sat down near the end.
“Everything okay?” Erin asked me, looking a bit concerned. I took a deep breath.
“Yeah,” I said. I noticed Luke’s eyes studying me, and it was a bit unnerving.
“C’mon, Steven. I know you just sat down, but let’s you and me get something to drink,” Erin said, crawling over Pete, Ev’s boytoy and Ev before smiling at me.
“Yes, let’s,” I said. We walked over to the bar, and I ordered a scotch. I downed my first glass quickly at the bar and ordered a second. It was strong, but I wasn’t driving and I never had the chance to let go, so I decided to enjoy myself.
“So, Escort Ankara what’s going on?” Erin asked me.
“I’m anal and neurotic and paranoid, and I thought this was some sort of joke, that you talked to Ana and she told you I had the hots for my mechanic,” I said.
“No, no, not at all. I didn’t know you were one of his customers. We both know Luke—Ev more than me—and he’s such a great guy. I really think you guys will be good friends.” She looked at me, and I could tell that she had said ‘friends’ to put me at ease, but the glow in her eyes undermined the word. I decided I was feeling just as mischievous, and called her out.
” ‘Friends’, huh?”
“Well, I know I’d like to see you meet someone, and Luke is a great someone to meet, but I’m not going to pressure you. You’re like a donkey: the more someone tries to get you to do something, the more you dig in your heels.” She smiled and batted her eyelashes at me. “You’re such an ass.”
I chuckled. “Yeah, yeah, you’re so punny. “
We walked back to the table and I slid back in.
“What’d you get, Steve-o?” Peter asked me.
“Scotch,” I answered dully. What can I say? I couldn’t think of anything original.
“An old man’s drink,” Ev’s perfectly-styled man-of-the-week said to me. I didn’t quite know how to respond.
“Yeah, it suits me, I guess, being old man. I go to work, I take care of my daughter, I eat, I sleep. I’m pretty boring.”
“You forgot poop,” Luke chimed in. I looked at him questioningly, as did everyone else. He smiled and went on. “Well, sorry, if you were really an old man, you would take pride in your pooping.” I laughed, as did everyone else from the absurdity (and truth) of the comment.
“No adventure in your life?” Boytoy asked me.
“Oh, leave him alone, Blake,” Ev reprimanded. Blake. Of course. The perfect name for a high-maintenance, metrosexual yuppie who thought he was smarter than he actually was. Ev could do so much better, but perhaps I was a bit too judgmental. After all, I was just meeting him for the first time. “Steven, this is Blake.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” I said out of obligation.
“Girl, we need to dance,” Erin said.
“Amen to that,” Ev answered, taking a drink. I took another sip of my scotch.
“I wasn’t talking to you, Ev; I was talking to Steven.” We laughed at Erin’s blunt honesty.
“So you like to dance?” Luke asked me. His eyes smiled. They were so pretty. A very light brown with flecks the color of his golden hair that you could only see in a certain light. His nose was very straight, except for a small bump at the bridge that said it had been broken a long time ago. And then those lips. They were perfectly bow-shaped, pink, begging to be kissed. “I’ll take that as a yes?” he questioned. Oops, caught staring.
“Oh, uh, yeah, sometimes,” I finally answered. Damn it, Steven, this was not the time to check him out. He smiled at me again. I watched his eyes wander over my face, then he turned and took another sip of his beer. I took that as my cue to turn away, too, and take a sip of my scotch. When I looked up, everyone was staring at us, grinning. Shit. Well, everyone except Blake.
“Let’s go dance, yes?” Erin asked me.
“Peter, do you mind if I steal your wife?”
“Please, by all means, it will save me from dancing. And let’s be honest: none of us want to see that,” he laughed, gesturing Erin out of the booth. “I’ll be keeping an eye on you, though,” he said, pointing to the window at the end of the table overlooking the club, then pointing at me and mocking suspicion. “Don’t be trying to paw my wife.”
“I don’t think you have to worry about that,” Blake said, just a bit too snidely to be taken as a light-hearted joke. This boy was cruising for a bruising.
“You sure you can still dance, Steven? You are an old man, after all,” Ev teased, salvaging the conversation from an awkward moment.
“Ev, you’re just jealous that I’m dancing with Erin and not you,” I quipped back, grinning. The four of us walked down the stairs, leaving Luke and Peter in the booth. I secretly wished it was Luke I was going to dance with, but I pushed that thought aside and resolved myself to just have fun.
Damn it all to hell in a little red wagon if I didn’t stop and stare as soon as I saw Steven Abernathy walk through the door to Mid’s. He seemed genuinely tickled that I asked about Ana. What can I say? I was fond of her, but more fond of her father, and she seemed to be the key in opening the lock on his tightly-guarded self. She really was the apple of his eye.
He was as surprised as I was when he slid in the booth with Ev and Erin.
Evangeline had come on to me—and not subtly, either—when she first brought her car for a routine oil change. She had tried so hard to get me to ask her out that I had to tell her that she didn’t have what I was looking for. She, of course, took that to mean that I thought she was ugly—which was especially hard for her since she knew that she was one of the most gorgeous women most people would ever lay eyes on—at which point I had to explain that she didn’t have the correct equipment. She looked at me with a silent ‘oh’ on her lips and then smiled at me. We had been close friends ever since.
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