Once More, With Feeling
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by Alex Alder
Category: Romance/Gay Fiction
Description: Meet Chase Chavez: bartender, ex-law student, and unofficial matchmaker. Traumatized by a past breakup, Chase has spent the past three years compensating for his own loneliness by helping his friends find dates, but when he meets Bryan, he finds himself fighting emotions he never thought he'd face again. Bryan's belief in Chase and their relationship is unshakeable; Chase is feeling nothing but shaken. Can he risk it all and take the plunge, not knowing if Bryan will be there to catch him?
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, 2012 2012
eBookwise Release Date: April 2012
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [137 KB]
Reading time: 86-120 min.
"Hey, it's Chase. Leave a message if it's urgent. Oh, and if you're calling about that other thing, leave your info and I'll call you back. Thanks."
* * * *
"Hey," Dom said suddenly, on a particularly busy night, "Steve's here. And it looks like he brought a friend."
Chase, who was busy shaking a martini in one hand and filling a mug with the other, didn't even hear him at first. In fact, it wasn't until four drinks and a brief round of flirting with a cute, busty blonde later that he finally found the time to look back at his friend. "Wait, what?"
Dom slid a freshly shaken vesper across the counter to his customer, giving her a smile and a wink before turning to Chase and nodding toward the end of the bar. "Well, unless Eva suddenly turned into a young, built, blond dude, I'd say Steve's here on business. Especially since he's been tryin' to catch your eye for the last fifteen minutes."
"Huh." Chase blinked, following Dom's gaze. Sure enough, his longtime friend was perched on a stool at the end of the bar, conversing cheerfully with another guy with buzz-cut blond hair and a tall, lanky frame that looked entirely too uncomfortable confined to his tiny barstool. When he caught Chase watching, though, Steve immediately raised a hand in a wave, breaking out into a wide grin. "Chase, my man! Got time to join us?"
Chase didn't, actually, what with three other customers currently clamoring for his attention, but he figured for Steve, he could make the sacrifice. Setting a bottle of MGD down in front of his customer and thanking him for the tip, Chase made his way down the bar. "Hey, man. Thought you were gonna be at home with Eva tonight."
Steve just shrugged. "I was, but then she randomly decided on a girls' movie night and kicked me out," he said. "Hormones from the pregnancy or whatever. So I figured, might as well help a friend out." Reaching over, he clapped a hand down on his companion's shoulder. "Tyler, this is Chase. Chase, Tyler."
Tyler extended a hand across the counter. "'Sup?"
"Hi." They shook, and Steve took a moment to gulp down his beer and belch before turning back to Chase.
"So Tyler here's got a problem I think you can help with," he said without preamble, and Chase sighed.
"Steve, man, you refer any more people to me and I'm gonna have to lease an office and make business cards or some shit."
Steve laughed. "Well, what can I say? You're the best. Anyway, Tyler here is supposed to go to this party Saturday night, but then he was an asshole and ended up pissing off the girl he was gonna go with--"
"Hey, it wasn't my fault!" Tyler interrupted. "How was I supposed to know she thought we were exclusive? When have I ever done exclusive?"
Steve just waved his hand dismissively before turning back to Chase. "Anyway, that's where you come in. Poor Tyler doesn't want to end up the dateless loser at the party, so you think you can pull some of those magic strings of yours and get him a hot piece of arm candy?"
Chase blew out a breath. "Saturday? That's only two days away, dude. I don't know if I can--"
"Oh, of course you can," Steve interrupted, giving him a friendly pat on the arm. "I know you, Chase; you're a fucking miracle worker. Just get out your little black book or whatever it is you pull those people out of, make some calls, and save poor Tyler's fragile reputation."
Chase ignored Tyler's indignant huff, instead scratching his head as he thought for a moment. It was short notice, yes, but it might be doable. He'd just have to make a few calls, see who was available.
"Okay," he said at last, turning to Tyler. "Any particular preferences? Can't make any guarantees, but I'll see what I can do."
Tyler thought for a long moment before finally shrugging. "She's gotta be hot," he said, and when nothing else seemed forthcoming after a few more moments, Chase couldn't help but snort.
"Okay, well, that shouldn't be too hard, then," he said, pulling his phone out and flipping it open. "Give me your number. I'll call you with any news."
Tyler obediently rattled off his phone number and Steve grinned. "Thanks, Chase, I knew I could count on you. You're awesome, you know that?"
"Shut up, you're biased," Chase answered, even as he felt the back of his neck warm at the praise.
Steve just laughed. "Hey, it's only thanks to you that I met the love of my life," he said, "and if that makes me biased, then I'm biased. Doesn't mean it isn't true."
"Whatever." Chase put his phone back in his pocket before nodding at Tyler. "Can I get you anything while you're here?"
"Nah, I'm good," Tyler said, straightening and offering his hand again. "Thanks, man, really. I appreciate it."
"No problem." They shook, and with one last smile Tyler gave them both a loose two-fingered salute and walked out of the bar.
Steve turned to him as soon as the door slid shut. "So you got anyone in mind yet?"
Chase laughed. "Dude, what am I, Harry Potter? Stuff like this takes time."
"Well, you gotta have some idea."
Chase shrugged, mentally paging through the list of contacts on his phone. "Maybe Lydia? I owe her, seeing as she hated that military ball."
"Oh, right. But I thought she didn't do blonds?"
"Oh yeah." As Chase recalled, some bad drama with an ex-boyfriend had turned Lydia completely off blonds. She preferred brunets now. "Hm. Maybe Alicia, then? Last I checked her Saturday was free."
"Well, she'd certainly fit the 'hot' criterion," Steve agreed, and Chase laughed.
"Dude, you're married."
Steve just shrugged. "Doesn't mean I can't appreciate a nice rack when I see one." He reached over the counter to snag a beer, ignoring Chase's disapproving look as he uncapped it and took a sip. "So how'd things go with that one girl... Stacy? Or was it Lacy?"
"Tracy, actually," Chase answered, clearing off empty bottles, "but it doesn't matter. Didn't work out."
"Really?" Steve sighed. "Tell me it was only 'cause she was a flamin' bitch or had herpes or something, not because you 'weren't feeling it'."
At Chase's slightly sheepish silence, he rolled his eyes and sighed. "Seriously, Chase, this has gotta stop."
"Hey, I can't help it if all the girls you and Dom keep setting me up with just don't do it for me."
"No one does it for you anymore, Chase." Steve's eyes were pleading. "Seriously, man, you gotta get over this. Whatever it was that went down with Christina, you just gotta suck it up and move on."
The sharp lance of pain at the mention of his ex-girlfriend sliced through Chase's chest like a knife and he coughed. "It's nothing, okay? I just don't feel like dating right now."
"Chase, it's been three years--"
"Drop it, Steve. I'm not having this conversation again."
For a moment it looked like Steve was going to push it, but at long last his friend sighed, polishing off his beer before straightening up. "Okay," he said simply, taking out his wallet and counting out a few bills. "I'd better get home to Eva; she's probably changed her mind by now and will want me to give her a foot rub or something. I swear, if I'd known pregnancy was this much of a hassle I would've adopted."
"It's worth it in the end," Chase answered, collecting the money. Steve shrugged, getting up and heading for the door.
"Guess so. Oh, and Chase?"
Chase looked up, and for a moment they watched each other. Steve looked like he wanted to say something important, but seemed finally to change his mind. Instead, he shook his head and offered a small smile. "Don't forget to call Tyler, okay?"
"Yeah." And with a wave to Dom further down the bar, Steve turned and left.
Chase sighed and headed back down the counter, quickly plastering his game face back on when he noticed Dom giving him a slightly worried look. Turning to the nearest customer, he offered his brightest smile. "What can I getcha?"
As he resumed taking orders and mixing drinks, he steadfastly pushed what Steve had said to the back of his mind. He'd deal with it later. Right now, he had work to do.
* * * *
Four hours later, Chase was on his way home with a fat wad of tips and two phone numbers shoved into his back pocket. Traffic was nonexistent this early in the morning and the radio stations were entirely too dull, nothing but soft rock playing on continuous loop. After his third failed attempt at finding some sort of talk show or something to distract him, Chase finally sighed and turned the radio off, leaning back against the seat.
Fucking Steve, always pushing his nose in where it didn't belong. Try as he might, Chase hadn't been able to stop thinking about what his friend had said back at the bar, about how Chase hadn't exactly been throwing his weight into the dating scene recently. The sad thing was that it was true. It had been a good three years since Chase had dated anyone with any amount of seriousness, and Tracy was just the latest in a long line of prospects his friends had lined up for him over the years, hoping one of them would pull him out of the rut he was apparently hell-bent on digging.
Of course, Chase was grateful for the concern. Steve and Dom were genuinely trying to help, and the women--and occasional man--they sent his way were decent and practically pre-screened, but he also knew they were going about it the wrong way. Dom and Steve thought Chase was averse to dating because of his breakup with Christina, and while that wasn't entirely inaccurate, it also wasn't the whole truth. With the fallout and the way he'd been acting since, avoiding dating like the plague, everyone automatically assumed the problem was Christina. In actuality, the problem was Chase.
Chase sighed, reaching one hand up to scrub it across his face before digging into his pocket for his phone. Well, it didn't matter anyway. If he couldn't do anything about his own love life, he could at least help out with someone else's. Keeping one eye on the road, he paged through his contacts and dialed Alicia.
She picked up on the first ring. "Chase! Hi!"
"Hey, baby doll. You still free this Saturday?"
A brief pause. "Depends. You've got somebody, haven't you, Chase?"
He couldn't help but grin at that. "Yes, ma'am. One of Steve's friends needs a date to a party, and I immediately thought of you."
"Aw, aren't you sweet. Is he hot?"
Chase considered it. "Yeah, he's okay."
Alicia giggled. "Then I'm in. Text me his number?"
"Sure thing. Thanks, Alicia."
"No, thank you, Chase."
He sent her the text as soon as she hung up, snapping his phone closed and tossing it onto the passenger seat. There; done. Another miracle, as Steve would say.
Chase couldn't help but smile then, shaking his head a little to himself as he nudged his car onto the off-ramp. When Steve had first approached him two years ago, fresh from a breakup, looking sad and more than a little pathetic as he begged Chase to find him a date for the concert going down the following night, Chase hadn't thought much of it. Eva was a good friend of his--they'd been floormates in the dorms during undergrad--and at the time it had just seemed logical to give her Steve's number. Chase hadn't really expected them to hit it off right away, to fall completely head over heels for each other and do all that sappy romantic couple shit and then get married eight months later, but that was what had happened. Chase was happy for them, of course he was, but then... well.
The problem was, Steve was a really enthusiastic guy with a heart of gold. So when he somehow convinced himself that Chase, by introducing him to Eva, was apparently some sort of miracle matchmaker whose skills could not go unannounced, it had pretty much gone downhill from there. It started with a couple of calls, friends of Steve's who wanted someone to take to a local dinner party or some banquet for work, but with word getting around and Steve's nonstop gushing over how Chase was apparently eHarmony on legs, it hadn't taken long for things to snowball. Fast-forward a year and a half, and Chase, in addition to being your typical bartender, was now apparently also the go-to guy if you were looking for hookups or connections, your very own personal Yenta.
Yeah, Chase had no idea how that had happened either.
But whatever. If by just making a couple of phone calls Chase could make somebody happy for at least one evening, he would do it. And if a little voice at the back of his head kept whispering he only continued to do this to make up for his own shortcomings, well, that voice could just go fuck itself.
Squaring his shoulders and shoving those thoughts firmly into a mental box marked Not Now, Chase took the exit and headed home.