Alexander James Noble is a gender fluid gay man who gave up on finding Mister Right a long time ago. He’s not asking for much, though. He just wants a guy who loves all of him and appreciates his feminine form too.
At the local LGBTQ center where Alex regularly volunteers, he meets Dal Sayer, an officer of the Milwaukee PD. Because he’s been rejected one too many times, Alex doesn’t trust the huge cop and the interest he shows in him, but once Dal sets his mind on something, he goes all out. Pushing aside his preconceived notions, Alex opens up just a little and soon caves.
From their first date—while dealing with his father’s failing health and his parents’ demands for him to settle down and have children—Dal never takes his eyes off his goal of making Alex his. But proving to Alex he isn’t like all the men who couldn’t see him for who he truly was and only wanted to hide him away is harder than he thought.
“DAMMIT, DAL, what’s up with you today?” Rhys snapped at him. “You’ve lost count. Again.”
They were at the gym, and he knew he was supposed to be counting his reps while his big brother spotted him, but the most beautiful amber—flecked with small chips of gold and green—eyes he’d ever seen kept floating in front of him. Dal had always liked guys that were shorter, though he didn’t usually go for the more waif-like twinks like his brother. But then, he liked the delicate curves of a woman too—something his brother had never been interested in. Still, he needed to concentrate!
“Sorry. Maybe we should move on. I’m just not feeling it today.”
Rhys stared at him for a long moment. Dal knew he was being examined, but there was no way, he hoped, Rhys could know who had his mind and libido so distracted.
“How ’bout we call it a day and go grab a couple a beers?”
“Sure.” He flashed a grin as he sat up, grabbed his towel, and began wiping down the bench before standing and heading to clean up and change.
“Then you can tell me who’s got you all in a twist,” Rhys added once they were in the shower area, smirking as he dodged the towel Dal snapped at him.
“You know, you’re worse than mom with the gossip and busybody routine.” Dal grabbed his shower kit and walked off before Rhys could retaliate, as he was apt to do.
Once both men were clean and dressed, they headed to where their bikes were parked. Rhys’s black and chrome Harley Softail and his red Ducati Diavel stood out in a sea of generic cars and trucks in the parking lot.
“Meet me at Flanagan’s?”
Dal knew this was going to be unpleasant, but nodded and dutifully straddled his bike before heading out to their favorite pub on this side of town—probably in the entire metro area if he were honest.
By the time he arrived and got up the courage to go inside, Rhys had already grabbed two mugs of beer—Guinness for himself and a Murphy’s Stout for Dal—and snagged a corner booth. The grin he flashed told Dal just how serious his brother was about him spilling what was on his mind. He rolled his eyes, making sure Rhys saw him, and huffed as he flopped down on the other side of the booth.
“So dignified, Dal,” Rhys grumbled but smiled. “Now, take a couple a good pulls on your beer and tell me what’s got you so out of sorts. I haven’t seen you like this since….” Rhys bit the cuticle of his right thumb, seemingly lost in thought.
Taking a hearty gulp of his stout, Dal tried to think of a way to distract Rhys. “Ha, you just want to play yenta since your love life is so wonky right now. How is Chase, anyhow?”
Rhys’s green slit-eyed stare landed on him with a near-physical push. “I have no idea how Chase is. He works for me. Period.” Flexing his left hand repeatedly, Rhys stared down at his drink with what Dal knew was confusion and hurt.
He shouldn’t have asked that. He knew better. “Sorry, Rhys. That was low, even for me.”
Rhys looked up. His eyes seemed to clear as a small smile tugged at his lips. “It’s okay. But seriously. What’s really going on with you? Who is she? Or is it a he?” The last question came out so softly Dal barely heard it over the noise of the other patrons.
Dal looked his brother over a moment but decided that fighting with him over it wasn’t worth the headache, and well, he could use some advice. Maybe.
Dal lowered his gaze to the tabletop and breathed a deep sigh before he met Rhys’s eyes again. “His name is Alex. We’ve had roughly five minutes worth of conversation, most of which was about the upcoming dance you and I offered to bounce for. He’s, well, I don’t know what he is to the center. He was cooking when I was there, so I guess a cook or chef of some kind.”
“And by the soft tone of your voice and the glassy eyes, I’d say you’re smitten with him.” Rhys waited until Dal gave one tight nod to continue. “So, do you know anything about him? What’s he like? Do you want me to check him out?”
Dal’s head snapped up, glowering, or he hoped it was a death glare anyway. “You have enough man trouble, don’t you dare go hitting on Alex.” Dal could hear the growl in his voice but couldn’t care less. “He’s sweet and shy and has the most captivating amber eyes I’ve ever seen. His skin is so smooth it begs to be touched and is the most beautiful creamy cappuccino-like color.”
One side of Rhys’s lips turned up into a smirk. “So, he’s a pretty boy?”
“Yes. No. Ugh! Yes, he’s pretty, almost feminine in a way, yet all man at the same time. He’s the kind of person who would be beautiful and sexy either way, but he’s not like the kind of guys you usually go for and, just, you leave him alone.”
At that, Rhys let out a belly laugh the likes of which Dal hadn’t heard from his brother in a while. Not in a year or more, probably. “Don’t worry, I would never try to poach. You know better than that, little brother. But, what are you going to do about this Alex of yours?”
Dal couldn’t tell whether Rhys’s tone or the Cheshire cat grin plastered across his face annoyed him more, but he had no freakin’ clue what to do, so he settled for scowling at his brother. Not that it seemed to have any effect. Criminals, troubled teens, guys sitting in interrogation…. Sure, his “look” worked fine on them, but his brother? Nope! Besides, he hated the self-righteous look he was getting right then.
Finally, Rhys stopped grinning at him. “Fine, Dal, but I haven’t seen you interested in much of anyone in a long time. Not girl or guy, so yeah, if this guy is able to bring out your protective side like this after only five minutes, I’m going to say ‘hell yeah,’ go for it!”
“Rhys, I know nothing about him. I don’t think he likes cops much, considering he was initially hostile. I think that was more fear than anything, though, really, but no—” he grabbed Rhys’s free hand “—I do notwant you to investigate him. Promise me, Rhys.”
Rhys waited a moment before grumbling but nodded his agreement.
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