Live and Learn. Super. That was all great but I wanted the dirt on my boyfriend and Hunter. "I've never seen him so head over heels, Rob.

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1 Live and Learn Sometimes my life just sort of happened. I didn't make plans and it turned out weird. Like this one time, I didn't even want to leave the house and there I was at Aquarius, watching my boyfriend Teague Powers dance with an old lover. It wasn't my idea of a good time so I was trying to drink myself through it. I was three drinks in when Jeff, one of Teague's oldest friend's, came by. I was too drunk for subtlety, so I immediately tried to drill him for everything he knew about Hunter Raul. Instead of just spilling, though, he had to tell me how glad he was to see me, how happy he was that Teague and I were together, and how good Teague looked. Super. That was all great but I wanted the dirt on my boyfriend and Hunter. "I've never seen him so head over heels, Rob." Fantastic, but I really wanted to know about Hunter. It was like pulling teeth. He finally got out that every time Hunter was in town, he and Teague were inseparable for the entire length of his stay. I could tell he didn't enjoy giving me the information and I was kind of touched. It turned out that Jeff was a better friend to Teague than I had thought, and it seemed like he wanted to be my friend too. He was being protective of my boyfriend while at the same time showing concern for my feelings. It was nice. He sat with me a long time, making sure I always had a drink. Apparently, Jeff explained, Hunter and Teague went back a long way and had an unspoken agreement about hooking up whenever possible. So as soon as Hunter hit town, he would go from club to club until he found Teague and he would cut in, pull him off the dance floor and that would be it. The ritual seemed to start with screwing in a bathroom stall to get reacquainted, and then Teague would basically disappear for weeks at a time until Hunter left for home or his next modeling shoot. Once he was gone, Teague became, once again, a fixture on the party and club scene. I hated the story; I hated that Teague was dancing with him just for fun; and I hated most of all that I was jealous. I could taste it in my mouth. Just watching Hunter Raul with his hands all over my boy was taking the air slowly out of the room. The fact that it was my fault was not helping. To appear confident and nonchalant, I had basically pushed Teague into another man's arms. I was acting so blasé that I had everyone impressed with how secure I was, even my buddy David who had come along with us on the outing. I thought he knew me better, but he had no idea I was twisted up inside. "Jesus, Rob, they look fuckin' hot together." David was right. They were both tall and golden and covered in rippling muscles from strenuous gym workouts. They looked like what they were: models. Hunter apparently did most of his work in Europe, where he was the darling of the very biggest names in fashion. It was easy to see why. His features looked like they were chiseled out of marble, so sharp and perfect. His eyes were bright blue and his dirty blond hair was streaked with gold and copper, hanging down thick and long to the middle of his back. He moved

2 the same way Teague did with that fluid, feline grace. The longer I watched them, the worse I felt, seeing how well they fit. I wished I'd worn different clothes. Anything that would have gotten me noticed, something more fashionable or much less all designer labels or jeans and a skin tight T-shirt either way making an impact. I felt bulky under my layers: t-shirt, dress shirt, v-neck sweater. And the cast from my car accident a week before made me lopsided and clumsy. I couldn't dance the way I usually could, so I'd elected not to. I was standing against the wall watching and when Hunter pulled Teague back against him and I saw the guy that slept in my bed smile wide and let him, I decided I needed another drink. This would be the fifth. I was hoping to feel better any second. When I turned toward the bar, I saw David. "What?" I yelled at him over the dance music. He moved over next to me, put a hand on the side of my neck, and his mouth close to my ear. "You look like you need some air." "No, just more alcohol." He shook his head, his hand sliding around the back of my neck. "No, come out to the patio and get some fresh air. You need to clear your head." I let him put his arm around my neck, pull me close, and lead me outside to the crowded patio. We found a table and he sat down beside me. I closed my eyes and breathed in the crisp night air. "You feel better?" He asked, hand on my leg. "Yeah, thanks." "You wanna go? I'll drive you home." "I can't leave without Teague." "Maybe Teague wants to stay here with Hunter." I slouched down in the chair, which inadvertently moved his hand higher up my thigh. "Knock it off. You know he doesn't." "Why doesn't he?" "Cause he loves me and wants to come home with me." "Oh, that's right. It's only been like a couple months but he loves you." I smiled because the sarcasm was just dripping off of him, and I was a little drunk. "Quit." "New plan," he said softly, leaning forward so his breath was warm on my ear, down the side of my neck. "I'll take you home with me. Teague can come by later and pick you up."

3 "I know you think I'm stupid, but I promise you I'm not." "You need someone to take care of you." "That's me," I heard Teague say from above me. I opened my eyes and looked up at him. "I take care of him. Get up, lemme sit there." David stood and touched my hair before he walked away. Teague took his seat and put his hands on my chest. "You better finish dancing." I almost growled at him, my voice thick with anger. "And don't touch me," I snapped, trying to brush him away. He laughed, leaning closer, smoothing the back of his fingers down my throat. "I am finished." "No you're not," I said irritably. "I saw you. You're having a great fuckin' time." "Serves you right, asshole." He smiled wide when he said it, and then kissed my ear. When he breathed out I felt the shiver slice through me. It felt so good. He chuckled and it was deep. I heard the very satisfied, very masculine sound in his laughter like he knew he had me. "You don't send your partner off to dance with an old lover, no matter how cool and unaffected you wanna look." I tried to sit up but he wouldn't let me. "I wasn't trying to look " "Yeah, ya were," he cut me off, sliding out of his chair and into my lap. He straddled my hips, pushing his groin into my abdomen. "You're trying to show everybody how much you don't care." "I care," I grumbled, glaring at him. "Get off me." He shifted in my lap. "No." I stared into his eyes, into all that dark, glittering green. "You trusted me not to do anything but dance with him." "That's right. I do trust you." "I know, but that doesn't mean you gotta make me do stuff you're gonna hate watching." I shrugged. "I don't know how to play this game." "It's not a game," he smiled at me, pressing his ass into my groin. "If you feel like saying no, say no." "But that's not fair to you." "That's ridiculous. It's one thing if you're not around and I go do something on my own. It's another thing altogether if you're here, you tell me to go dance, and when I do you get mad. That's just plain stupid." "I don't own you, Teague. You do what you want."

4 "Is that right? Whatever I want?" And I wanted to be mad because I was jealous. I could barely breathe but at the same time there was heat between us, and he felt so good in my lap. When he leaned forward, his mouth on my throat, I lifted so he could reach more of me. "I've never seen you jealous before." He chuckled and kissed a line from my jaw to the back of my ear. I trembled under him. "And even though seeing you all flustered is a huge turn on, I don't want you to feel this way. There's no reason for it. You're the only one I will ever sleep with again." I let out a deep breath as he leaned back to look at me. "I love you." He said softly. I stared into his eyes as he held me, my face in his hands. "C'mon." He smiled lazily, rising so I could get up. "Let's go." "Teague?" I asked, following behind him as we made our way through the crowd. "What?" "You don't miss all this? All the clubbing and the partying?" "No," he said as we got to the coatroom and he passed the guy the claim check. "I wouldn't have even danced with Hunter, except you insisted." "How come you don't miss it?" He shrugged. "'Cause I did it for so long." "So what's exciting to you, then?" He glanced at me. "You and me. That's exciting." No doubt about it, I was an idiot. "I'm so stupid," I confessed when he gave me my peacoat. "This is what I've been saying," he agreed way too quickly, grinning in that way that lit up his eyes. He squeezed my shoulder and then steered me out the front door. When I was outside on the sidewalk, I took a deep breath. It hurt just a little. "Ribs sore?" he asked as he stepped to the curb to hail a cab. They were, still. I was bruised all over from the accident along with my broken arm. "No." He scowled at me. "I told you we shouldn't have come out tonight. You should be home, lying in bed, watching TV."

5 "But I don't wanna keep you home, bored out of your mind." "As long as you're there, I'm good." "But I " "Teague!" We both turned as Hunter came walking down the street toward us. "Where you going?" He asked, hand going out toward Teague. You could tell he was used to touching him whenever he wanted. They had that familiarity that lovers have, that way around each other that let you know without being told that they were more than friends. "I turned around and you were gone." Teague took the smallest step sideways, just out of reach, so subtle a movement yet so telling at the same time. Hunter's scowl was instant, his eyes darkened. Even in the street under neon you could tell. When he reached his hand for Teague's face, my boyfriend tilted sideways and Hunter came up short. "What's going on?" "We're gonna go home," Teague smiled at him. "My boy's on the mend, as you can see." "What?" Hunter was confused. "You don't wanna dance anymore?" "No." Teague smiled easily. " I'll see ya around." "What?" Hunter repeated, clearly confused about what was happening. "Take care all right?" Teague said, offering his hand to shake. Hunter looked at him. "I'm not gonna see you?" Teague put his hand up under my coat since it was obvious Hunter wasn't going to take it, and fisted it in the back of my sweater. "No, you will. I'm sure we'll run into each other again before you leave, or gimme a call and the three of us can grab some dinner." "Yeah but " he stopped himself, glancing around quickly. "Oh." And it was like he really saw me for the first time. "Okay. Whatever, man." He shrugged, turned around, and walked back toward the club. Obviously he thought it was Teague's loss. "Hey," I reached out for my boyfriend's shoulder. "What?" "He's just being a dick because he's upset." He looked at me like I was nuts. "What?" Brows furrowed, scowling.

6 " Hunter acting like it was no sweat off his back if you were with him or not. I mean, we both know he's pissed as hell that he doesn't get to spend time with you." One golden eyebrow rose as he looked at me. "I could give a shit what he thinks, Rob. Christ, the crap you think I care about." "I'm sure he'll try and call you to " "No," he cut me off. "Hunter has way too much pride to ever speak to me again after that." "Sorry." He gave me a look. "You obviously need rest." "You seriously don't care?" "No, why would I care?" He was at a complete loss. "You guys were friends a long time." "We were never friends." "But you were lovers." He was scowling at me. "So? How does that make us close?" "It makes us close." "It's not the same. You and I are together." I just didn't get that. But I didn't understand the whole casual sex thing either. Friends with benefits. None of that had ever made any sense to me. "You and Hunter weren't " "No, Rob, it was nothing." It always meant something when I slept with anyone. We were made different. "What?" I shook my head. "You think cause I slept around before that I could do it again?" "No." He nodded. "C'mon, let's go home." In the cab, after a few minutes of giving him space, I moved back over beside him, my knee, my thigh, and my shoulder all pressing against him.

7 "I wondered why you were sitting so far away," he breathed against my ear. "I didn't want to crowd you." "Crowd me," he whispered, his hand on my thigh. I leaned into him and he put his arm around my neck and his hand in my hair. I started to relax, and when he laid his cheek on the top of my head, I closed my eyes. "Thanks for coming with me instead of staying to dance with Hunter," I teased him. "Shut-up," he said gruffly. "Do me a favor and don't dance with anyone who wants to sleep with you anymore, okay?" "Agreed," he said, and I could hear the smile in his voice as he rubbed his cheek and then his chin in my hair. "And you don't offer up my services." "I won't. I know better now." "I love you, Robert Owens." My head fell back on his shoulder so he could reach my mouth. "I love you back." "I know." He chuckled as he bent and kissed me.

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