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“Huh? Scoop?”

“The scoop on Noah,” Ian pressed, lowering his voice as if he were afraid that the man in question might hear him. However, considering the noise he and Andrei were making in the kitchen, there wasn’t a chance of him hearing Ian. “Think he’d go out with me if I ask him?”

That captured Rowe’s attention. “You want to go out with Noah?”

Ian smacked his shoulder and glared at him as Rowe hadn’t bothered to lower his voice. “Why wouldn’t I? He’s gorgeous. He’s nice. Funny.”

“How do you know he’s gay?”

Snow, Jude and Ian all went silent and stared at him, then Snow rolled his eyes. “How can you have such shitty gaydar when all your close friends are gay? It’s like some sort of defect you share with Lucas. You should both be ashamed.”

Rowe looked over at Ian who was regarding him like he was a strange bug that had crawled onto the table.

“Really? I mean, he’s not…flamboyant, but how can you not know?” Ian asked.

Snorting, Snow leaned over the table, light blue eyes sparkling with amusement. “Hell, you don’t even know when a guy is hitting on you. And they do. A lot.”

Rowe’s breath caught in his lungs and he stared at Ian without really seeing him as he thought back to all the years he’d spent with Noah and not knowing. His friend had to have gone out of his way to hide whatever he did sexually with other people. Tension had snapped between them for a long time before they’d given in, but until then, Rowe had always believed the attraction was more on his side even as he’d fought that part of himself. He blinked, bringing Ian back into focus to find the younger man nodding at him.

“They do. All you have to do is flash that pretty smile.”

“I do not. Shut the fuck up.” Rowe shoved Ian away from him.

“What are we talking about?” Andrei asked as he came to the table, carrying fresh drinks. Noah held some as well.

“How Rowe’s pretty smile brings all the boys to the yard,” Snow quipped.

Noah set down the drinks, stood in front of him, and grasped his chin roughly in his right hand, tilting Rowe’s head up. His fingers were cool and damp from carrying the glasses, but his touch gentled almost instantly, allowing him to rub his calloused thumb along his jaw in a caress that no one else could see. That quick touch and devilish smirk were shorting out Rowe’s brain and sending all the blood rushing to his cock. “Damn thing should come with a warning label,” Noah said before releasing him. He sat on Rowe’s other side and clasped his shoulder. “It took me forever to get used to it, then I spent half my time pulling the craziest shit I could come up with to coax it out.”

Rowe’s mouth fell open and he closed it with a snap. He needed to pull his shit together. This was Noah. But that was part of the problem. He knew what Noah tasted like, the softness of the skin on the inside of his hips, and the timbre of his moans just before he came. The memories came rushing back, leaving Rowe shifting in his seat.

Ian snorted beside him. “See? Clueless.”

Rowe stared at Noah, beating back thoughts of the one night he needed to forget about. “You’re serious?”

White teeth flashed as Noah laughed. “The first time you smiled at me, I was speechless. You don’t remember?”

“No.” Rowe frowned. “We met in a group of people.”

“Well, I remember.” He patted Rowe’s shoulder again. “No worries, Ward.” He winked and leaned across him to talk to Ian. “You did a fantastic job on those desserts. Are you planning to serve them at your restaurant?”

Before Ian could answer, Lucas cleared his throat.

Rowe glanced over to find his friend waving him from the room.

He stood and followed Lucas into the hall. “Yeah?”

“Is he in?” Lucas asked.

“Noah? Yeah, I’ve told him what’s going on. You can trust him. Why?”

“That was the fire inspector about the investigation.” He walked to his bar and pulled down a red box with a gold label.

Rowe whistled. “Must be some kind of news if you’re pulling out the Michter’s Limited Edition.”

The others noticed Lucas pouring and filed into the living room. Even Noah picked up that something was going on. He looked at Rowe and nodded toward the patio door as he walked up close. He leaned down to murmur in his ear, “Should I duck out for a few?”

“Nah, it’s cool if you stay.”

Nodding, Noah stayed standing beside him, accepting the glass of whiskey from Lucas. He looked down into his glass and the curls that fell to his chin slid forward, covering one eye. They looked soft and when he turned to look over his shoulder, fragrant peppermint hit Rowe’s nose as his hair swung by. Fuck, the scent hit him like a slap to the face. It seemed he had something else to add to all the things he’d never noticed about his friend.


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