How I Met Your Father
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The man of your dreams could be sitting right next to you.
Former boy band member Justin Hayes isn’t looking for a man. He just wants a quiet, scandal-free Christmas at home in Chicago, out of the public eye. But his best friend and bandmate is subjecting everyone to his destination wedding, and Justin can’t dodge the “best man” bullet. All he has to do is get to the island on time, survive the reunion, and get Chuck to the altar with as little drama as possible. What could possibly go wrong?
Jack Basinger’s own plans for a quiet Christmas have been dashed by the summons to his daughter’s hasty wedding with a man Jack has hardly met. On the bumpy flight to the island, he finds himself comforting a nervous—and extremely attractive—young man. One hasty sexual encounter in an airport bathroom later, they both feel much better. No one ever has to know, after all.
Now Justin and Jack must find a way to explore their attraction, despite the distractions of disapproving family members, unexpected announcements, an impromptu concert, and an island paradise that proves there’s no place like home.
20% of all proceeds from this title are donated to the Ali Forney Center in New York, whose mission “is to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth from the harm of homelessness, and to support them in becoming safe and independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood.” To learn more about this charity or to donate directly, please visit http://www.aliforneycenter.org/.
This title comes with no special warnings.
Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish.
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The flight attendant steadied herself against the turbulence as she’d probably done a million times before—absently. Like it was no big deal. She simply slapped a hand against the overhead bin and waited, and when we leveled, she smiled directly at me as she walked by.
I pushed my sunglasses back into place, swallowed a straw-full of watery rum and coke, and concentrated on the view outside my window before the stewardess got it in her head to speak to me again. A few wispy clouds separated us from the wide blue Caribbean waters sparkling thirty thousand feet below. In twenty minutes or so, we’d land in San Juan, and I’d flee this tin tube. We were basically coasting at this point. I could make it. I could fly. I’d been in the air all day, shitty as the flights had been.
My stomach lurched as we dipped, and the Fasten Seatbelt indicator binged a split second later.
“Return to your seats . . . fasten your seatbelts . . .” I lost half of what the captain was saying as his voice crackled over the intercom. Panic seized my gut as I caught a bit about “rough air,” and I squeezed my drink until the cup crackled. I almost crossed myself.
I focused on the passenger in the seat beside me. He hadn’t moved, resting like we all weren’t about to go down in a giant ball of flames. His thick arms were still folded across his chest and, while his eyes were closed, he wasn’t sleeping. Golden hair sprinkled his wrists and forearms. A big watch glimmered in a ray of warm sunshine. Blond and red whiskers stippled his square jaw, and his hair seemed too shaggy for the boardroom, curling at his neck and around his ears.
He frowned and sighed, “Goddamn San Juan,” and because he hadn’t said anything other than “more coffee” since we’d boarded, I nodded. Goddamn San Juan, indeed.
Turbulence wasn’t new to me. I’d never flown to San Juan without experiencing bumps along the way, like a trial by fear was the price one paid to enter paradise. And it was because of this vast experience with Caribbean bumps that I’d proactively ordered a drink as soon as Florida’s coastline had faded from view.
I clung to that drink as the plane plummeted like a roller coaster hitting its first, death-defying drop. We dipped hard to the squealing delight of some teenager girls seated in coach. I remained silent, but inside, a litany of fuck fuck fuck rattled around my head.
The flight attendant stumbled as the aircraft righted itself as suddenly as it had wronged itself, and while I knew, knew, it was only turbulence—we’d simply flown into rising air currents, as Bill Nye the breezy Science Guy had once explained at the Nickelodeon Awards—my heart pummeled my sternum.
The man next to me remained unfazed, but something mechanically significant could have happened and none of us would be the wiser. Crazy things happened every day—all you had to do was watch the news. Engine failure. Pilot error. Flocks of birds took entire aircrafts out of the sky. Wings fell off planes. Batteries caught fire. It happened all the damn time.
Yet the world beyond my window remained sprightly sunshine and clear skies. No smoke trails. No flaming engines. No burning feathers, and no ocean rushing to meet me at five hundred miles per hour. Just endless, cerulean water. I peeled my knuckles from the armrest and laid my hand in my lap. My fingers twitched.
Turbulence. It’s nothing.
Though it felt like something when the plane stuttered again through the wild blue yonder and the next dip lifted my ass clear off the seat by a good three inches. I freaking floated above my flotation seat cushion and my stomach dropped to my toes, because technically? We were falling. And the man beside me? His eyes finally snapped wide as we slammed back into our seats.
“Jesus.” I downed my drink before it soaked my crotch. The engines roared healthily as an anxious silence descended throughout the cabin. Not one word of comfort or explanation from the pilot either, that dick.
Maybe he had more important things to do—like fly the plane.
The blond guy had flattened a palm against the seat back in front of him during the last drop, probably to keep himself from smacking his skull on the overhead compartment. His eyes narrowed on our flight attendant.
She smiled woodenly, and we shot through another wall of rough air. This time, the teens wheee!’d less energetically. The wings tilted as we rolled to the left, then the right, and as I rechecked the security of my seatbelt, the plane leveled.
The Golden Man actually smiled. “Relax. It’ll be over in a minute. We’re fine.”
I didn’t feel fine. I felt like I was having a heart attack. “Sure.”
He didn’t look fine, either. Beneath his tan, he looked . . . impatient, like the flight would go much more smoothly if he were the one at the controls. He checked his watch.
Another dip launched our flight attendant sideways. She smacked into the cockpit door face-first and dissolved to the carpet. I moved to help, but my neighbor gripped my sleeve. “Stay. She knows what she’s doing. You’ll only distract her.”
The stewardess staggered to her feet, a sober trickle of blood running from her nose. She staunched the flow with a napkin as her gaze swept the cabin, landing briefly on each of us as she cataloged our welfare.
The captain’s voice returned. “Flight attendants, please be seated.” Anxiety ripped through me and threatened to chuck up my rum and coke.
A redheaded stewardess arrived through the curtain. She flipped the jump seats down, and the two women fastened themselves into individual five-point harnesses that were a hell of a lot sturdier than the flimsy two-pointers we passengers had buckled over our laps. Once the women were settled, the redhead frowned over her coworker’s injury.
We were all pretty much frowning.
The blond man’s stare met mine, his irises gleaming like quicksilver. Unfriendly lines bracketed his mouth. “I’ve flown in worse. This is nothing.”
I’d flown through worse too, and for that reason, I’d considered washing an Ambien down with my drink while we were still on the ground in Atlanta. I would have, except drink mixed with drug never turned out as well as one hoped, and besides, I needed to function upon arrival. I had twenty minutes to connect with a commuter flight to Nevis and get my ass to Chuck’s hasty Yuletide wedding. I had the gang to reconnect with—we were the groomsmen, after all.
We shot toward a new pocket of rough air. Bang, bang, bump, lift. Fall. Fear. Fuck. My cup hit the floor, and I didn’t retrieve it.
We were so damn close to Puerto Rico. Goddamn, we were almost there. It had been what? Five minutes of turbulence? Not much to most seasoned travelers, though it felt like an eternity to me as adrenaline leaked into my system. But if we were in actual danger, the flight attendants would do something heroic, right?
I glanced at the bleeding woman strapped securely in what looked like a parachute. Then I prayed.
Please don’t let me miss Chuck’s wedding.
Please don’t let me puke, and if I do, don’t let anyone recognize me.
I needed to get a grip.
Keep the plane in the sky. Let us land. It’s turbulence, for crying out loud. I refuse to die by cloud fart.
Something brushed my knuckle. Something warm and rough and steady. Mid full-blown panic attack, my eyes jerked open.
Mr. Golden Man.
He’d reached over the armrest—hand hovering above my lap, fingers stroking the backs of mine.
What. The. Hell? I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t flinch or pull away, which I should have, but fear of imminent death pinned me in place. My throat clicked as I swallowed, my skin tingling, my face burning. His posture didn’t reflect impatience now. No. He appeared rock steady.
The plane shuddered again, accompanied by the tinny, metallic sound of struts and bolts straining, and instead of rational and strong and fucking normal—I clung.
He stroked my knuckles with a tender brush of skin against skin. “We’re fine”—voice pitched so only I could hear—“Relax.”
He moved against the armrest, and our shoulders bumped. His fingertips breezed across my clenched fist, and that simple contact traveled dart-like through bone and sinew, from knuckle to joint, ball to socket, tendon to ligament, from wrist to elbow, and shoulder to chest. His touch pierced my ribs, and the fear dissipated. I loosened my grip as a strange new feeling nestled behind my breastbone.
“I’m okay.” I cleared the lump in my throat and breathed a little easier. “But what . . . are you doing?”
“Distracting you.” He smiled easily, no hint of recognition in his eyes, and I realized he didn’t know. He had no clue who he was sitting next to. Whose hand he was holding. “Your color’s better. You’re not hyperventilating now. See? You’re fine.”
I nodded, not because I agreed, but because I couldn’t speak as the plane bounced through the air like a rubber ball, rattling my skull and flinging crap inside the overhead bins. Engines whistled outside the windows, and a beverage cart crashed in the galley.
He turned my hand over so we were palm to palm. Firm and tight—he measured our hands. Did he think they fit together? They felt right to me. Almost like his hand had been made for mine. I glanced at the flight attendants, and thank God, neither one appeared interested in us. Dying by fiery airline crash was one thing; having a witness to this public coddling was another.
And no shit, he laced our fingers and actually held my hand. Held it like he meant it.
Maybe I wanted to die after all.
Or maybe embarrassment would flat out kill me. If I could sink through the floor, into the baggage hold, straight through aluminum alloy, and freaking free-fall thirty thousand feet to the cool water below, I totally might do it. No one would ever know that Justin Hayes—whose face had once graced a million lunchboxes across America, for God’s sake—needed his limp-wristed hand held on the scary airplane ride.
And, Jesus, I did. I really, really did.
The man’s eyes crinkled at the edges, and when he squeezed my hand again, my heart skipped. Woodsy aftershave flooded my senses.
The tiny second hand chased a staccato path around the face of his watch, tick-tick tick-tick tick-tick tick, and as time whipped by, my pulse marched with Tag Heuer. Mr. Golden Man and I bumped in our seats, fingers forged together like iron.
For better or worse, I couldn’t let go.
“It’ll be over in a sec,” he said.
“You keep saying that. Like you know.”
“I’m right. You’ll see. Piece of cake. He’s found a better altitude.”
And as if by his command, the flight leveled. A few more seconds ticked past, then voices began to peck through the silence. Someone laughed. The captain made his crackling reappearance on the intercom, that foot-dragging asshole, saying we’d “dropped to a more comfortable altitude” and we were “on our approach to San Juan.” Outside the narrow window, I caught a glimpse of Puerto Rico’s rocky coastline.
My champion or protector or whatever he was—this touchy-feely stranger—held tight. When his thick thumb nudged into the hot space between our joined hands, I finally found my balls and shook free. I didn’t need his help. I shoved his hand from my lap, my skin so hot I expected to spontaneous combust, ironically bring the whole fucking plane down anyway.
Scrubbing my hand against my jeans didn’t remove the feel of him. Did it offend him? I didn’t give a rat’s ass. I glared out the window, wishing I’d swallowed an Ambien in Atlanta after all.
What kind of person held a stranger’s hand? And, God, what sort of grown man allowed it?
I let the sun fry the last few minutes away. It cooked my burning face as the urban sprawl appeared below.
We didn’t make contact again. Not when we landed and the passengers offered the usual Welcome to San Juan applause. Not as we taxied and I texted my assistant a curt, Landed. Not after we arrived at the gate and I tossed my seatbelt and shoved my sunglasses back onto my nose as far as they would go. Not as I crammed my Cubs cap on my spectacularly blond hair and radiated not to be fucked with.
I didn’t say Merry Christmas or Nice to meet you or Thanks for holding my hand. Goddamn. I didn’t even bother to say Excuse me as I climbed over the sun-streaked hand-holder’s knees like a rabid billy goat and bolted from the plane.
Not a Thank you to the flight attendant, either, as she wiped her bloody nose and blushed. She didn’t meet my gaze, and I clued in. Not only did she know me—I bet she still had a Rhythm Method poster packed away with her pom-poms and her prom dress—but she had witnessed that Sun God babying me.
The redheaded flight attendant opened the forward door, and I was first off the plane.
A wall of stifling humidity swamped me on the Jetway, but it didn’t slow me. My first stop in San Juan would be a tour of the restroom. Sure, I needed to clean the feel of him from my hands, right freaking now, but a bigger problem presented itself thanks to that grabby man-coddler. I wasn’t the only one who’d sat stiff and silent for the last few minutes of the flight, because that final slide and push of his thumb against my palm hadn’t been innocent. It had been sexual. More than a pass, it had been a promise.
I sped through the jam-packed terminal, ignoring announcements, the garish Christmas displays, the crush of overburdened holiday tourists, and any form of directions to my gate—both in English and Spanish. I fast-tracked my way through the crowd, sporting an unprecedented, uncomfortable, and very public erection. If anyone recognized me in this boned-up state, just one celebrity-savvy stranger with a handy-dandy cell phone, one TMZ where-are-they-now parasite, I could kiss my hard-earned privacy good-bye.
I’d nearly made it to safety, too, my dumb dick rubbing wantonly inside my underwear as I jogged, when a firm hand landed between my shoulder blades and shoved me.
The scent of aftershave gave him away.
A wide palm splayed high on my spine. Hot breath tickled my neck as he hustled us toward the family restroom. We were steps away. Something nudged my backside, probably his carry-on bag, but I came to an impossibly stiff point anyway as he all but threw me inside the bathroom.
The door slammed, the lock clicked into place, and like that, we were alone in an antiseptic, white-tiled lavatory. A couple of handrails, a toilet, a sink, and a plastic changing table strapped to the wall. Two fat koalas stared at us. The sound of our breath filled the small space.
He moved fast. Caging me against the wall, gray eyes full of sin. Cool tile chilled me through my shirt. My heart thumped. Tall. Jesus, he was so tall the top of my head barely came to his chin. He could tuck me right under. “Just trust me.”
Trust him? I didn’t trust anyone, but right now? I was in. Maybe it was the leftover adrenaline from our hellish flight, or the fact that he’d chased me from the plane, through the gate, and halfway to the next terminal, or maybe I was just desperate for human contact, or maybe this kind of trust was the easiest kind—so, yeah, I was in.
I nodded and wet my lips and his gaze followed the swipe of my tongue. A lock of golden hair touched his collar. Stubble peppered his jaw, but I focused on the shadowed spot where his open shirt met tanned skin.
Say something, you moron.
“Do you know who I am?” Instant regret. I swallowed and tried again. “I mean—”
“I don’t care.” A growl, and the world went black with a click. Our bags hit the ground, and I made room for him between my feet, my palms resting flat against the wall. He could come to me. That’s what he wanted. I was no novice at the quickie-in-the-restroom experience. I’d been on tour for years, my love life both a public relations challenge and a closely guarded industry secret. I was Justin Hayes. Spotless. Untarnished. Perfection. A real American heartthrob and favorite pinup for a generation of hormonal teenage girls. My real sex life had always been private—Chuck’s, TJ’s, and Matt’s livelihood depended upon it then—and my sanity relied on it now. So, I’d become a pro about sex on the sly.
He hovered, his breath flavored of coffee and mint, and slowly, he traced the tight seam of my mouth with a smooth stroke of tongue. He laid a gentle, teasing, nice-to-meet-you kiss on my lips.
I let go of the wall, grabbed his hair, and yanked him close. I didn’t have time for bullshit. I had a fucking plane to catch. I needed him to open his damn mouth, which he did with a groan. Lust ripped through me, drowning everything beyond the four bathroom walls, because everything I needed was right here. Right now. Right inside his mouth, in the exquisite taste of him—whoever the hell he was.
It didn’t matter. All that mattered was that he jacked me up that wall, hands touching everything. Holding me, grinding me, fingers sliding buttons free like a libertine. He used his strength, his height, his obvious expertise, and shoved me right to the raging edge.
He freed my belt as our whiskers scraped together and his hot mouth explored my neck. His knuckles brushed my stomach as he slid into my underwear, then rooted for my cock.
My dick met his hand, and need clawed a path from my balls to the head of my dick. I yanked his shirt from his pants, fumbled his impossible belt, until, at last, I slid home and a soft spring of hair grazed my fingers. I clutched his hard cock.
Man, this was gonna be quick. It needed to be, so I let it happen. Seesawing together, jeans at half-mast. Somehow my shirt pushed to my armpits, and we just kept working and sweating as Flight 702 pre-boarded for any passengers needing a little extra assistance.
“Oh fuck yeah.” Airport talk. I didn’t care if it was twisted, it turned me the fuck on. I spun to face the tile, backing into his boner until his hard dick hit the cleft of my ass. “Bite me.”
Sweet pain pierced my neck as his teeth closed on my skin, and I was lost. We dry fucked each other into a frenzy. He masturbated me with one hand and worked himself against that dirty spot between my thighs, nudging into the worn space there, pinching the flesh of my balls. I trapped him with my legs.
Fast. So fucking fast and full of the kinds of noises no bystander should hear outside the family restroom. I couldn’t have predicted that this moment, this sex, this stranger, would trip me into a mind-shattering, life-altering orgasm.
“Talk to me.” He grunted against my neck. “You like this?”
I babbled something incoherent, fuck yeah, yes. I loved it. Faster, harder, who the fuck knew what I said—but everyone in the airport probably heard it—and my cork popped as he jackhammered my cock in his fist. He blasted cum into my underwear, his teeth working the tight edge of my trapezium the whole time. I’d have a mark there—a toothy round bruise to remember him by. His cheek grazed mine and he groaned and I groaned and people passed on the other side of the thin door. A cart beeped. My fucking heart exploded, or it felt that way to me. I couldn’t breathe, but I sort of didn’t want to anyway. I just wanted to stay right there, quaking into this stranger’s talented hand.
“You okay?” I wheezed like a smoker running a four-minute mile.
“Pretty much. I’m good.” He didn’t move, and I felt a flicker of concern as he pinned me. How old was he anyway? Did he have a heart condition? Jesus. Maybe I’d killed him.
I wiped sweat from my face with the back of my wrist, and another second passed before he finally tucked himself into his pants. Harsh fluorescent light exploded against my eyeballs, and I grabbed for my jeans. The water ran. He cleaned up. I did my best to quickly do the same, because my flight must be boarding. And as soon as I got on that plane, my Calvin Kleins were getting tossed in the lav.
“I’m Jack, by the way.” He buttoned his silk Tommy Bahama shirt, and I just smiled stupidly. He looked exactly like a Jack. He waited, and I realized I hadn’t offered him my name.
“I’m . . .” Some long practiced sense of self-preservation kicked in and I held back. “. . . I’m hoping you don’t tell me you’re a cop.”
“Nope.” He checked that fancy watch again. “And no one saw us come in.”
“Pretty sure of yourself, aren’t you?”
“I am.” His smile confirmed it. “We should go. My flight’s about to leave.”
“Yeah. Mine too.” It was almost too easy.
“You go first. I’ll follow in a sec.”
I cracked the door an inch. “So. Uhm. Thanks.” I returned his smile. “For what you did on the plane, I mean. And, uh . . . I . . . appreciated it.”
“The pleasure was all mine.” He winked, and thin lines radiated from his pale eyes. Strands of silver and ash highlighted his wanton hair. My heart actually skipped a beat. Justin Hayes paled next to Jack’s rugged matinee idol smile.
“Merry Christmas.” I opened the door to the packed corridor and hadn’t taken a single step before a woman’s voice cut through my happy haze.
“Justin? Is that you? Justin Hayes?” A young woman in a yellow sundress zeroed in on me from behind her enormous white sunglasses. A fan? A stalker? TMZ? Sometimes the line blurred impossibly, and one couldn’t read ill intent until it was too late.
I ducked backward, content with hiding in the bathroom. I should have pushed forward, but post-orgasm, I didn’t have the energy. Had she taken a photo? I hadn’t seen a cell phone or a camera, but that meant nothing—everyone had a cell phone.
Before I could shut the door, Jack collided into my back. “What the—”
He acted quickly, assessing the threat almost as if he were trained to do so. Instead of hiding, he shoved me forward, just as he had earlier, his broad hand settling again between my shoulder blades. He wordlessly threaded us through the teaming masses before anyone else recognized me, or before my fan realized I’d just left the private restroom with another dude. Jack towered over me, and he sort of hid me as well. A bag hit my knee and I went ass over tip into the food court, but he yanked my shirt and in no time, we hit the stairs to the tiny lower concourse. When Jack’s hand eased, I turned to look, and he was gone.
This was a fun one.
[A] great read with a wonderful message.
I was truly impressed with how much depth and development took place in the story.
In true LB Gregg fashion I laughed my ass off.