The answer is on the tip of my tongue. Because you dared me.
But that hardly covers a one-hundred-thousand-dollar date. The dare isn’t all of it.
“That’s a good question,” I say. But I’m starting to figure out the answer.
Because I wanted to bid on him.
When Nate leaves to meet Tanner, I hang behind, not wanting to bump into the two of them on the street. Not after I feel like I served up a raw piece of myself.
Alone at the counter, I text the guy I bid on last night.
Luke: Can I take you to mini golf tomorrow for our official date? We can go in the late morning, before your game. I think there’s mini golf at Hudson River Park.
There. I did it. Wasn’t so hard. Seconds later, my phone buzzes, right along with my pulse. That was fast.
Tanner: Yes. But there’s a new place in Chelsea. Strokers. I know the owner. I can make sure it’s not too crowded.
Damn. Someone is a planner. But as I stare at his message for a little longer, I key in on those last words. Not too crowded. Does that mean what I think it means?
No. It does not mean he wants to suck your dick in front of a clown at mini golf, you dog.
But, admittedly, that’s a nice image.
Minus the clown, of course.
There is no clown at Strokers.
No pirate ship or dinosaur either.
The place has a whole nighttime vibe even though it’s barely noon.
I try not to read into the private club feel of the place in Chelsea. The very date-like feel of this underground, nine-hole mini golf course, with smooth jazz-type music playing and a bar that, while not open now, serves cocktails. No milkshakes in sight. No kids either. Strokers is a twenty-one-plus mini golf spot, located under a chi-chi hotel.
Is it purposeful? Did Tanner pick this place because of the evening atmosphere it exudes?
But the answer to that question eludes me, so after we say hi to his friend—a bearded guy named Elias—we set up at the first hole, where I key in on a question I can handle.
“So…Strokers?” I ask. Since that name. That fucking name.
Tanner gives me a deliberately blank stare. “What are you getting at?”
I take a practice swing. “Do you want me to spell it out?”
With my tongue? On your chest? Or your cock?
“Sure. Try me,” he says, and those words reverberate. Try me.
Does he know I want to try him?
“Well, Tanner,” I begin, going for a playful vibe, but he’s standing close enough that his scent invades my nostrils. And my brain empties of words. Quips about stroking off die on my tongue as images flood my mind.
I’ve got to focus. Quickly, I raise the club and swing.
And the ball screams down the green, flying past the windmill, rattling onto the next hole.
“Shit,” I mutter.
The only saving grace is there’s no one playing that hole. A group of college-age girls are a few holes ahead of us.
I jog along the green and grab the purple ball from where it landed—close to the windmill.
I trot back to the tee and set the ball down again with a sheepish grin. “Balls. Sometimes they’re hard to handle,” I say…and dammit.
That’s not sexy.
Especially since I can handle balls, thank you very much. Tanner laughs softly, but his amusement is a small consolation for my humor faux pas.
Note to self: Don’t make fun of your bedroom skills when you’re trying to impress a guy.
Except, nope. I am not trying to impress my good friend.
I’m just trying to play.
I line up again, hit it again, and overshoot again, the ball smacking the edge of the hole. But at least the ball stays on this hole this time.
“Guess I better work on my stroke,” I say. Maybe humor will get me through this awkward date.
“It’s all in the wrist,” Tanner says, too smooth, and entirely too tempting.
Just like he looks right now, in those dark blue jeans, and the tight red T-shirt, and with his trim beard.
He looks better than he did for his date the other night.
I step away so I’m not infected with his dopamine as he plants his feet, raises the club, and swings effortlessly.
Bet he looks good working his wrist too.
I’ve scored woefully over par on the first four holes, and this has to stop. No matter how sexy my friend looks, I am still a competitive man.
I can’t lose this badly.
I set up two feet away from the hole by the waterwheel, my purple golf ball mocking me. It’s taken me four strokes to even get it this close. Tanner finished this hole already.
In only two strokes. He’s under par.
The picture of cool and casual, he rests his palms on his club, watching me. I t’s normal to watch your opponent play, right? Doesn’t mean anything. He’s so chill. Maybe this fire is just inside me.