Page 29 of Eight Dates

Font Size:  

The guy was tall and very broad, with dark blond hair and a small grin on his face. His nose was buried in his phone, but he looked up the second Ben appeared. His eyes did the usual thing, scanning him from head to toe, and then he shrugged and stood up.

He towered over Ben by at least six inches, and his hand engulfed Ben’s when he extended it. “Better late than never,” he said.

Ben winced. “I’m so sorry. It was a rough day.”

Charlie gave an unimpressed hum, but he wasn’t fleeing, so that was something. He sat back down as Ben shucked his coat and darted a glance over his shoulder, but he was startled when he saw a woman behind the bar instead of Nova.

“You bi?”

Ben blinked, startled by the question. “Uh. No. I’m gay. Why?”

“Eye-fucking the bartender isn’t really cute on a first date.”

“No. No, God,” Ben fumbled as he sat. “That’s not…I’m friends with the usual bartender, is all.”

Charlie’s lip twitched, and then he burst into laughter. “I’m just giving you shit. I’m kind of a jokester.”

Ben’s stomach twisted, and he thought back to what Nova had said the night before. Charlie looked like the kind of guy who tormented people like Nova. And his attitude spoke the same. “I see. Well, it’s nice to meet you, and I’m sorry again for being late.”

“It’s fine. You can buy me dinner and suck my dick to make up for it,” Charlie said.

Ben swallowed heavily and went for a half laugh, which seemed to pacify his date. “Did you order already? I was thinking—”

“I’m not hungry. I was thinking drinks, and then we can get the fuck out of here. This place is a goddamn dive, and the last thing I need is to be shitting my brains out the week before I have to go home.”

Ben laughed again, the sound thready. “Oh, right. I mean, the food here’s fine, but—”

“Yeah. I’m sure you have a stomach like iron, surviving on that university junk. I’m surprised I managed it as a student,” Charlie said with a toothy grin.

Ben cleared his throat and decided he wasn’t going to debate this man. His heart was sitting somewhere near his feet because it was obvious he wasn’t getting a rescue today. Whatever happened last night, it had scared Nova off, and Ben couldn’t blame him. He’d probably been too needy and too forward.

“Well, drinks are fine,” he said.

Charlie lifted his hand into the air and whistled loudly, then snapped his fingers. “Yo, sweetheart. We need to order.”

Holy fuck, she was going to spit in their ice. Ben tried not to look totally mortified as the server came over and glared.

“What’s your most expensive scotch?” Charlie looked over at Ben and grinned. “Order whatever you want. It’s on me.”

Ben wasn’t listening as the server rattled off a few brand names, and Charlie ordered before she turned her attention to him. Ben cleared his throat. “Just tonic with lime, thanks.”

“Fuck no. You need to order a drink,” Charlie demanded.

Ben shook his head. “I’m driving.”

Leering, Charlie leaned forward. “Nah. You’re not driving. We’ll take an Uber after this. Just bring him a scotch and soda with his fuckin’ lime.”

The server gave him a terrified look, and Ben shrugged. Charlie could order it all he wanted, but Ben wasn’t going to drink it. In fact, he was seconds away from standing up when Charlie suddenly burst into laughter.

“Aw, shit. I think the guy at the front is some kid I used to bully back in high school.”

Ben stared at him with wild, wide eyes. He’d met plenty of people who’d been childhood bullies, but he’d never met anyone who readily and openly admitted to it. He tried to glance over his shoulder, but Charlie grabbed his wrist in a painful hold.

“Don’t fuckin’ look.”

Ben wrenched himself away. “Why do you care if he sees me?”

“Because that lil fucker will know I remember him, and he’ll want an apology or something,” Charlie said.