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Class Action Love: A Contemporary Gay Romance by Peter Styles (1)

1

Dean

There was a goddamn rock concert going on inside my skull. A roll of nausea seemed to be tied to my vision. My eyes snapped shut again and I swallowed around my heaving stomach. Oh, holy shit. What the hell happened last night?

How much did I drink? The sun was too high in the window for it to be a weekday, thank God, so it had to be Saturday.

Yeah, okay. I remembered work yesterday—a long day, preparing for the transfers from the Boston branch all week, meeting with the partners at five— then Garth and the guys at the Yellow Tail Bar. There was beer and, sure, maybe a shot or two, and—

Goddamn, my head hurt. How much did I have to drink?

I groaned and rolled over, trying to burrow far enough into the covers that I’d suffocate the entire band and every single audience member currently using my skull as a venue.

My heart and stomach decided to play a game of chicken, threatening each other to fall out of my mouth first.

I groaned.

Something groaned back.

After Freezing for a second, I carefully forced my head to the side and opened one eye.

A face stared back at me.

“Shit!” I said. The guy and I both winced. His hands flew up to cover his face and he growled—actually, seriously growled.

“If you’d please be quiet, I would deeply appreciate it.” The guy’s voice was rough and low, like it hadn’t been used in a long time—or, and holy shit that was probably more likely, it’d been used. A lot.

My stomach flipped but this time, I couldn’t really blame the nausea.

The guy’s hands fell from his face. God bless my drunk confidence. I considered patting myself on the back but judging from guy’s pinched frown, he might not have appreciated that.

His dark hair stuck up in a thousand different directions—shit, I probably had a lot to do with that—and his wide eyes, though bloodshot, were the brightest green I’d ever seen.

He was— definitely worth the rock concert in my head.

Worth it, but this moment would have been much more enjoyable if I could focus entirely on how good he looked against my green comforter, instead of on keeping the nausea at bay.

“I—sorry?” the apology came out as a question. There was a man in my bed. A very attractive, very grumpy, and did I mention very attractive man in my bed. He looked at me, frowning, his expression discerning.

I probably should’ve been a bit more worried. I had no idea who this guy was. A one-night stand from the bar, obviously, but that didn’t exactly clear things up. I hadn’t been a stranger to the one-night stand bachelor life in my twenties—but the bigger the company got, the busier I became at work, and I wasn’t exactly known for my prowess anymore.

Getting blackout drunk didn’t happen anymore either—apparently last night had been one of me breaking my stereotypes.

Hanging out at Yellow Tail happened once a week, either with my friends or the guys from work. It was a smaller bar with cheap whiskey and good music and a string of regulars who rarely altered. I’d never seen this guy before, I would’ve remembered that face—and I’d never taken someone home from Yellow Tail. Long lashes, full pink lips, sharp jaw and cheekbones—he looked like the guy you fantasized about after a night at a bar, not the kind you brought home.

Still being asleep and having a very vivid dream of a handsome stranger was a possibility. And hey, work had been hell lately. The headache hurt a little too much to take that theory seriously.

The guy cleared his throat and my eyes snapped down. His Adam’s apple bobbed, and I became acutely aware that my eyes were probably glazing over. The dark stubble on his jaw spread down his throat contrasted with his smooth, pale skin. Did it count as objectifying if we’d already hooked up?

“Forgive me,” the guy said, wincing as he shifted into a sitting position. He frowned down at me, eyes squinting as if he couldn’t quite place me either. The lines pulling at his face made him look older. “But I don’t remember your name.”

I almost laughed. He sounded apologetic, as if he had wracked his brain to come up with an appropriate thing to call me. I figured it was good that we were breaking even on the black out thing. It took me a minute, but eventually I managed to sit, leaning against the headboard next to him. My head swam from the movement and I froze, taking a minute to still my stomach and swear to every deity I kne to never drink again.

When the dizziness slowed a little, I tried again. “I’m Dean.” I stuck out my hand out and grinned.

The guy’s small smile crinkled the skin around his eyes and gave him deep dimples. It was just the slightest lift of the corner of his mouth, and it made me want to see what it took to make him smile wide. He slid his hand into mine. His hand was rough, just this side of calloused, and warm. A shiver I decidedly ignored ran down my spine. “I’m Jimmy.”

“Jimmy.” I rolled the name on my tongue. His eyes widened, just a little, and with a vicious start, I wanted to hear him say my name. My mouth felt too dry to use, but I still croaked, “Nice to meet you.”

His smile softened to something more genuine, stretching distracting pink, chapped lips. “And you.”

The sheets pooled around our waists and I focused on expanding my peripheral vision to the tanned, smooth plains of his chest and shoulders. Something dark in the bottom corner of my vision, something distinctly like the ink of a tattoo. The curiosity that shot through me was as distracting as his lips had been. But then he ran his tongue over his bottom lip.

“So, do—” I cleared my throat. My face felt hot and I imagined the bright pink color. “Do you remember anything about last night?”

I became acutely aware that my hand was still in his. It spurred on the blush crawling up my chest. I withdrew quickly, crossing my arms in an attempt at nonchalance.

Luckily, Jimmy’s face turned a light shade of pink, too. Blushing was a lot less embarrassing when the hot stranger was doing it. His bottom lip slipped between his teeth and he worried it.

“Well,” his voice surprised me. I jumped, my eyes tearing away from his mouth. “I remember you at the bar.”

“You do?” Looking at him now, it seemed crazy that I wouldn’t remember him.

“You were pretty drunk,” Jimmy said, almost apologetically, “and then so was I.”

My eyes narrowed. If drunk me accosted this poor guy, everyone and their mother were going to berate me. “Did I get you drunk?”

His mouth twitched before his face smoothed into a mask. “I highly doubt it. I believe my brother beat you to it once—” He cleared his throat, fidgeting a little. His hands smoothed down the wrinkles in the sheets on his lap. He was nervous. I grinned.

“Once?” I was definitely enjoying this more than I should have been.

He sighed heavily as if put out. “Once he realized I was—distracted. By you.”

My grin became sharper. Jimmy’s cheeks darkened, and he rolled his eyes. “Shut up,” he said with no heat.

My face was going to hurt from grinning so much. “I’m sure I was distracted by you, too,” I offered.

Jimmy’s teeth sank into his bottom lip, a deeply distracting offense. His head tilted, and bright green eyes narrowed as he considered me. Then he let go of his bottom lip with a pop. “You were.”

Heat flashed through me quick enough that if my headache hadn’t been roaring, I was sure I would have done something very, very stupid. “So–” I swallowed, my throat too dry. I needed water and food and a truckload of ibuprofen. And also this guy’s number. “Want some breakfast?”

Jimmy perked up, eyes widening. He glanced towards the door, considering, before nodding. “I could go for some breakfast.”

I grinned. “My kind of man.” I went to throw the covers off before remembering, right as the sheets lifted, that I was naked. I slapped them back and shot a quick look at Jimmy. He stared at the wall, feigning innocence. His bright red face and firmly rigid shoulders gave him away.

“Um, I just—no pants.” I wondered if the combination of humiliation and hangover was enough to actually kill someone. At the very least my death was going to start a medical conversation. “I’ll just—”

Technically, he’d seen me naked. But since he didn’t remember and, more importantly, I didn’t remember, it hardly felt fair that the hot stranger’s first look at me would be the morning after. The alcohol was in its worst stage and I was so not going to be looking my best.

Jimmy glanced at me before looking back at the wall. Then he lifted his hands and covered his face. Muffled from his palms, he said, “Please throw me my clothes if you happen to find them.”

I laughed, hard and surprised. His hands were big and his fingers long. His hair stood up around his face, the dark mess thick and sort of curly. I waved a hand in front of his face and when he didn’t react, slowly slid out from the covers.

My boxers were flung on the dresser, yesterday’s rumpled work clothes were all over the floor. I grabbed a pair of clean boxers from the dresser and a pair of sweatpants.

I nearly tripped in my effort to dress quickly, cursing under my breath. Jimmy let out a huff that might’ve been a laugh but kept his hands firmly covering his face.

It was a nice gesture. Judging from his face and chest alone, I didn’t think I’d have been as nice.

Finding Jimmy’s clothes proved to be trickier. His boxers—black satin, Jesus, he hadn't been messing around—were by the bed, but other than that, it looked like Jimmy had just appeared standing next to my bed half-naked, like a drunken fantasy.

“You sure you had clothes on?” I asked him.

He huffed again, but this one sounded more exasperated than laugh. “Yes. Can I remove my hands yet?”

I glanced back at him. He looked nice like that, forearms looking strong, but— “Sure.”

He dropped his hands. A shiver ran down my spine at the long, slow way he dragged his eyes down my bare chest. When his eyes finally snapped back to my face, his lips were parted. “I don’t remember removing my clothes.” The gravel in his voice had come back.

From this angle, Jimmy had to stare up at me. His green eyes looked bigger, the color brighter. The memory of his voice felt physical, like its roughness could scrape against me. My skin felt hot and too tight and the hangover, though pounding through my head and rolling my stomach, had nothing on the drunk way him looking up at me made me feel.

The dark ink I had seen earlier was a tattoo, thin black lines that intertwined and wove away from each other to create the most intricate, delicate tattoo I’d ever seen. I wanted to sit close and study it, figure out its curves and exact meaning.

My throat threatened to close. I swallowed, ignoring the dry sound of it. “I—can’t find your clothes.”

Jimmy frowned and looked down at the floor, as if they were there. “That’s unfortunate considering how extremely naked I am now.”

Or is it very, very fortunate indeed?

My skin buzzed. I cleared my throat.

“I’ll look,” Jimmy said, moving to get up.

Quickly, I held out a hand to stop him and stooped to grab his boxers. I tossed them to him. “I’ll, um, go start breakfast. Good luck on the hunt.”

I fled from the bedroom, closing the door behind me. There were a pair of dark jeans in the hallway.

I hesitated, considering taking them back into the room. Then I heard the rustling sheets and darted out of the hallway towards my kitchen. He’d find them, probably.

It wasn’t like I was a prude or anything. But—naked, in front of me with a sex voice and messed up hair stranger? I didn’t have the energy to do anything or the self-control to resist.

I closed the kitchen door behind me too hard, wincing at the loud bang. Now that the surprise of Jimmy was out of my immediate concern, the rock concert hangover was back in full force.

I downed two cups of water fast, then splashed water on my face. I needed to brush my teeth but that meant going back to the other side of the house and—well, nope. Just nope.

I popped a few ibuprofen and started the coffee machine, trying to ignore my shaking hands. Then I let my head fall against the refrigerator.

The second my eyes closed, I saw dark-brown hair, green eyes and a tattoo that I desperately wanted to outline with my fingers and tongue.

I groaned out loud. What the hell had I gotten myself into?

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