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Counterpoint by Anna Zabo (1)

Chapter One

There wasn’t anything better than fine wine and mac and cheese made with some hipster, high-end, small-batch, aged-and-smoked cheddar, Dominic Bradley decided. Especially when it came with bacon.

God bless New York City. Or more specifically, Brooklyn.

Dom had found that the aptly named little bar, Poet and Whiskey, in his neighborhood was ideal to sit in on a late Saturday afternoon. Not crowded yet, so he could eat and drink and read in peace, and the food was really damn good, even if slightly pretentious.

Then again, so was he, with his bowtie, button-down, suspenders, and jeans.

He’d rapidly become something of a regular. The staff knew him by name now, and often just brought him a glass of merlot with his water, and let him stay and read as long as he wanted. For the most part, he was just another body in the city, but here, he’d become part of the familiar scenery.

Granted, the experience of being out and around in public and—for the most part—completely ignored was a strange one. Sure, he got the occasional appreciative glance and sometimes even enough banter for a hookup, but generally, he was just another guy in the city. No one remarkable. A dude eating a late lunch or early dinner, with a glass of wine and a copy of The Sins of the Cities of the Plain as a companion. Lately, he’d been working through all the gay erotic classics he could.

What he wasn’t at all was Domino Grinder, the most recognized and easy to spot member of the rock band Twisted Wishes. Even though that’s also exactly who he was. He often got an illicit thrill when one of their songs played in the bar and he caught the bartender singing along under his breath.

So close—so anonymous, thank god!

He’d been so damn lucky people were oblivious and hadn’t figured out he and Domino kind of sounded alike, though Dom was far more brash onstage. The whole hiding-in-plain-sight kept his nerves from becoming too damn frazzled.

One of the great things about having a persona he could shed at will was that he didn’t have to be as cautious when he left his home, unlike the rest of the band. For the most part, the fans didn’t bother his other bandmates, Ray, Zavier, and Mish. Some requests for selfies once and a while, but on the whole, they were respected.

For the most part. Ray and Zavier got photographed a lot. Mish had it worse—some of the fans tended to think that because she was a woman they could have more access to her time and space.

Dom took a sip of his wine. So far, nothing had come of that, but he didn’t know how Mish handled it. He couldn’t deal with that kind of stress—that was part of the reason Domino Grinder existed in the first place.

When his best friend, Ray Van Zeller, had first asked him to play guitar in the band he was forming, all Dom wanted to do was hide under his bed. Yes, he’d absolutely wanted to play in Ray’s band—as long as they never ever left Ray’s garage. The thought of getting up onstage had been too much for shy young Dominic. Hell, even playing at the talent show their senior year in high school had nearly done Dom in, and all he’d done was stand out of the spotlight and play guitar. Ray had been the sole focus then.

So, to survive climbing on that stage, he imagined what someone unlike the nerd he was might look like. He’d gelled up his hair, changed from button-downs to tight, ripped tank tops, faux leather pants, huge boots, spiked collars, and a bunch of makeup. An outrageous costume, something only someone with brass balls might wear. Dominic didn’t have the guts...but Domino did.

That had made all the difference. He could play like he wanted to as Domino. Dance and scream and say whatever the fuck came into his mind. And when they were done, when they weren’t touring, he could peel Domino off and be Dominic again. The nerd. The guy no one expected to be able to be a rock star. No one laughed at Domino.

As a bonus, he’d managed to keep himself—his true self—out of the limelight. Just as well, too. Because in the years that Twisted Wishes had risen to the top, Domino Grinder had become an unapproachable force of nature. A sex god no one could touch.

Which didn’t suit Dom at all. He liked being touched. Enjoyed the company of other men. Was even happier if they preferred Dom on his knees, under their bodies, or riding their cock.

Which was exactly the opposite of what everyone thought Domino wanted.

Then again, being able to take Domino off at will meant Dom got his fill of one-night stands with the kind of men he did enjoy. Artists. Writers. Professors. Dancers. Any man interested in art or literature or history who wanted a nice roll in bed with someone who’d beg to be fucked.

Hey, it was a living. And a good one, too. Rock star most of the time, but a twink in bed.

Except now that they weren’t touring, Dom had settled back into being his nerdy self one hundred percent of the time. Felt so fucking good—including the fucking part.

Though he hadn’t had any of that for a while, not with moving into his new place and getting a feel for his neighborhood and the scene here.

So instead he sipped wine, ate mac and cheese, and read tales of a rentboy in London in the nineteenth century while some baseball game flickered on the TV above the bar.

Dom had gotten so into the recounting—which was pretty lewd despite the time in which it was written—that the world around him had vanished. Probably why he didn’t notice the guy who’d sat down at the table next to him until a velvet voice had murmured, “Jack Saul. That’s quite an interesting book.”

Dom looked up and into the richest brown eyes he’d ever encountered. Depth and color. Flecks of gold. They were framed by stunning cheekbones, and auburn hair. And that grin... Dom’s bones melted even as his dick did the opposite.

They weren’t more than an arm’s length apart at the tightly arranged tables, and shared the bench that ran all the way along the wall.

“It’s fascinating,” Dom managed.

“That’s one way to put it.” The smile deepened. “Pretty explicit from the get-go, in its own way.”

Dom slipped in his bookmark and nodded. He let his gaze drift over the man’s torso. Broad shoulders. Trim frame. And he was nicely put together, even dressed down a bit. Crisp pastel-green shirt that had probably held a tie earlier on in the day. Dark brown trousers that might have been paired with a suit coat. Belt looked well-made. Not a cheap thing.

Nice. Very nice. Especially those lips, which quirked up. Yes, the gentleman knew Dom was checking him out. And Dom was being sized up in return, given the lingering looks and the interest in Dom’s chest and hands and crotch.

“Do you like it?” The guy nodded to the book.

What a leading question—did he like the vintage porn? Dom picked up his wineglass, swirled, and smiled. “Engrossing enough that I didn’t notice you at all, so yes, I’m enjoying it immensely.”

“And now?” That sly grin now showed teeth.

“This view’s nice, too,” Dom said, and didn’t look away from those lovely eyes.

Laughter and a wink, but any more banter was interrupted by the waitress coming to take the newcomer’s order. A pretentious panini of pot roast, caramelized shallots and Roquefort cheese—and a nice Shiraz. “And another glass of whatever my friend here is drinking.”

Ah. Friend. Good. This might turn into an evening that would be far more interesting than merely reading about buggery. Dom shifted on the bench. Was the man from the neighborhood? Maybe. There was a trace of New York in his accent, though not much. They did get folks from other parts of the city here, and even the occasional tourist, but not that many. Did he want to get involved with someone he might see again? Dom found the owner of those lovely brown eyes checking him out again.

Yes. He probably shouldn’t. But yes.

“I’m Adrian,” the man said, and offered his hand. “Adrian Doran.”

Dom took it. Firm grip with warm fingers that lingered a little too long. “Dominic Bradley.”

“Dominic,” Adrian repeated, as if rolling the sounds around in his mouth like one might wine. “Quite a pleasing name.”

That’s what made Dom shiver. Not Adrian’s hooded look or the wine that appeared or how Adrian sipped his drink and swallowed. Nope, what hardened Dom’s cock was the thought of his name—all three syllables—pleasing Adrian. “Most people call me Dom.”

“Hmm.” Adrian set down his glass. “Would you mind if I called you Dominic?”

Not if he kept saying the name like that. “No, not at all.” And damn if his voice hadn’t gone husky. Dom took a gulp of his own wine.

Adrian chuckled. “So, Dominic Bradley, who enjoys nineteenth century homoerotic tales, what brings you here?”

“I live here,” Dom said. “Got a place and moved in about a month and a half ago.”

Adrian chewed on that. “Live here here, or elsewhere in Brooklyn?”

That was a question a local asked. Hell. Because he really should back off now. “Few blocks away.” Might as well ask the obvious. “You local?”

Oh, the humor in those eyes. “Yes, though not as local as you.” He shrugged. “I like this place, though. The food is good, the wine excellent, and sometimes you meet a real gem of a person.”

Just then, the waitress brought Adrian his meal. She glanced at Adrian and gave Dom a little grin, too.

Great. Encouragement. Didn’t know if he wanted that or not. There was already a little buzz from the Merlot and the stimulating reading, and now there was Adrian, who was far better than fiction.

Adrian picked up his panini. “Like tonight.”

It was, Dom thought, rude to watch someone else eat. But he couldn’t help it. Adrian bit into that sandwich, and his eyes flickered closed. His grunt was downright sexy, as was that sigh of contentment as he tasted and swallowed. Long, elegant fingers. A pink tongue that flicked out to catch the remnants of cheese.

“Shit, they’ve outdone themselves,” Adrian murmured. He focused on Dom again. “Would you like a bite?”

After that display? “Sure.”

Dom had expected Adrian to cut a hunk off the uneaten half of the panini, which he did. He hadn’t expected that he’d hold out his fork for Dom to eat off of. That was intimate and sexy and...

“Come on, Dominic, don’t be shy now.”

Like fingers up his spine. Dom leaned in and took the bite from Adrian’s fork.

“That’s it,” Adrian said. “Very nice.”

Oh god. The panini. Adrian’s words. Both were heaven. The meat and cheese combination was a delight for the taste buds, while that voice slithered down Dom’s nerves and tightened his balls. He couldn’t help the little moan that escaped.

“Now, see how good that is?”

Dom got the distinct impression Adrian wasn’t talking about the food. He blinked back the pleasure in his veins. “I wouldn’t mind some more.”

Amusement colored Adrian’s chuckle, then he stroked Dom’s cheek with the back of his fingers. “If you’re willing to stay and talk, perhaps we can share dessert?”

Dom shifted closer. “I still have three quarters of a glass of wine. I’m not going anywhere for a while.”

That flash of teeth again. “Good.”

Yep, he was all in, for whatever Adrian had in mind. Might not be the brightest idea, but Dom would figure out the ramifications of having a fling with a neighbor later. Right now? He really wanted to know what else Adrian Doran might suggest they do.

* * *

Oh, how Adrian wanted to undo the bowtie around Dominic’s neck and use it to pull the man closer to him. Those lips begged to be kissed and tamed, and he wanted to hear that sweet moan again.

But there was a difference between flirting in your own neighborhood bar and some club in Manhattan. Things you could get away with and things you couldn’t, and he was already pushing a bit of the envelope with feeding lovely, shivering Dominic bites of his sandwich. He’d push it more with dessert, and then perhaps they’d see where that went.

Granted, it wasn’t exactly his neighborhood. He lived over in Park Slope, but the bar was close enough that he found his way here often enough to be known as a regular. The only reason he hadn’t made the trip recently had been work—first loading him down with so many deadlines he’d been working twelve-hour days and weekends, then sending him out of town for two weeks.

But that was over with for a while, and here he was with a brand-new regular. Dapper and bespectacled, with that lovely mix of sexy and shy that turned Adrian on so much.

Dominic was now at half a glass of wine—and his cheeks held a little bit of color.

“So, Dominic, what brings you to New York?” There was a student look to the man, but his clothes were a tad too nice, and while his face was youthful enough, there was something in his manner that seemed a little more worldly than early twenties.

That blush deepened. “Oh.” Dominic toyed with his wine. “I’m a musician.”

Interesting. Certainly not a starving one. “Which instrument?”

“Guitar.” He fidgeted and looked toward the door. “I’m in a band, you know, like everyone.” Finally Dominic met Adrian’s gaze again. “What about you?”

“Far less interesting. I’m a software engineer for a financial services company.” In other words, a corporate office drone. But it paid the rent. Well, it would have, had he been renting.

Dominic gave a little shrug. “But do you like it?” He sipped his wine and peered at Adrian through thick eyelashes. His dark brown eyes that seemed to widen when Adrian peered back.

Oh, honey, you really want something I can give, don’t you? But what? A quick suck? A hot fuck? One night? He was so tired of the quick Grindr hookups. Something more, something longer would be a nice change of pace. Getting off was fine, but longer-term, there was so much more you could do with a man.

He finished his panini before answering. “It’s a fine job. Challenging in places. Boring in others.” He mused over the top of his own wineglass. “I suppose I like it well enough.”

Something in Dominic’s expression shifted, but was gone before Adrian could pin a name on the look. “And outside of work?”

He set his glass down. “Mmm. You mean besides feeding bits of panini to handsome young men in bars?”

Oh, that got him a nice blush. “I’m not that young.”

But quite handsome. And so obviously in need of a nice long fuck, given those plump lips and blushing cheeks. “How old are you, then?”

Dominic sat up straight. “I’m twenty-seven.”

Yeah, he could see that, even with the little bit of roundness to Dominic’s face. “Since I know you’ll ask, I’m thirty-six.”

Dominic dwelled on that for a moment, then smiled. “You never did answer my question. What do you do for fun?”

Men like you. Except—that wasn’t entirely true. Dominic did pique his interest sexually, yes. But also in other ways. Maybe it was the book, or perhaps the bowtie. Or the fact that a musician was living in a neighborhood few could afford now. Even he’d be hard-pressed to buy into this market.

The server saved him from having to answer right away by swooping in to take his plate. “Dessert?”

“Yes, please.” In more ways than one.

Next to him, Dominic practically squirmed.

As she picked up the debris from dinner, she gave them the lowdown on dessert. “We have cheesecake that can be topped with either fresh strawberries or chocolate syrup or both, a lemon meringue pie, and a flourless chocolate cake with raspberries.”

Adrian eyed Dominic. What would a young man with such discerning taste in literature prefer?

Those dark eyes stared back at Adrian.

“Lemon meringue, I think,” Adrian murmured.

Shock colored Dominic’s face. “How did you—”

“Two forks?” the waitress asked.

“No,” Adrian said. “One will be enough.”

And maybe he was laying it on a little thick, because even she blushed. When she left, he studied Dominic again. He took a breath, as if to steady himself. “Lemon meringue’s my favorite. Like—absolute favorite.”

“I’d make some joke about being a little tart—but that’s not why you like it, right?” Because Dominic had layers. Adrian wanted to peel them all off and find out what lay beneath. How did those lips feel against his? What would his moans taste like? Just the thought made him ache.

“It’s—I love lemon. And yes, because they’re tart. But no, that’s not all. They’re—They taste like summer and sun and freedom.” Dominic’s gaze drifted to the doorway again—to look outside, Adrian realized. “They’re happiness in fruit form.”

Yes, layers. And no, not a one-night stand. Not this one. “You write lyrics, too?”

Dominic seemed to startle out of his skin. “What? No. I—” He laughed, but it was strained. “I just play guitar. Help a little with the songs. Other people are so much better with words than me.” He patted the book beside him.

“And what kind of music do you play?”

Dominic raised an eyebrow, and there was a little spark of fire there. Very nice indeed. “What do you do outside work, Adrian?”

That was fair. Entirely fair. And he did like the sound of his name on Dominic’s lips.

Their waitress came and dropped off a sizable piece of pie—with one fork. It was a beautiful thing, lovely shade of yellow with snow-white meringue curled and browned a tiny bit on top.

“Oh.” Dominic’s voice was almost reverent. “That’s sublime.”

So was the look on that sweet face. Right there and then—if this went further than today—Adrian would make it his mission to have Dominic sigh like that again, preferably while Adrian’s cock was inside him. Wouldn’t that be magnificent?

Adrian cut off the tip of the pie with the side of the fork, and watched Dominic bite his lip. “Sometimes I go to clubs and dance.” He speared the piece with the tines and lifted. “Throw myself into a crowd of people and...let go.”

Dominic’s gaze slipped from the fork and met Adrian’s. “Love to see that.”

“I’m sure you would.” He held out the morsel of pie to Dominic.

Oh, those wide eyes. He scooted closer and took what Adrian offered so gently. Wet lips. Pink tongue. And when the pie slid into Dominic’s mouth, his eyes fluttered shut—and that was utterly sublime, too, down to the little whimper.

“God, it’s so good.” A whisper of words.

Adrian needed this man in his bed. More than once. More than twice. As many times as possible. Someone who moved like that, ate like that, submitted like that—Adrian’s head whirled. He took a bite of the pie himself—and yes, it was quite lovely. The custard was perfect, and somehow it did taste like a sunny summer day.

“I also like walks in the park. Museums. The orchestra. History.” Adrian sliced off another piece for Dominic. “And reading.” This time he held the piece closer, and patted the space between them. “Are you willing?”

The answer must have been yes, because Dominic closed that gap and their legs brushed against each other. Laughter in that sweet face.

With his free hand, he touched Dominic’s thigh lightly. “This okay?”

“More than. Thank you for asking.”

Well, he wasn’t about to feel up a man without consent. That was just rude.

When he fed the pie to Dominic this time, Adrian slid his hand up until he met the hard ridge of an erect cock.

The groan was deeper this time.

“Summer memories?” Adrian left his hand exactly where it was, but moved his finger enough to rub so slightly against that length.

Watching Dominic swallow was a treat. His chuckle was unexpectedly deep. “I practically grew up at the Jersey Shore. Lots of memories of lemon and sunscreen and—” He blushed.

“Sucking guys off under the boardwalk?”

The blush deepened. “Well, yes—and other things, too.”

Adrian took his bite of pie and shifted his hand up, cupping Dominic’s hard dick. He felt more than heard the inhale of breath. When he held out Dominic’s piece, he slid fingers around the ridge. “You’re a fascinating man, Dominic. What do you do for fun?”

This time, the bite was sensual, as was the way Dominic licked the custard off the fork. “Me?” His smile was wicked, and he pressed his shaft into Adrian’s hand and leaned in close to whisper, “I seduce men and let them fuck me.”

Yes. That was blindingly obvious. Adrian couldn’t help the smile. “And how do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m hard as a rock from being fed lemon pie. You tell me.”

Right. That was enough of that. He set down the fork, cupped the side of Dominic’s lovely face, and drew him into a kiss.

The tart of the lemon mixed with the richness of wine and the sweet, sweet taste of unashamed need. Dominic kissed with a lovely mix of desperation and determination, and no, this wasn’t his first rodeo. Not by a long shot. Adrian tightened his grip on Dominic’s cock and kissed back with just enough force to impart one simple fact: he—not Dominic—would be in control.

And like perfection, Dominic melted and opened to him, giving way to lips and tongue. After a few more moments enjoying that little taste of submission, Adrian relented. “There’s still more pie.” And they were still sitting in a bar, one that had a few patrons trickling in. He wasn’t about to go any further than that.

A shudder ran through Dominic. “That might undo me.”

“Good.” Adrian sat back. He slid his hand from Dominic’s package. “Something tells me you need to be undone.”

An almost knowing chuckle. “Probably.”

He broke the remaining portion in two, eating his half before scooping up what was left. “Do you want more than this?”

Dominic eyed the pie. “We’re not talking about lemon meringue anymore, are we?”

Perceptive. Adrian did like that in men—especially ones he wanted more than one night from. “No.” He studied the pie, then Dominic. “I’m enjoying this—enjoying you—immensely. And I think I’d be rather disappointed if this night ended with a quick fuck and a goodbye. I’d like to get to know you, Dominic. Know you better than one evening permits.”

Dominic didn’t even look at the pie. “To be honest with you, I haven’t tried anything more than one night with anyone in a very long time.”

“That’s somewhat of a shame.”

“Is it?” Dominic’s raised eyebrow and fire were back.

Oh, to draw that out and then quench it in turn. “Well, I find that learning about what a partner wants and needs takes time. You’re a musician—you know what they say about practicing... How are you supposed to perfect pleasure if you only ever get one shot at it?”

Dominic’s smile was replaced with something more profound.

“And I’m also quite interested in what’s behind those pretty eyes of yours. You’re an intelligent man and I suspect there’s a lot more you do for fun besides being fucked.”

“You’re the first person who’s ever thought I had pretty eyes.” He flicked his gaze to the pie. “Maybe we should save that last bite for later, then.”

“Be a shame to waste it. How about you finish the pie and meet me here next Wednesday at six if you want something a little longer than one night?”

Dominic cocked his head ever so slightly, then nodded. “Deal.”

Adrian slipped the last of the pie into that luscious mouth, and the sight was just as spectacular as the first bite.

When they were done, the waitress cleared their tables and brought them their checks.

“I feel like I should pay for half of yours,” Dominic murmured, his cheeks once again a little red.

“Oh, you treated me in the sharing.”

A chuckle. “I do try.”

They rose and made their way out to the sidewalk, and Dominic fidgeted for a second. “Look. I think I do want more than a quick—” He waved his hand and swallowed. “Sometimes my schedule is...erratic. Can I get your number, just in case I need to reschedule or—something?”

Poor Dominic, so flustered at not being dragged off for a nice uncomplicated hookup. “Of course.”

They exchanged numbers, then Adrian drew that blushing man in for a kiss. Once more it took only a hint of control to soften Dominic in his arms. And yes, poor thing was still all nice and hard.

Adrian broke the kiss. “If you end up liking the Saul book, I can recommend some others to you.”

Oh, the lust and interest in Dominic’s eyes—and not just for sex. “Can you?”

“Mmmhmm. Wednesday. Dinner and book recommendations.”

“And more?”

Dominic was breathless, so Adrian drew him close again, cupping that nice hard cock again. “I promise that part of more will be worth the wait.”

A laugh, as if Dominic couldn’t believe what he was doing. “I’m gonna hold you to that.”

Good. Very, very, very good.

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