Mike Peterson is determined to break the gambling habit that resulted in two failed marriages, no money, no job, plus almost getting himself and his brother killed when loan sharks came looking for their money. In addition, he’s recently been having some doubts about his own sexuality. When his gay brother suggests he get in touch with an old friend, recently out police officer Larry Bertoli, Mike is at first leery of the idea, and their first meeting isn’t exactly ideal.
They decide to meet again and this time more of what they are and what they could mean to one another is revealed during their time together. They begin a tentative friendship that graduates to a first, fumbling attempt at romance. Can they find the secure relationship they both want, or will Mike’s addiction and lack of self-esteem hinder what could possibly be salvation for both men?
I could see Larry standing at the bar. You really couldn’t miss him. He was a good head taller than anyone else around him. I’m no shorty. I clock in at about six-one, but Larry has at least two or three inches on me. An involuntary chuckle escaped me. What was I doing thinking about ‘head’ and ‘inches’. Jerry would have had a field day if he’d been with me right then and I had vocalized my thoughts to him.
My cheeks grew hot, and Larry took that exact moment to turn and see me hovering in the doorway. He waved and grinned at me, and I had to admit I’d forgotten what a great looking guy he was. Like I said, tall, wide shouldered, with short, dark almost black hair, and a face that was more rugged than conventionally handsome. He was wearing a black T-shirt that showed off his muscled chest and arms to great effect. I suddenly felt overdressed in my beige polo and pressed Dockers. I gave him a small wave back, and he walked over to where I was still dithering and held out his hand.
“Good to see you, Mike,” he said, his voice deep and masculine, but at the same time warm and welcoming. “You haven’t changed a bit.”
I took his hand. “Nor you.” I met his gray-eyed gaze and smiled, and was it just my imagination, or had the sound and the crowd around us receded, leaving just Larry and me standing there, holding hands for way too long, and grinning like idiots at each other?
He released my hand and stepped back, breaking the spell perhaps only I had been aware of. Pull yourself together, I told myself, then flinched as he put an arm around my shoulders and steered me toward the bar.
“So how’ve you been?” he asked. He gave my shoulder a squeeze before letting go.
“Just fine, thanks to Jerry and Taylor,” I replied. I'd filled him in on some of the stuff that had gone down in the last few weeks, and of course, he knew some of it from Jerry when he’d been asked to keep an eye on Taylor’s apartment.
“Yeah, that must have been pretty scary.” He touched my arm and tipped his head at the bartender. “What’ll it be?”
“Uh, Heineken on tap?”
“Comin’ up, handsome.” The bartender, a young blue-eyed blond, winked at me and smiled, showing two rows of the whitest teeth I’d ever seen.
“Is this a gay bar?” I asked Larry, immediately feeling like a hick from the sticks.
“Yes, is it a problem?” Larry gave me a wary look. “It’s like I told you, a mixed crowd. A lot of gay bars in Weho attract young straights as well. I picked this one because it’s less of a cruise bar than most. I didn’t want you to get nervous, but it looks like you are anyway.”
“No, no, not nervous.” I paused as Mr. Pepsodent placed my glass in front of me along with another wink and a gleaming smile. Once he’d moved away, I said quietly, “It’s just that I have a hard time thinking of you as gay, you know? You’re so… so manly. You’re a cop.”
He chuckled. “This might surprise you, but there are quite a few gay cops in Los Angeles these days. Besides, you don’t look gay either.”
“I’m not gay!” Okay, I agree that could have been said with a modicum more tact, and the reaction didn’t come as much of a surprise. Just about every head in the bar turned. Men and women stared at me like I had ‘Republican Whore’ stamped on my forehead. I waited for the floor to swallow me whole. It didn’t happen, instead Larry burst out laughing.
“He’s not gay, but his boyfriend is,” he said, still laughing.
Someone tittered, a few shook their heads, then everyone turned away, getting on with whatever they’d been doing before my foot-in-mouth outburst.
About J.P. Bowie: J.P. Bowie is originally from Aberdeen, Scotland but has made the US his home for the past 30 years. Migrating between California and Nevada for some time he and his husband Phil have finally come to nest in San Diego, Ca. The author of over 50 stories, novels, novellas and anthology contributions, J.P. is also an avid reader of historical fiction and biographies. “Dumping Las Vegas” is his first offering from Wilde City Press and he considers it an honor to be associated with Ethan Day, Geoff Knight and the host of talented authors at WCP.
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