Grand Gestures

by Drew Filchak

        " … uh … "  
My thoughts raced at the same fluttering speed as the butterflies in my gut.  Suddenly, I couldn't seem to form thoughts in normal order and I felt like an idiot.  The guy standing in front of me waited for my response and I could see in his eyes that my inarticulate stammering was a source of soft amusement.  I had to say something, anything.  I finally forced some words out of my mouth.  
        "I have to pee."  My eyes darted to the side and my face flamed with embarrassed warmth.  The guy had just suggested we stay in the bar instead of going outside because he liked looking at me. Inside, he'd reasoned, he could continue to see me more clearly.  And I was acting like an idiot.
        A smile slowly spread across his lips, then he chuckled lightly.  "I'll be right here."
        Nervously, my hand quickly ran through my hair as I nodded and turned to towards the back of the bar.  I couldn't seem to get away from him quickly enough.  And the astounding thing was, I honestly didn't want to leave him for a moment.  But grand gestures are like that … overwhelming.  And I certainly was overwhelmed at the moment.  God … talk about being careful about what you ask for!  Or better yet, being ready for it.

        My phone rang, bringing with it a swell of anticipation.  I was bored and killing time, which as of late, didn’t happen very often.  The pace I’d been keeping for the last year damn near rivaled that of the space shuttle as it orbited the planet.  Disappointingly though, it was the D.P. from the shoot I was working on, calling to cancel the night's filming.  I thanked him, somewhat sarcastically, for giving me a 'free night'.  He chuckled almost knowingly then said something about surprising one of my boyfriends with a little impromptu action.  His point being that he'd need me another night this week and to take care of business tonight.  The words implied his utmost confidence about how easy it would be for me to hook up on a moment's notice.  I laughed in my best conspirator voice and disconnected the call.  Yeah, sure.  I'll just call up one of my boyfriends.
        In the last year, I’d had an intense love affair with the cook slash artist slash movie star-director wannabe that had ended as intensely as it'd begun.  Additionally, there'd been a number of one-night stands.  Nothing much to tell there.  And there was my 'straight' neighbor who came sniffing around off and on that was hotter than words can describe but who needed the uninhibiting effects from drugs to turn into a total bottom slut.  Sure, he was hot, but it was a definite 'no no' to call his world and suggest he stop by my place for a little party.  It was all right for him to text me at nine in the evening or one in the morning wanting to party, but my efforts to do the same were ignored.  After the last series of text messages that continued as the morning sun rose, I told him he either comes over willingly without being smashed or get his 'dick fix' somewhere else.  It's been just shy of three weeks without any slutty text messages.  Oh, well.  He’ll be back.
        There's also the incredibly intense platonic relationship with another artist slash public personality that always stops just shy of physical connection.  We continue to see each other, but there's a definite glass wall between our physical connection.  I love getting together with him, but our dates remain conversationally based.
        And most recently, there's the accountant.  He's got the best feel of the whole lot, and the sex is so hot and the desire for more than just sex stands blatantly between us, but … but … like with each of my connections over the past year, there are complications … snags.  For one thing, he works for me.  Granted there are four levels between us and I'm basically his bosses boss' boss, but that's not what killed the affair.  He's partnered.  It would have been good to know that before we'd gone through the weeks of flirting.  In my own defense, when it finally and surprisingly happened between us, I'd simply started congratulating myself too early.  He'd stopped by for a beer after work one day and as I walked him to the door feeling all virtuous … horny, but virtuous in my restraint … his friendly goodbye hug turned more-than-friendly.  I mean, when you have a stud that is seven or eight years younger than you putting out a full-court press … well, virtue is all fine and good.  Finally, last week we ended it.  I'm just not the 'other woman' type.  The energy surrounding that is really stilting and bad.  
So, sure.  I’ll just take my Director of Photography's suggestion; he is a friend after all.  God, what a laugh.  The sad thing is, I'm not sure which ‘boyfriend’ I wanted it to be when I got the call from Whitley canceling the shoot for the night – or did I even want any of them calling?  I do know that as I set my cell phone back on the counter, I thought, 'now what'.  
        I'd actually been looking forward to the night of filming.  I do sound for a film crew in my spare time.  My shoulders and arms are looking great from all the hours spent holding the microphone boom, but besides the fact that I enjoy the drastic change from my professional life spent managing a few businesses, I use the filming as a means of filling the time … time that tonight I hadn't planned on filling with myself.  The romantic in me is sick to death of different guys all the time -- guys with other agendas.  My best buddies love the stories of my exploits and I admit that I love sharing, but I'd like one without the major complications.  Minor complications are a part of life -- enough of the major level shit.  The next guy needs to simply be into me the way I'm into him and without major complications.

        A week or so later, we were finally at our last night of shooting.  I think the entire crew was sending out the vibes to the actors to get their lines right so we could hear the director call out ‘It's a wrap!’.  Later, as we packed equipment, the lead actor suggested meeting at Forest Room for a few rounds of drinks.  I loved Forest Room 5, but I preferred a bar that was 'more gay' and the rest of the crew agreed since they were gay too.  The actors were all straight.  Pretty weird since it was a gay movie, but I have a lot of respect for both the actors and the director.  The actors came off as being naturally gay and, for an independent effort, the director did a great job.  In the end, we capitulated and followed Bryan to Forest Room.  He'd done a good job as lead and was just playful enough to be a really fun straight guy.  Besides, we'd all bonded during the filming.  It was a fun group.  

        A mellow riff from the Wallflowers greeted us as the door opened and we entered.  We were the first of the group to arrive and as Whitley and the director, Ron, went to snag a table, Bryan and I pulled up to the bar to get a jump on the drinks.  After ordering, I heard my name called from behind me.  I turned and spotted a buddy of mine and stepped away for a brief catch up.  Bryan signaled me when the drinks were ready.
His eyes sparkled and his face barely contained his grin as we made our way to the back where Whitley and Ron waited for the rest of the group to arrive.  
        "What's up with you, dude?"  I asked.
        "Whitley wasn't lying, Squirrel."
        "What are you talking about?"  I stopped on my way through the tables and turned back towards him.  The grin on his face grew as his brows rose suggestively.          The light from the overhead cable spots caused the blue in his eyes to illuminate unnaturally, offset by the brilliant white of his teeth.
        "You are a guy magnet!"  His grin widened.  "The bartender asked me who my buddy was, meaning you."  
        My eyes rolled as I shook my head dismissively and turned towards our table.  "Bullshit, Man."
        "No, seriously," Bryan continued over my shoulder.  "I said to him, 'You mean Squirrel?'"
        I turned again in time to see a new grin cover Bryan's face.  I couldn't help but laugh.  I'd spent the better part of the last three weeks of evenings and weekends horsing around with Bryan on the different sets.  His sense of humor contained playfulness, intelligence and loads of confidence.  He naturally drew people to him with his chiseled good looks, playfulness, short blonde hair and piercing blue eyes.  One had to try hard not to like him.  And being the sound guy for the shoot, his humorous comments flowed constantly through the mic into my headphones.  We'd used a noise restrictor on the microphone that essentially was a furry sock designed to restrict extraneous air noise.  Early on, he'd dubbed it Squirrel and it didn't take long for that to become my nickname for the shoot -- at least with him.  
        Beyond Bryan's shoulder, I saw the bartender looking in our direction.  I hadn't paid much attention to him when we ordered, though I did notice he had looks that attracted me.  But I didn't give him much thought at the time.  One reason was because my buddy was yelling at me from his table.  The second reason was obvious -- this was a straight bar and besides my straight neighbor who came to me to get his itch scratched, I'm not normally into pining after or fantasizing about straight guys.  
        I watched as the bartender gave me a nod and a grin and had to admit he was definitely a good looking man.  I'm a sucker for dark, wavy hair and this guy was loaded with it.  Bryan turned when he saw me looking over his shoulder and watched the bartender watch me.  He returned his gaze to me in time to see me give a tight-lipped brush-off nod in acknowledgement then proceed towards our table.  
        Bryan caught up with me as I placed Ron's drink in front of him.  "Squirrel?  What are you doing?  The guy definitely wants you.  Go talk to him."
        Again, my eyes rolled up and my lips pulled into a grimace.  
        "What guy, Brad?"  Whitley asked.
        "Never mind," I replied quickly and took a long pull off of my gin.
        "The bartender," Bryan offered readily as his good-natured smirk led the way for another of his dazzling smiles.
        Whitley and Ron's eyes widened and Whitley began to chuckle.  "That didn't take long."  
        Ron joined in the laughter.  "We were just talking about how hot the guy was, Brad.  You should go talk to him."
        I shook my head as Bryan reached up to squeeze my neck.  "Dude, he asked if we were together and his whole face lit up when I told him I wasn't gay, but you were, and that you were single.  You should go for it.  At least get us a free round so Ronny Boy doesn't have to pay for everything."
        I looked toward Ron in time to see him nod playfully in agreement, then shook my head.  "I don't do bartenders or waiters and definitely not cooks."
        "I know for a fact, Brad, that you do."  Whitley said with his voice full of knowing.  
        I shook my head.  "You know what I mean, Whit.  I'm not going to date a bartender or a waiter or anyone from the service industry.  Not that I have anything at all against service industry people, but business hours and service industry hours just don't mix.  Trust me, I know first-hand."  My head shook briefly with the memory of the crazy hours I'd kept during the six months it took me to give up on the idea that me and the cook slash artist slash movie star director wannabe could actually make a go of things.  I was actually surprised at how that brief thought still hurt … and how much it filled me with desire for a connection like that again, even if it was bad for me.
        "Squirrel, you don't have to marry the guy, you know."
        "I know, Bryan, but tricks are just that -- tricks.  And it's about time I found someone to pass the baton to.  I’ve had it long enough.  I'm really a romantic at heart."
        "What baton?"  Ron piped in with a smirk.  "The slut baton?"  
        I sighed and lifted my eyes to meet Whitley's as the three of them burst into laughter.  "Just what have you been telling these guys?  Or better yet, who've you been talking to?"  Whitley and I were friends, but not that good of friends.  Then it hit me.  He'd been over to my place for a party a couple of weeks ago and had spent a lot of time laughing with my best bud, Gian.  Shit.  Gian knew everything, including all of the trick stories.  
        Whitley's sputtered response was interrupted by the arrival of the rest of the crew and actors.  We pulled up extra chairs and Bryan and Jason, who played Bryan's dead lover in the movie, took drink orders for the new arrivals and headed to the bar.  The topic of conversation, thankfully, turned to the movie and the beginning of the post-production work, which I would only have a small part in.  I liked the work on the sets, but had neither experience with, nor time to really study what all was involved in post-production editing.  Still, it was fascinating and exciting stuff to be around.  
        Bryan and Jason returned with the drinks and the conversation cranked up a notch.  Bryan gave me a wink as he laid his arm over my shoulder.  Just like during the filming, his flirting was a source of amusement to me.  
        I'd just finished my first drink when my cell phone chimed signaling that a new text message had been received.  I snorted with disbelief.  The only person that would be texting me at this time of the evening was Neighbor.  As I reached for my phone, I couldn't help but grin.  Then, my grin was cut short.  The text message wasn't from Neighbor.  It was from someone I didn't have programmed into my phone.  All I received was the number sending the message.  I flipped the phone open and stared in disbelief at the message.
        :Wud it make a diff  if I told u I'm only filling in for the bartender 2nite, Brad?:
        My mind clicked into gear as I continued to stare at the message.  Then I felt my shoulders begin to shake.  Bryan's arm, still lying across my shoulders, trembled with the effects of his held-in laughter.  I turned to look at him as he pulled his arm away.  My fears were confirmed.
        "Dude!  Tell me you didn't give that guy my cell phone number?"
        "Okay.  I didn't give that guy your cell phone number."
        "Straight Boi, I told you I don't do bartenders."
        He winked at me as his smile widened.  "He says he's not a bartender normally, Squirrel.  His name's Nick and he's a stock broker.  His brother owns this place.  He's just filling in for the regular person.  Lisa someone."  He raised his glass to me in salute then sipped from it.  "You should go for it, dude."
        I thought for a moment as I reread the message.  Maybe I should just go for it.  Hell, at the rate I was going with my 'boyfriends', as Whitley called them, what did I have to lose?  As I continued to mull over my response, my phone chimed again with the arrival of a new message.  I quickly shot a look over my shoulder to the bar and saw the bartender slash stock broker looking at me with a grin on his face and laughter filling his light-colored eyes.  My own grin surfaced.
        "Read it, Squirrel."  Bryan nudged me with his shoulder.  I looked back at my phone.
        :Wat's it gonna take 2 get u 2 come over and talk 2 me?:
        I snorted my laugh as I hit 'reply' and my thumbs began to type a response.
        :A Grand Gesture to let me know if ur intentions are honorable!:  
        I hit 'send' then placed my phone on the table and grabbed my glass.  
        "So … what'd he say?"
        I grinned, prolonging the moment.  "You're just dying over there, aren't you Bryan?"
        He laughed.  "Hey, I have a somewhat vested interest here.  If you guys hook up, I just might become an uncle to a nest of baby Squirrels."
        Laughter erupted from deep in my throat, loud enough to drown out the song Yellow from Coldplay which currently filled the room.  Whitley leaned across the table toward us.
        "What are you guys up to?"
        "Just trying to get Squirrel in the mating spirit.  That's all."
        I laughed again as Bryan bumped me with his shoulder.  I looked across at Whitley to see his hazel eyes glimmer with the spirit of the moment.  He looked like your typical creative type of guy.  Wild, uncombed hair sticking out at different angles framed a fuzzy face that hadn't seen a razor in a couple of days.
        The last of my drink flowed from my glass as I leaned back and enjoyed the moment and the refrain from Coldplay.  Sure, I'd known Whitley for a long time, but working on these past couple of films together spurred our friendship to shift into the platonically intimate regions.  He was a great guy, hands down.  And I thought of the new friendships I'd made during this last film with the people sitting around the table -- Ron, Bryan, Cliff, and Alissa.  Good guys and ladies all around.  Part of me hoped we'd all be able to keep it going, but I was a realist.  
        I grinned back at Whitley and shook my head as I watched him tell Alissa, the female lead from the movie, what was going on.  Then the music suddenly cut out.  Damn!  That was my favorite part of the song!  The voices of people in the bar quickly filled in the gap.  Sporadic laughter and a couple of shouts from behind me started up and I saw Whitley look towards the bar.  Before I could turn, I heard a deep, rich voice come through the bar's sound system.  Someone was singing over the conversation noise … without music playing!
        :You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss … your lips …:
        I started to turn towards the bar when Whitley hissed.  "Brad!  Turn around!"
        My confused look prompted a firm nod from him.  Twisting in my seat, my vision took in the sight of the bartender standing on top of the bar, microphone in hand and a rye smirk covering his face … looking at me!  The owner, whom I’d met previously, stood on the floor behind the bartender.  Grinning, he shouted, "Go for it, Nicky!"
        Nick nodded once towards me.  "And there's no tenderness, like before, in your fingertips."  His arm rose and he pointed in my direction.
        From somewhere deep inside my incredulous shock, I heard Ron cry out.  "Oh my god, Brad!  He's singing to you!"
        Bryan started cackling and I slowly began to realize that most of the patrons in the bar had started looking in my direction.  A couple of them catcalled and a number of them looked confused.  Confused?  Damn, right!  This was Forest Room, not JR's!  The place was primarily straight, but had always been easy-going.  My face flamed with embarrassment.
        :You're trying hard not to show it …,:  Nick sang as a couple people started to join in, Whitley and Alissa included, :…Baby …but Baby … Baby, I knoooow it …:.  More than a few in the crowd started laughing by this point.  I knew that my face, even through my fairly deep tan, was a deep crimson as Bryan forcibly pulled me to my feet in time for Nick to hit the refrain.  :You've lost that loving feeling … oh oh that loooving, feeling …:
        I couldn't believe I was on my feet, utterly stunned and embarrassed by finding myself in the time-warp jump back to the scene from Top Gun with Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis.  I heard one patron say loudly something about the dude singing to another dude, but at that point, I couldn't even find my place in the moment much less worry about what people we thinking.  
        The bartender's eyes lit brightly, showing incredibly blue under the light and his smile's brightness stunned me.  The beams from the overhead track lighting lit his hair, illuminating the dark, full waves.  He looked incredibly hot!
        :You've lost that LOVING feeling now you're gone, gone, gone … whoa wo wo …:  
Nick, from his perch on the bar, grinned sheepishly and held his hands up towards me in question.  I couldn't help myself and I laughed.  My hands rubbed my face briefly to hide my blush as I felt Bryan's arm around my neck propelling my reluctant form towards the bar.  There was scattered applause for the bartender who bowed slightly.  His brother behind him was nearly doubled over with laughter.  His voice rose above the noise and applause as he grabbed the microphone.
        "After that sad display of musical ability from my bro," he paused as I saw a feigned look of hurt play across Nick's face, "all drinks are only a buck for the next fifteen minutes!"  Loud applause and scattered cheers rose from the crowd.  Bryan gave me one last shove as I approached the bar.  Nick jumped to the floor behind the bar then turned towards me as I stopped at an empty barstool.  I felt the woman sitting in the next barstool grab my shoulder.
        "Lucky guy!"  I glanced at her as she tipped her head upwards in play.  The guy sitting next to her shook his head in disbelief, then shrugged and gave me a small, tight grin of his own.  God!  Denver really could be a cool town at times.
        I turned my attention back to Nick.  A breathy chuckle escaped my lips.  "Uh … that was some grand gesture.  What are you doing for an encore?"
        Nick leaned his forearms on the bar.  His mouth opened to reply then stopped with a shrug.  "I … uh, actually hadn't thought that far.  I just wanted to meet you.  And … you seemed to be playing hard to get."
        I chuckled again and shook my head then extended my hand towards him.  "Hi.  I'm Brad and … I wasn't playing hard to get.  Just not … "  I stopped with a shrug.
        He grinned as he clasped my hand.  "I got your name from your friend.  I'm Nick.  Nice meeting you."  He gestured towards the barstool.  "You just stopping by or are you gonna have a seat?"  His brows rose invitingly, but his eyes remained fixed on mine.  The intense interest looking back at me caused my chest to tighten expectantly just like when the air holds its breath prior to the start of a rain storm.  I sat with another grin.
        "I didn't at first believe Bryan when he said you'd asked about me."
        "Why?"  His head tilted slightly to the left.  
        "Well, for one thing," I began with a shrug, "Bryan's a joker and this is Forest Room after all.  I'm not used to guys coming on to me here."  I laughed.  "Normally they're more interested in the ladies.  Don't get me wrong.  Forest Room's a cool, easy-going place, but it's primarily straight."
        He nodded once.  "Okay.  And the other reason?"  His eyebrow arched expectedly.  "You said 'for one thing'.  That, to me, implies the real reason is coming after the first."
        My snort and short chuckle followed my nod.  "Uh, you know … out of all the guys that come in here …."  I paused and shrugged.  "I mean, I know I don't quite scream 'I'm gay' with my looks or my presence, so … why'd you pick me out of all the rest of these guys?"
        He tipped his head.  "Thought so."  Then his grin widened brightly.  "I was hoping you'd ask that.  I used to see you in here a lot last fall with a cute brunette, but you only had eyes for him.  Then I saw you in here a couple weeks back, but you sill didn't notice me."  His glance was pulled from me to a customer signaling him for a refill a couple of stools down from me.  "Let me take care of this guy first and then I'll finish my answer."  
        I nodded and watched as he started to fill a couple of drinks.  He placed a fresh gin and tonic in front of me with a quick wink then began to work on the other drink order.  He smiled genuinely as he talked with the man and his female companion and an unfamiliar tingling flared in my gut as I watched him laugh over some comment obviously concerning his performance.  He seemed so at ease with himself and with the glances he gave me while he continued to talk with the couple.  Over the past year, I'd become quite a bit more aware of guys showing interest in me.  But in truth, I hadn't paid a lot of attention to it because I was usually out with friends or at home by myself.  I'm not interested in pickups even though I seem to have had my share of them.  And … I guess there's a definite 'type' of man that attracts me and most guys weren't that type.  But he was good-looking and naturally comfortable in his own skin.  
        The wavy, slightly-messed up hair curled around his neck brushing the white shirt collar.  Little flecks of light wove themselves through the rich, deep brown of his hair.  The top and second buttons lay undone allowing the gray and black metal links of a necklace to reflect the room's moderate light.  A scattering of dark chest hair peeked through the opening while lean forearms extended from the rolled up sleeves.  And for a 'forearm-type-of guy' like me, watching the muscles shift and move as he mixed the martini was a voyeuristic turn-on, like I was getting away with foreplay right there at the bar.  His button-fly 501's hugged a fit waist, and, as they're prone to do, enticed me with promise for possible fun later.  
        Wait.  Stop.  That's the problem, isn't.  Why did I always have to jump to the sex act immediately?  Wasn't that the issue I'd been talking to myself about … giving time to see if a guy is worth investing in instead of immediately jumping into bed and then dealing with the aftermath of getting to know him later?  Didn't I say that I was going to wait for the 'grand gesture' the next time?  I guess his little performance on the bar was quite a gesture, but maybe he was just a showman.  I shook my head and grinned to myself.  At least try to use the right head first this time, man!
        I looked back to his face after checking out his butt to see him watching me over his shoulder as he drew a beer from the tap.  My grin and quick shrug brought a knowing and playful smirk to his lips.  His simple wink caused a flutter inside me as he moved to serve another customer.  I grabbed my drink and sipped to calm myself then turned to check out the action at my table.  Bryan's silly grin and thumbs up gesture lightened the tightness in my chest that had briefly swelled within me, and brought my smile back to the present.
        Turning to the bar, I noticed Nick's brother talking to him and then watched as Nick pointed to a customer at the end of the row.  His brother nodded and Nick turned and approached me.
        "Care to join me outside for a smoke?  Hank's gonna cover my break."
        "Sure.  I could enjoy a little time out of the spotlight."  
        As Nick filled a glass with seltzer, he dropped his eyes sheepishly for a moment then looked back at me.  "Sorry if I embarrassed you, Brad.  I guess I just wanted to get your attention."
        I laughed, my head tilting backwards with my enjoyment of the moment and his honest concern.  "Well you did that all right.  But, I really can't be too upset," I said continuing to chuckle.  "I asked for it, didn't I?  I probably should have been a little more specific."
        His brows rose as his head dipped in agreement.  He gestured for me to follow him to the end of the bar.  "That you did, but I know you weren't expecting … uh, … that."
        We met at the service opening and, for a moment, I thought he was going to kiss me.  The expression on my face obviously betrayed my surprise because he stopped his approach.  Not that I would have minded in the least bit if he kissed me, even if the whole bar was watching, which I'm sure some of the patrons were.  The past ten minutes or so of watching him had stirred a fire in me and I wasn't sure I could have wielded much restraint.  Why did I want this guy so much?  Was it because he'd shown such clear interest in me?  Was that it?  I've never been one to instigate a connection, but why did I feel suddenly like an instrument's string coming into perfect tune, resonating in a satisfying, shared pitch?
        His voice dropped in tone and volume.  The blue of his eyes intensified instantly and was fixed directly on me.  "I almost kissed you."
        "I know," I replied.  His eyes held mine as he searched for what seemed like a clue as to how to continue.  I swallowed and continued.  "What stopped you?"
        Anxiety and hesitation filled his expression even as it softened.  "Well, besides the fact that I’ve probably pushed the crowd far enough tonight as it is, you looked almost … afraid."
        My head shook once and I pursed my lips tightly in a grin.  "Not afraid … but more so … cautious.  I'd like to make sure the right head is in control tonight."  I winked and then paused.  My eyes closed tightly for a brief moment, then finally opened again to look back at him.  "For once."
        A slow, closed smile stretched his lips.  He studied me for a moment as his hands moved upward in a silent gesture signaling that further words were forthcoming, but were now only thoughts running through his mind.  Finally, he spoke.  "I like looking at you, and even more so when you're looking back at me.  Do you mind if we stay here?  There won't be enough light outside for me to see you fully."
        I coughed in stunned surprise -- like the wind had been knocked out of me.  Could this guy be for real?  Each look, just like virtually each sentence coming from him, was a grand gesture!
        "…uh …"
My thoughts jumped randomly as I struggled to process his words and his grand actions from earlier.  I was overwhelmed at the same time as being incredibly turned on.  My confidence soared with the sure knowledge that he wanted me and yet, insecurities flooded my mind as adrenaline flooded everything else.  
Nick watched my confusion as my heart raced along at the same fluttering speed as the butterflies in my gut.  I could see in his eyes and in the slight upturn of his lip that my bemused stammering was a source of soft amusement.  I had to say something, anything.  
        "I … I gotta pee."  The words slipped from my lips before I could stop them.  Fuck!  What an idiot!  My eyes darted to the side and my face flamed hotly.  A strained sigh accompanied the resigned shake of my head.
        A new smile spread slowly across his lips.  He chuckled lightly.  "I'll be right here."
        My hand darted nervously through my hair as I nodded and turned from Nick.  It was so overwhelming …all of it … damn near each moment since I walked into the bar thirty minutes earlier.  And now I couldn't seem to get away from him quickly enough while at the same time I honestly didn't want to leave him for even a moment.  But grand gestures are like that, I guess.  Overwhelming.
        I walked toward the restroom at the back of the bar and passed a gathering area filled with couches and low tables at which five or six people relaxed comfortably.  I glanced at the group and noticed that the conversation quieted as I approached, then passed.  I heard one guy near the pathway snicker then say loudly under his breath something about the owner letting anyone in the place.  Another guy laughed at his comment, which was followed by a woman's voice telling them to grow up.  I smiled and continued into the hallway towards the restroom.
        Then, I stopped.  What was I doing?  I didn't need to use the restroom except to escape what I realized were my fears and insecurities.  
        "That's such crap, Brad," I said under my breath to the empty hallway.  
        I'd conditioned myself to attracting and settling for either unavailable men or guys that I didn't want to see in the morning.  I was afraid of permanently connecting with someone again.  It was that simple.  Plus … I'd gotten very used to my hand again.  That was all controllable.  Wanting someone special in my life and in my bed was one thing in theory, but having someone, who at first look, seemed to be offering a connection without the major complications I'd been whining to myself, and my friends about, standing there before me in reality, was a totally different thing.  
        The honest, piercing look Nick had given me as I turned to run away played again in my mind.  It was genuine and … and what … promising?  That was it, wasn't it?  That one look, not to mention his grand gesture, held more genuine promise than I'd known in a year.  And it scared the shit out of me.
        I shook my head contemptuously as I felt how the strong desire to simply run back to my table of friends and continue with my fucked up life of non-attachment and non-availability stood in direct counterpoint with his genuine desire for me.  I knew with certainty that I had to stop simply talking about and wanting something different, something more.  A sudden swell of courage filled me.
        "Bullshit, Brad."  
I turned back towards the main part of the bar.
        As I drew near to the grouping of couches, I smirked and tipped my head at the guy from my earlier pass as he looked up at me.  I stopped and leaned towards him signaling to him with my finger that I wanted to say something to him.  Initially, he pulled back slightly, but then must have realized he didn't want to look stupid in front of his friends.  
        My smirk widened as my voice dropped to a more conspiratorial level.  "We're everywhere, dude.  Get over it."  
        Surprise covered his face initially, then he scowled and I nodded towards the woman sitting next to him.  She laughed as our eyes met and I nodded a second time then walked past and into the main part of the bar.  
        Nick's expression brightened as he saw me.  He grinned then took a puff off of his cigarette while leaning casually with one arm resting on the corner of the bar.  I grinned back as I approached.  
        "That was quick," he said once I stood in front of him.
        I shrugged.  "I didn't need the restroom."
        "No.  I was somewhat overwhelmed."
        "But you came back."
        My smirk matched his.  "Yes."
        "Do I still overwhelm you?"
        "Yes."  Unbidden, my smirk rose into a grin.
        "I see," he said.  His head lifted in a slow nod.  "And, that's a good thing?"
        He nodded again and I stepped closer, resting my arm on the corner of the bar next to his.  I leaned towards him.  "I want that kiss."
        His face brightened as he smiled.  "Me too."  He crushed out his cigarette as I took the last step towards him, bringing my body close and reaching to stroke his forearm with my fingertips.  His voice shuddered with a husky tone.  "I thought I saw you watching my arms as I worked the bar."
        I nodded.  "I have a thing for forearms."  My brows rose once invitingly.
        "That's good to know."
        "Yeah.  And sometimes it translates into having a thing for the guy who owns them."
        He leaned his upper body closer to me as my fingers continued down through the slight bit of fur covering his forearm.  "So … does that mean you have a thing for me?"
        "Uh, huh."  My grin dropped as my gaze changed from playful to serious.  "And I think that you might not mind if I do.  Am I right?"
        His grin also dropped.  "Oh, yeah."
        His hand rose towards my face and one finger slowly stroked downward over my lips as his mouth drew to within a hands breath of mine.  Positioned as we were against the wall near the service entrance, my body blocked the crowd's view and the intimacy of his touch remained ours alone.
        My words, more breathed than spoken, cleared the small space between us.  "Are you gonna kiss me now?"
        "Uh, huh," he breathed back to me.  "Just a little kiss for now.  You okay with that?"
        "Uh, huh."
        I trembled as his lips brushed feather-light against mine.  His scent flooded my nostrils; light sweat combined with a whisper of grassy cologne.  A shudder raced through me as my lips closed once, briefly over his upper lip.  I pulled back a tiny bit and our eyes locked.  Still trembling myself, I watched him take a deep, shuddering breath as his finger stroked my chin.  His hand dropped to my chest and he grabbed the material of my t-shirt, giving it a slight, playful pull.  "I want more."
        "So do I."  I replied, my voice accented with intensity.  As crazy as it seemed, I wanted all of him, now, in this moment, but … even more so … I wanted the wanting of him to last longer.  I swallowed once to clear my voice … and my head.  
        "Would you like …"  
        "What do you want for …"
        We both stopped with a grin.  I nodded for him to continue.  "Go ahead."
        His finger reached to stroke my lower lip again.  Our eyes locked.  "Well," he started, his voice husky with the moment, "I wanted to know what you like for breakfast."
        The words, and their implication, took me by surprise, which obviously reflected in my face.  His gaze suddenly narrowed in confusion as I pulled back.  
This wasn't what I wanted!  I didn't want to just trick with this guy, no matter how hot he looked standing there, no matter how badly I wanted more of a kiss, more of his touch.  I hadn't planned on meeting anyone tonight, nor had I hoped to.  
        I quickly glanced behind me to look at my table.  The group was laughing at some joke or explanation from Ron … all having a good time.  I turned back to face Nick and saw his confused and bewildered expression.  My head shook with resignation.  God knows I didn't want another simple romp in bed.  At some point, I had to have more.
        "What?"  He asked, the plaintive tone in his voice surprising me as he placed his hand on mine.  A moment passed silently, then his mouth dropped open as an awareness drifted through his thoughts.  "Whoa.  Wait a minute."
        My eyes darted from looking at his hand on mine up to his face.  
        "Brad, I asked what you like for breakfast so I could think of a place that we could meet instead of Pete's or one of the chains, not because I was expecting you to come home with me."
        A relieved grin surfaced through my sigh.  "You weren't?"  My voice rose upward hopefully.  
        "No," he grinned back, his smile again filling with brightness and just a little playfulness.  "Not that I don't want to completely maul you, but … no, not tonight.  Tonight is about grand gestures, right?  Grand gestures tonight and tomorrow and Sunday … whatever.  I'm old enough to control myself, especially when I think a chance at the real thing might be standing in front of me."  His hand squeezed mine again, this time bringing a return touch from my fingers.  "I just found out your name.  I want to savor it along with the whole last forty-five minutes."
        My stunned breath again gushed out of me.  Maybe he is the real thing, too!  My excitement and emotion overwhelmed me.  "Damn, Nick!  And I thought I was the romantic.  You're an absolute walking, talking Grand Gesture!  I don't have a clue what I could come up with as a comparable grand response."
        He grinned and brought my hand to his lips.  The kiss was sweet and promising.  "You just did.  Now, about my question, what …"
        "Lox and bagels."
        He laughed.  "Hmm … okay.  How about The Walnut Café on Colfax?"
        I nodded, still grinning like a mad man.  "What time?"
        "Is eight o'clock too early?"
        I shook my head.
        "Good," he said with a grin and nod.  "And about lunch … "
        "Avocado cheese burgers at Sam's Number Three.  We can take them down and sit with the Blue Bear as we eat."
        He nodded as his eyes lit up with understanding and enjoyment.  The width of his smile dazzled me.  "And can I surprise you with my favorite restaurant for dinner?"
        My nod was unstoppable.  "Only if I can surprise you with my favorite after-dinner desert place.  They make the best espresso martinis and cheesecake!"
        We both laughed; excitement and utter enjoyment of the moment overflowed.  I stepped closer and looked into his eyes.  "I'm going to kiss you again before I return to my friends and you return to your customers.  You okay with that?"
        He grinned and leaned towards me.

        The End.