Noche Buena

an excerpt

Sean slid into the chair across from Magnus. The Brit had been home and changed; he was wearing another one of his tight-fitting black T-shirts that emphasized his muscular arms and his well-developed pecs. Sean was glad he'd pulled out a good blue chambray shirt and khakis.

"The first thing we need is a budget," Sean said. "That will determine what kind of food we can afford. Do you want to ask each of the guys on the team to kick in?"

Magnus looked like he'd swallowed something sour. "I'd never ask anyone to pay to attend a party I was hosting. We'll take care of everything."

Blue returned with a couple of pint glasses of beer on a tray, dropped them off and charged away. Sean said, "Look, Magnus. I'm tapped. My unemployment is about to end, I've run through everything I had saved, and I may be homeless real soon. I can't even afford this beer, no less a Christmas party."

He took a deep breath. Man, he hated to whine like that, but it had to be said.

When he looked at Magnus there was something like kindness in the Brit's eyes. "I'm sorry, Sean. I didn't mean that I expected you to pay a penny for the party.  I'm quite flush enough to cover it all. But I could use your help on the organizing side."

"From the way you were talking this morning it sounded like you had that under control, too." Sean lifted the beer glass to his mouth. Damn, that tasted good. But how much better would it taste if he was licking it from Magnus's mouth?

Shit. He had to stop thinking that way.

"I talk a good game," Magnus said. "But I always have to rely on someone to carry things out for me." He looked right into Sean's eyes and said, "Can I count on you, Sean?"

It was a good thing he was sitting down, because the raw sexual power coming off of Magnus Anderson was enough to knock him over. "Sure, Magnus." Sean took a deep breath. "Whatever you need."

Blue delivered a big appetizer platter of fried calamari. Sean's mouth watered just looking at it. "Go on, dig in," Magnus said, spearing one of the crispy rings and dipping it in the accompanying sauce.

Sean followed suit. He hadn't had anything more than Top Ramen or the occasional fast food burger for so long that the calamari tasted like heaven. Once he allowed himself to relax, Sean found himself enjoying spending time with Magnus. The Brit was undeniably handsome, and charming when he wanted to be. Which he clearly did want to be that night.

"Another couple of Erdinger Weissbraus?" Magnus asked, as their entrees arrived. "I love a good wheat beer."

"Sure," Sean said. "So what brought you to the United States?"

"Americans tend to think of all Brits as the kind of people you see on Masterpiece Theater," Magnus said. "But the truth's a lot uglier. There's a real class consciousness in Britain, even today. My dad was made redundant from his job when I was a kid, and he never worked after that. My mum came from money, but my granddad lost it all gambling. I grew up on the dole, determined to make a better life for myself than my parents had."

He took a long draw from his beer. "I worked hard in school and got myself a full scholarship to Harrow, and then St. Peter's College at Oxford. As soon as I graduated I got myself a job in the City."

He must have seen Sean's look of confusion, because he said, "That's what London's business district is called, the City. But even with my education I couldn't compete against the toffee-nosed snobs, who weren't half as smart as I was but had better family connections."

"Wow," Sean said.

"So I arranged a transfer here, to Miami. I wanted to be somewhere warm, where I could swim all year round. And I loved the multicultural part, too. Miami's just as cosmopolitan as London, if you know where to look."

Blue arrived with their entrees, a grilled filet of snapper dressed in a mango salsa, and took away the ravaged calamari plate.

"My dad's a carpenter," Sean said, as he dug in. "He was so proud when I graduated from college with a degree in computer science. But I hated being stuck at a desk all day. I got so fed up I quit and got myself a carpenter's job. My dad was so pissed he wouldn't speak to me for months. He said I'd never be a success if I had to work with my hands." He shrugged. "Maybe he was right. I'm not exactly setting the world on fire."

"There's something very masculine about a man who can work with his hands," Magnus said. "I've got two left thumbs. Can't even hammer in a nail without bending it."

He leaned back and stretched and Sean felt Magnus's leg brushing up against his. There was a twinkle in Magnus's eye.

Sean took the plunge. "Yeah, but I have white-collar fantasies," he said, looking Magnus right in the eye. "My ideal man is wearing a business suit and a starched white shirt, with one of those red power ties."

"Really? Perhaps I shouldn't have changed after work," Magnus said.

"It's more about the attitude than the clothes. Those come off, after all."

"Often the sooner the better." Magnus's eyebrow arched, and Sean felt a distinct pressure against his leg.

"I'm not into hairy guys." Sean rubbed his finger against his forearm, furred with brown hair. "I've got enough for both of us."

"Funny," Magnus said. "I'm just the opposite. My skin is so smooth I like a hairy man."

"They do say opposites attract." Sean couldn't believe he was flirting with Magnus Anderson--and the handsome Brit was flirting back. "You didn't pre-order us dessert, did you?"

"Never eat it," Magnus said.

"Dessert doesn't always have to be food." Sean pressed his leg against Magnus's. "If we get out of here we can continue getting to know each other at my apartment. It's just a few blocks away."