Somebody to Love

an excerpt

Chapter One

"I got tickets! Can you believe it? I got tickets!"

Terry's voice was too loud, so Ben held the phone away from his ear.

"Tickets for what?"

Terry was always trying to drag Ben off to performances of bands he'd never even heard of. Ben's musical tastes hadn't changed much since he was about thirteen years old, and he didn't like the noise and crowds of concerts anyway. There were only a few bands he considered worth the fuss of seeing live.

"Are you kidding?" Terry must have been calling from work. He was a physical therapist, and the exercise machines droned constantly in the background--he almost shouted to hear himself over the noise. "Who have you been wanting to see since college? C'mon, your dream concert."

"Queen?" Ben couldn't believe it. "But those tickets sold out weeks ago. And anyway, it wouldn't be the same without Freddie." At least that's what he'd been telling himself since he found out--three days too late to buy tickets--that the band was coming to DC that summer.

"Don't be such a snob. Adam Lambert's fabulous. The show's going to be great."

"But how on earth did you get Queen tickets?"

"A friend of my cousin's."

"How much?" Ben asked. "Am I going to have to take out a second mortgage?"

"Nope. Bought 'em for original price. Plus fees, of course. The guy got them for his girlfriend because she's a huge fan, but she cheated on him and now he couldn't care less about going. He was just glad to get his money back. And don't even think about paying me. This is your birthday present."

"Terry--"

"Shut up. Seriously. Happy birthday."

"Okay, okay. Thank you."

"You're very welcome," Terry said smugly.

"You're the best."

"Aren't I though?"


* * * *


Gillian knocked on Ben's open door.

"Come on in," Ben said, grateful for an excuse to turn away from the monitor and push back from his desk.

"Tony Manna sent some more corrections," Gillian said. "I e-mailed them to you."

"Great." Ben ran a hand over his face. Manna Contracting was his least favorite client, always making changes right up to the last possible second. They were revamping their employee handbook, and the editing had already taken weeks. "Maybe we should send the damn thing to press just so we can tell them to stop."

"You want me to tell them it's already too late?"

Ben sighed. "No, but maybe we should make it clear this is the last round of corrections. We can't keep doing this forever. The next contract with them, I'm going to charge for each change to the proofs--at least once the initial editing is finished."

"We'll make a killing," Gillian said with a grin.

"Manna from heaven, you might say."

Gillian rolled her eyes at Ben's stupid joke. It wasn't the first time he'd made it. Though the pamphlets, handbooks, order forms, and contracts for Tony Manna's huge contracting business might not be a gift from heaven, all that paperwork made for a steady flow of work for Ben's small publishing company, which made it worth putting up with the man's demands.

Ben's computer chimed, notifying him that he'd received an e-mail, but as he turned back to the monitor, he caught sight of a motorcycle in the parking lot, right outside his window. The bike's owner was a great-looking guy that Ben had noticed many times before, so he probably worked in the building. Ben thought of him as Hot-Leather-and-Denim. It was a stupid nickname, but he always sported a leather motorcycle jacket, even in the heat. And wow, did his shoulders look broad beneath said jacket. And the denim--well, it was impossible not to notice how his jeans clung to his muscular thighs.

Ben had always had a thing for bad boys. Every time he saw Hot-Leather-and-Denim outside the building he couldn't help but stare. He watched those snug-fitting jeans as the guy swung one leg over his bike to dismount.

"Ben?"

His attention snapped back to Gillian. "Yes, sorry?"

"You okay?" she asked. Her puzzled frown didn't disappear, even when Ben assured her he was fine. "You want me to take care of the changes for Mr. Manna?"

"No, it's okay," Ben said. "I'll get to it right after lunch."

Her eyes strayed to the window, where Hot-Leather-and-Denim was still standing next to his bike, looking down at his phone. Then she gave Ben an appraising look.

"Really, Ben?" she said, a teasing smile spreading across her face. "I never imagined you'd be into biker dudes."

"I'm not." Ben reached for his coffee cup, trying to seem nonchalant. "I just--"

"Oh yeah, I can see he doesn't interest you at all." Gillian leaned her hip against Ben's desk. "He asked me about you once."

"What?" Ben set his mug down so quickly, the cold dregs of coffee left at the bottom sloshed out. He grabbed a clump of tissues and mopped up the mess. "What do you mean he asked about me?"

Gillian shrugged. "I was just coming in one morning. I had my bag and my Starbucks and a bunch of files. I was ready to drop everything, trying to unlock the door, so when he passed by he offered to hold something. He asked what kind of work we do. I thought maybe he was flirting, but then he asked about you."

"About me?" Ben swallowed. "What did he ask?"

"If you were my boss, and if it was nice working for you. That kind of thing."

"What did you tell him?"

"Only the good stuff. He seemed impressed that you built this company from the ground up, all by yourself." She laughed. "Though the way he was asking, I didn't think he was really all that interested in your business sense."

Ben could feel his face growing warm, but he tried to think of something dismissive to say. Before he could come up with anything, Gillian was gone, slipping out of Ben's office still grinning.

His gaze was pulled back to the window in time to see the guy stuff his phone into the pocket of his jeans and start up the sidewalk to the building's front door. He seemed to look straight at Ben's window, setting off a flurry of nerves in Ben's stomach, though he knew the reflective glass made it impossible to see much from the outside, especially on such a sunny day.

Wow, he was gorgeous. And it wasn't just the bad-boy clothes either. The leather might have caught Ben's eye, but it was the dark eyes shadowed by a too-long shock of almost-black hair that made it hard to look away. He was exactly Ben's type. That was the problem.

Ben fell for these bad boys because they were confident and reckless and carefree--everything he didn't know how to be. But that didn't make them good boyfriend material. Ben might get turned on by the leather jacket and beat-up jeans, but he was too sensible and old-fashioned to be happy with the casual flings guys like that always seemed to want.

Ben's last boyfriend--if it even made sense to call him that when they'd only gone out six or seven times over three months--had been that type: brooding, solidly muscular, and frequently clad in leather outerwear--and look how that had turned out. Ben had been late to a friend's wedding because he'd waited for over an hour for the guy to show before it finally dawned on him that maybe he was being stood up. Ben called the next day, unable to shake the hope that there was some other explanation, like car trouble or a calendar mix-up, and the guy hadn't even had the good grace to apologize. Just not my scene, he'd said. You get that, right?

That kind of guy wasn't looking for what Ben wanted. He was holding out hope for something like what Terry had with his husband, Ryan. If not marriage, at least something settled, and yes, comfortable. Security. Not financial--that he could provide for himself. He wanted emotional security. And in Ben's experience, leather-clad bad boys weren't exactly lining up to offer that kind of relationship to nerdy, slightly uptight office drones.

Hot-Leather-and-Denim sauntered up the path to the front door. Ben wondered what kind of work he did. Most of the units in the building were rented by small businesses, like Ben's little company. It was hard to imagine a guy like that strolling in, hanging his jacket on the back of a cheap swivel chair, and poking at a keyboard with his strong hands, which--in Ben's mind, at least--were calloused and oil-stained from working on the motorcycle.

Once the guy passed out of sight, Ben got out the sandwich he'd packed that morning and forced himself back to work, diving right into the Manna Contracting corrections. He would cross every t and dot every i, then send it back for final approval before he left for the day.