Set AblazeBy: KC Burn
HAYDEN HURST toweled off, then wrapped the pristine white towel around his waist before he started shaving. He grinned at his foam-covered reflection. It had been far too long since he’d gone cruising for a hookup, and he was so damned ready to get his rocks off with another person. It was like the universe was giving him a blessing: his last shift at the firehouse had been uneventful, he’d come home and slept solidly for several hours, and he’d woken feeling rested but oh so fucking horny. Sure, it was a Tuesday evening, which wasn’t the best night to find a hookup unless he went looking via app, but more importantly, he didn’t have to be back on shift until 11:00 a.m. on Thursday. Which meant he could have a couple of drinks too.
He hummed as he scraped off stubble and shaving cream, then grabbed a smaller towel and wiped the final streaks away. Still humming, he hung both towels on a hook behind the bathroom door, then wandered naked into his bedroom.
Rummaging for the perfect pair of boxer briefs—or even a pair of skimpy Andrew Christians—that said he was ready to play, he froze when his phone rang.
No, no, no. He needed this. He needed some time where he could be himself. But he couldn’t ignore the phone. They were heading into the dangerous Santa Ana fire season, which meant he could get called back into work.
Mentally preparing to gear up, he reached for the charger on his bedside table and let out a sigh of relief as he read the caller ID.
“Hey, Miguel, what’s up?” They’d both left their small hometown in Northern California, and now Miguel was a Los Angeles firefighter while Hayden worked for a Pasadena firehouse, but their friendship dated back to kindergarten.
“You’re off tonight, aren’t you?”
Hayden’s shoulders tightened. Not work, but this didn’t bode well for his plans, and although Miguel was his best friend, he hated it when Hayden blew him off to go to a gay club. He couldn’t convince his very straight friend to be his wingman. “Sure. What’s up?”
“Let me treat you to dinner tonight. Maybe a few beers.”
The invite itself wasn’t unusual, but something in Miguel’s tone made him wary.
“Yeah, I can do that.” He could always hit a club or bar afterward. “Should I give the other guys a call, see who else is free?”
Hayden almost took a step back at Miguel’s unexpected yet forceful response. “Uh, okay.”
“Look, I have to talk to you about something. Meet you at Messhall? Seven-ish?”
“Fine.” Messhall was about halfway between their places, and not too near where Hayden had planned to go, but better traffic was the other advantage of Tuesday night. He had time to stream another episode of Supernatural before he left. He could not seem to keep up with that show. It was like it proliferated supernaturally.
Hayden managed to squeeze in two episodes; then his Uber hit unexpected traffic, so Miguel was already seated on the patio when he arrived.
Miguel stared into the fire pit at the next table over, tapping his fingers agitatedly on his beer, and didn’t even notice Hayden until he’d sat down.
Hayden nodded and grabbed a menu. Might as well order; he had plenty of time to figure out what was bugging Miguel. But he wanted to eat light. If he ate too much, he’d be too sluggish to want to hook up, and he didn’t want to miss this opportunity.
As soon as they ordered, Hayden put on his most attentive pose, but he wasn’t about to demand to know what was going on. Miguel didn’t respond well to that sort of intrusive inquiry.
Miguel let out a gusty sigh. “Dude, I need a huge favor.”
At least no one was sick or dead. “What?”
“You remember my baby brother? Jez?”
Sort of. It had been well over a decade since he’d seen Jez, who’d been a gangly kid when an eighteen-year-old Hayden moved to Los Angeles—or more specifically, his grandmother’s house in Pasadena. Jez had been six years younger than him and Miguel, and suffered from a severe case of hero worship. It had been both amusing and irritating, especially when he’d started to wonder if Jez’s attention was rooted in something else. Miguel had never mentioned if Jez was gay, but Hayden was glad he’d left Willow Ridge at eighteen, before anyone noticed anything amiss and started unsavory rumors. They’d have been true about Hayden, and he wouldn’t have wanted to tar Jez with that brush, whether he was gay or not.