The Murder Between Us by Tal Bauer



Lightning sparked down Noah’s arms, electricity zinging beneath his skin.

He froze, whiskey half down his throat, glass to his lips. He nearly inhaled the Jameson, almost ended up spraying whiskey over the backs of the obnoxious sales guys crowding him on his right. His eyes watered, and he set his glass down too quickly, nearly losing it as his hand slipped on the condensation. He couldn’t have looked more undignified if he tried. Heart pounding, Noah peered across the bar, trying to spot the blond man again. His breath hitched, caught, as Philippe paced in front of him—

The blond man was gone.

Disappointment knifed through him. He dragged in a slow breath as his fingers clenched around his empty glass. One look. One glimpse. One skip of his heart. Jesus, if this was the reaction he got just from making eye contact with a good-looking guy, then…

Well. It’s not like he really wondered anymore. He pretty much knew. But there was a difference between thinking, and wondering, and pretty much knowing and… really knowing.

Of course, to know, he’d have to work up enough courage to do something about it, and considering his track record…

It wasn’t so bad, being alone.

Besides, that guy was probably looking at someone behind him. One of the sales guys, or, more likely, Rachel. Or any other attractive person, male or female. Who in this casino would pick him out of the crowd, drinking alone at the bar, to smile at?

Well, he’d had his drink, he’d seen a guy who made his heart race, he’d nearly dropped his drink, and now it was time to head back to his room. Noah batted his glass between his palms on the bar top: once, twice, a third time. He nodded. He’d done what he said he would. Time for another year of thinking about it, thinking he might be—

“Can I buy you another one?”

The voice that spoke was honeyed whiskey, amber and gold sliding down his spine and burrowing beneath his skin. Warmth flowed from Noah’s chest, slid up his neck, and grabbed the back of his skull. A hard body leaned into him, just like Rachel had, but instead of cleavage and soft curves, a sculpted chest wrapped in a dark suit slid against his side. A knee brushed the back of his.

The impulses to jump and to melt crashed inside Noah, and he did both and neither at the same time. Jerking, he twisted, losing hold of his empty glass in the process. He lunged for it before it slid off the bar top.

The man beside him caught it one-handed, as if Noah had pitched it to him on purpose.

Jesus. Noah flushed from the roots of his hair to his toes. His eyes flicked down, and down, and then up, quickly. It was him. The blond man who had smiled at him was right there, one leg behind Noah’s, elbow on the bar top, holding Noah’s glass. He was close enough that Noah could feel the heat coming from his skin, see his chest peeking out from beneath the top two buttons of his shirt, undone and open.

He was tall, as tall as Noah, able to look him in the eye as they stood practically inside each other’s shadow. Up close, Noah saw a distinct lack of fine lines and crow’s-feet, the signs he’d come to recognize in the mirror as he hit the big 4-0 and that he saw creeping onto the faces of his friends. Deep brown eyes, like old leather and cognac, stared back at him. His stomach flip-flopped.

The sales guys behind Noah roared again, laughing at yet another story told too loud. One of them backed into Noah, this time not even bothering to mumble an apology. Noah turned, glowering. “Hey. Back up, please. No need for that.”

They were drunk enough to be happy, and the group shifted six inches down the bar. When Noah turned back, the blond was studying him, that hint of a smile back on his lips, as if he was appraising what Noah had just done.

“Sorry.” Noah gestured to both the sales guys and his glass—still in the blond’s grasp—at the same time. “It’s a little crazy here tonight.”

“This isn’t your normal scene.”

“Definitely not.” Noah chuckled. “I uh, wasn’t planning on coming out tonight.”

Noah felt the blond’s eyes rake down his body. “I’m glad you did.”

He flushed, as if the sun had turned its entire focus on him and him alone. His vision blurred, and there were suddenly two blond hunks in front of him until his eyes snapped back into focus. He coughed, looked down. Ran his finger over a seam in the bar’s marble as he fought a slow smile. “When in Vegas.” He shrugged.

Silence. He felt studied, like a lab rat. He looked back up and met the blond’s gaze. The lights from the bar dipped in and out of his facial features, curving around his angled cheekbones and the square lines of his jaw. Across the bar, he’d been eye-catching. Up close, he was breathtaking. Noah’s chest squeezed.