The Murder Between Us by Tal Bauer

The lights dimmed even further, only a single spotlight on the band while the candles flickered on each table.

The music began softly, almost a tease, an unfurling ribbon of sound that curled around the room, weaving in and out of the smoke and shadow. It built like the beat of a heart, rising and falling, becoming faster, harder, quicker, more urgent. Noah fell into the rhythm and the beat, let the notes flow into his bones and into his blood, and it was only when he closed his eyes that he realized he was listening to a musical rendition of lovemaking.

“How did you find this place?” he asked, leaning closer to Cole and speaking into his ear as the band switched to a new song. The applause was loud in the small space. One couple stood to dance, a man holding a woman close, cradling her as she laid her head on his shoulder.

“The best places in Vegas are only ever discovered through word of mouth. I was told about it a few years ago, and every time I come back, I never miss it. Now you know, and you can tell someone, too.”

“It’s incredible.”

“I’m glad you’re enjoying it.” Cole shifted and rested his arm on the bench seat behind Noah, almost but not quite wrapping him in a one-armed embrace. His fingers danced on Noah’s shoulder, one drawing a slow circle from his clavicle to his deltoid and back. “Is this okay?”

A thousand fireworks exploded inside Noah’s body. Fire burned where Cole’s finger brushed over his shoulder, as if he’d scorched his skin through his shirt. Ice shivered down his sides, then bolts of heat, and then a rush that went straight to his groin. He swayed into Cole and nodded.

Cole’s finger kept circling around his shoulder slowly, lazily, as the next song unfurled in the darkness.

Their thighs were pressed against one another, hip to knee. Cole’s warmth was permeating Noah. He sat with his hands wrapped around his glass, knuckles white, forearms trembling. What would happen if he reached out and…

As the guitar wailed, notes screaming into the smoky darkness, the sound of longing and secrets and sadness, Noah reached under the table for Cole’s leg. His fingers brushed Cole’s suit pants just above the knee and stroked the brushed wool. Cole’s finger stuttered and stopped.

Noah laid his hand on Cole’s knee and stroked upward, slowly, until his palm rested on the center of Cole’s strong, lean thigh. He squeezed, then tapped out the bass line against Cole’s inseam.

Cole shifted into Noah ever so slightly. The hand on Noah’s shoulder disappeared, then slid up the back of his neck, Cole’s long fingers playing in the short strands at the base of Noah’s skull. He sighed, melting into Cole’s hold. The fingers stayed in his hair, massaging his skull, running softly over his skin.

The music built in waves, filling the darkness and twining with the ribbons of smoke until every molecule of the bar vibrated with passion and purpose. With desire. With a promise of more hanging on the edge of every quivering sound.

By the end of the late-night set, Noah was lost in a heady rush, filled with dark music that strummed on his deepest longings, his most carnal dreams. He was filled, too, with the scent and heat and presence of Cole. Cole, hot beside him, Noah’s skin burning where Cole’s arm draped across his shoulders and where his fingers had massaged the lines of his neck. He stroked Cole’s leg, down to his knee and back up, higher on Cole’s thigh than he’d thought he was brave enough for. High enough that he felt the core of Cole’s heat. High enough that Cole subtly spread his legs. Adjusted himself.

They applauded as the musicians bowed, toasting as the crowd sent them another round of free drinks. Cole leaned into Noah, lips brushing over the curve of his ear. “My driver is outside.”

Driver? What? Before Noah could respond, Cole was on his feet, signing the credit card slip and holding out his hand.

There wasn’t even a question about whether he’d go with him. Noah took his outstretched hand. Cole led him out of the Parrot Room, keeping Noah close and their fingers laced together. They spilled out of the cramped bar onto a side street off the Strip where a Cadillac idled, the young driver waiting by the rear passenger door. “Hey hey, Cole! How are you tonight?”

Cole led Noah to the SUV and waited for him to climb in as the driver, dressed in a perfectly tailored suit, held open the door. “We’re doing great. How’s your night been?”

“No complaints. The evening has been good to me.”

The door shut, and Noah settled against the soft leather as Cole pressed their hips and thighs together once more. It was like they were meant to be like this, bodies brushing, pressing, touching. Cole grabbed his hand and twined their fingers again, resting the back of his hand on Noah’s knee. “Let’s head back, Gregoire.”