Andy froze with the bag of edamame halfway in the freezer. The hair on the back of his neck bristled, and he turned. Grant stood leaning against the door jamb, silently tapping one ankle boot while sipping a can of orange soda.
“When did you get home?” Andy asked. He’d left Grant at the laundromat to pick up a few things at the grocery store.
“Just now.” Grant grabbed a bag of goldfish crackers out of the pantry and tossed a bite into his mouth. Apparently, he wasn’t going to elaborate, although his carefully neutral face indicated he had something on his mind. No surprise there—not after their decision, barely over an hour ago, to bump their friendship up to a relationship.
“What’s bothering you?”
“Misha texted after you left. He’s already planning his Memorial Day pool party.”
“Oh?” They always had fun a Misha’s parties. “Don’t you want to go this year?”
Grant lifted his chin. “Of course I want to go!” His voice had a brittle undertone.
Full retreat would probably have been Andy’s safest course considering Grant had his back up about something, and Andy had no idea what it was. But experience told him Grant would let whatever it was fester until he erupted over something completely unrelated. So, Andy squared his shoulders and repeated his earlier words. “So, what’s bothering you?”
“Don’t think I’ve forgotten about the vicious side-eye you leveled at my inflatable flamingo float last year.”
“Vicious? Seriously? What are you even talking about?” Andy shook his head. That pink monstrosity? Sure it was over-the-top, but so was Grant. And so what? So, the fuck, what? He’d never had anything against that crazy float. Well, he wasn’t going to get in line to be a rider on the damned thing, but he had no problem with Grant and his buddies having fun with it.
Grant pursed his lips. “Fine,” he huffed. “Maybe that was a bit strong, but…”
“But, what’s your goal with this whole relationship thing you want to try on?”
Andy rubbed the back of his neck. What did relationship goals have to do with that floating eyesore? “I don’t know…the usual?” What does any couple hope for?
“Are you going to try to change me? Don’t try to deny you didn’t like my flamingo.” Grant stuck a finger in Andy’s chest. “You know I’m going to have this whole castle in the sky view on this relationship thing. I can’t help it. That’s me. That’s who I am. Just like the flamingo is who I am.”
Andy wrapped his hand around Grant’s wrist, stilling the poking finger. “And the flamingo isn’t me. But I’ve tried dating guys like me, and it doesn’t work. I’m attracted to you.”
“I know I already said this, but I can’t stop thinking about how hard I’m going to crash when this all goes to shit.” Grant’s eyes glittered. He wasn’t going to cry, was he? “Especially if it works for a while before falling to pieces. What’ll I do when you decide you can’t look at me and my glitter and flamingos and hello kitty anymore, and before I know it you’ve got a lawyer telling me to clear out?”
Andy’s jaw dropped. “Grant, stop it.” He dropped Grant’s wrist and placed one hand on the side of Grant’s face, and the other at the man’s waist. “In your heart, you know I’m not like that, right?”
Grant’s lips quivered, but he didn’t reply.
“I know you know that.” Andy’s thumb rubbed across Grant’s cheek, and the man’s eyes dilated. “And I know you can’t help picturing the worst-case-scenario. You’ve done that as long as I’ve known you, and I’m still here.” Andy raised his brow. “Right? You’ve always been a drama queen and I haven’t left yet.”
Some of the stiffness in the muscles under Andy’s hands relaxed. “But, I irritate you.”
“Now and then.” Andy’s mouth quirked into a smile. “And I get on your nerves sometimes, too. Welcome to the human race. You’re still my best friend, and I’m just as scared to death of losing you.”
Grant’s nod was barely perceptible. If Andy hadn’t felt the movement with his hand he might have missed it. Grant’s gaze dropped to Andy’s mouth.
Was it too soon? Andy leaned forward. Or was it the perfect, natural opening for their first kiss? Grant’s lips parted, and a soft sigh escaped them.
Andy whispered, “We both want this to work, so it’s gonna.” Then his lips grazed Grant’s. Warm breath with a hint of cheese and citrus wafted into Andy’s mouth, and a soft squeak reached his ears, sending a sweet quiver down his spine.
When Grant’s hand landed at Andy’s waist, Andy added pressure. No tongue—but an easy compression as their lips moved, delicately nibbling. He withdrew when Grant pushed a hand lightly against his chest.
“Okay,” Grant murmured. His eyes no longer glistened, but he’d added a curious slant to them. “This might work.”