“Where are we going?” Travis demanded as the black T-Bird bounced down the gravel road.
Judging by the smirk on his face, Drew wouldn’t have told him even if he could speak. Which he couldn’t, because he had aphasia, but that didn’t stop him from looking insufferably smug. Travis wanted to kiss the self-satisfied look right off his face, but that probably wasn’t wise in a moving vehicle.
And then the vehicle wasn’t moving anymore because Drew parked in front of a big white farmhouse. All the windows glowed welcomingly, and a small fleet of cars was arrayed along the road. As he climbed out of the passenger seat, Travis recognized the yellow Mini with the black bonnet stripes. “Hey! That’s Ery’s car. What’s going on, Drew?”
Drew gave him a crooked smile—devilishly handsome—and grabbed his guitar case from the backseat before taking Travis’s hand and leading him around the house. Travis heard the soft hum of voices, but when they rounded the corner he came to a shocked halt. The grassy area between the house and barn was illuminated by torches and strings of lights. Several large tables sported colorful cloths; one was piled high with brightly wrapped packages. Folding chairs were scattered everywhere.
There were a whole lot of people… and Travis was surprised to find that he knew every one of them. His bosses, the futon queens of Portland. Most of the people from work. His friends Dylan and Chris, who’d found him his dream job. Cute Ery Phillips—with his boyfriend, the beautiful if slightly odd Karl, who played guitar with Drew at P-Town coffee house once a week. Hell, the owner of P-Town was there too, along with Travis’s favorite baristas, each holding a glass of wine. And was that his BFF Sara, deep in conversation with Drew’s mother? They both lived in California and Travis hadn’t had a clue they were in town.
Because Travis and Drew stood in the darkness, nobody had seen them yet. That gave Travis plenty of time to gape, which was good. Finally, he turned to Drew and whispered, “What the hell?”
Drew gestured at a paper banner strung on the side of the barn, undoubtedly painted by Ery. It was a little hard to read because he’d embellished the words with images of bright balloons, bursting fireworks, and gigantic cakes. And, for reasons known only to Ery, multi-colored penises and grinning mermen.
Travis squinted his single eye.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TRAVIS!!
More gaping ensued, followed by a more fervent repeat of his question. “What the hell, Drew?”
Drew let go of Travis’s hand, gently set down the guitar, and grasped Travis’s shoulders. He didn’t say anything, but he didn’t have to. Even in the dim light, love shone brightly from his blue eyes. Maybe he knew that Travis hadn’t had a birthday party since he was seven, and that it had been a pathetic little affair during which Travis’s parents got shitfaced and screamed at each other in front of his classmates who didn’t want to be there to begin with. Or maybe he didn’t know that. Right now that didn’t matter, because Drew was pressing his warm lips to Travis’s. It was a gentle kiss, but it made Travis’s heart race, his toes curl, his jeans feel way too tight.
With another of his smirks, Drew pulled slightly away. He waved his arm toward the milling people, his meaning crystal clear. I did this for you because I love you. These people are all here for you because they’re your friends.
And how fucking amazing was that?
Once upon a time, Travis was alone and lonely. Sara lived far away and his only other friend was his cat, Elwood—who was in it mostly for the kibble. He had a shitty job and no good prospects for the future. And now here he was, with a yard full of people who cared about him. And an amazing man who loved him.
Travis leaned in and kissed Drew back, hard and greedy. He was satisfied when his normally silent lover let out a deep groan.
With a smirk of his own, Travis moved back a little, picked up the guitar, and gave Drew’s ass a friendly swat. “Looks like it’s time for a party,” he said.
And he stepped out into the light to greet his friends.