My Daddy Valentine by Eve R. Hart

Prologue

Bruce

I sat back in the booth, forcing my eyes to look anywhere but at the loud table across the way. The lights from the dance floor were giving me a headache, but at least it was dark enough to hide what was going on inside of my head. I could count on one hand the number of times I’d allowed myself to be put in this position.

However, this time it felt more awkward somehow.

I hated this place as much as I craved being here right now. But I also loved it since it had been the first. The first for many things, actually.

“Feels weird, doesn’t it?” Hugh asked from my side.

We were just sitting here like a couple of grumpy old men. Or men on the prowl. Sometimes with guys our age, it came off the same. Both of us here in suits drinking fucking top-shelf scotch like we’re too good for a club like this. We weren’t, nor did we pretend to be. We were simply… set in our ways and knew what we liked. And it wasn’t like we’d come here for the same reasons that had drawn in nearly everyone else packing the large space.

He wasn’t wrong.

Things were about to change.

“You sure this is the move you want to make?” I asked and, damn my eyes, I looked right over at that table.

At the blonde-haired adorable twink, to be precise. No one else mattered in the club. They never did, not since I was first made aware of Jen.

But he couldn’t be mine.

And that was hard for me to accept.

Especially since I was almost positive I knew what he needed. I could give him exactly the things he craved. Not only that, but I could be the one to handle all of the things he’d never admit to needing as well.

I wanted to take care of Jen in every conceivable way.

However, life had other plans, and now all I could do was watch from afar as he spiraled out of control.

It was so obvious to see. His clothes weren’t pressed. His hair was slightly overdue for a dye job, the roots showing his natural dark blonde color by about a half an inch, something I’d never once before seen him reveal. He liked the platinum blonde look, and kept it cut just a certain way. It hadn’t changed once in the nearly two years that I’d been aware of him. Any time I saw him, he looked like he’d just walked off the runway, perfect and put together.

That was not the case now and I wondered how long this had been going on. I could have known, but I’d forced myself to stay away from here, his stomping ground, if you will. Even if I was one of the owners of the club.

Beside me, Hugh let out a heavy sigh, and out of the corner of my eye, I caught the way he tossed back his drink with a hint of frustration.

“You know,” he started and I had a feeling he wasn’t really going to answer my question. Still, I couldn’t take my eyes off the mess of a man across the way. Yes, the one I was sure had captured both of our attention. “I wasn’t right for him.”

Grinding my teeth, I tried to ignore the way my collar suddenly felt as if it was getting tight.

“I didn’t ask,” I forced out in a casual tone.

“I know you didn’t, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t want to know.” A beat of silence went by. My lids closed as I tossed back the rest of my drink and vowed I wouldn’t get another. “We worked for a while, but I realized that Jen would never give himself to me. I was scrambling around for scraps. I took them willingly and was there every time he called needing me. I think I was good for him in those moments.” He made some sort of disgruntled noise in the back of his throat. “But I got tired of trying to be the person he wanted.”

I might have noticed Jen first, but Hugh had charmed him before I’d gotten the chance to. While they never really made anything official, they did have some sort of on-and-off-again relationship. Neither one of them set boundaries and that was how things ended up messy for them. Because, even though he would fight it tooth-and-nail, Jen needed boundaries. He needed that line to push and he also needed someone to put their foot down when he did.

But it was pointless to say any of this now.

“You want him,” he said in a tone that held no emotion. “And don’t try to lie to me, I’ve always noticed how you watch him.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I replied, lifting my glass to my lips only to remember that it was empty. With a sigh, I dropped my hand back to the table and pushed the glass away as if it had offended me. “I won’t do that to you.”

“What if I asked you to?”

My head snapped back in shock.

Surely, I hadn’t heard him right.

Slowly, my attention turned in his direction and all I could do was blink at him.

“I do care about him even if he’s not meant to be mine. And I think you care more than I ever did. It’s not fair for me to take that away from you… or him. What if…” His words trailed off as he shook his head. “Just wait until I’m gone, okay?”

He didn’t look sad, exactly. I’d known him for nearly twenty years, but this look was new. I’d say it looked like a man resigned, maybe, or letting go of something he’d tried to hold on to for too long.

I couldn’t form words, so I gave him a curt nod.

Whether I’d make a move or not, well, time would only tell.

“This move will be a good thing,” he assured me. “Opening a new exclusive club in LA is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and it’s a chance for me to make a new start. I’m just worried you won’t be able to handle things here without me.”

He let out a laugh but it felt a little forced.

“I’ll admit that things won’t be the same,” I told him. “But you don’t have to worry. Besides, if I can’t make it work, I could always sell one or two to lighten the load.”

It was a joke, we had no need to sell. Everything was running smoothly. Together, Hugh and I owned two clubs and an upscale bar. I also owned Pike, a very private, very exclusive club that catered to many different things.

Yes, Pike was a sex club if you wanted to boil it down. But to me, it was much more.

We opened this very club together a little over ten years back, it had been the first. Since then, we’d opened another club an upscale lounge together. When I came up with the idea to open Pike five years ago, I’d gone to Hugh first, but he wasn’t interested. He’d always been more private when it came to sexual matters and such. He had said the idea of the club wasn’t something he’d be interested in, and therefore, hadn’t wanted to have a hand in it even if he didn’t judge people for their own desires.

And when he’d come to me about his idea to move to LA, I had supported him and offered to go into it with him as long as I didn’t have to have an active hand in it.

He finished his drink. This was our goodbye. Not in a final sort of way, of course, but in a way that he was moving to the other coast and wouldn’t be around for lunches and drinks and nights when I just needed a friend.

“He won’t make it easy on you,” he said as he stood. There was a smirk on his lips as if he almost wished he was sticking around just to watch the show. “I know you and I know him, and if there’s one thing I can tell you, it’s that you’re exactly what he needs.”

I made some sort of noise in the back of my throat but said nothing.

There was something turning in my gut. A spark of hope maybe, but it didn’t feel right. Hugh was my dear friend, and for that reason alone, Jen should have been the furthest thing from my mind. But Hugh had just basically made me promise to take care of the boy, to go for it and not to give up.

I wouldn’t have called it a favor or a demand, because that made the whole situation feel sinister and dirty.

However, it was the one string I needed severed to set myself free.

“Good luck to you,” he said and then turned his back to me as he headed out of the club. Not once did he glance in Jen’s direction and that made me feel both sad and relieved.

Jen.

I looked back at him. His body was slumped over but I knew he wasn’t intoxicated. It was more like he was having a bad night. Or a bad life, since he seemed to be weighted down by whatever it was.

I craved to know what dimmed his light. Craved to fix it and make him smile again.

For now, I’d just watch him.

The time wasn’t right.

But it would be soon.