A Double Date
This is a short story featuring Declan and Brock to be read after Foul Ball. This is from Brock's POV.
“You need to calm down.”
I turned and looked at my best friend, the man I loved, the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. “I can’t help it. I’m protective of her.”
“Lali can handle herself,” Declan stated. “Did you forget the time we were at the club and some guy got handsy with her? I’ve never seen someone lay a person out so fast before.”
That was true. Lali was five foot seven and slender. But she had some lean muscle and knew how to use it. Those self-defense classes she had taken a couple years ago came in handy sometimes. Before Declan or I could even step in to help, Lali had shown that guy not to mess with her.
“Brock, seriously. Lali didn’t ask us to double date so you could size up her man. She wants us to get to know him. Things are going good between them.”
I sighed. Declan was right. Lali had found someone who made her happy. They’d been dating for months now. Since Lali’s parents lived in the Midwest, there was no one local for her to introduce him to besides me and Declan. Well, and the entire Sandpipers team but Lali wanted to ease him into meeting them.
“What kind of name is Royce anyway?” I asked as I grabbed my keys, wallet, and phone off the counter.
“What kind of name is Brock?” I turned to glare at him, which made him chuckle. “Who the hell cares what his name is?” Declan followed me down to my SUV but stole the keys from me before I could get inside. “I’m driving. You and your alpha male attitude can sit in the passenger seat.”
I got inside and buckled up. “I’m not an alpha male.”
“No, not normally, but you’re going to make the poor guy she’s with cower in his seat.”
“Brock, you’re a tall, muscular dude. You’d intimidate anyone.”
There was no way I could help it where Lali was concerned. She deserved the best guy in the world. Someone who would put her on a pedestal and treat her well. From all she’d told me, Royce did that. I still had my doubts. Now I kind of understood how Ethan felt about Declan. He was so protective of his brother. I didn’t take it to the extent he had, but I still felt this need to look out for Lali.
Traffic was light and it wasn’t long before we were pulling into a parking spot at Reese’s. Kasper and Marcus had invited Declan and me out to dinner here not too long ago. They had amazing food. After meeting the owner and her daughter, I knew we’d come back, and here we were.
Declan shut off the SUV and turned to me. “You good?”
“Yeah. I’m sorry. I just don’t want to see her get hurt.”
“You’re a great friend, Brock. Just keep that protective side to yourself through dinner unless he says something utterly stupid, then have at him.”
Laughing, I leaned forward and kissed him quick. “I love you.”
“Love you, too.”
We got out and made our way to the front. Luckily, we didn’t get the same attention from people as we did when we were with Kasper and Marcus that night. They were a celebrity couple. That was the only thing I could equate them to. Declan was popular among the Espen fans but not to the extent they were.
We got inside and seated quickly. We were sat back along the wall but still could see out the floor to ceiling windows in the front of the restaurant. Lali and her date arrived shortly after. Her long, platinum hair was braided down her back. She wore a nice slim pair of black pants and a sleeveless white blouse to show off her full sleeves of tattoos.
Royce was in a pair of navy slacks with a white button-down shirt with the top couple of buttons undone. He had dark, wavy hair that swept down to his ears. He was polished like a businessman who belonged on Wall Street yet was here in Espen.
Suddenly, I felt underdressed in my khakis and polo shirt and undereducated and unrefined. Lovely. I should have worn something nicer, not that Reese’s was a jacket required kind of place or anything.
Declan and I both stood when they got to our table. Lali hugged us then introduced Royce.
“Declan, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said with a handshake. “I’ve been a fan of the Emperors for years. You were a great addition to the team.”
“Thank you. I appreciate you saying that.”
Then Royce turned to me with his outstretched hand. I took it in mine and shook, probably a little firmer than I should have. “Brock, it’s nice to meet you as well. Lali has told me a lot about you. Sometimes I wonder if you should be dating her instead of me.” There was nothing but humor and teasing in his voice.
Lali lightly smacked his arm. “Brock and I… No.” She scrunched up her nose.
“Plus, I’m gay, so there’s that,” I added.
Declan leaned against my side. “And very taken.” He wasn’t one to get jealous. He left that up to me. But it was nice having him jump in.
We took our seats as a waitress came over for our drink order.
At first, small talk with Royce was stilted. Once dinner arrived, things seemed to go easier. I wouldn’t say I was Team Royce or anything, but I was warming up to him. It helped that Lali was obviously head over heels in love with him. She hadn’t told me outright, but I did get that feeling before tonight. This solidified it, though.
The way she looked at him. The way she’d casually touch his arm every now and then. And he only had eyes for her. A few fans had come over to the table to get Declan’s autograph. One had been a very attractive brunette who kept glancing Royce’s way. He didn’t seem to even notice her.
When we were waiting for dessert, Royce excused himself to the restroom. The moment he was out of earshot, Lali’s eyes were on mine. “So?”
“Knock it off and tell me what you think.” She kicked my shin under the table.
“You’re lucky I don’t kick you back.”
“Yeah, I know.”
I sighed. “He’s fine.”
“Fine? Going to the dentist is fine. Having your taxes done is fine.”
“Okay, I get it. He’s good for you. I can tell and he obviously cares about you.”
“But do you like him?”
“Lali, it’s not for me to judge who you go out with.”
“You’re one of the most important people in my life. If you said you thought he was a piece of shit, I’d reevaluate things.” Lali didn’t let many in but I was one of the lucky ones. She valued my opinion just like I had valued hers when I was working through my feelings about Declan.
Reaching across the table, I took her hand in mine and gave it a gentle squeeze. “You love him. It’s plain as day. And I love you. Dec and I both do. We only want the best for you. If Royce is it, then I’ll be sure to spend more time getting to know him.”
Tears shimmered in her eyes, not normally the type to show a lot of emotion. “Thank you, Brock.”
Royce walked back over to the table as I was releasing her hand. He peered down at Lali and took his seat. Concern was etched over his face. “Are you okay?”
She smiled. “Never better.”
Declan leaned over to whisper to me, “You did good.”
I turned toward him. I loved looking into his hazel eyes. “Thanks, Dec.”
“You can show me how much you love me by splitting this gigantic piece of chocolate cake with me.”
I glanced down and sure enough, there was dessert. I hadn’t even noticed the waitress come by. When I was with Declan, he had all my attention. And this cake was seriously enormous. “I think all four us could eat it.”
Declan chuckled. “Nah, it’s just for me and you.”
Lali and Royce were sharing a piece of apple pie that was warm enough that the vanilla ice cream beside it had started to melt. They were in their own bubble eating it together.
As I looked back at Declan, he was moaning with the first bite of cake. “Holy hell, Brock. You have to try this.” He scooped his fork down to take another bite.
This, right here, dinner with the man I loved and my best friend across from us, this was everything. In Declan I had a partner, a lover, another best friend. I woke up happy every morning, looking forward to each day because I knew he’d be there. Knew he cared about me as deeply as I cared about him.
The only way things with him could get better was when I finally got up the nerve to propose. There was a ring hidden for him at home. I had plans for us—big ones. The kind where this life wouldn’t be enough for us.
He bumped his shoulder against mine. “Why are you smiling so big?”
“It’s you, Dec. You’re the reason for my happiness.”
“Brock,” he whispered so quietly I almost couldn’t hear him.
“Oh, my god, this cake is so fucking good,” Lali said loud enough to break our spell. She took another bite.
It was then I noticed she stole some of our dessert.
“Thief,” Declan called her. “How could you?”
“I’d offer you some of our pie, but it’s gone. Your cake is all that’s left.”
Declan took the last bit of cake onto his fork and ate it so she couldn’t have anymore. He knew I wasn’t big on sweets. But at that moment, I wanted to lick the bit of chocolate leftover on his lips. And that was just what I did once he swallowed his food. In front of the entire restaurant. Because I stopped hiding who I was a while ago.
He turned ever so slightly until our lips met and we kissed fully. The taste of chocolate on his tongue enough to have me emit a low moan. A balled-up straw wrapper hit my cheek. I didn’t bother looking. It came from Lali.
I pulled back enough to rest my forehead on his. “Love you, Dec.” I would tell him as many times a day, every day, as I could.
“Love you, too, Brock.”