The Christmas Eve wedding Evan Cleary pulled together in four weeks is crashing down around him and taking his fledgling event planning business with it. With an empty altar and over a hundred guests arriving soon, he turns to the resistant, gorgeous brother of the runaway groom for help.
When Richard Patterson’s flamboyant brother storms out hours before he’s scheduled to marry his equally dramatic partner, Richard is left dealing with the fallout. The last thing he wants is more drama, yet he can’t deny his attraction to the effeminate event planner trying to salvage the wedding.
Evan thinks his crush on Richard is a lost cause, but one steaming kiss later, he learns different. What starts as a night of hot sex turns into a connection neither expected. But Evan knows their relationship is hopeless unless the ultra-conservative Richard can embrace every part of him—both in private and in public.
Red Room, Tome 0.5: Champagne Kisses (Prequel)
Evan rubbed his forehead and stood from his crouched position in front of Bryan. “Is the wedding still happening?”
Another emphatic echo from both men. At least they finally agreed on something. The irony yanked a choked groan from his chest. “Then someone has to deal with the hundred and fifty guests who’ll be showing up to the canceled event.“What?”
The baritone bark crashed over Evan with a simultaneous dose of desire and dread. Fuck. “What do you mean canceled? What in the hell is going on?”
The ache behind Evan’s eye bloomed into a full throb. He didn’t need this. Not now. Not ever. But then he should’ve known it was coming. Richard Patterson had been an enticing thorn in his side since he’d been booked to coordinate this wedding.
“Richie,” Nate wailed, the theatrics kicking into overdrive. “That louse of a man cheated on me.”
Nate sprinted toward his older brother like he was his knight in shining armor. Evan had to concede Richard made one hell of a rescuer. With broad shoulders and a wholesome face etched with a square jaw, he could sweep Evan off his feet any day he wanted.
But that would require Richard to remove the condescending stick wedged up his ass, and Evan didn’t see that happening anytime soon.
Nate flung himself against his brother’s chest and covered his face with his hands, shoulders shaking. It was hard to tell if the sobs were fake or real, but the glare that hit Evan from across the room was positively glacial. That, he could tell.
“What happened?” Richard’s focus shifted to Bryan, and Evan released the breath he’d been unconsciously holding.
“Oh, please.” Bryan pushed himself up, and Evan grabbed his arm to keep him from tumbling back on his ass. “I’m the one needing stitches. It was just a quickie. No one would even know if the gossiping waiters had kept their mouths shut.”
Nate spun around, mouth gaping. “And that makes a difference? How many other men have you screwed that I don’t know about?”
Bryan flushed. A fact that was visible beneath the layer of smeared blood and the napkin he was still holding to his wound. They obviously didn’t want to know the answer.
“Richard, dear,” Evan interrupted. There was no way he was repeating the vase-throwing event, and Nate was warming up his arm if his guppy impression was any indication. “Be a sweetie and take Bryan to the ER, will you?”
He flipped his head to get his long bangs out of his eyes and put on the charming smile that’d gotten more than one man to jump to his bidding. But not this one. The steady glower from Richard could’ve taken down a parade of bears in the middle of gay pride.
“Please, dear?” Evan begged as he dragged a reluctant Bryan forward. “You’re the first one here, and we can’t have guests arriving to see this.” He waved a hand at Bryan.
“I’m leaving,” Nate huffed. He executed a perfect spin and strut, chin pointed high, hips swaying as he stalked toward the exit.
“Nate.” Richard’s low growl was not one Evan would’ve ignored. But Nate seemed impervious to the edge of authority that raised the hairs on Evan’s arms. “Do not leave me with this mess.”
Nate stopped at the double doors to stare back at them. He covered his mouth with a shaking hand and shook his head. “I can’t stay, Richard. I’m sorry. It’s too humiliating.” With that, he pushed out the door, leaving the rest of them in a stunned state of denial.
That just happened.
Richard mumbled something beneath his breath that came across as derogatory, but Evan couldn’t be sure and it didn’t matter. He still needed his help.
“Could you please get Bryan to the hospital?” He resisted batting his eyes only because the tactic would likely fail on the formidable brother. Richard might’ve been supportive of the wedding and helpful during the planning process, but Evan wouldn’t be surprised if this latest round of dramatics plunged him over the understanding-brother cliff.
“Don’t bother. I’ll get a cab.” The usual lilt had drained from Bryan’s voice, leaving behind a cold flatness. Bryan jerked his arm from Evan’s grasped and started to walk away, only to sway and stumble toward a table. Evan lunged forward and grabbed him before he ruined another table setting.
“Fine. I’ll take him,” Richard said in clipped notes. He hitched up his tux sleeve to glance at his watch. “I have to call my mother. Give me a second.” He strode away, digging his cell from his inside pocket as he went.
“Pompous prick,” Bryan muttered.
“Maybe,” Evan agreed as he coaxed him out of the banquet room. “But he’s a damn-fine-looking prick.”
“Give it up.” Bryan snorted, derision dripping from his tone. “He can barely tolerate men like us.”
Men like us. Flaming? Feminine? A “girly” man?
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