Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Best Man by Jenna Jones

Zack and Quaid have been lovers for more than a decade, but things aren't going well between them. Quaid is dependable, but Zack is bored, dissatisfied with their routine.

At a family wedding in Las Vegas, Zack does his thing, with little consideration of what Quaid wants or needs, until he notices how much attention one of the other guests is paying to Quaid. And how much Quaid is loving it.

Zack has always known Quaid was the best man for him. Now, can he prove he's the best man for Quaid?

From the top of the Stratosphere Hotel, Las Vegas looked like a starry night, as if someone had flipped the world onto its back. Zack Palmer leaned against the railing, looked at the billion neon bulbs below, and thought that riding the Big Shot in the dark would be like blasting off for the moon.
He glanced over as Quaid's hand slid down the railing to wrap around his -- it was unusually clammy and shaking. Zack let Quaid hold his hand, but he didn't think it would be for long. People would make remarks and he was no in mood for a confrontation tonight.

"I don't think I can do this," Quaid said, looking up as the ride shot into the night and the next load of passengers screamed.

"Of course you can. It's just a thrill ride. It's not even the scariest ride in Vegas."

"That's really not helping, Zack." Quaid winced and shivered a little as the vehicle roared up its track, passengers shouting with laughter and artificial terror.

The other members of the wedding party were in line ahead of them: the other two Brannigan brothers, Peyton and Riley; the bride, Isabel, tucked under Peyton's arm; the bride's sister and the sister's husband; the bride's best friend; cousins from both sides of the family, friends from college or the bride and groom's current jobs.
The older generation had declined to join them; Zack had no doubt they were back in the Bellagio casino, playing slots and downing martinis.

After supper at the vast buffet at the Aladdin, Riley had the idea to walk to the Stratosphere to go on the rides and look at the view. It would be a symbolic gesture, he said, to start the marriage with something that seemed terrifying but actually wasn't. Everyone had exclaimed over the idea except Quaid, but he wasn't given to exclaiming over things anyway.

"You'll be fine." Zack let go of his hand. "You always are."

Quaid chuckled dryly and his body relaxed until another vehicle shot up the tower and into the sky. Riley glanced back at them, his expression concerned, but when he caught Zack's eye he smiled and turned again to talk to Isabel.

"Oh, God," Zack murmured when he saw one of Isabel's cousins working his way down the line to join them. Jeremy was nineteen and newly out, and had latched himself onto Zack and Quaid as his role models and new best friends.

"Be nice. He's just young," Quaid whispered back and smiled at the younger man. "Hey, Jeremy."

"I'm so excited," Jeremy said, bouncing on his toes with eagerness. "Aren't you excited, Quaid?"

"He's scared," Zack said. "Big old baby."

Quaid glanced at him, his brows furrowing. "Roller coasters aren't my favorite thing."

"It'll be fun," Jeremy coaxed Quaid and touched his arm. "I'll sit with you. Do you want me to sit with you?"

"Thanks, but I'll sit with Zack," Quaid said.

Jeremy pouted a moment. "Okay. Can I stand in line with you? Maybe we'll be in the same row!"

"Of course you can," Quaid said and gave Zack a warning look when Zack rolled his eyes. Jeremy beamed and his shoulders got a little straighter as he waited with them.

It wasn't much longer before they reached the front of the line, and Zack was glad: that kept short the time he had to listen to Jeremy babble. The younger members of their group jumped into their seats, squealing with excitement.
Riley climbed in beside one of Isabel's girlfriends, a vivacious girl with chestnut hair who'd been flirting with him since they’d first met earlier that day. Peyton and Isabel took the next row behind him and Jeremy got into the next seat, nearly bouncing with excitement.
Zack got into the seat beside Jeremy and looked up expectantly at Quaid, who stood frowning on the edge of the platform.

"Quaid, come on," Zack said.

Quaid looked out at the dark night and then shook his head. "I can't."

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