I wake with a start. Sweat is pouring down my face and upper body. I look around at my surroundings, it takes a few minutes to remember why there isn’t sand all around me. I shake my head to rid it of the remnants of my nightmares. Everything comes back to me like a wall of water slamming into me. I feel the hard surface beneath me to steady myself.
I abandoned the soft bed at some point during the night and opted for the floor to sleep on.
It makes sense, the bed is too soft after the hard ground I’ve been sleeping on for years now. I jump up from the floor to find myself strangely energized. I see the clock beside the bed and my jaw hits the floor. It’s just after three in the afternoon. I’ve been asleep for almost twenty-one hours. My body feels relaxed and ready for anything, I decide to go for a quick run before finding some food.
I get back to my hotel room after my run and I throw down the sandwiches I picked up at a nearby deli. I head for the bathroom and turn on the shower. The sun against the back of my shoulders as I ran felt great, but the sweat soaked clothes were now clinging to my body. It’s late October in Tennessee, so it still feels like summer. I let the hot water run over me as I think about my run around the city. The heat here is nothing compared to the deserts I’ve been stationed in over recent years.
I wrap the towel around my hips and go in search of my sandwiches, letting my growling stomach lead the way. I startle when I see the figure on the bed, before I relax with recognition. He smiles widely at me and I scowl at him as I snatch back the half eaten sandwich from his mouth.
“These are mine.” I tell him angrily. He just smiles like he won a game and shrugs.
“Fine. Don’t share with your only brother.” He whimpers with a fake sniffle. I shake my head and toss the half eaten sandwich back at him.
“I don’t know where your mouth has been anyway.” I say playfully as I pick up the untouched sandwich and begin eating.
“I could tell you.” He says wiggling his eyebrows at me. “But I don’t want to put you off your sandwich.” I try to swallow my mouthful as he laughs at the appalled expression on my face. It’s then I notice that he’s dressed up. He’s clean shaven and wearing dark blue jeans. His white button down dress shirt is left open at the top a little. His black leather cowboy boots are shined and gleaming. His blonde hair is brushed back and I suspect being held in place by product. His dark blue eyes are lit with dangerous excitement, the way they always did before we got into trouble from our father.
I take a cautious step back from him eyeing him warily. Experience has taught me that nothing good ever comes from that look in his eyes. Being the oldest, I was the one to always cop the blame for trouble and the worst of the punishment. Rowan’s joyful laughter fills the room as he sees my guarded hesitation. I finish the last bit of my sandwich and Rowan throws a bag at me. I catch it easily and unzip the top. I look up and smile at him.
“Thought you could use those, so I grabbed a few things the last time I visited the olds.” He says with a mischievous wink. I dart into the bathroom letting his excitement infect me like a contagious disease. I look at my reflection in the mirror as I pull on my dark blue jeans. I tuck in a black button up shirt with long sleeves. I fix the large silver buckle belt to secure my jeans, I had to tighten it bit. My strong upper body is not very forgiving. My muscles are stretching the shirt to its limits across the chest and shoulders.
My soldier’s physique has grown a little more muscle since I was last home. I run my hand through my wet dark brown hair letting it fall loose. It’s longer than a typical soldiers crew cut but not so long enough to be considered a hippy haircut by our father. I emerge from the bathroom greeted by a wolf whistle.
“Jeez Link, beefed up a bit since the last time we were out on the town huh?” Rowan says taking in my appearance. I smile proudly at him and pull a muscle flexing pose. We both laugh as I take a seat on the bed next to him.
“Maybe I have, but these.” I trail off pulling on my dark brown leather cowboy boots one at a time. “Are always a perfect fit. I think my feet have missed these.” I add reverently staring down at my feet.
Rowan stares back at me with the same dark blue eyes that I possess. If not for our eyes no one would ever take us for brothers. I’ve got a full head of height on him. He’s about 5-9” while I come in closer to 6-4”. I have a stronger build while his is leaner. He’s got our mothers blonde hair and fairness while I have our father’s dark hair and harsh features.
“Oh one more thing.” Rowan says pulling out a cream colored cowboy hat and slamming it down on my head. He huffs frustrated. “I hate how well you pull that off.” Smiling he turns us towards the mirror on the back on the hotel room door. “We’ve got to be the hottest duo since Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.” He says proudly. I just laugh as I open the door to leave.
We start walking down the street towards downtown. I don’t mind walking a ways after sleeping so long. And the excited energy Rowan is emitting could light up half the neon signs in Nashville.
We’ve been walking and talking for a while and laughing at jokes. Rowan fills me in on everything from his life that I may have missed in the past few years. I don’t think there was much that hadn’t been covered in his letters and emails but I let him talk. I sure didn’t have any anecdotes to share from the past two years.
We finally arrive at a bar I’ve never been to before. The Swingin’ Lariat. I see the sign and I glare at Rowan with a raised eyebrow. “Is this?” I trail off gesturing towards the bar. He smiles broadly.
“Don’t worry you don’t have to be gay to drink here.” He announces with a snarky tone. I swipe at him but he ducks it. “Don’t mess the hair.” He scolds me seriously and I laugh at him. He starts walking towards the door and he sees my hesitation. “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you from all the big bad queers.” He says with a baby voice. I shoot him a deathly glare and he laughs.
“I’m fucking with you Link.” He says holding his hands up in surrender. “This place is frequented by my homosexual brethren yes, but it’s not just a gay bar. This place also happens to have an awesome D.J and tonight, two for one shots.” He informs me with a dramatic lecturing voice.
“Two for one shots?” I clarify with a wide smile. He smiles back proudly.
“I knew we were related.” He says pulling me by the sleeve into the bar. We make a beeline for the bar. It is a circular bar in the center of the front of the space. Towards the back is a dancefloor and a stage where a D.J is currently set up. There are semi circle booths lining each side of the dance floor that are dimly lit. The country music is jumping and I feel it in my bones. There are people line dancing on the polished wooden dance floor. There are high bar tables with stools spread out from the bar in random formation
This place was well set up and Rowan smiles at me when he sees me openly admiring the place. There are couples leaning over the bar trying to get service and the bar tenders look like they’re moving at a hundred miles an hour. They duck and weave around each other expertly. I can see a group of women laughing at the other end of the bar. They barely look old enough to be in here.
I watch as Rowan flirtatiously gets the bar tenders attention. He orders us six shots—three each— to start with. We slam them back one after the other. We head for a nearby table to await further drink service. I take my perch on the stool and look back around this bar. There are people from all walks of life. There are some older couples in the booths and younger ones by the bar. Some same sex and some not, it doesn’t make a difference at all. Everyone here is here for a good time, drinking, dancing and catching up with friends.
I order some more shots from a passing waitress and Rowan winks at a guy by the bar. I laugh at him. He’s moving in his seat like the music is calling to him. His face is lit up with happiness even in this dimly lit place.
After another round of shots Rowan pulls me up to the dance floor to join in the line dancing. He doesn’t really have to twist my arm, the vibe in this place is infectious. It’s been so long since I could just relax and hang out with my best friend like this. I’m laughing as I demonstrate some very rusty dance skills. Rowan on the other hand is completely in his element.
I abandon him on the dance floor after a couple of songs and go in search for more drinks. I decide to grab us a couple of beers to chase the next shots with. I’m frustrated with how long it’s taking me to get served at the bar, so I take a page from my brother and through my best flirtatious look at the bar tender. It works.
I’m not even a little bit ashamed of my abuse of power as long as it gets us more drinks. I carry them over to another table closer to the dance floor. Rowan looks up between stomp, kick turns and waves at me. After the song ends Rowan comes bouncing over for his drinks.
I can’t help but notice a few fallen faces around the room as Rowan joins me at the table. I always knew women were openly attracted to him, but I’m glad to realize that gay men are just bad. I shake my head laughing.
“What?” Rowan questions loudly over the music.
“I was just seeing the heart broken faces around the room as you came back to join me.” I say laughing. He shrugs. “You might have a better chance of picking up, if weren’t here.” I add.
“Forget that. Bros before Mos.” He says smiling. “I’m out with my bro tonight, the Mos are just going to have to keep it in their pants for another night.” He says with a wink. We drink and laugh for a while. I start a drinking game, a shot for every time someone tries to pick up on my brother I have to take a shot. And he has to take one every time someone tries to pick up on me. I’m proud to say that I was holding my own, and Rowan was having to slam down a few more shots than he originally anticipated.
Then something even bolder happens, two men ask us both to come home with them. I’m so beyond proud and flattered that I’m only mildly uncomfortable at the suggestion. Perhaps the amount of alcohol I’ve had is also putting me at ease. Rowan bursts out laughing before explaining to the couple that we’re brothers. They don’t seem deterred. We flee to the bar for more drinks.
“So do we both have to do a shot for that?” He asks curiously. “They wanted both of us.”
“I think that requires a Jäger bomb.” I inform him seriously. “I want that whole thing wiped from my mind.” He nods in agreement. We take our drinks back to the table.
“On three, down it.” I instruct. He nods before clinking his beer glass to mine.
“One, two, three.” We say together, we drop in the Jäger shots and bring the glasses to our lips. Oh God the taste. I’ve forgotten how vile Jägermeister tastes. I haven’t touched it since an unfortunate night back in college that I’m still trying to live down. I hear the slam of Rowan’s empty glass on the table top at the same time as mine. We laugh until I nearly fall off my chair.
I suggest we stop our game before it kills us and switch to beer.
“Tsk, tsk. What would your soldier buddies say about your fairy of a little brother drinking you under the table?” Rowan asks with mock disappointment. I shoot him a dark glare.
“Line ’em up.” I challenge him and he laughs as he darts off to the bar. I hate it when he degrades himself using any of the names our father called him after he came out to them, even in jest. But it seems to be his coping mechanism. As I wait for Rowan to return I glance around the room again. A room that is starting to look a little less solid. But I will never admit defeat before him. My eyes catch on something, or more accurately someone.
In the middle of the dance floor is the most stunning looking woman I’ve ever laid eyes on. Dancing amongst the crowd of line dancers. Her long tan legs adorned in dark brown and turquoise leather cowboy boots travel up to skim her calf muscles. Her short denim skirt is wrapped securely around her hips and perfect ass. She’s wearing a very lose midnight blue top that makes her arms look like they could be wings. The top is cut low at the neck and back, and cut outs on the shoulders to reveal her perfect tan travels the entire length of her body.
Her long brown hair with touches of blonde swirls around her shoulders and back. I want to see her eyes but they’re closed. Her fluid movements as she dances are hypnotic. She looks like she’s underwater moving so fluid and graceful.
Yet the most beautiful thing about her is that smile. Her smile is like a beacon from a light house calling home lost sailors. Her face is lit up like she’s dancing in a dream, happiness radiates from every part of her body. She’s buried herself in the middle of the crowd of line dancers, probably in a feeble attempt to blend into the crowd.
This goddess couldn’t blend in if she was painted the same color as the floor. She’s incredible, I’ve never been so instantly drawn to a woman before at a distance. I desperately want to see her eyes. As much as I want to see them, I’m also terrified of seeing them at the same time. I have the strangest feeling that once I do, I’ll never be the same again. The clinking of shot glasses breaks me from my reverie. I look at Rowan for a minute and something about my face registers with him.
“Where?” He says knowingly as he starts scanning the room. I let my eyes fall back to her on the dance floor. “Oh the Goddess on the waves.” He says and I look at him shocked. He shrugs. “I’ve seen her in here before.” He tells me with a furrowed brow. Then his eyes start scanning the room searching for something. Then his hand comes over his heart and he takes a sharp intake of breath. I turn to see what could cause such a reaction in my brother. Then I see it.
Strolling towards the center of the dance floor is a tall man wearing tight black jeans and I fitted white v-neck shirt. His hair is black, and his green eyes are seeking something like a heat seeking missile. I cringe as I determine his path of destruction. He’s on a collision course with the goddess. “That.” Rowan says through ragged breaths. “Is the Adonis who is usually with her.” My heart sinks a little at his words. I watch as the missile intercepts the goddess taking her by the hand and spinning her around the dance floor.
“Damn that man can dance.” Rowan appraises and I glare at him with betrayal etched on my face. But I’m concerned by his appearance, he looks like he’s having heart palpitations.
“Are you alright?” I ask him urgently.
“Uh huh.” He says weakly fanning his face as he still watches the missile now dancing with the goddess. Her eyes are open but I can’t stand to look at them. I don’t want to see her gaze on another’s face. I hear her laughter travel towards me from the dancefloor like ripples on a pond I don’t have to look to know it’s her laughter. My heart can feel it.