Authors: Jane Davitt,Alexa Snow
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #gay, #LGBT, #BDSM LGBT, #erotic romance, #BDSM, #erotic romance; gay; LGBT; BDSM
THE SQUARE PEG
Jane Davitt & Alexa Snow
The Square Peg
Copyright © August 2012 by Jane Davitt & Alexa Snow
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Editor: Judith David
Cover Artist: Valerie Tibbs
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The Square Peg looked dingy and rundown from the outside, but Ben told himself
that on a gloomy February day, with the sun hidden behind clouds and a brisk wind
flinging trash along the sidewalks, most places wouldn’t look their best.
Not that he could blame the weather for the tattered poster in the filthy front
window, advertising a Pride parade that had taken place two years earlier, or the way
the bar’s main door had a loose handle and a series of dents that looked as if they’d
been made by a fist.
Fair-sized parking lot behind it, though, and a cab company on the corner, close
enough for even the drunkest customer to stagger to safely.
Potential, he told himself as he finally got the handle to work and opened the
door. It’s got potential.
Which was more than he could say for his love life or his job, but he wasn’t going
to think about either of those. Jenson had finally collected the last of his belongings two
days ago. They’d been stacked neatly in a box by Ben, who’d methodically searched
their apartment for any item to which Jenson could legitimately lay claim. He had
enough reminders of their five years together in his head without needing to wince at
the sight of a memento from a vacation or a forgotten T-shirt.
Work, well, his job was the same as it’d ever been. Which was, according to
Jenson, the problem.
“You add up numbers all day, and you’re starting to look like one. A big fat zero.
Zero personality, zero fun, zero— Oh, what’s the use? It’s over. Find yourself an
accountant like you to fuck, and get each other off quoting statistics. And when you
Jane Davitt & Alexa Snow
forget his birthday, apologize by telling him the percentage of men who do that, and
I’m sure he’ll forgive you.”
“Jesus, my father had just died, and you hate celebrating your birthday.”
“It doesn’t mean you’re allowed to forget it!”
Not the first argument they’d had, but it’d ended up being their last.
The carpeted area just inside the door was an indeterminate color, and it was
sticky, forcing Ben to work to peel his shoes off it. The scuffed wooden floor beyond it
wasn’t much better. Didn’t anyone ever mop up the spilled drinks?
It was dim enough that Ben wanted to walk around flicking on every light switch
he came to. Ambiance was one thing, but customers needed to see what they were
drinking. A half-empty glass on a table caught his eye. There seemed to be something
floating in it. He peered at it as he walked past. A lemon slice, limp and raggedly cut,
paper-thin at one end, thick at the other. Which meant the slice next to it had been
Lemons were about fifty cents each. Assume the bar used ten a day… Ben shook
his head. No, somewhere like this wouldn’t get through that many. Even so, not paying
attention to the details was what sent many a business under. A wasted lemon slice
didn’t sound like much, but Ben could spot a red flag even in this poorly lit a room.
Sitting on a stool behind the long, laminate-topped bar—where the lighting was
decent, at least, but it would have to be, or the bartender wouldn’t be able to see what
he was doing—was a young man so pale he probably needed vitamin D supplements.
He was leafing through a thin local newspaper, a bored look on his face. At the end of
the bar, two men and a woman were talking quietly, and in the corner underneath a
dart board that had seen better days, four men sat at a round table having what
sounded like a good-natured argument.
The place wasn’t empty, but no one could call it busy either.
The Square Peg
Ben approached the bar, and the young bartender looked up from his paper,
showing some faint signs of animation as he was faced with a customer. “Hi. What can I
“Actually, I’m looking for the manager,” Ben told him. “Shane Brant? Is he here?”
The bartender nodded, and a lock of his straight blacker-than-black hair fell in
front of his eyes. “In the office,” he said, gesturing at a door in the wall behind the bar.
“Go around to the side, and I’ll let you in.”
Ben smiled his thanks as a section of the bar was raised to allow him to walk
through. Still, he was surprised at how easily he’d been allowed to walk into the private
section of the bar. Maybe he looked so safe and respectable he didn’t qualify as a
security threat—and wasn’t that a depressing thought?
There was another young man behind the bar, crouched, counting bottles and
making notes on a piece of paper. He was blond, pure twink, with eyes green enough
that he had to be wearing tinted contacts. He gave Ben a flirtatious wink that didn’t
seem sincere and a curious once-over that did.
“Hi there. I’m Patrick.”
“He’s not interested,” the bartender said, rolling his eyes and saving Ben from
coming up with a response. “Get back to the inventory.”
Patrick pouted but did as he was told. Ben cleared his throat and walked through
the door to find himself in a corridor with an open door to his right that was clearly an
Inside the room was a massive desk that had to weigh five hundred pounds. A
man sat with his back to the doorway, studying a clipboard in his hands. As Ben
watched, he made a notation, then turned. “Vincent, do you think—” He stopped when
he saw Ben wasn’t Vincent. “Can I help you with something, mate?”
“That depends,” Ben told him. From indifference to wary suspicion in the space of
a minute. Neither attitude was what he’d expected. “Are you Shane Brant?”
Jane Davitt & Alexa Snow
The man was mid-thirties, his hair cropped so close to his head it was difficult to
see its true color. Light brown, maybe. Pale gray eyes and a calmly competent
expression were both off-putting and reassuring. The man exuded intimidation without
trying, but there was no anger or dislike in his appraising stare. A good man to have at
your back and a bad enemy, Ben decided. He felt better once he’d slotted Shane into a
“Benedict Lozier. You’ve probably been wondering when I’d show up.”
Shane scratched his nose. “Haven’t been able to sleep worrying about it. Thank
God you’re here now.” He had an English accent, not strong enough for Ben, whose
secret vice was British TV shows, to be able to narrow it down to a region. But it was
He was being sarcastic, Ben thought. Once he’d thought it, his brain took hold and
circled it around for much longer than it should have, leaving him standing there
staring. “Uh, right. So. You knew my dad.”
“That I did. Better than you, or at least that’s the impression I got.” Shane set his
clipboard on the desk. “Correct me if I’m wrong.”
“No. Not wrong.” Ben sighed and looked around the room. It contained a
haphazard collection of horizontal surfaces on which other things were stacked, often
precariously. This wasn’t going the way he’d imagined.
“Is there something in particular I can do for you, Benedict?” Shane tilted his head
and studied Ben with the same thoughtful gaze he probably wore when deciding which
shirt to wear.
“I thought we should talk,” Ben said.
“And so we are.” Shane blinked patiently.
“About the business.”
The Square Peg
“The bar,” Shane corrected him. “The bar I’ve managed for six years, working my
backside off to keep it open and out of the red. The bar you’ve inherited as a reward
for—what was it again? Oh yeah. Being the son of the owner. Would you even have
recognized your dad if you’d passed him in the street?”
No. Probably not. Ben had been a toddler when Jenna, his mother, had given
Craig—Ben couldn’t think of him as
—an ultimatum: stop using or get out. Craig
Lozier had always taken the easiest choice, innate laziness guiding him instead of any
sense of responsibility toward his wife and young son.
Or at least that was the impression Ben had gotten from the little his mother had
told him over the years.
“I inherited half,” he said, the need for accuracy prompting the correction. That
was another habit of his that had irritated Jenson. And he tried to restrain himself when