It was three in the morning when the bar closed, and between the two of them, Angel and Rhys had less than five dollars.
Taking a taxi or an uber was out of the question and they’ve already tried calling all four of their friends, none of whom had answered.
“Who else do we even know?” Rhys asked, hanging up halfway through Vaughn’s voicemail message.
“I mean, my dad lives like five minutes away… Guess we could always walk to his house,” Angel said, although she didn’t sound all that thrilled about the prospect.
“You think he’s still awake?”
Angel shrugged, “Prob’ly not, but it doesn’t matter. I have a key.”
Rhys frowned, “Why don’t you just call him?”
“No way,” Angel shook her head, “‘M too drunk to deal with him.”
“But you’re sober enough to walk allllll the way to his house?” Rhys asked, skeptically. “Jus call him, maybe he can pick us up.”
“Even if he does agree to come to get us, he’s going to be such a huge dick about it,” Angel told him. “You don’t even know.”
“Well it’s not really like we have any other option.”
“I still say we should just walk to his house. It’ll be faster anyways,” she insisted.
“Yeah maybe, if we don’t get run over first,” Rhys said, sarcastically. “Just call him!”
“Please don’t make me,” Angel begged. “I can’t deal with his shit right now.”
“ Fine , I’ll do it,” Rhys said, holding out his hand to her. “Jus gimme the phone.”
Angel glared at him, but she brought up her dad’s contact and handed it over. Rhys nervously cleared his throat, before hitting the call button.
Angel’s dad picked up on the fourth ring and he sounded pretty pissed. “Do you have any idea what time it is?”
“Uh, yeah, hi, sorry Mr. Lawrence,” Rhys babbled, like an idiot. “Who the hell are you?” he snapped back. If he wasn’t pissed before, he sure as hell was now.
“I’m Rhys. Angel’s friend.”
“Friend, huh? She never mentioned any Rice,” he said, sounding doubtful. “Where is she, anyway?”
“She’s standing right here next to me. Say hi, Angel,” Rhys prompted, holding out the phone to her. She ignored him, swatting the phone away.
Rhys put the phone back up to his ear. “We, uh, we’re actually at the bar right now…,” he continued. “And we - well, we kind of need a ride.”
“You’re kidding me, right?”
“I only wish I was,” Rhys said.
It was quiet for a moment, then he heard Mr. Lawrence sigh. “Okay, Rice, why don’t you go ahead and send me your location,” he said, then promptly hung up.
“It’s Rhys ,” Rhys mumbled to the dial tone. Angel looked at him, expectantly, “So?”
“He called me Rice ,” Rhys pouted. Angel rolled her eyes at him. “Who cares? Is he coming?”
“Well, he said to send him your location so I’m pretty sure that he is,” Rhys told her.
“ Great ,” Angel said, flatly. She sat down on the edge of the sidewalk, patting the spot next to her for Rhys to come sit. “We’re probably going to be here awhile. Might as well sit.”
Rhys frowned, “I thought you said that he lived five minutes away.”
“He does, but it usually takes him about an hour to leave the house,” Angel said. “Told you it would be faster to walk.”
“Seriously?” Rhys groaned, reluctantly taking a seat beside her on the sidewalk. She shrugged, “Yeah, he’s a douche.”
“Totally,” Rhys nodded in agreement. Angel gave him a look. “You’re only agreeing with me because he called you Rice, aren't you?”
“It isn’t even a name!”
It was well after four when a white Tesla pulled up next to them.
Rhys could hear it coming from all the way down the street. Between the continuous revving of the engine and obnoxiously loud classic rock blaring, it was impossible not to.
The passenger side window rolled down. “Get in, Rice Cakes,” Mr. Lawrence barked.
“I could, uh, use a hand,” Rhys said, weakly, gesturing to Angel, who was unconscious and slumped against his shoulder.
He scoffed, “Come on, stringbean, are you really that weak? She weighs like ninety pounds.”
Angel was right. He was kind of a dick. Part of Rhys thought she might just be pretending to be asleep so that she wouldn’t have to deal with her father. He couldn’t really blame her if she was.
Finally the driver’s side door opened and out stepped Mr. Lawrence. It was a good thing that Rhys hadn’t tried to carry Angel on his own because he would’ve dropped her as soon as he took one good look at the man standing before him.
The first thing he noticed was how well-built Angel’s father was, with muscular arms and thick thighs that he could definitely crush Rhys to death with. He was a little shorter than Rhys, but Rhys couldn’t help but feel small as the man loomed over him, larger than life.
It wasn’t until he took another step closer that Rhys was able to get a good look at this face, the streetlights illuminating his dark, chiseled features.
To call him handsome would be an understatement. He looked like he had been sculpted from marble.
His salt-and-pepper hair was slicked back, with a few loose strands falling into his piercing heterochromatic eyes, one blue and one green.
He had warm sun-kissed skin and a faint white scar in the shape of an upside down ‘V’ painted across his face. It started on his left side, just barely missing the corner of his blue eye, and curved all the way up over the bridge of his nose and back down the right side of his face, straight through his green eye.
Rhys wasn’t sure how long he had been staring, but it must’ve been pretty obvious, because the older man gave him a dirty look. “What the hell are you staring at, kid?”
Rhys quickly looked away in embarrassment, hoping that it was dark enough he couldn’t see the blush creeping up his cheeks.
Thankfully he didn’t say anything else about it, effortlessly scooping Angel up into his arms in one swift motion. “Why don’t you make yourself useful and open the door for me, Rice Krispies?”
Rhys frowned, opening his mouth to tell him that his name isn’t fucking Rice , when he noticed that the doors to the backseats opened upwards. .
“Holy shit,” he said, unable to contain his excitement. “You have a Delorean!”
Mr. Lawrence stared at him blankly, like he was an idiot. “What the fuck is a Delorean?”
“Yanno the car from Back to the Future ,” Rhys said, like it was obvious.
“Never seen it,” he said, dismissively. “You’re such a nerd.”
“You’re in the minority here, okay? Everyone’s seen it. It’s a classic,” Rhys said.
Mr. Lawrence rolled his eyes, “Whatever you say, Rice n beans. Now open the door for me, would ya?”
Rhys went to open the door for him, but his depth perception must’ve been more impaired than he realized, because he overshot and the door ended up swinging out and hitting him right in the face.
He staggered and clutched at his face, more in shock than in pain, before he fell back and his ass hit the concrete.
It didn’t hurt that bad actually, given he was pretty numb from all the alcohol, but he knew that he was going to be in a world of pain once he started to sober up.
It took him a moment to notice that Mr. Lawrence was laughing at him. He even thought he heard Angel giggling from the backseat.
Either he was right and she was faking being asleep the whole time, or the sound of the car door colliding with his face was loud enough to wake her up.
Mr. Lawrence was still cracking up. “Holy shit, kid, that was hilarious. You should’ve seen your face,” he laughed, dramatically wiping the tears from his eyes.
Rhys glared up at him, unamused. He could already feel a dull ache in his head beginning to bloom.
“Aw, come on, kiddo, don’t look at me like that,” he said. “It was fucking funny.” Kiddo . Well at least he hadn’t called him Rice.
Finally once he’d stopped laughed, much to Rhys’ surprise, Angel’s dad extended a very large hand to him to help him up.
Rhys hadn’t realized he was shaking until he reached out to take the older man’s strong, calloused hand. He pulled Rhys to his feet with ease.
Once he was standing again, Rhys’ head began to swim and his legs trembled like they were made of jello. He couldn’t tell if it was from being drunk, being hit on the head, or the fact that he was standing so close to Mr. Lawrence.
Mr. Lawrence still hadn’t let go of Rhys’ hand. He was looking closely at Rhys, almost like he was examining him.
“Jesus, kid, you look like you’re about to pass out,” he said, after a moment. “Am I gonna have to carry you to the car, too?”
“No, m’fine,” Rhys insisted, pulling away from him, which was a big mistake because he immediately collapsed into his big, muscular arms.
“Yeah, bullshit, you’re fine, stupid,” Mr. Lawrence said, grabbing Rhys by the waist with his enormous fucking hands and holding him steady.
Rhys continued to stare up at him, dopey and wide-eyed, unable to say anything at all. He might as well have been drooling.
He felt hot all over with the older man standing so close to him. Not just that, he was the only thing holding him upright and he was staring intently at him.
Then he started to laugh again, and this time Rhys could actually feel the rumble in his chest when he laughed.
Then suddenly he was serious again. “Okay, Rice, enough fucking around,” he said. “Now do you think that you can manage to get into the car yourself or do I have to do it for you?”
Rhys was fairly certain that he would’ve been able to make it a whole two steps on his own, but his drunken self was completely shameless and he wasn’t ready for the older man to let go of him yet.
“Would you mind?” Rhys asked, sheepishly, swaying on his feet a little.
If he wasn’t drunk and mildly injured, he would’ve been ashamed of how desperate and pathetic he sounded, but in his current state, he couldn’t bring himself to care.
Mr. Lawrence rolled his eyes, “Unbelievable.”
Then without a warning, he hoisted Rhys up in his arms and carried him over to the car, thrown over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
He used his free hand to open the passenger side door and then helped Rhys down into the seat before letting go and slamming the door behind him.
The music was still blasting through the speakers, Rhys reached out to lower to volume but Mr. Lawrence was already in the driver’s seat.
“Don’t touch that,” he scolded, swatting Rhys’ hand away. “But my head hurts,” Rhys complained, rubbing at his head for emphasis.
“Well maybe you should have thought of that before you rammed your head into my car door,” Mr. Lawrence said, putting the car in drive and immediately slamming his foot on the gas.
Rhys pouted at him, but he wasn’t paying attention, eyes focused on the road. “I didn’t mean to!” Rhys insisted. “I could have a concussion, y’know.”
“You don’t have a fucking concussion,” he said, dismissively. “Oh yeah, how d’you even know?” Rhys said. “It’s not like you bothered to check.”
“Check what, Rice? Do I look like a friggin doctor to you? You’re fine, it’s just a bump.”
“It’s Reeee-se ,” Rhys finally decided to correct him, dragging it out for emphasis.
“ Reeee-se ?” Mr. Lawrence laughed. “Like Reese’s Pieces?”
“No, not like Reese’s Pieces,” Rhys said, glaring at him. “R - H - Y - S.”
“ Rhys ?” he repeated, mockingly. “Hah, that’s stupid.”
“Oh yeah, well what’s your stupid name?” Rhys asked, continuing to glare at him.
“None of your damn business.”
“Wow, Angel wasn’t kidding when she said you were a douche ,” Rhys said.
He expected Mr. Lawrence to yell at him for calling him a douche, but instead he just rolled his eyes and said, “Yeah, no shit, cupcake.”
Neither of them said anything for a minute. “But you know something,” Mr. Lawrence started. He seemed to have decided that he was going to take offense to Rhys’ comment after all.
“I could’ve hung up the phone and gone back to bed,” he went on. “But I didn’t, did I? No, I drove all the way over here to pick up my daughter and her loser boyfriend - .”
“Whoa,” Rhys quickly cut him off. “I am not her boyfriend!”
“Whatever you say, kid.”
“I’m seriousssss. We’re friends .”
“Then what are you doing alone with her at four in the morning?”
“M’not alone with her,” Rhys insisted, giving Jack what he hoped was a flirty smile. “You’re here, Mr. Lawrence.”
Mr. Lawrence turned to Rhys and briefly sized him up, then he looked him straight in the face. “Jack,” he said, simply, maintaining eye contact with Rhys.
“What?” Rhys asked, stupidly. He felt paralyzed under the older man’s gaze.
“You can call me Jack,” he said. “But just don’t go getting any ideas, okay?
“Ideas about what?”
“Don’t play dumb, kitten. You’ve been throwing yourself at me this whole time,” Jack said, and Rhys’ felt his face burning. “You know, at first I thought you were just trying to get in good with me because you were dating my daughter, but I should’ve known better. You’re too much of a pretty boy.”
Rhys blushed even harder, looking down at his lap. “You think I’m pretty?”
“Listen kid, I was just making an observation. Obviously you know you’re pretty,” Jack said. “Don’t cream your pants.”
Rhys smiled to himself, unable to pretend Jack’s words didn’t fill him with warm pride. He thought Rhys was pretty.
“Don’t think I don’t see you blushing over there,” Jack teased. “I’m not blushing,” Rhys lied.
“Sure you’re not.”
When Rhys glanced back over at Jack, his eyes were on the road again. He had one enormous hand on the wheel and the other rested on his thigh, drumming his fingers against it.
There was a bit of black ink just below his wrist peeking out from under his sleeve. It would be so easy for Rhys to just reach over and touch it. He wanted to so badly.
After a moment, he made up his mind. He couldn’t resist, the temptation was too much for him. Hesitantly, he reached over and traced it gently with his fingertips. “I didn’t know you had a tattoo.”
Jack looked over at Rhys incredulously, watching as he touched the ink for a moment before smacking his hand away. “Okay, you see, this is exactly what I was talking about. Hands to yourself, dum dum,” he scolded.
He had slowed down a little and Rhys realized they had made it to the rich part of the neighborhood. All of the houses in this development were practically mansions.
“This is where you live?” Rhys asked, impressed. Jack looked smug, “Yep.”
At the end of the street there was a cul-de-sac with an obnoxiously long uphill driveway that led all the way up to a ridiculously huge house.
“You live here alone?” Rhys asked him once they made it all the way to the top. There were a few other flashy sports cars parked there on the side, but given Jack’s style, he assumed that they all belonged to him.
When he turned back to look at Jack, he was already standing in the driveway, carrying Angel.
“C’mon Rhysie, let’s move,” Jack ordered, banging on the passenger side window. “I don’t care how hard you hit your head, I’m not carrying you again.”
Rhys sighed. He was comfortable in the car seat and he didn’t feel like moving, but he also didn’t feel like being yelled at by Jack again. So he reluctantly got out of the car, being deliberately slow about it.
He took one look at the stairs leading up to the front door and then looked back at Jack.
“We can go through the garage,” Jack said, leading him towards the big white door. He pressed his thumb on the keypad and the door rolled open, revealing yet another flashy, expensive car.
“How many cars do you have?” Rhys asked, a bit judgmentally. “Enough with the questions, sweet cheeks,” Jack said. “Just keep walkin’.”
Rhys did as he was told, following Jack through the garage, into the basement, and very slowly upstairs to what seemed to be Angel’s childhood room.
He watched Jack lower Angel onto the bed and tuck her in. Rhys felt his heart flutter a little at the sight of Jack taking care of his daughter. It was the first time all night that Jack had done something sweet.
He turned to Rhys. “Before you go to bed, come downstairs with me for a minute. I have something for you.”
Rhys stared back at him, wide-eyed. He thought maybe he had misheard the older man.
Had he really just said that he wanted Rhys to come downstairs with him so that he could give him something? What could Jack possibly have for him?
Maybe it was just wishful thinking but it sounded like the start of a bad porno.
This time he was much faster to clumsily follow Jack downstairs and into the kitchen that looked like it was straight out a home appliance catalogue.
“Take a seat,” Jack said, gesturing to the bar stools lined up against the kitchen counter.
Rhys sat, propping his elbows up on the counter and resting his chin against his palms. He looked up at Jack through his lashes, trying his best to look seductive.
“So what did you have for me?” Rhys asked, playfully. “Hang on a second,” Jack said, rummaging around the fridge.
After a minute, Jack walked over and dropped what appeared to be giant steak wrapped in parchment paper onto the counter with a loud thud.
What the fuck? Rhys frowned, looking up at him. “What is this?”
“It’s a ribeye,” Jack said, like it was obvious and Rhys was an idiot.
“Oh,” Rhys blinked, trying his best to hide his disappointment. Of course it was a fucking steak. Rhys wasn’t really stupid enough to think that Jack was going to hook up with his daughter’s best friend, was he?
“Well thanks…,” Rhys said. “But I’m not really hungry.” Jack rolled his eyes. “It’s for your face, idiot.”
“Oh,” Rhys blushed. It wasn’t what he had expected, or hoped for, but it was something. It was actually kind of sweet.
He didn’t have to give Rhys anything for his head. Rhys hadn’t even asked him for it, but Jack had given it to him anyway. It was small, practically nothing, but it made Rhys warm inside to know that a tiny part of Jack actually might care.
“Thanks, Jack,” Rhys said, beaming up at him.
“Yeah whatever,” Jack said, quickly brushing him off. “I was just tired of hearing you bitch about your ‘concussion’. And make sure you put it back in the freezer when you’re done. I wanna make it for dinner tomorrow. Anyway, I’m going to bed. See you around, Rice Cakes.”
And just like that, he disappeared upstairs leaving Rhys alone and oddly aroused, with a dull throb in his head and a fucking ten pound frozen steak.