Alex held back a moment, observing. Ethan was taller than he remembered, and with the increased bulk across his shoulders, he had a very statuesque physique. His clothes looked well made, and he wore them well. Something stirred within Alex, an excitement that caused his whole body to tingle and concentrate in his groin. Ethan Bower roused him in a way he would never have thought possible.
Alex knew that attraction would die in seconds if Ethan was the same bullish prick he used to know.
Only one way to find out.
“Hello, Ethan,” he said, stepping up beside him. “It’s been a long time.”
As Ethan turned to look at him, there was uncertainty on his face just for a second before his mouth spread into a wide grin. There were short dimples which cut into his cheeks when he smiled—Alex had forgotten about those—and he had a day’s worth of stubble on his chin, which suited him a lot. Any more would give away his natural ginger colouring, which the careful highlights in his hair tried to disguise.
“Alex,” he said, shoving out his hand. “Congratulations. I had no idea you were involved in the book until I arrived.”
He pumped Alex’s hand harder than necessary. Over-compensating? Nervous? Ethan had never struck him as a man who suffered from social anxiety, but the way he grabbed his drink off the bar and knocked off a third of it in one go suggested that maybe he was.
Or he’s pissed off to see me and too polite to say so.
“You’re looking good. I was sorry to hear about all the injuries. I thought you’d be good for one more round of medals.”
Ethan shrugged. “They come to all of us. You can’t push your body so hard for all those years and not expect consequences. It would be nice to have added another Olympics to the tally, but it is what is. I can’t do anything about it now.”
Alex’s gaze was drawn to Ethan’s stunning green eyes. Shit. How could he have forgotten about those? They were mesmerizing. There had definitely been a change in his face since they’d seen each other last. There were deep lines around his eyes and the corners of his mouth and there could even be a touch of grey in the hair around his ears. Alex realised he had known Ethan when he was still a boy. The person who stood in front of him now was all man.
“It’s nice to run into you after all this time,” Alex said. “I had no idea who was coming tonight.”
Those green eyes looked deep into his. “Are you kidding? I won’t miss it. This is going to the biggest sports book of the year. Everyone is interested in Fernando’s story. Not just here, but worldwide. You’re onto a real winner with this one.”
Alex shrugged. “It’s his story, not mine. I just helped to put it on the page for him.”
“Did Fernando seek you out personally? I kind of think he must have. None of those straight dude football writers could tell it with the authenticity of another gay man.”
“He did. For that very reason, I think. He felt more comfortable talking to a gay writer. The publishers were torn. They wanted either a much bigger name or an anonymous ghost writer who would do what they were told and wouldn’t ask for credit.”
Ethan gave a soft laugh. “You mean like my book?”
“Those were different times.”
“I guess so. And we were different people. I know I was.”
Could this be true? Was Ethan admitting he’d been an arsehole in his younger days? “Everyone is different in their twenties. I don’t think we really grow up until we’re around thirty. Look at Fernando. He was twenty-nine when he finally came out, despite knowing he was gay all of his life.”
Ethan nodded and took another sip of his drink. “Everything turns out all right in the end, I suppose.”