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Very Close and All at Once

M/M, Contemporary Romance, Friends-to-Lovers
[30 Pages / 7,000 Words]

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Very Close and All at Once
is also available in the collection:
Hearts Right Here

Noel Vane hates being the center of attention. He'd rather celebrate his fiftieth birthday with a quiet gathering at home, not an overcrowded fancy gala arranged by his clueless but well-meaning best friend. Thank goodness for Jace DaSilva: his best friend's brother and Noel's gallant rescuer for the evening.

Noel would enjoy Jace's company even without a party to avoid. But something is different tonight, and Noel wonders if he's the only one feeling this strange new spark. He and Jace have always been close—but never like this.

The rules have changed, all at once and wholly without warning, and Noel's just trying to keep up.


Noel Vane is good with people. He is usually good with crowds, for all that he prefers to avoid them. But tonight, every interaction sends him careening a little farther off course. His reluctance to disappoint Linus is starting to feel insufficient as a reason to stay put.

"Come with me," a warm tenor voice says from just to his left. "I helped set up. I know a great place to hide, and I'm pretty sure we won't get locked out."

A wide grin breaks across Noel's face before he's consciously connected that voice to its source. He's already turning, and his chest warms at the sight of Jace DaSilva standing next to him in a momentary break from the nonstop crowd. Jace is grinning too, a sharp flash of teeth and a soft crinkling around the eyes. This is the only glimpse Noel catches, before Jace grabs him by the arm and drags him toward a set of double doors behind the line of catering tables.

He allows himself to be directed without protest, pleased when the doors open out into an empty hallway. Jace leads him along the vast corridor, around just enough indistinguishable twists and turns to be completely disorienting, and then into an elevator that carries them higher into the building.

Jace lets go of Noel's arm before they exit the elevator, but he's still a reassuring presence as they step through a wide set of glass doors onto an enormous balcony.

The balcony overlooks a sunset-burnished skyline, far enough above ground level to feel like a whole different world. Much like the ballroom below, this space has been decked out in white gauzy fabric and greenery.

Jace must notice Noel's brow furrowing at the decor, because he explains unprompted, "Yeah, there was a wedding here an hour ago."

The place stands deserted now. They have the whole massive swathe of balcony to themselves, and Noel breathes a grateful sigh.

"Sorry about my brother," Jace says. "I swear I tried to talk sense into him about this thing. He just... really adores you. He wouldn't hear anyone suggest he skimp on his best friend's fiftieth birthday." Jace does such a masterful job of mimicking Linus's vocal tones, that Noel snickers.

He looks at Jace.

Then looks again, harder, immediately distracted in the most inconvenient and startled way. Yes, Noel has long been aware that Jace DaSilva is prettier than is strictly reasonable, but the man has outdone himself tonight. No overwrought tuxedo, thank god—just perfectly tailored pants in charcoal gray, plus a green button-up shirt that sits perfectly across narrow shoulders and does lovely things to the hazel glint of Jace's eyes. His olive-toned skin looks distinctly golden in the glow of sunset, but even with his deep summer tan, he's several shades lighter than Noel's warm brown. Jace's hair blows sedately in an unpredictable wind, and it should look like chaos—but instead it looks stylish and soft and just long enough to pull.

Noel veers sharply aside from that thought. It's not the first inappropriate idea he's ever had about Jace, but it's powerful enough he's half terrified it will show in his eyes.

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Very Close and All at Once
Cover design by Yolande Kleinn
ISBN 9781946316301
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