Today I am so pleased to welcome Nicole Dennis to Joyfully Jay. Nicole has come as part of the What Happened in Vegas Blog Hop to share an free and exclusive short story with us, A Second Chance in Vegas. Please join me in giving Nicole a big welcome!
What Happened In Vegas… Blog Hop
The charity I’ve chosen is the Trevor Project. They’re on the front lines dedicated to crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth. If you know anyone who is struggling, please, have them call the Trevor Project and know they aren’t alone. For more about The Trevor Project.
A Second Chance in Vegas
A mobile phone rang. It was the theme for Doctor Who.
AJ Waterman wiggled away from the heat against his right side. What am I sleeping against? Ow…my head hurts. What the hell did I drink last night? He mumbled from his spot under the pillow. He wiggled and stretched out one long arm to slap the nightstand. “Where the hell did I put it?” The phone continued to ring. “Yeah. Yeah. Hold on, Andy. Shit.” He touched it with his fingers and tugged it under the pillow. “Whatcha want?” he asked, his tone thick and groggy.
“What the hell did you do to me last night?” his twin brother, Andrew, screamed at him. “Are you still sleeping? Get your ass up.”
“Yeah, I’m still asleep,” AJ said as he yanked the pillow from his head. “Shit, it was a damn bachelor party, Andy. We’re supposed to make fun of the groom.”
“I’m the damn groom!”
“I know that, you twit,” he grumbled as his brother continued to cuss him out.
The bed shifted by his right side and ended with a loud thump.
Okay, I didn’t come back here alone. Wait… Mason!
AJ twisted as he continued to listen to his twin. “What was that?” He looked toward the right side and saw the covers trailing over the edge. “Andy…”
A muttered curse filled the room. It didn’t come from him or the phone.
“Andy, hold on a minute,” AJ said.
Out of the corer of his eye, something flashed a bright reflection of light.
He wiggled across the slick surface and peered over the edge. The lover who left him ten years earlier lay sprawled across the floor. He would know that lean body anywhere. Mason’s feet remained tangled in the sheets. Mason muttered again as he worked to free himself.
Mason turned and they stared at each other. He blinked and smiled. “Hello, husband.”
Mason held up his left hand and wiggled it. “Didya forget?”
“Holy fuck,” AJ said as he stretched out his left hand and stared at the ring.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Mason said with a grin.
“AJ? AJ, are you listening to me?”
“Andy, I’ll call you back.” AJ swiped his screen to end the call and sat up.
“Oh, hell, Andy is going to shred you a new one.” Mason curled into a sitting position, but remained on the floor.
“He already is from what we did to him at the bachelor party.”
“Yeah, that was pretty epic. Parading him around most of the Venetian and Vegas. What did you dress him in again?”
“Three pairs of superhero boxers complete with one massive wedgie thanks to a Jockey brief, a tie-dye shirt, three bright colored briefs on his head, knee high striped socks and sandals. And half a bottle of vodka.”
Mason cracked up laughing almost rolling on the floor as tears fell down his face. “Yup. Yup. Remember him walking rather weird.”
The Doctor Who theme rang again, but AJ silenced it with a flick of his thumb. He continued to stare at the one man who held his heart, Mason Eldridge.
AJ swallowed hard as the old nickname tugged something low in his belly. “I haven’t heard that name in a while. Only you called me that, Mason.” He shook his head once to rid himself of the memories. “I go by AJ now.”
“AJ? When did you get all up with the initials? Augustus is damn cool name.”
The Doctor Who theme rang again.
“Answer it or he’ll never stop,” Mason said.
AJ answered the call and winced as Andy hollered and cursed. “For the love of god, Andy, would you shut up?”
His twin stopped mid-curse.
“Thank you,” AJ said as he rubbed his hand over a temple. He lowered his hand and stared at the ring, turning it around with his thumb. “Andy, jeez man, you’re so going into groom-zilla territory. I told you I would call you out if you went there. You’re way past it.”
“Of course I’m going beyond it, you damn bastard! You dressed me like a complete ass, wedgie and everything, and paraded me around fucking Vegas!”
“Bro, it was a bachelor party. An epic one. We’re supposed to make you look like an ass when you’re drunk. It’s Vegas.” He rolled his eyes and Mason chuckled. “No one knows who the hell you were, just you were a drunk groom-to-be celebrating life with your buddies. That’s it.”
“There are pictures!”
“Well, yeah. Not that many though. Most of us were wasted.”
“You’re so going to fucking—”
“Yeah. Yeah. Heard it all before,” AJ interrupted.
With a snort, Mason rolled to his feet, bending over to touch his toes and twisted out a few kinks. He rubbed his back and ass that collided with the floor.
AJ winced when he watched him, knowing all of Mason’s previous problems dealing with severe back pain after an old car accident messed him up.
“Too damn old to stay out gambling and dancing until two, not even for a celebration,” Mason said.
“Wait, I heard that,” Andy said. “Who the hell is in your room?”
AJ glared at Mason, who shrugged. “Umm. I may be using that plus-one on my invite.”
“You what? Are you messing with me?”
“Never mind. We’ll handle it later.”
“Get your butt to the spa and chill the hell out. You’re getting married to Sarah later today. Though, god help her, I don’t know what she sees in you. Go and get pampered. I’ll find you later.” Before his twin could snap back at him, he swiped his finger across the screen. “Okay. That’s handled.”
“For now. Has Andy upgraded his revenge schemes on you?”
“Yes, but I get him back,” AJ said with a grin.
“Why is Andy hollering at you? Not that he needs a reason. I do remember a lot of arguments between the two of you. Good to know that hasn’t changed amongst the Waterman twins,” Mason said. “Wait. Duh. Bachelor party. Andy is getting married to Sarah. Did I meet Sarah?”
“No, they met a year after you left.”
“Okay. They’re getting married later? When is this happening?”
AJ slid his thumb on the screen and counted. “Fuck, a little more than six hours.”
“It’s a doable time. Where?”
“Downstairs, somewhere. They got a wedding package with the Venetian. We need coffee.”
“Though I went to the dark side and became a tea person, I would take the coffee,” Mason said.
“When did you turn to tea?”
“Ten years ago. Changed a lot of my bad habits.” Mason shrugged. “Order the coffee.”
AJ reached for the courtesy phone and hit the button. He placed the order for a pot. When he hung up, he rubbed his hands over his face. He turned and about dropped his jaw when he saw Mason twisting his six-foot-plus body into multiple yoga poses. “When the hell did you learn that?”
“Hmm? Oh, I teach it. Have a studio just off the Strip,” Mason said as he unwound his body and sat on the edge of the bed next to AJ.
“What about your back?”
“The yoga and healthy living has great benefits. My back isn’t bugging me. I’m clean, Gus… AJ. Completely clean,” Mason said. He rested his fingers on AJ’s hand as he stared at him.
“No pills. At all?”
Mason shook his head. “Only pills I take are herbal ones from a health food store and vitamins. That’s it. Unless I’m sick and need an antibiotic, but that’s a different story. No pain medication. At all.
AJ turned his hand and clasped their hands together. He smiled as he squeezed Mason’s hand. “I’m so proud of you for taking the steps to get clean.”
“Had a few scares doing it, but I’ve been clean for almost ten years.”
AJ released their hands and dragged his fingers through his hair. He tried to pull his muddled thoughts from last night together. “Okay. Why am I the only one confused? I remember the bachelor party and seeing you. I don’t remember much else.”
“You don’t remember anything about this?” Mason held up his hand and wiggled the finger.
AJ shook his head.
“You always were a lightweight when it came to hard liquor.”
“Weren’t you drinking?”
“Nope, don’t go near it. Not anymore.”
Mason traced a random pattern along the sheet with a finger. “As I said, I changed a lot of things since I left. I looked at things in a different light.”
Though he wanted to ask what happened to Mason, AJ knew he had no right. The last time he saw Mason was when drove away in his packed truck ten years ago. He curled up his legs and studied their clothes. He gestured between them with his hand. “I don’t think we had sex.”
Mason lifted his head and raised an eyebrow. “Why do you say that?”
AJ moved the covers that clung to his hips. He lifted it back so they could see the bottom sheet. “Sheets are clean and we’re both in boxers.”
“Oh. Right—” Mason snapped his fingers. “I remember. You fell asleep on me.”
“What? No sex.”
“But married.” Mason tilted his head and grinned. “You’re a lightweight and I don’t take advantage. We usually went at it like rabbits when we were together, drunk or not.”
“We’re no longer eighteen.”
“True. We’re a bunch of old farts.”
AJ grabbed a pillow and smacked Mason’s chest with it. Mason laughed and tugged it between them.
“Old fart my ass,” AJ said as he let Mason have the pillow. He rolled off the bed and headed to the bathroom.
“It’s still one fine ass,” Mason called after him.
“Thank you, I do try to keep up appearances,” AJ said.
“Any idea where I can find my clothes?”
“None whatsoever. I though you remembered last night?”
“Not that part. Nice suite you have here. Is your brother paying for it?”
“Hell no. The bastard set me up in a tiny single one, I upgraded my ass to this suite. All the shit I gotta put up with him for the past few months,” AJ called out from the bathroom. He hit the flush button and stared at his image in the mirror. Other than the silver ring, there was nothing else he could find from the wild night. He scratched at the grown-in stubble and then splashed water on his face several times. He snagged a towel to dry off. “I swear he is worse than Sarah, who’s the cool, calm and collected one of the duo. Why she chose him, I don’t know.”
“Andy is the straight one of the Waterman twins and you fly the rainbow high and proud.”
AJ snorted as he left the bathroom. “Ain’t that the damn truth.”
“Ah ha! Found our clothes.”
AJ jogged over and stopped short at the scattered pile of clothes just inside the room. “Hmm. Guess we were trying for something.”
“Rabbits,” Mason said with a grin. “Then you became a sleepy one.”
“You’re not going to let me forget this?”
“How you fell asleep on our wedding night? Nope.”
“You’re awfully damn chipper without coffee. Aren’t you freaked out for being married to me?”
“Since I got clean and took up yoga, I love the mornings.” Mason walked to their clothes and scooped up the pile in his arms. “As for the married part, you asked. I said yes.”
“I asked you?”
Mason nodded. “Yup—” He stopped at the knock on the door signaled room service.
“I’ll take care of it.” AJ grabbed the robe he left on the closest chair in the bedroom area. He pulled it on and tied the sash.
With a shrug, Mason returned to the bedroom.
AJ tilted his head to watch the bubble ass bounce and move under the fitted boxer-briefs. Damn, Mason still has a great ass. Oh shit, I asked him? Why would I do that? He cleared his throat and opened the door to let in the room service fella with the silver cart. He pointed to the table, signed off on the receipt and escorted the man out. “Coffee’s here. Also ordered some bagels and cream cheese.
Mason left the bedroom wearing dark jeans with the button left open. He waved a manila envelope. “Found this tossed amongst our clothes. I knew I tucked it in somewhere. We’re official and everything. I got the proof.”
“What?” AJ grabbed the envelope and opened it. The first paper he pulled out was a marriage license signed by them. “Okay. I was alert enough for us to purchase a license and get to a chapel.” He pulled up another piece of paper. “The Gay Chapel no less. Oh, shit, there are pictures.” He spilled the contents from the envelope onto the table. There were candid photos with a paper telling there were more proofs available online.
Mason stepped to the table and poured a cup of coffee for both of them. He stirred sugar into his cup and leaned a hip against the table’s edge. “You were pretty darn cute. Look at those dimples,” he teased.
“Not helping,” AJ said as he hip-bumped Mason. He doctored his coffee with the cream and stirred until it was a pale color. He sipped as he flipped through the papers to discover the rest. “Did we get a package deal?”
“The basic one, but didn’t go all out for tuxes and stuff.”
The signed license by them and the minister. Rose petals. A souvenir wedding scroll and invitation. The last was the signed paperwork from the chapel that they both authorized and Mason paid for everything.
AJ dropped in a seat, drank half of his coffee and stared at the receipt. He turned it toward Mason. “You paid for it.”
“Yup, I’m the local one so it was easier for me to get all the paperwork and I had money saved up,” Mason said as he settled into the next seat.
“Damn, Mason, tell me what happened.”
“What happens after I tell you?”
“Would you demand we get a quick annulment and disappear from each other’s life?”
“You drove away.”
“I told you I couldn’t stay there any longer. I was hooked on the oxy and all my dealers were there. I tried to tell you so many times, but…”
“I was deep into my master’s thesis,” AJ said, his voice trailing off.
“And I was lost and felt like I was pulling you under with me. Either I had to change or I would end up dead or in jail for theft to get more money for oxy. I loaded up my truck and drove away.” Mason spun the cup between his fingers. “We weren’t in the best of places. You needed to finish your thesis to gain your degree and I needed to straighten out my head.”
AJ placed his hand over Mason’s lower arm and squeezed. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me.”
“Perhaps it was good you weren’t there. I was so dependent on you. Things were unhealthy between us.”
“Yeah, they were pretty bad.” AJ gave Mason’s arm another squish. “How did you end up here?”
“My aunt lived here. She passed from cancer and gave me her home and money as inheritance.”
“Why didn’t you tell me all of this?”
“I don’t know why. I was lost in my addiction and not thinking. The paperwork came a week before I left. It gave me the push to leave and try to get out of the addiction. Though, I didn’t trust myself to show up here still addicted because I could lose everything on those damn pills.” Mason turned the cup again. “I spent two years in medical detox and rehab. Twice. Made it through the second time and I’m clean. Almost didn’t make it the second time, which is when I swore to change my sorry life for the better.”
“Almost didn’t make it?”
Mason lifted one hand from the cup and turned it.
AJ saw the pale lines across Mason’s inner wrist. He covered the scars with his hands and squeezed his eyes shut. “Oh, Mason, no no no. Not that.”
“It’s okay, I came out of it. It was a very dark moment, but I got through it, Gus-gus.”
As he opened his gaze, AJ stared at Mason. He cupped the back of Mason’s neck with his other hand and brought them closer. He let his forehead rest against Mason’s. After a few moments, he released them and blinked back the tears. “Tell me the rest.”
With a nod, Mason continued, “During rehab, I enjoyed the yoga classes. As I grew stronger, there was less pain in my back as I strengthened the muscles and realigned myself. Once I was back in reality, I had to do something with my life. I took classes and trained to become a registered yoga teacher. At the same time, I took business courses at the community college here. Eight years ago, I sold my aunt’s home and put all the money on a three-story warehouse off the Strip. I renovated the first floor into a yoga studio. The upstairs became my new home and a trendy loft space.”
“This brings your story up to yesterday. We crossed paths somewhere.”
“Downstairs by the casinos. My friends and I were leaving the casino for a club and your merry band left the bar and parading your brother. All of you were pretty wasted.”
“Yeah, that was the last trip around and headed to the elevators to drop off Andy.”
“You bumped right into me, laughing at something a friend said, and we got tangled and fell on our asses. While we apologized and tried to get up, we saw who the other was. You hugged me and didn’t let me go.”
“Was it bad?”
Mason shook his head. “No, I was right there with you, crying like you. You kind of blurted out to marry you and I said yes. We both left our friends, who couldn’t figure out what was happening, and raced out. I took us to get the license and then we found the chapel. Though I drove to my place, you said to go back to the Venetian. We came upstairs and…”
“Tore off our clothes and I fell asleep.”
“Zonked out dead,” Mason said and chuckled. He stared at the table, but raised his gaze to find AJ. “I’m not sorry I said yes. I missed you so damn much. I know I should have called or find you on social media or something, but I was a coward. Plain and simple. I ran from you as an addict and couldn’t come back to you when I was a man.”
“Ssh. Ssh,” AJ said as he framed Mason’s lower face between his hands. “Now that I have you with me, there’s no way in hell I’m letting you go again.”
“Do you want to give this marriage thing a chance?”
Mason grinned at AJ’s answer and leaned closer to meet AJ in a deep kiss. The kiss turned into a couple of hours in bed, proving their connection never died.
The Doctor Who theme rang.
“Oh, fuck,” AJ said as he grabbed the phone, this time lying across Mason, who chuckled underneath him. “What is it now, Andy?”
“Where the hell are you?”
AJ held the phone from his ear at the screech. He shook his head. “What is your problem?”
“Look at the time?”
AJ moved the phone again and saw it was almost eleven. “Oh, shit.”
“Yeah. I’m getting married at two o’clock and would like my freaking twin with me!”
“Okay. Okay. We gotta shower and we’ll get running. Where are we meeting you?”
“We? We who?”
“Mason Eldridge is with me.”
“Mason? How the… Wait, is that the guy Jamie said you ran into? The one who left?” Andy asked.
“Yes. Yes. And yes,” AJ said, keeping his answers simple. “Now he’s back and I’m not letting go. Told you, he’s my plus one. Now, where are we gathering?”
Andy grumbled the name of the room.
“See you in two hours max.”
“Two hours? What the hell?”
“Umm. We’re gay. Hello?” AJ said, lifting his voice in a playful tone. Mason laughed at his teasing. “Less if we can. Promise.”
Andy grumbled again and hung up.
AJ curled in a sitting position and stared down at Mason, rumpled and flushed from the last round. He drew his fingers down Mason’s chest and smiled. “God, you’re so damn gorgeous.”
Mason smiled and caught AJ’s fingers for a kiss against them.
“Wanna crash a wedding?”
Mason laughed as he sat up. “Sure. Why not… Oh, shit, is it dressy?”
“We’re all in suits and ties, so I would say yes.”
“I have two suits. One is black and the other navy.”
“Neither will work. Okay. Shower. Shave. Dress in what you have and we’ll hit the shops downstairs. You can change with the rest of us,” Mason said. “I have extra stuff you can borrow for the shower.”
“We should shower separate or we’ll never get out of here.”
“Yeah, shit. You go first. I’ll get stuff for you.” AJ rolled off the bed, tugged Mason to his feet and went to the bathroom. He pushed Mason toward the shower and dug through his bags to find everything.
They cut it close to the two hour mark, but both entered the room where the groom and his groomsmen could dress and get ready for the wedding.
Alone in the room, Andy had been pacing, dressed in slacks and shirt.
“Hey, Andy, we made it,” AJ said as he hung the black bag holding his outfit on a nearby hook. He didn’t let go of Mason’s hand.
“About damn time. Where have you been?” When he turned, Andy studied them and narrowed on their hands. “Are you married?”
AJ chuckled and glanced over at Mason, who flushed, looking dapper and fresh in his slim-fit pale gray suit. He lifted their hands and kissed Mason’s hand. “Yes. Last night.” He looked to Andy. “Sorry. We’ll keep it quiet. This day belongs to you and Sarah. Mason and I agreed to figure out all the logistics.”
“If it works by our first anniversary, then we’ll renew our vows and throw a party,” Mason said.
“This time I’ll actually remember them and stay awake,” AJ said.
“Okay,” Andy said and walked over. He moved to embrace AJ first, who released Mason’s hand to hug him back. “Congratulations, brother.” He turned to Mason and tugged him in for a hug. “Welcome to the family, Mason.”
AJ and Mason exchanged surprise glances with one another and laughed with Andy.
The door opened to reveal the other four groomsmen, walking in with suit-bags hanging over their shoulders.
“Did we miss something?” their cousin, Jamie, asked and pointed to Mason. “Weren’t you the guy AJ ran into during the party?”
“Yeah, that was me. AJ and I knew each other back in Arizona and we reunited,” Mason said with a grin at AJ.
“He’s my boyfriend, Jamie. The one I let go. I’m not letting him go now,” AJ said as he wrapped his arms around Mason when Andy stepped away from them.
“Damn cool,” Jamie said and clapped his hands together. He rubbed them with a grin. “How about we get ready to walk this boy down the aisle?”
“Sounds good to me,” AJ said.
“I’m ready for it. We’re running out of time,” Andy said as he moved to shake hands and hugged the others.
AJ and Mason mixed in easily with the group. Mason helped everyone with the trendy silk ties and vests. He also took care of the boutonnieres to make sure they were in place.
When it was time, they left the room to take their places by the grapevine arches Andy and Sarah picked as they chose a Tuscany-styled theme with vineyard accents. AJ kissed Mason after escorting him down the aisle to sit on the grooms’ side. As the wedding continued, AJ grinned and flirted with Mason, but he did his duty to his twin by handling the rings and nudging Andy to repeat the vows when he became stunned and overwhelmed.
When the ceremony moved into the main venue, AJ walked in with the rest of the party. He escorted Sarah’s sister, Susanna, on his arm as Sarah’s maid-of-honor. Though he had duties to his brother by posing for pictures, sitting at the head table for dinner, and offering up his toast – which was funny and appropriate for the occasion – he kept his gaze upon Mason. When another couple didn’t arrive, Mason sat at the closest table to them.
Once the dancing really kicked into gear, AJ gave his mother, Sarah, and Susanna a whirl around the floor to their delight. When he was free, he walked over to Mason’s table and held out his hand to Mason.
“Would you do me the honor of a dance?”
“Do you need to ask?” Mason said as he rose and stepped into AJ’s arms.
“Well, I am a married man and should ask my husband if he approves,” AJ teased.
“Oh, he approves. He very much approves,” Mason said.
With a laugh, they enjoyed the rest of the festivities together.
Six months passed after that whirlwind weekend in Las Vegas. AJ returned to his home in Arizona and worked as fast as possible to rearrange his life to move permanently to Mason’s home in Vegas. They each drove the distance to spend as much time together, but it forced them to build those first steps and bonds between them.
There were spats like any couple. There were lots of make-up sex.
Soon, the months ticked by and AJ returned to Vegas and Mason’s side in a permanent fashion.
As they told Andy, they put out invitations for their wedding and party. They renewed their vows, with the same minister and chapel, and returned to the Venetian for their party. They laughed and said they were sharing the celebration with Andy and Sarah, who agreed.
Only as their second wedding night approached, AJ remained wide awake and alert to everything around them. As promised, he made love to his husband on their wedding night, not letting this second chance get away.
A quiet one, Nicole Dennis curled up with the latest book of a favorite author. Since the beginning, there were these characters in her head, worlds wanting to be built on paper, and stories wanting to be told. She began writing during class and continues to this day. Now she can let others into her imagination and worlds that always celebrate the love between two or more people within LGBT, paranormal, and fantasy.
During the day, she works in a quiet office in Central Florida, where she also makes her home, and enjoys the down time to slip into her imagination. She is owned by a semi-demonic tortie calico, affectionately known as Fat Cat.
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