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Lunar New Love

By Casper Graham


Published by JMS Books LLC at Smashwords

Visit jms-books.com for more information.


Copyright 2019 Casper Graham

ISBN 9781634868495

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Cover Design: Written Ink Designs | written-ink.com

Image(s) used under a Standard Royalty-Free License.

All rights reserved.


WARNING: This book is not transferable. It is for your own personal use. If it is sold, shared, or given away, it is an infringement of the copyright of this work and violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

No portion of this book may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the publisher, with the exception of brief excerpts used for the purposes of review.

This book is for ADULT AUDIENCES ONLY. It may contain sexually explicit scenes and graphic language which might be considered offensive by some readers. Please store your files where they cannot be accessed by minors.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published in the United States of America.

* * * *

Thank you, DRS, for all the love and support. You were there for me through thick and thin, and I can’t find the right word to express how much I appreciate and love you for everything.

Thank you, readers, for the endless support and encouragement. I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. I learned some new things while writing it. It had been an incredible ride!

* * * *

Lunar New Love

By Casper Graham

Chapter 1

Vincent Yang arched his left eyebrow at David Lee, one of his best friends and colleagues at the pharmaceutical firm he worked at in San Francisco, California. “The Torpedough? Really?”

David rolled his eyes at Vincent while pushing the door of the bakery and making his way inside. “It’s a wonderful place. Can’t you smell the awesomeness of all the baked goods in this amazing place?”

Vincent snorted. “Do I need to give you some privacy?”

David scrunched up his face, obviously confused. “What? Why?”

“So you can jerk off in peace while inhaling the awesomeness of all the baked goods in the bakery.”

David scoffed. “Don’t be crude, man.”

Vincent chuckled while trailing after David, who was now heading straight toward the counter. “You’re such a prude. You’re lucky Toby has such a hard-on for you.”

David turned toward Vincent and glared. “Excuse me? There’s nothing between Toby and me.”

Vincent snickered. He knew that would rile David up, and he did it on purpose. Tobias Ruiz was apparently one of David’s ex-schoolmates or something.

“Oh, please. That silly argument between you and Toby at Pablo’s bar last week was like the most intense sexual foreplay part one. I’m waiting for the next episode.”

David blushed and glanced away. “Whatever.”

Vincent grinned to himself, partly at David’s adorable reaction, but mostly at the memory of his best friend’s argument with Tobias at Pablo’s bar, The Overrated Llama. Pablo Cotilla, the owner of the bar, was dating another one of Vincent’s best friends and colleagues, Keenan Underwood.

“What are you going to order?” Vincent inquired of David while reading through all the different items on the menu.

“I’ll probably get a pie or something lighter,” David answered while browsing through his own menu. “It’s four o’clock in the afternoon, and I’m just trying to stave off the sudden pang of hunger that has been plaguing me since the meeting began at half past two earlier. I don’t want to ruin my appetite before dinner tonight.”

It took Vincent a few seconds to catch on. Then he smirked at David, who pretended not to notice him.

“Davey baby.”

“Shut up, Vince, or Justin will kick your ass for me.”

Justin Wong was their mutual best friend and colleague, and an expert in Judo, Taekwondo, and Chinese Kung Fu.

“Justin loves me.”

He loves me more.”

Vincent couldn’t deny that. “True, but I’m sure he will be interested to know you’re dating someone in secret.”

David narrowed his eyes at Vincent. “Tell anyone, and I’ll break all your bones.”

Vincent laughed. “You won’t do that. You love me too much.”

David continued to appear really stern and serious for a few seconds longer before sighing. “Fine. I have another date with Toby later tonight. That’s the reason why I can’t make it to dinner with you guys later.”

Vincent mock-gasped. “You’re ditching your lovely best friends for a date with Toby?”

“Don’t be dramatic. The six of you are going to have a wonderful time without me.”

“Five.”

“What?”

“Keenan has a hot date with Pablo tonight, so he won’t be there.”

David’s confused expression cleared up in an instant. “Ah, I see.”

Vincent was about to complain about David and Keenan missing out on their dinner when a sexy hunk stepped out through the door from the room behind the counter. The man was about an inch shorter than his own six-foot height and probably ten to twenty pounds lighter than his own weight of one hundred and ninety pounds. What mesmerized him was the man’s jet-black hair and those piercing black eyes. He had the same eye and hair color, but this unknown man’s gaze was intense, and he couldn’t look away. He gaped in shock when the man grinned widely at David and proceeded to run out from behind the counter before wrapping both arms around his best friend’s waist. Then the man lifted David off the floor, and the two of them laughed with each other while Vincent could only stare in bewilderment.

“Uh…”

David turned toward Vincent and pointed at the unknown man. “Vince, this is Anthony Lim. He’s the owner of this fine establishment. He’s the reason why this bakery is so successful.”

Anthony chuckled while putting David back onto his feet on the floor. “Don’t exaggerate.”

Vincent offered his right hand to Anthony. “I’m Vincent Yang. I’m the Finance Junior Manager in the same pharmaceutical firm David works at. Nice to meet you, man.”

Anthony shook Vincent’s hand and smiled. “Anthony Lim, and I own The Torpedough, but you know that already. Nice to meet you, too.”

Vincent snickered. “Yeah. Cool. So, what can you recommend to a first-time customer like me?”

Anthony smirked. “As the owner, I’m definitely more than a little biased, so I’ll tell you everything is delicious and to-die-for.”

Vincent snorted. “Duh!”

Anthony winked at Vincent. “Or I can create something special just for you.”

“You can?” Vincent blurted out in surprise.

Anthony nodded. “Anything for you.”

David cleared his throat and pouted. “Hey, what about me?”

Anthony rolled his eyes. “You’ve been here many times over the past one year or so, and I’ve custom-made plenty of orders for you.”

“How come you’ve never invited me to this bakery, Dave?” Vincent interjected before David could respond to Anthony.

David scoffed. “I have! Many times!”

“Really? When?”

But, David, I need to maintain my sexy, curvaceous figure. Oh, David, I wish I could, but my thousand-pack stomach doesn’t just appear on its own,” David said in a high-pitch tone.Do I need to continue?”

Vincent could feel the heat of embarrassment creeping up his neck and cheeks, but he took David’s teasing in stride. “I never said anything like that. I certainly don’t sound like that. Ever.”

“A thousand-pack stomach?” Anthony asked with his eyes zeroing in on Vincent’s stomach area.

Vincent became a little self-conscious. He wasn’t ashamed of his body. He didn’t have a low self-esteem. He worked hard at the gym to get into the best shape of his life. However, he found Anthony extremely attractive, and he couldn’t help but shiver and fidget a little when he noticed the bakery owner’s appreciative gaze on him. Or rather, on his stomach area. He might be fully clothed, but he felt somehow naked at the moment.

“David exaggerated.”

“Maybe you should lift your shirt up and let me be the judge of that.”

Vincent’s lips went dry in an instant. “May…maybe another time, man.”

“How about dinner tonight?”

Vincent stared at Anthony in shock. “What?”

“Dinner. Tonight. With me.”

Vincent gaped for a few seconds longer before speaking up. “Like a date?”

“Yeah, man. Unless you already have a boyfriend. I don’t poach on someone else’s territory. It’s not my style.”

Vincent ignored his wildly beating heart and nodded while doing his best to act calm and unaffected. “I’m single. Very single and available. Din…dinner sounds good.”

“Okay.”

“Great.”

Vincent and Anthony smiled at each other, and they were both taken aback when David cleared his throat loudly. Vincent rubbed the back of his head while Anthony suddenly found the floor to be interesting and exciting. David patted Anthony on the shoulder and pointed at something on the menu.

“As much as I enjoy the highly amusing mating ritual between the two of you, may I have a slice of chocolate and butterscotch pudding pie with a scoop of chocolate ice cream on top?”

Anthony’s cheeks grew impossibly redder. “Yeah. Absolutely. Vince, what about you?”

“I want—”

“A nice, long, hard, thick sausage and two eggs with the white, creamy Anthony-sauce lathered all over them, I presume?” David cut Vincent off midsentence.

Vincent was mortified, and he glared at David, who appeared unrepentant. “Dave, can you shut it?”

“I can, and I’m sure Tony here will find a way to render you speechless by stuffing your mouth with—umph”

Vincent placed his palm over David’s mouth and turned toward Anthony in exasperation. “I’m sorry. David has zero filter whatsoever.”

Anthony chuckled. “It’s fine. I’m very entertained.”

Vincent struggled to cup his palm over David, who was thrashing and snickering at the same time, while grinning at Anthony. “Surprise me with something.”

Anthony nodded. “All right then. Have a seat anywhere. There are a few empty tables left near to the entrance.”

“Okay. Thanks, man.”

“You’re welcome. I’ll be right back.”

Vincent ogled Anthony’s sexy and perky jeans-clad buttocks for a few seconds longer before dragging a laughing David all the way to one of the empty tables. Once they were seated, David gave Vincent a mocking grin.

“Anthony and Vincent sitting in the tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”

Vincent showed David both of his middle fingers. “You’re a menace.”

“And you’re embarrassed. You look really cute right now with your red cheeks and all.”

“Fuck you.”

David chuckled. “Sorry, man, but I’m saving myself for Toby. Besides, Tony doesn’t strike me as the sharing type.”

“Whatever. It’s just a date.”

David snickered. “He likes you.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Liar. He asked you out on a date earlier.”

Vincent forced himself to regain a little bit of his self-control. “Maybe he just wants me as a friend. Like a friend-date.”

“Keep fooling yourself. Tony looked at you earlier as if he wanted nothing more than to sex you up for all eternity. For that matter, you drooled at him just as badly.”

Vincent couldn’t deny that. “I did. I still do. He’s hot.”

“Duh!”

“Just…just don’t tell the other guys about my date with Tony later. I’ll tell them tomorrow.”

David smirked. “That’s not possible.”

“Why not?”

Vincent realized he sounded a little whiny, but he was ready to plead with David if he had to. He wanted a quiet, peaceful date night with Anthony without his overly protective friends checking up on him every few minutes. He knew they cared for him, but his best friends could go too far sometimes.

“You promised to go out for dinner with them later. Remember?”

Vincent’s eyes widened in shock. “Oh, shit.”

“Oh, yes,” David retorted, sounding gleeful and far too amused. “Good luck coming up with a plausible excuse.”

“Dave, you have to help me.”

David tapped on his lower chin and stared at Vincent in silence, obviously lost in thought. After a brief moment, David’s face lit up. “Tell them you have to meet up with family for some last minute preparation for the Lunar New Year celebration. It’s less than two weeks away.”

Vincent sighed. “Justin will be suspicious. He will question me endlessly.”

Among his group of friends, only he, David, and Justin were of Chinese descent, so the three of them were aware of the customs and traditions involved with the Lunar New Year celebration. He could put off his other friends, but Justin would be difficult.

“Justin is the most empathetic among our friends. Tell him the truth. He will cover up for you.”

“I know. It’s not that I don’t like for the other guys to know about my upcoming date with Tony, but I’m worried they won’t stop messaging me. I just want a nice first date without my friends’ nosy, albeit well-meaning, intervention.”

“They care for you. We all do, especially because your family…” David trailed off and shot Vincent an apologetic smile.

Vincent beamed at David. “I know, and I appreciate that. Thanks, man.”

“You’re welcome. You know you can always visit my parents’ house on the first day of the Lunar New Year if things get too much to handle at home.”

Vincent nodded. “Yeah. Thanks, Dave.”

“You’re welcome. I know how difficult it is for you every year during the Lunar New Year.”

“I’m used to it.”

“Vince—”

“It’s fine, man,” Vincent interrupted and forced a smile at David.

David obviously wanted to continue with the conversation, but Anthony approached the table at that moment. Vincent was grateful for the brief respite.

“Hey, guys,” Anthony greeted while placing a plate with a generous slice of pie and a jumbo scoop of ice cream in front of David. “That’s for you.”

“Thanks,” David said before digging in and moaning loudly. “Holy shit! This is incredible.”

Vincent rolled his eyes at David. “Were you raised by gorillas or something? Chew and swallow, man.”

“Whatever,” David retorted before taking another bite and groaning even more obscenely than before.

Vincent ignored David and turned toward Anthony. “Where’s mine?”

Anthony chuckled before offering Vincent a plate of ganache-topped chocolate cake with plenty of fresh strawberries on top. However, instead of giving him a slice of cake, Anthony brought him a whole cake that was around twenty inches in diameter.

“That’s yours.”

Vincent darted his eyes back and forth between Anthony and the cake. “But…but I can’t finish this. Maybe you should cut—”

David kicked Vincent’s shin under the table, causing him to yowl in pain. “Tony, are you busy?”

“Not at all.”

“You should join us. I’m sure Vincent will be delighted for you to join us,” David responded immediately before turning toward Vincent. “Right, Vince?”

Vincent rubbed his shin and glared at David before grimacing at Anthony. “Of…of course. Please.”

“Are you sure?”

Vincent nodded. “Yeah.”

Anthony’s brilliant grin almost took Vincent’s breath away. “Thank you. That will be awesome.”

A few seconds later, Vincent became rather self-conscious when he noticed Anthony staring at him as he scooped the first bite of chocolate cake and one strawberry into his mouth. Then he forgot about it when the burst of incredibly delicious flavors exploded inside his mouth.

“Fuck,” Vincent mumbled softly as he savored the taste of the cake. “This is…shit!”

Anthony appeared stunned and mortified. “What?”

Vincent apologized in a hurry. “Sorry. It’s the good kind of shit. I was surprised earlier. There was an unexpected hint of mocha flavor.”

Anthony beamed at Vincent. “And some almonds?”

“Yeah. This is the best cake ever!”

Anthony was obviously pleased. “Great. Thanks. I finished baking and decorating that cake less than an hour ago.”

“You made this?” Vincent inquired in shock.

David rolled his eyes. “Tony owns the bakery, Vince.”

Vincent’s cheeks flushed in embarrassment. “Sorry. I…I thought you simply hired people to bake things for you.”

Anthony smiled. “Nope.”

“Tony even told you earlier about him creating several custom-ordered items for me in the past,” David pointed out before continuing to eat his pie.

Vincent chuckled. “I didn’t realize he meant he did it personally.”

David rolled his eyes. “Well, he did.”

“I get it now.”

Vincent was about to cut another smaller piece of the chocolate cake when David kicked his shin. Again. The same spot, too. He glared at David, who simply cocked his head at Anthony. He stared back at David in confusion. David heaved out a long-winded sigh before turning toward Anthony.

“You should help Vince with the cake.”

Anthony blushed and shook his head. “Oh, no. It’s fine. I’m glad to know Vince is enjoying the cake. Besides, there’s only one fork on Vince’s plate.”

Vincent grinned at Anthony. “You can grab another fork from the kitchen or something. This is a huge cake. I can’t finish—ow! Dave, what the fuck? You’ve kicked me in the same spot three times now!”

David gritted his teeth before beaming at Anthony. “You can share the same fork as Vince. You don’t mind, do you?”

“Dave!”

“No!”

Vincent yelled at David at the same time as Anthony responding to his best friend’s question. He was definitely astounded to hear Anthony’s reply to the question, and he raised his left eyebrow at the bakery owner.

“You don’t?”

Anthony shrugged. “If…if you don’t mind. I’m healthy. No diseases here. I swear.”

“I’m sure Vince is more than excited to swap spit with you,” David muttered softly, but Vincent could hear it clearly.

“Shut up, Dave.”

David winked at Vincent. “Just trying to help move things along.”

Anthony glanced back and forth between David and Vincent. “Or I can get another fork.”

“No, it’s…it’s fine,” Vincent mumbled out before cutting off a smaller piece of chocolate cake and offering it to Anthony.

Anthony seemed pleased, and Vincent was certain he was doing the right thing. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. Now, open wide.”

David choked and snickered simultaneously. “I bet you’ll be saying the same thing in the bedroom later tonight.”

Vincent narrowed his eyes at David. “Can you not?”

David winked. “I’m done. You’re on your own now.”

“What?”

David pointed at his empty plate. “While the two of you were practically undressing each other with your eyes and flirting in the most horrible and pathetic manner possible, I never stopped eating the pie in front of me. I’ll return to the office first. I’m sure you can find your way back. It’s not that far from the bakery. Ten minutes tops on foot. Bye, Vince. Take care of the bill, will you? I’ll pay you back later. See you next time, Tony.”

Vincent and Anthony bade farewell to David. Then there was silence at the table. Vincent racked his brains for something witty and hilarious to say in order to alleviate the abrupt tension between him and Anthony, but he failed. Hence, he kept his mouth shut and continued to enjoy the chocolate cake. Not that he could finish the entire cake. Even with Anthony helping him, that would be impossible.

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-eight,” Vincent replied, both amused and relieved at the question. “You?”

“Thirty-two.”

“Okay.”

“Yeah. Too old for you?”

Vincent chuckled in surprise. “No. Why?”

Anthony shrugged. “Some younger gay men can be weird about dating men in their thirties or older.”

Vincent snickered. “Not me. Older men are hot.”

“Yeah?”

“Absolutely.”

“Awesome.”

Neither of them uttered a single word for the next few minutes. Instead, they focused their attention on the chocolate cake while the awkwardness between them continued to build up in momentum.

“Hey.”

Anthony glanced up at Vincent. “What?”

“Are you serious about dinner tonight?”

“Yes. Do you not want to?”

Vincent noticed the slight mixture of resignation and trepidation in Anthony’s tone of voice. “I…I think you’re hot as fuck.”

Anthony’s face lit up with delight. “I think you’re hot as fuck, too.”

Vincent felt a wave of relief coursing through him. “Cool. Do you want to meet up here?”

Anthony shook his head. “Give me your number. I’ll pick you up at your place at seven o’clock. Is that okay?”

“Of course.”

After exchanging numbers, Vincent decided he should pack the remainder of the cake and finished it slowly over the next few days, explaining to Anthony he couldn’t eat any further. Besides, he had to return to the office. Anthony simply blushed.

“I went a little overboard, didn’t I?”

Vincent nodded. “Kind of, but I’m definitely surprised and grateful.”

Anthony laughed. “A nice surprise, I hope.”

“It is,” Vincent confirmed before grinning at Anthony.

“Glad to hear that.”

Then there was another brief period of silence between them. Vincent had no idea what to say, so he figured he should just leave the bakery before the awkwardness intensified.

“Can I get the bill, please?”

“Nope. It’s my treat this time around.”

“But—”

“You can pay for dinner later.”

Vincent was stunned and amused at the same time. “Fine. It’s a date.”

Anthony smiled. “It is.”

“I can’t wait.”

“Me neither.”

Vincent chuckled. “Cool.”

After that, Anthony instructed one of his employees to pack up the remainder of the cake before turning back toward Vincent. Neither of them knew how to continue with the conversation. There was an extended moment of silence until Anthony spoke up.

“This is weird.”

“It is,” Vincent agreed, and he could feel his cheeks heating up a little. “It’s not uncomfortable, though. Right?”

“No, it’s not. It’s…it’s all good.”

Anthony’s employee returned with the cake packed inside a small paper box. Vincent stood, and he was astonished when Anthony pulled him into a tight hug and whispered next to his ear.

“I’m looking forward to our date tonight.”

Vincent tentatively wrapped his arms around Anthony’s waist. “Same.”

Anthony moved back slightly and smiled at Vincent. “See you soon.”

“Yeah. Absolutely.”

After that, Vincent left the bakery. He still found it hard to believe he had a dinner date later. It was unexpected, but he was definitely excited about it. After watching his best friends falling into relationships one after the other, it was finally his turn. At least he hoped so. He had felt an instant connection with Anthony earlier. Not that he was in love with the bakery owner, but he could envision them together in the future, going out on dates, hanging out, and having fun. He would just cross his fingers and think positively. After all, there was no harm in wishing for the best outcome possible.

* * * *

Chapter 2

Anthony was busy in the kitchen when one of his employees sidled up next to him and informed him his mother was waiting for him outside. He nodded before preparing a couple slices of strawberry cheesecake on separate plates and two cups of hot chocolate. He placed them on a tray and carried them out from the kitchen. He spotted his mother occupying one of the tables close to the door. She appeared calm, but he noticed the tell-tale signs of her nervousness when he caught sight of her fiddling with the short straps of her purse and tapping her fingernails gently on the table top. He approached the table and forced a smile.

“Hey, Mom.”

Anthony’s mother nodded without even looking at him. “Have a seat.”

Anthony obliged and served her the cake and hot chocolate before doing the same for himself. He bit back a sigh when she obviously refused to look at him.

“What’s going on?”

“Eric proposed to Olivia last night.”

Anthony grinned at his mother even though she had yet to glance up at him. Instead, her focus was on the cake, which she was cutting into with the fork.

“That’s great news.”

“It is. The engagement party will be fifteen days after the first day of the Lunar New Year.”

“Awesome. Thanks for telling me, Mom.”

His mother didn’t respond. Instead, she continued to chew on the cake. Anthony waited for his mother to say something, which she eventually did.

“Eric is your younger brother. You don’t mind him getting married before you do, do you?”

Anthony shook his head. “It’s fine, Mom.”

“Okay. When he and Olivia get married, they will present you with a new pair of pants. It’s an old tradition.”

Anthony shrugged. “Sure.”

Then a rather awkward silence stretched on for a brief moment before Anthony’s mother spoke up.

“How are you doing? How’s the business?”

“The bakery is busy most of the time. I’m here by six or so in the morning even though the operating hours of the bakery start at seven o’clock. Then we close up shop by nine in the evening. I usually leave around half past nine unless I have something else going on before that.”

“Okay. What about your personal life?”

Anthony hesitated for a few seconds before answering the question. “I have a date tonight.”

His mother raised her head for the first time since he got to her table. “What’s her name?”

Anthony’s heart sank. “I have a date with a man. His name is Vincent Yang.”

“Oh.”

Anthony was disappointed when his mother didn’t even bother to finish the remainder of the cake. She sipped on the hot chocolate and stood.

“Mom—”

“I have an errand to run. I’ll see you at home for the reunion dinner. It starts at seven.”

Anthony sighed when his mother picked up her purse and dashed out from the bakery without sparing him a second glance. His relationship with his parents had been strained ever since he came out as a gay man twelve years ago when he was only twenty years old. His younger brothers, Eric and Russell, didn’t care about his sexuality one way or the other, but they never got themselves involved in his affairs. Besides, he was aware Eric and Russell were worried they might be cut off from the vast amount of inheritance they would receive from their parents someday. He knew he would never obtain even a fraction of a cent of his parents’ wealth because his parents had erased him from their will not long after he had come out to them. He didn’t hope for any inheritance, but his parents’ treatment of him hurt deeply.

He stared at his own slice of strawberry cheesecake for a few seconds longer before beginning to eat it one small bite at a time. At the risk of sounding arrogant for complimenting a cake he baked himself, the cheesecake tasted delicious, but he couldn’t really focus on it. Nevertheless, he managed to chew and swallow every bite before gulping down the hot chocolate. Then he put all the plates and cups back onto the tray before taking everything back into the kitchen. Since it was already seven minutes past six in the evening, he informed the manager on shift that he would be leaving the bakery for the day.

He lived in a rather new apartment complex a couple of blocks away from his bakery, so he always traveled back and forth on foot. Most of the time, he enjoyed observing the people and vehicles around him, but he was too distracted at that moment. Hence, he decided to simply speed up and get ready for his date with Vincent that evening. Once he finished showering and dressing up, he left his apartment and got inside his car. He sent a text message to Vincent before driving his car away from its parking spot and navigating the vehicle along the crowded early evening traffic. He succeeded in reaching Vincent’s apartment one minute before seven o’clock.

“Hey, Vince,” Anthony greeted the moment Vincent got inside the car. “Have you been waiting long?”

Vincent shook his head. “Nah. I was just bored inside my apartment, so I decided to sit by the curb instead. The weather is not too bad at the moment. Anyway, where are we going to eat?”

“Do you like Thai food?”

“I’ll eat anything.”

Anthony snickered, silently thankful to Vincent for getting his mind away from his earlier encounter with his mother. “Anything?”

Vincent rolled his eyes. “Get your mind out of the gutter.”

Anthony laughed a bit louder than before. “I’ll do my best. So, Thai food?”

“Sure.”

“Awesome. I know of a Thai restaurant not too far from here. I think you’ll love it.”

“Sounds perfect.”

For the duration of their journey to the restaurant, Anthony was glad Vincent kept up a steady stream of conversation topics. They chatted about their respective jobs and friends. Unlike Vincent, Anthony found it a lot more difficult to make time to meet up with his friends more than three, four times a month. Not only were they all busy with their work, most of his friends were married, and some even had children. Anthony ran his own business, so he couldn’t take off every day. He might have a few reliable employees who could prepare most of the items on the menu, but he also had to worry about the administrative and financial aspects of the business. He could get away from the bakery for about two, three hours once or even twice a week. Anything more than that would be pushing the limit.

“Do you like being a junior manager in the finance department at work?” Anthony asked Vincent when there was a lull in the conversation.

“Yeah, but I’m hoping for a promotion in the next year or two. More money and benefits. I’ll also get a larger office.”

Anthony chuckled. “Those are excellent incentives for sure.”

Vincent grinned. “Absolutely.”

A short moment later, Anthony parked the car next to the curb a few buildings away from the Thai restaurant. He wasn’t surprised when Vincent told him he had been there a few times in the past. It was a popular place because the food and the ambiance were incredible. Moreover, the price wasn’t too steep either. Once they were seated, Anthony ordered the pineapple fried rice and green curry with chicken while Vincent got the stir-fried rice noodles and Thai grilled fish. They both agreed on Thai iced tea for their drinks.

“Thanks for having dinner with me,” Anthony said once the server left the table.

Vincent beamed at Anthony. “Thanks for inviting me. You seem a little…distracted, though. Long day?”

Anthony shrugged. “That, and some other stuff.”

“Care to share?”

Anthony hesitated. He didn’t want to bring the mood down, but he was also dying to talk to somebody.

“It’s family stuff.”

Vincent smiled. “I got you. Just let me know if you need to vent or something.”

Anthony let out a soft sigh. “I have two younger brothers, Eric and Russell. I’m thirty-two years old, Eric is thirty, and Russell is twenty-eight. Eric has proposed to Olivia, his long-time girlfriend, and they will have their engagement party fifteen days after the first day of the Lunar New Year.”

“Did Eric come to the bakery to inform you about that earlier?”

“Nope,” Anthony replied while ignoring the slight pang of hurt that coursed through his entire being. “My mom did.”

“You’re not close to Eric?”

Anthony inhaled deeply before answering. “I used to be close to both Eric and Russell. After I came out of the closet twelve years ago, our relationships changed.”

“Why?”

Anthony shrugged. “Not sure, but they both began to avoid me not long after that.”

“You’re not on speaking terms?”

Anthony chuckled, but it sounded bitter to his own ears. “I attend family dinner at my parents’ house once a month. Or once every two months when I don’t think I can stand being around them and the inevitable awkwardness. Then there are the important holidays, such as the Lunar New Year and the Winter Solstice. I still talk to my parents and brothers, but their responses are always curt and cold. Every meeting is uncomfortable and awkward.”

“I’m sorry.”

Anthony expelled his breath and shook his head. “It is what it is. Enough about me for now. What’s your family like?”

“My parents and one older brother, Victor. I’ve never been close to them, and things are much worse now that I’m out of the closet.”

“When did you come out?”

“Three years ago at the ripe old age of twenty-five.”

Vincent was obviously attempting to sound light-hearted, nonchalant, and cool, but Anthony detected the hurt in the other man’s tone of voice.

“It didn’t go well, I assume?”

Vincent snorted. “An understatement. These days, I meet them once a year during the Lunar New Year. I’m sure you know why. It’s one of the most important holidays for a Chinese family. Even then, I’ll do my best not to stay for more than two hours.”

“Too much tension?”

Vincent scoffed. “That, and also because my father hasn’t bothered to look at or talk to me for more than three years now.”

“What about your mom and Victor?”

“A few sentences here and there. Otherwise, it’s a painfully silent reunion dinner.”

Anthony could empathize. “I’m sorry.”

Vincent shrugged. “I’m used to it. It’s not a big deal.”

Anthony blew out a breath and grinned at Vincent. “We should change the topic of conversation. It’s too depressing.”

“Good idea. What should we discuss next?”

“Tell me what your plans are for the next couple of weeks before the Lunar New Year. There must be something.”

“Nothing exciting. Just working and hanging out with my friends. You should join us.”

Anthony nodded. “Will your friends be okay with that?”

“Yeah. A few of my friends have recently started dating.”

Then Anthony paid attention as Vincent informed him about his friends. He already knew about David, who was apparently dating Tobias Ruiz. There were also Keenan Underwood and Pablo Cotilla, Joshua Wallace and James Chan, and the single men in the group: Javier Gisbert, Justin Wong, and Calvin Maxwell. He had heard about most of those men from David in the past, but he didn’t mind listening to the same information from Vincent.

“Small world,” Anthony said. “I know Pablo. He owns The Overrated Llama. I’m not close to him, but I’ve visited his bar a few times. James runs that catering company, so I’ve heard of him. After all, we’re both in the food industry, more or less. Tobias is the CEO of The Majestic Ruiz, isn’t he?”

“That’s right.”

Anthony chuckled. “Dave is keeping secrets from me. Tobias must be a recent development.”

Vincent snickered. “Dave is sneaky like that.”

“He is. I’ve been underestimating him.”

Anthony and Vincent burst out laughing almost at the same time. After that, both of them were quiet for a minute or so before Vincent spoke up again.

“Dave is more than just a pretty face.”

Anthony was stunned for a brief moment. “Huh? I don’t understand.”

“Most women and men, even the straight ones, can’t help but stare at Dave. He has a beautiful face. You were touchy-feely with Dave at the bakery earlier this afternoon.”

Anthony smirked at Vincent when the understanding dawned upon him. “Dave is like a younger brother to me. Nothing more. I can appreciate his looks, but I’m not attracted to him.”

Vincent blushed, but Anthony could tell the other man was obviously pleased by his response. “Cool.”

A short moment later, the server approached their table with the food and drinks. Anthony spoke up when they were left alone once again.

“At the risk of ruining the mood, I’m wondering what your plans are on the first day of the Lunar New Year.”

Vincent shrugged. “The reunion dinner is the night prior to that. After that, I won’t have to suffer through another awkward silence with my family until next year. I’ll visit David’s parents’ house. Justin’s parents are welcoming, too. Maybe David’s parents in the morning and Justin’s parents in the afternoon. Anything is better than the horrible tension at my parents’ house.”

Anthony could understand how Vincent felt. “That sounds really awesome.”

The two of them exchanged soft smiles with each other and proceeded to enjoy their food and drinks. Anthony had visited the Thai restaurant several times in the past, but the atmosphere felt somewhat different that evening. It might have to do with the decorative items all over the walls, which were mainly red and gold, but it could also be due to the fact that he was there on his first date with Vincent.

“A penny for your thought.”

Anthony was startled out of his reverie. “Just thinking about you.”

Vincent blushed, and Anthony thought it made the other man even more attractive and adorable than he already was. “Liar.”

“It’s the truth. Do you want to hear a secret?”

Vincent was obviously curious now. “What secret?”

“Prior to your first visit to my bakery this afternoon, I’d already seen you once before then. Well, sort of.”


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