Pretend

By: Riley Hart

CHAPTER ONE

The bar was dead.

Granted, it was only noon and Mason just opened the doors, but usually he had a small lunch crowd—the people who came in for burgers and fries before they went back to work. Or there were the ones who had beer for their liquid meal.

Here it was, fifteen minutes after opening, and Mason hadn’t yet heard a peep.

Not that he was complaining. Closing last night had been hell, and the sandpaper in his eyes was rough as shit. It was past time he got another body in here. He had a cook/dishwasher in back, but he kept it to a bare minimum on the bar. When he could, he worked by himself.

After wiping down tables that he’d just cleaned the night before, Mason tossed the towel onto the bar and then made his way to the small stage. He picked up the guitar that he’d left there, sat on a stool and then plucked a few keys.

He only played around with the damn thing but it was relaxing. He used to want to take lessons, but when he worked full-time for his family restaurants, he hadn’t had the time. Now he realized trying to teach himself wasn’t as easy as he thought.

A slight thud came from the direction of the door, as if it stuck, and then the familiar creaking sound. He needed to get that fixed. Just another thing to add to his growing to-do list.

A list he actually loved, because he loved his bar. Creekside was the first thing Mason bought for himself. The first place that was his and his alone—not something his father built and wanted for Mason.

His fingers still moved lightly across the strings as a man walked in. He’d never seen the guy before. He definitely wasn’t a Blackcreek local. Mason hadn’t been here too long himself, but the crew that he had coming in and out was normally consistent, and this guy just didn’t have the look of a local.

His hair was a dark blond, the top parted to hang partly off one side of his forehead. That wasn’t what caught Mason’s eye, though; it was his jawline. Strong, like it was cut out of stone. It was probably the sexiest jawline he’d ever seen.

It was an early June day, yet he wore a pair of black slacks and a button-up shirt—short sleeves, so it fit the weather. It just wasn’t what most of his customers wore. His bar as more of a blue collar establishment, which is exactly what Mason wanted for it.

He had long, cut muscles in his forearms. Mason had always had a thing for arms, especially strong, hairy ones like this guy had.

He was slightly shorter than Mason himself, with a clean-shaven face and bitter eyes. Huh. This man could be interesting.

“She needs to be tuned. She’s not really far off, but I can hear it in the notes.” He nodded toward Mason as he moved his way.

Definitely interesting. “Oh yeah?”

“Yep. Your sound is a little flat. Check your finger positioning on the fretboard.”

Mason cocked his left brow. “Anything else?”

“Shit. I’m sorry.” He shook his head. “It’s a reflex. I’ve played instruments my whole life. I teach music. Or, I used to.”

Mason watched as the music teacher crossed his arms.

“Sounds like you still teach to me.”

He frowned as though Mason’s reply threw him. “Move the first finger of your left hand just a little farther from the fret and then try it again.”

This time it was Mason who frowned. His teacher didn’t notice, his eyes zeroed in on Mason’s fingers. He’d spent a minute with the guy and it was already obvious how passionate he was about music. It vibrated off of him, fueling Mason to do as he said, moving his finger and then playing again.

“See? Did you hear the difference there?” he asked.

Mason nodded. “Yeah, I did. Thanks, man.” And then he held out his hand. “Mason Alexander.”

Mason felt callouses on the ends of the guy’s fingers when he shook Mason’s hand.

“Gavin Davis.”

“Beer?” Mason stood up.

“Yeah, thanks. Guinness.” Mason turned to put the acoustic back on the stand when Gavin added, “Do you mind?”

He was itching to play. Mason saw it, though he didn’t doubt Gavin had instruments of his own. “Have at it.” Mason handed the guitar over. Gavin sat as Mason went over to the bar to fill a glass for him. The soft cords of the guitar started almost immediately. It definitely sounded different than when Mason played.

He walked back toward the stage, glass in hand, setting it on a nearby table before turning a chair backward and sitting in it. Gavin continued to play a song Mason didn’t know. Hell, he couldn’t even tell where Gavin was in this moment, either. He’d somehow left the bar, and was off playing somewhere else. That’s what it looked like, at least. Like Gavin was lost in the music. In love with it in a way Mason had never been in love with anything in his life.