Excerpt: Whatever Comes First

The warm buzz in Matthew’s stomach speaks of it being a Friday night with several beers already in his system and nothing but an easy weekend ahead. The noise filtering over him from the rest of the people in the bar is light-hearted, where laughter drifts in from several directions and the constant clink of glass on table signals multitudes of relief that the working week is over.

Friday night means work night out for Matthew, with everyone from the team he works with leaving the office together to go to one of several bars on their favourite street around the corner from their building. This has been a tradition for as long as Matthew has been working for the company. As he looks around, Matthew is reminded of how very lucky he is to be working with a group of people that he gets on so well with, both in and outside of work.

In a rare lull of noise, Matthew hears his phone notifying him of a message, retrieving it in an awkward slide from his pocket. He frowns after a quick glance down at the screen.

“Who is it?” asks Simon over his shoulder, already jostled by Matthew’s movement and now leaning heavily into his side, squinting to read the offending message for himself. Simon, one half of the sales team and Matthew’s desk neighbour, makes grabby hands in the direction of the phone, which Matthew manages to keep just out of his reach. Matthew has long ago given up the idea of keeping anything private from his work colleagues. There have been far too many nights like this one and subsequent sheepish blushing Monday mornings following drunken fun between the lot of them for anything to be held sacred.

“Sarah,” Matthew sighs, his heart dropping at the sorrow still obvious in the words of her message. It’s been three weeks since she had been stood up and then broken up with by a boyfriend Matthew thinks she thought far too much of, and Sarah is still in mourning. Matthew, in his role as best friend for life, subsequently hurts when she hurts, rages when she rages, and offers shoulders to cry on and a lap to fall asleep in as she slowly puts herself back together.

“Still hung up on that dick, huh?” Simon asks, pulling back a little too quick and looking disoriented as he reaches for his glass. Matthew sighs out heavy in agreement and then reaches for his own. If he ever sees that dick again, Matthew grumbles to himself in fury, he’s probably not going to be able to control either his tongue or his fists.

“Hey,” Pete calls from across the table, slamming his hand down in a bid to get Matthew’s undivided attention. “I’d happily help her out with that. Back on the horse and all that. Girl can ride me any time she likes.”

Matthew scans Payroll Pete, giving him a rapid once over that is far too speedy for Pete to even suspect what he’s doing. Not that Pete is really sober enough to actually notice, he realises with a quiet laugh to himself. Blond hair: check. Tattoos hidden beneath taut shirt sleeves: check. That kind of smile: also check. In appearance, Matthew acknowledges, Pete is actually Sarah’s type. But he’s too brash, too loud, too much for his best friend, not that Matthew would let him—or anyone—anywhere near her while she is vulnerable, without furious vetting first.

“God, me too. Any day of the week,” adds Mel with a lewd drawl that has almost everyone at their table feeling like they need to adjust themselves. Mel has that effect on just about anyone: male, female, gay, straight, and everyone identifying in between—including many of the company’s clients who hang up from Mel’s sales pitches feeling verbally frisked but surprisingly happy about it. Matthew’s colleagues have only met Sarah once, when she’d joined them for their Friday work night out a month or so ago. But since then, she has apparently appeared in the fantasies of both Mel and Pete numerous times. He’s sort of used to it; there are several of his other friends, who, with ranging levels of tact, enquire after her every chance they get.

Matthew understands their interest completely even if he is a little biased because she is his closest friend. Sarah is stunning. A curly haired brunette with all the right curves, a smile that no one can help returning, and a laugh that is the perfect balance of angelic and sinful. On a couple of occasions when they have both found themselves single, they’ve shared some experimental evenings together where they’ve learned a thing or two about each other—and themselves in the process.

Which is kind of why he’s not currently providing Sarah with what she’s come to call a drunken comfort fuck. Matthew groans to himself at the reminder that what Sarah lacks in subtlety, she sure makes up for in bluntness for things like this. Sleeping together hasn’t been something that’s crossed either of their minds in months, not even when they’ve been blind drunk, which is generally the only way they’ve ended up sleeping together in the first place.

Matthew smiles to himself, getting some amusement out of planning on telling Sarah that she’s clearly on the minds of at least a couple of his work friends. Although she’s too broken to accept Pete’s offer and would tactfully turn down Mel’s, he knows the news will at least give her a little to smile about. He stores it up alongside other little fragments of news to tell her tomorrow night, which is what she’s just messaged him about to confirm.

“I’ll tell her,” Matthew says to both Pete and Mel anyway out of politeness as he drains the last of his drink. One by one his colleagues follow his lead with noises being made about going for pizza before heading home. On the way out Matthew catches considering eyes looking him up and down with interest. The man’s smile curving and catching a bottom lip between teeth with a look of want that lingers in his mind even as he sinks into his bed later that evening, giving him something to imagine as he slips his fingers into his boxers and gets himself off.

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