Home > Raising the Ante

Raising the Ante
Author: Charlie Cochet

 

One

 

 

This was a nightmare.

Frank rubbed his temples, hoping to ease the growing ache. He sat back in his chair with a heavy sigh, his eyes narrowing at the blue feather that delicately floated to the carpet of his usually pristine office to join the other dozen or so that had accumulated in the last ten minutes. Damn feather boas shed just from looking at them.

Much like his office, the sleek black surface of his desk resembled a small warzone where chaos had been the clear victor. A twitch in his right eye had him pressing a finger to it. His office had become a ramshackle staging area for his club’s upcoming Winterland Gala—one of the club’s biggest events of the year, next to its charity masquerade.

Sapphire Sands threw several lavish parties throughout the year, many benefitting LGBTQA+ charities. No event, no matter how perfectly planned, went off without a hiccup or two, but this one decided to declare diva status and become the biggest pain in his ass, starting with this morning’s burst pipe in the employee lounge.

With current repairs making the lounge unusable for who the hell knew how long, they’d relocated the staff to the next adequately sized room, meaning the props, decorations, and costumes were moved out of the club’s staging area and crammed into storage closets. The leftover decorations, along with racks of costumes, were moved into Frank’s office. He would have welcomed the intrusion of feathers and sequins were it the only problem he faced.

“This is what I get for giving Alejandro time off. Why didn’t you talk me out of it? Can’t we call him back in?”

From his spot on the black leather sofa on the other side of Frank’s desk, Seth pressed his lips together like he was trying hard not to laugh. The bastard.

“Sure, Frank. I mean, he’s kind of in the middle of his honeymoon, but let’s call and say we need him to leave his new husband in Paris so he can come home to put out your fires. Wait, weren’t you a firefighter in another life? Isn’t putting out fires what you do?”

Frank leveled his unimpressed gaze on Seth. “You know, you’ve gotten awful mouthy since you got promoted to house manager.”

Seth let out a bark of laughter. “You mean since we became friends and I realized you weren’t actually a fire-breathing dragon?”

“Dragons are very sexy,” Kit pitched in from the floor, where he sat adding translucent glitter to a giant Styrofoam snowflake, his platinum blond hair sporting several stray glitter specks.

Frank was very confused. “Your boyfriend isn’t making any sense.”

“Don’t mind him,” Seth replied, shaking his head in obvious amusement. “He’s obsessed with gay dragons right now.”

“I don’t want to know,” Frank muttered. “What I do want to know is where the hell the new event manager is. The event company was supposed to send a replacement before Alejandro left.” He waved two handfuls of documents at Seth. “Look at all this shit. We have the biggest winter event of the year happening in four weeks, and not only does our old event company disappear into the fucking night, but the new company—who’s assured us everything would be taken care of, by the way—hasn’t even sent me a fucking event manager!”

Technically they had sent an event manager. The guy had been a disaster. Didn’t know what the fuck he was doing, and Frank told him as much. They were supposed to send someone competent the next day. A week later and Frank was still waiting.

“It’s okay,” Seth said, his tone soothing as he held up his hands. “It’s going to be just fine. We’ll work through this.”

Thank God for Seth. He was a force to be reckoned with, despite his friendly smile and laid-back nature. He’d quickly become Frank’s right-hand man, someone Frank could depend on to help maintain their reputation as the most exclusive members-only gay nightclub in the state.

Frank took a deep breath through his nose and let it out slowly through his mouth. Seth was right. This was a minor inconvenience. So what if he didn’t have decorations, tables, chairs, settings, a catering company, menu, price list, flower arrangements, or anything he needed for one of his club’s most anticipated events? Sure, the invitations had been sent out months ago, and all his clients who’d be in attendance already RSVP’d. No big deal. For years he’d risked his life running into burning structures. He could handle an event gone wrong.

It wasn’t as if things hadn’t gone wrong in the past. He’d been doing this for fourteen years. Jesus Christ, he was getting too old for this shit. His cellphone rang and he picked up. “What is it, Davie?”

“There’s been a delivery, and, um… I think you need to come out here.”

“What now?” Perfect. One more thing to add to his list. Fine. It was fine.

“You really need to see it,” Davie murmured. Something about his tone sent a deep sense of foreboding through Frank.

“On my way.” With a sigh, Frank hung up and stood. “There’s a problem out on the floor.” He left the office with Seth and Kit on his heels. In addition to Seth, he reminded himself he had Kit, the club’s dance choreographer. Of course Kit needed the extra dancers he’d hired for the event to show dance moves to, and the event company had yet to send those either.

Whatever awaited Frank, he’d deal with it as soon as possible so he could move on to the next disaster. Leaving the back of house area, he headed for the club’s dance floor.

His blood pressure spiked—he could feel it—when he saw the monstrosity taking up half the dance floor. “The fuck is that?” Frank stopped and stared.

“It’s a snowman.”

Frank held a warning finger up to Davie, his eyes still glued to the eighteen-foot snowman that he sure as shit hadn’t ordered.

“Why does it look surprised?” Kit asked, coming to stand to Frank’s right.

“More importantly, why is it holding its crotch?” Seth asked from his left. He pointed to the blue mittens pressed against the snowman’s front. That, coupled with the snowman’s O-shaped mouth, concerned Frank. Greatly.

“Do snowmen have crotches?” Davie asked as he moved around the snowman. “There’s a button back here.”

Frank threw out a hand. “Don’t you touch a damn—”

The most horrific guttural moan pierced the air seconds before a torrent of white glitter exploded from the snowman’s crotch, slamming into Frank with such force it threw him off his feet. He soared through the air and hit the floor hard, his world reduced to a haze of sparkling white.

“Holy shit!” Seth appeared, hovering over him, his dark curls dusted with white glitter and his brows knit together in concern. “Are you okay?”

Frank didn’t move. He simply lay there, staring at the ceiling as snowman jizz continued to float down around him. “Seth, be honest with me.”

“Of course.”

“Did a snowman just ejaculate on me? Is that what happened?”

Seth’s lips quivered. He shook his head, lips pressed together as his face turned red from his obvious attempt to hold back his laughter. Other than the noises coming from Seth as he valiantly tried not to burst, the place had plunged into silence. Everyone had cleared out—most likely scrambling to the nearest safe place to lose their shit and laugh their asses off.

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