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The music sucked, but Paul Hardy didnâ€™t care. The music didnâ€™t matter any more than the bad lighting or the lack of attractive prospects. He wasnâ€™t picky. Just about any guy would do. As long as it wasnâ€™t a guy heâ€™d already been with. Paul didnâ€™t do repeats.
It was for that reason he was at a different bar than the ones heâ€™d been going to. Denver, Colorado had quite a few popular gay bars and clubs, but Paul wasnâ€™t bothering with places like that, where the good boys and girls went to play. He didnâ€™t want anything more than to get off, but even that was secondary to his true purpose, if he were to believe the shit his brother Preston had spewed at him earlier that evening.
Paul shoved all of that aside before he could get mad all over again. It had nothing to do with the fact that his brother might have been right. He wasnâ€™t. Iâ€™m out to get laid because it fucking feels good, not because I think thatâ€™s all Iâ€™m good for. Prestonâ€™s so wrong. Iâ€™m not letting anyone fuck me. Iâ€™m the one taking control every time.
A little niggling voice in his head pointed out that heâ€™d always preferred to bottom, had liked his men growly and on the dominant sideâ€¦before.
Then his mind balked at the 'before' part and Paul approached the closest guy in order to shut up his annoying conscience.
"Hey," the man muttered. He licked his lips as Paul looked him over.
Shorter even than Paulâ€™s five-and-a-half-feet height, too thin for it to be natural. The manâ€™s bones seemed too big for his scrawny frame, and there was a shady look about him. His eyes were too bright, too bloodshot. Paul shook his head. He didnâ€™t have many standards, true, but he wouldnâ€™t risk taking advantage of someone who was too fucked up to make a decision.
"Not hot enough for you?" the man snarked. "You arenâ€™t a prize either, ginger boy."
Paul raked him with a cold look and walked off. He hadnâ€™t come there to fight. His cheeks burned and he was glad of the crappy lighting. Used to be heâ€™d bleached and dyed his hair, used fading creams and even makeup to try to hide his freckles.
Of course he could never hide all of the frecklesâ€”they were everywhere, sprinkled over his face, denser on his shoulders, then a little sparser down the rest of his body. He even had freckles on his dick and balls. Those were places heâ€™d never hated the damned things enough to try bleaching them off.
Itâ€™d been a long time since heâ€™d tried to hide his hair and change his complexion. Paul still hated being coloured in like a joke from God, but he didnâ€™t have the energy to fight it. Didnâ€™t have the money, either. His job at LuAnneâ€™s Bakery didnâ€™t pay all that much.
There was nothing wrong with his hair or his freckles, he knew that somewhere inside, but itâ€™d sure made him a target more than once. Everyone seemed to be hating on people like him, and had been for a while. Paul had thought itâ€™d have died down by now, all the ginger jokes, but no.
Add to that, his orange hair and freckles had made him a coveted prize on the human trafficking market. Once his true colouring had been uncovered, thereâ€™d been a bidding frenzyâ€¦
Paul repressed a shudder as he looked for someone, anyone, to distract him from his thoughts. There were certainly enough men in the place. He could hardly walk without brushing against someone else.
When anyone dared to grab at him, Paul snarled and smacked their hands aside. He didnâ€™t put on a friendly face, and he wasnâ€™t there to be manhandled. Just because he was short and on the thin side didnâ€™t mean he was a bottom looking for a big, strong man to fuck him into the wall. It didnâ€™t mean that at all.
Stereotypesâ€”Paul hated them, even if, a couple of years before, heâ€™d been one himself. He wasnâ€™t now, and people needed to get over thinking he was.
Paul shook off a hand clamping around his wrist, or tried to. He didnâ€™t even view the appendage as being attached to anyone, because he didnâ€™t give a shit who it belonged to, up until the point where he didnâ€™t easily free himself.
Then anger and fear pinged off his nerves like a pinball fired at warp speed. Paul glared up at the man holding onto him. The twisted smile and excitement in the strangerâ€™s eyes reminded Paul of all the things he was trying to forget.
His heart slammed hard a few times before racing. The shiver worked its way over Paul before he could stop it. He snapped his mouth shut, because gaping like an idiot wasnâ€™t going to help him any. No sign of weakness would. Paul had learned there was only one language brutal peopleâ€”brutal thingsâ€”understood.
He slammed the palm of his other hand against the manâ€™s throat before even consciously thinking about it. Paulâ€™s survival instinct was immediately in high gear. The hand holding onto his wrist was gone in an instant.
"You fucking punk-ass bitch!" someone shouted at him. Paul didnâ€™t hang around to see who. He wasnâ€™t a coward, but he wasnâ€™t fucking stupid, either.
Running was impossible in the crowded place. He elbowed and shoved his way towards the front doors, aware that he was being chased. If the guy heâ€™d hit had friends, Paul would end up getting the shit beat out of himâ€”at the very leastâ€”should they catch him.
But once he hit the doors, he could lose them. Being short had its good qualities, and one of them was that he had speed taller men lacked most of the time.
As long as theyâ€™re humans. If they were shiftersâ€¦Paul thrust the door open and hit the pavement running. The bouncer yelled at him, but Paul just kept going. It wasnâ€™t like heâ€™d done anything wrong, except maybe, possibly seriously injure a man.