Cheering on the opposite side of the room drew everyone's attention. Our heads turned as one to see what the commotion was about.
And that's when I saw him.
He was a few feet away, far enough that had the anti-smoking laws not been passed, he probably would have disappeared in the thick gray cloud. Without the exhaled tobacco, though, I had an unobstructed view, and I couldn't take my eyes off him.
His attention had followed everyone else's to the loud celebration at the other end of the bar. When the noise died down, he returned his focus to a conversation with the group in which he stood. Though everyone else spoke loudly and gestured wildly with hands and drinks, he wasn't nearly as animated and didn't say much. He seemed out of place here for some reason. I couldn't quite put my finger on it at first, but soon realized it was because he was quiet. Subdued. Reserved. Everything about him was subtle, but intense. When the others laughed uproariously, only the faintest hint of a grin curled his lips, his amusement subtle but unmistakable. When he listened, lines of concentration appeared between his eyebrows as if he hung on every word. And when he spoke, even though he said little, every head in the group turned.
He wasn't a wallflower by any means. Though he listened more than he spoke, he was as engaged in the conversation as anyone else. He was interested, but seemed content to merely observe and only occasionally offer a comment.
As soon as I saw him, he fascinated me, and I wasn't entirely sure why. Maybe he just stood out because he was understated and calm in a sea of drunk and disorderly.
It was that magnetic quietude that caught my eye, but once I'd grown accustomed to his strangely intense presence, another fact about him made itself known: He was gorgeous.
He was probably a head taller than me and built slim and lean. Not a body builder, not skin and bones, but fit. Fit with just the right broadness of shoulders and narrowness of hips to make my mouth water. He stood with his weight resting on one foot, holding a pint glass in one hand while the other thumb hooked in the pocket of his jeans. Casual, but somehow dignified. Even standing perfectly still, he carried himself with a kind of masculine grace.
A tiny hint of rebellion glinted on his left earlobe, though I couldn't tell from a distance if it was a stud or a hoop. He was clean cut except for the faint shadow of stubble, which drew my attention to his pronounced cheekbones. When I caught myself wondering what it would be like to trace the angle of his jaw with my fingertip, I quickly looked away, clearing my throat and sipping my beer. I tried to concentrate on the discussion going on around me, which had moved on to last year's World Series. All I could think about, though, was that quiet presence nearby.
As soon as I was fairly sure my face wasn't glowing brighter than the neon Budweiser sign in the window, I chanced another look.
He raised his beer to take a drink, pausing with his glass nearly to his lips.
His eyes shifted.
And met mine.