“You dropped this.”
Stephen glanced up from his paperback, a spy novel that strained believability but made waiting at the DMV slightly more tolerable. The fluorescent lights overhead seemed to give everything and everyone in the windowless waiting area a gray pallor, but not the young man crouched by Stephen’s feet. His creamy pale skin fairly glowed, and his dark hair hung over his forehead to set off startlingly green eyes.
Stephen swallowed hard. “I’m sorry?”
The young man held up a laminated rectangle. “Your bookmark.”
“Oh, thank you.” Their fingers brushed as Stephen reached for it, and a spark flashed up his spine.
The man took the seat beside him, full lips lifted into a smile over gleaming white teeth. “Have you been?”
Chuckling, he tapped the bookmark with a long, slender finger. “Barcelona.”
“Right, right.” Stephen shook his head. “My sister brought this back a few years ago. I’ve always wanted to go, but…”
The young man arched a brow. “But?”
“Never found a good time. Now with the dollar being what it is against the Euro, it’s probably best to wait. Flights from San Francisco to Europe aren’t cheap either. Then there’s work. Always so busy. You know how it is.” He tucked the bookmark into the paperback.
“Hmm. What is it you do?”
He had a hint of an accent Stephen couldn’t identify. French, perhaps. It gave his voice a lilt that made Stephen’s stomach flip-flop foolishly. “I’m a tax lawyer.”
“Tax season ended last month. You know, this is a wonderful time to visit Spain. Before it’s too hot. Too crowded.”
Stephen nodded. “Yes, I’m sure you’re right.”
“I’m Xavier. Xavier Dumont.” He extended his hand.
Although he hadn’t done a day of manual labor in his life unless mowing the lawn counted, Stephen’s palm felt calloused against the smooth, cool skin. “Stephen Lewis.”
He glanced around at the rows of molded plastic chairs in the half-full waiting room. At the service counter along the far wall, three scowling employees processed applications at a snail’s pace. One snapped a piece of gum with an audible pop. “You know, it doesn’t seem to matter how early you get here. Always a long wait.”
Xavier grinned ruefully. “Yes, that’s one thing that never changes.”
“You can’t have had to renew your license before. You’re too young.”
“You’d be surprised. I’m older than I look.”
This pleased Stephen inexplicably. At thirty-three, he shouldn’t be so attracted to a man who was little more than a teenager. “Really? You don’t look more than twenty.”
“C-fifty-eight! Last call for C-fifty-eight!”
Stephen realized with a start that his number was flashing on the monitor overhead, and likely had been for a full minute. For a ridiculous moment, he considered staying silent so he could speak further with Xavier. But reason returned, and he hopped up and waved to the clerk. “Coming!” He turned to Xavier. “Well, it was nice to meet you.”
Xavier only smiled, his lips curving up gracefully.
Cursing the DMV for not making him wait longer just this once, Stephen hurried to the counter. While the clerk tapped his information into her computer with two fingers, he glanced back at Xavier, his heart lurching when he caught Xavier’s intense gaze. Across the gray room they stared, and Stephen’s mouth went dry.
He whirled around. “Yes! Sorry.”
With a roll of her eyes, the woman told him to stand on the line. As he straightened his tie for the photograph and ran a hand over his short, reddish-brown hair, Stephen’s pulse raced. Since he usually appeared as if he was facing a firing squad in photographs, he tried to relax and smile. But his body buzzed as flashes of Xavier’s green eyes and pale skin tumbled through his mind. He imagined the column of Xavier’s long neck, just begging to be kissed—
Stephen blinked after the camera went off, seeing spots. “Uh, thank you.”
The clerk grunted and pressed a button to call up the next person. Stephen took a deep breath, instructing himself sternly to play it cool when he went back over to Xavier. His heart thumped so hard he was certainly everyone could hear it, and his breath stuttered.
Calm. Be calm.
When Stephen turned, he exhaled in a rush, his shoulders slumping. The man had vanished. Disappointment settled over him, familiar and heavy. He shook his head at his own stupidity—as if a gorgeous guy like that would want him—and plodded into the hallway.
By the elevator, Xavier leaned against the wall, and Stephen stopped in his tracks, shivering as blood rushed to his cock. Say something. Say something! Yet for a moment all he could do was stare. They were almost the same height, both near six foot and slim, but the similarities ended there. While Xavier’s stylishly form-fitting dark jeans and midnight blue sweater hugged his tight muscles, Stephen’s white shirt, brown tie and tan trousers from Sears had never felt so drab.
He cleared his throat. “Hello again. Don’t you have to get your license renewed?”
“I was on my way out when I spotted you.”
“Oh.” He stopped to talk to me? Could this gorgeous young man actually be…
“Meet me tonight.”
Stephen glanced over his shoulder. “I…pardon?”
Laughing softly, Xavier closed the distance between them with a strange kind of grace, so light on his feet he seemed to float. “Yes, I’m talking to you, Stephen Lewis. Meet me tonight.”
“You’re too young for me.”
“I told you—I’m older than I look. Want to see my ID? I happen to have it right here.” Xavier pulled out his expired license and extended it, held between two fingers.
Stephen took it and scanned the date. “Twenty-eight? I never would have guessed. What’s your secret?”
Xavier smiled. “I stay out of the sun.” He slid the license into his wallet. “Tonight. Eight o’clock. Cava, a little place in the Mission. It’s tapas. You’ll like it.”
Stephen’s mind whirled. He hadn’t been on a first date in more than a decade, and Xavier was incredibly out of his league. “Uh…okay.”
“Well, don’t sound so excited.” Xavier turned and pressed the elevator call button.
“No, no. I am.” His pulse thrummed, and—for the first time in a long time—he looked forward to the evening. No struggle to fill the hours tonight. “I am.”
Xavier winked over his shoulder as the elevator doors opened. “I know.”
Stephen found himself smiling stupidly as he followed into the elevator and pressed the button for the lobby. Xavier reached across him, stepping in so close that Stephen could smell the fresh scent of a lemony sweet soap on his skin. Stephen breathed deeply and shoved his hands in his pockets. Xavier pressed B2.
“Is there a garage down there? I thought all the parking for the public was in the lot behind.”
“Just another exit. More convenient for me.”
The elevator doors opened with a soft ping at the lobby. Stephen said, “Well, I’ll see you tonight. If you still want to, that is.” The doors began to close already, and he fumbled with his book, dropping it as he stuck his arm out. Blood rushing to his face, he snatched up the paperback from the floor and stepped off the elevator.
“Yes, Stephen. I still want you.”
As the doors slid shut behind him, Stephen wondered if his ears were playing tricks on him.
Copyright © Keira Andrews
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