Friday, March 21st
Hawk pounded down two flights of stairs. No waiting for the elevator. Not when everyone in the office was excited for the weekend. He jumped the last three steps and landed on both feet, breathing hard. He pushed through the fire door into the lobby and melded into the crowd of employees filtering through the turnstiles and out the main entrance.
Finally. The weekend.
Once out the doors, Hawk powered up his phone. “C’mon. C’mon. C’mon.” He hated having to keep his phone off in the building, but not so much that he’d risk his job. Not in this economy. He willed it to find a signal as he hurried to his car. It took so long to connect and check for messages.
He paused at his car, shaking the phone as if the action would speed up the process. “C’mon. There’s got to be a message.” Nothing. He swiped the screen and hit the Voice Mail button. Just because the icon didn’t indicate a new message didn’t mean Jarrod hadn’t called.
Hawk listened to the digital voice: “no new messages
.” His heart fell into his already churning stomach. He hit Disconnect and dialed Jarrod’s number. While the phone rang solemnly in his ear, Hawk opened the car door and dropped into the driver’s seat. No need for his coworkers to hear him plead at a voice mail. It was embarrassing enough alone.
After the brief, curt message and the beep, Hawk spoke. “Hey, honey, I hope you’re not still mad at me, huh? I mean, let’s just forget I even asked. Okay? Go back to the way we were? I know you’re going out with your friends tonight, but call me. Okay? Okay, um, bye.”
Hawk stared at the phone, disgusted with it when he knew he should loathe himself instead. If Jarrod didn’t want to move in together, maybe Hawk should face the fact that they weren’t meant to be. They’d been dating for over a year.
On the other hand, Jarrod had standing plans with his friends to go clubbing every Friday. So, even if they hadn’t had an all-out screaming match Wednesday evening when Hawk had spontaneously suggested Jarrod move in with him, Jarrod still wouldn’t call. Maybe his silence was just normal Jarrod. Maybe.
“He’s just not ready.” Hawk laughed, and it sounded hollow as it echoed in the small cab of the car. He shook his head. “I just have to give him more time.”
He tossed the phone on the seat and stuck the key in the ignition. Just because they couldn’t live together didn’t mean he and Jarrod didn’t have something good. It wasn’t perfect by far, but it wasn’t awful either. Having a boyfriend with commitment issues was better than not having someone at all.
Being lonely would be much more painful.
* * * *
Hawk poked at the dinner in the microwave. The corn was steaming, but the cobbler still looked frozen in the middle. He considered the so-called Salisbury steak and decided if the dessert wouldn’t cook, then the rest probably wasn’t worth his bother.
With a frayed and singed pot holder, he lifted the tray from the oven and dropped it into the garbage. He tossed the pot holder in on top and slammed the lid shut. As he dialed the pizza place down the street, he dug a marker out of the drawer by the fridge and then scrawled “pot holders” on his grocery list, right under “frozen dinners.”
He ordered a pepperoni, olive, and feta pizza while staring at the short grocery list. How depressing. Jarrod could cook but preferred to eat out, and Hawk couldn’t cook anything that didn’t have microwave instructions on the package. Even then... He glowered at the garbage can. That was not his fault.
A half hour later when a knock sounded at his door, Hawk checked his phone one last time and promised not to hope for a message from Jarrod for the rest of the night. Jarrod always called on Saturday mornings anyway. Jarrod would sleep off Friday night, walk down to the corner for a double something with chocolate or whipped cream or however the heck he ordered in that secret coffee-shop language, and then call Hawk to set plans. He would probably act like nothing happened, and Hawk decided he would too. He was content with status quo. He only wanted more when he saw some straight couple being sappy and sweet in public. He didn’t really need
that kind of romance when he knew Saturday would be an expensive dinner on Jarrod, a stupidly funny movie, and wild monkey sex until they both passed out. It was their routine, and Hawk did love a comfortable routine. And good food. And great sex.
Hawk grabbed his wallet off the counter. As the second knock sounded, he was already opening the door. It wasn’t pizza awaiting him on the other side. He frowned at a giant basket wrapped in dark, opaque cellophane.
The basket shifted as the deliveryman peeked around it.
“Delivery for a Mr. Hawk?”
Hawk cocked his head and forced a smile. No reason not to smile at a cute man. Wasn’t that what Jarrod often said to excuse his constant flirting?
“Just Hawk,” he said. “But I was the one that ordered the basket. It was supposed to go to Jarrod Peyton over at the Center Street apartments.”
The deliveryman shook his head. His smile remained, and he sounded convinced. “No, this is the address we got. You look like you need this.”
“Need...?” Hawk frowned again, but under the glow of the deliveryman’s handsome smile, Hawk’s irritation softened almost as soon as it started. “I didn’t buy it for myself.”
The man shoved the basket at Hawk, and Hawk instinctively raised his arms to catch it. The man stepped back, nodded once, and said, “I hope you don’t mind me being so forward, but if you’re convinced this is a mistaken delivery, how about I stick around and help you explore all the gifts you weren’t expecting?”
Hawk swallowed the lump in his throat. He didn’t consider such things. He didn’t even fantasize about anyone except Jarrod most of the time. The energy sizzling between him and this stranger bearing gifts caught Hawk off guard. He’d believed in chemistry once upon a time, but he’d also thought he was falling in love at first sight a dozen times before and, a dozen times, had his heart broken.
Lust. That was all it was, even if it was stronger and more alluring than ever before. Just steamy, needy, sexy lust inspired by a little spat with his boyfriend.
Hawk bit back an apology and then an invitation. He tore his gaze away from the man’s deep eyes, the color of churned earth. While avoiding the man’s powerful gaze, Hawk found his own skipping along a body that screamed masculine from underneath his clothes. Even behind the jeans and warm coat, the man looked strong and sturdy. Just the way Hawk liked them. The breast of his jacket had a name patch sewn on just below a Rabbit Run courier service logo. Joe.
Joe. Simple, masculine, sexy. Oh, gods, Hawk, you have a boyfriend!
Hawk couldn’t remember the chemistry between him and Jarrod ever being so strong that it left him tongue-tied. Finally, he managed to find words acceptable to voice. “Thank you, though.” He swallowed, hard. “Joe.” He nodded, resisting the urge to squirm under such intense scrutiny. “I’ll just bring this by myself.” He licked his dry lips. He tried and failed at not watching Joe’s mouth as Joe mirrored the gesture with a shy flicker of his tongue. “To my boyfriend,” Hawk hastily added. The electricity in the air fizzled, as did the smile on Joe’s ruggedly handsome face.
“Oh.” Joe put on a stoic expression, but Hawk could tell it was forced. “My apologies, Mr. Hawk.” Joe nodded once. “Enjoy your basket.” He turned and started walking away.
“It’s not for me.” But Joe didn’t seem to hear him. He disappeared down the stairway without looking back.