Conor had honestly not planned to get a job. He certainly didn’t need the money, but it was a great way to fill the time between his daytrips around the globe. His cousin Niall thought it was hysterical, of course.
“You’re really enjoying going native, aren’t you?” Niall asked him over tea about two weeks into Conor’s new career.
“You’re a fine one to talk,” Conor shot back. And really, he was. Niall was the one who’d caused such an uproar just to be with a single human, after all. Still, he seemed really happy, so it must have been worth it.
“True. Speaking of, you should probably avoid mentioning me to your boss,” Niall said. “He knows I’m fae, and he’s not a stupid man.”
“But he is a good-looking one,” Conor said, waggling his eyebrows. And Matt was kind of unfairly attractive, with his short, tousled brown hair, that dark stubble he seemed to be sporting no matter what time of day it was, and those long, slender fingers Conor desperately wanted to get his body under. “Even his eyes are sexy, Niall. Dark brown like expensive chocolate and twice as sinful. I just wish he’d stop treating me like a kid and fuck me already.”
“He doesn’t know how old you are,” Niall reminded him. “He probably thinks you have some weird older-man fetish.”
“Minor detail,” Conor said, waving him off. “I’ll wear him down, just you see.”
They finished their tea, catching up until Conor realized how late it was and had to run off so he wouldn’t be too unforgivably late. Usually he could flirt at Matt and fluster him enough to forget to be annoyed with him, but Conor didn’t want to push his luck too much so soon. Not when he had such a nice setup going.
“Hey!” he called as he breezed into the shop, unwinding the scarf around his neck and shrugging out of his black leather jacket. Thanks to his magic, he was only a few minutes late this time, but he still rushed around, dumping his stuff in the back and sliding behind the counter, squeezing past Matt to reach the herb shelves. He did, of course, take the time to brush his ass over Matt’s front. No sense in wasting a perfectly good opportunity. “I was talking to my cousin, lost track of time.”
“You have family here?” Matt asked. He sidestepped away from Conor and smiled. “That’s great! Someone to keep you company while you study.”
“Yep,” Conor said, reaching for the boxes of the newest shipment, ready to start unpacking them. Matt had put him in charge of the herbs within a matter of days of acknowledging Conor’s obvious and superior skills. It felt good to be appreciated for being responsible. “So, do you have plans for tonight?”
Matt shook his head. “Nothing special. You?”
Conor turned to face him. “Well, yeah. It’s the full moon. I was going to charge some of the crystals we got in last week and work up some protection wards for the shop.” He frowned. “You really don’t do much magic, do you?”
“I have a love for it but not the talent.” Matt shrugged. “I don’t know enough about it, I know, but I’m trying to learn.”
“Hey, not judging,” Conor said. “I just can’t help but wonder why you decided owning an occult shop was the best career path when you didn’t know much about it to begin with.”
“I ended up here while I was wandering. Trying to find myself.” Matt snorted. “But I fell in love with the town and wanted to stay. This was the store that was for sale. I love magic and fairytales, folklore, all of it, so I jumped at the chance to buy it.”
“Cool,” Conor said, for lack of anything better. Then, before things could get too awkward, he gave Matt one of those long looks he suspected his boss secretly liked. “I’m glad you did. We’d never have met otherwise, and that would have been a crying shame.”
Matt flushed slightly. “Absolutely. My store is doing much better now that someone who actually knows what they’re talking about works here.”
That and the prosperity charms and spells Conor had been working into everything from the cash register to the beams in the walls, but he kept that thought to himself.
“I could always give you tutoring sessions,” he offered, leering comically to take the edge off. “You, me, one-on-one, all alone for hours.”
“I don’t want to interrupt your own studies any more than I already do. You work nearly as many hours as I do.” Matt smiled at him again, an easy, natural expression. “You can teach me things in between customers.”
Matt was either adorably oblivious or an utter sadist, Conor was sure. “You don’t know what you’re missing,” he singsonged. “I give great tutoring.”
“Oh, I’m sure you do.” Matt’s voice was dry. “I think you’re a little young to ‘tutor’ me, though.”
“I’m older than I look,” Conor said blithely.
Matt laughed. “That’s good, because you look barely older than a teenager. That doesn’t change how old I am.”
“You make it sound like you’re ancient, when I have seen your driver’s license,” Conor said, stepping up on his toes to kiss Matt’s cheek with a loud smack
. “Thirty-two is hardly doddering, and you should definitely be taking advantage of my youth and flexibility.”
“Oh God, I— Hey!” Matt blinked at him. “When did you see my driver’s license?”
Conor laughed. “You left your wallet on the desk in the back the other day. Glad to see you’re an organ donor; that’s very responsible of you.”
“Thank you,” Matt said, giving Conor a sideways look. “I know I’m not ancient, but thirty-two is too old for twenty-year-olds.”
“Says you.” Conor patted his chest, then turned away before he could do something stupid like try to climb Matt like a tree. The close proximity behind the counter wasn’t helping things in the slightest. Plus, there was only so far Conor was willing to push when Matt was so obviously not going to give in.
Matt nodded. “We have a couple of boxes that arrived this morning. I know one is books; the other might be the crystals I’ve been waiting on. Do you want to shelve them, or should I?”
“I have these herbs to finish up,” Conor said, not meeting his eye. “Need to cycle out the old stuff. You go ahead, boss. Have fun getting your rocks off.”
“Ha-ha,” Matt said. “Holler if you need me.” He headed for the back room to unpack the boxes so he could decide what to put out on the shelves.
Conor waited until the door to the back had closed behind Matt, then set the box of herbs down with shaking hands. He loved humans, had spent ages doing his research for this trip, but he still didn’t understand what the age hang-up was. If it even was a real thing, or if Matt just didn’t want Conor enough to have him.
Rejection was another thing Conor didn’t really get. Not when it burned like this, feeling a little like shame and even a bit like hurt. He rubbed at his chest, trying banish the feeling. Maybe he just needed to find someone who wanted him. Someone to help him forget about his unfairly attractive boss with his crooked smiles and kind heart.
* * * *
“Thanks for coming out with me,” Matt said. “I know you and Niall are still in the honeymoon phase.”
“Nah, it’s fine,” Ben said. “He can entertain himself for the night, and I’ll make it up to him when I get home.” Ben waggled his eyebrows, and Matt groaned.
“You two are ridiculous, even for newlyweds.”
A shadow crossed over Ben’s face. “We’ve earned it” was all he said.
Matt shook his head. “You’re going to have to tell me what happened sometime.”
Ben nodded noncommittally and led Matt to a booth in the back corner. The waitress came to take their orders almost as soon as they sat down, for once. She brought their drinks right over with a smile.
“We’ll have to make sure we come early on Thursdays every time we come,” Matt said. “I’ve never had my drink this quickly.”
“Yeah,” Ben said. “It’s nice. And you didn’t drag me out here to talk about the service.”
Matt nodded. “You’re right. I just…there’s this kid I don’t know what to do with.”
Ben raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t know you knew any kids.”
“Shut up. I know kids.” Matt rolled his eyes. “But I didn’t mean a kid kid. I meant this guy I hired.”
“You hired someone?”
“He came in a couple of weeks ago just to check the store out. He knows more about all of the stuff I carry than I do and was telling me about some herbs, so I just offered him a job.”
“You offered him a job?” Ben shook his head and took a swallow of his beer. “You didn’t tell me you needed help.”
“I didn’t. I was barely in the black without hiring someone new. But he really knew what he was talking about, and we had this rush shortly after I offered him a job. He helped the customers and was such a natural.” Matt shook his head. “It was a total impulse, and I’m still not sure whether or not it was a good decision, even though business has picked up quite a bit since he started.”
Ben raised an eyebrow again. “Why not?”
“Because he’s hot,” Matt said, taking a sip from his own beer. “And he’s an incorrigible flirt. And he’s never had a job—can you believe that? He’s around twenty years old, I think, and he’s never had a job.”
“Must have money,” Ben said.
Matt hummed in agreement. “I think so. I told him I’d work around his class schedule, but he doesn’t seem to have any classes. He’s at the store almost the entire time it’s open.”
“Well, what’s the problem? You have a crush on your employee. So what?”
“I don’t have a crush on my employee!” Matt hissed across the table. “He’s attractive, is all. That’s not the problem.”
Ben just looked at Matt for several long seconds. “What’s the problem, then?”
“He won’t stop flirting with me! I’m too old for him,” Matt said, running a hard through his hair in exasperation.
“If you don’t have a crush on him,” Ben asked reasonably, “why does it matter how old you are?”
Matt sighed and buried his face in his hands. “Because I want him. It’s not a crush,” he added hurriedly. “I just want to fuck him.”
“Do you think the flirting is serious?”
“I don’t know,” Matt said. “He flirts with everyone, but it seems like he’s a little more outrageous with me. Maybe because I’ve let him get away with it since day one. I don’t know. But it’s hard not to grab him and make him put up or shut up.”
Ben shook his head slightly. “So why don’t you?”
Matt gaped at Ben. “Oh, I don’t know. Because he works for me? Because he’s a dozen years younger than I am?”
“So? You’re both adults.” Ben leaned in. “Look, you need to take advantage of opportunities while you can. You never know if you might lose everything.”
The door to the bar opened, and Matt looked up absently. Then his eyes went wide. “It’s him,” he whispered. “He just walked in.”
Ben glanced around, then turned back to Matt. “I think he’s older than you think. He doesn’t look quite that young to me. But you’re right—he’s really cute.”
Conor sat at the bar in sinfully tight jeans, completely ignoring them. Either he had seen them and didn’t care or just hadn’t seen them. Matt watched as he ordered a drink and looked around, saw him sit up alertly and then head for an empty stool next to a well-muscled blond guy who looked older than him but not as old as Matt. Conor smiled widely up at him, clearly flirting, and Matt wanted to bang his head on the table.
Ben turned around again, saw Conor with Blond Guy, and snorted. To Matt he deadpanned, “Yeah. You don’t have a crush on him at all.”
Elizabeth Silver & Jenny Urban