Adam hummed to himself as he walked into the coffee shop. He grinned at Susie, the girl with whom he shared his shift today. He didn't have any true friends left in Rothburg, but Susie was a decent person. They got along rather well, and she didn't treat him like the village idiot, the way most of the townspeople did.
Susie smiled back. “Hey, you're in a good mood,” she said as she lifted the counter to let him into the back room.
“Yeah, doing okay,” he replied as he set his skateboard out of the way. He had a few minutes before his shift started, and he wanted to contemplate his elated mood. Technically there wasn't a good reason for it. After all, he'd come close to being squished. Not for the first time, by any stretch, but this was the first time he'd been buoyant, excited. The guy behind the wheel--the reason for his euphoria--couldn't have been as good-looking as he'd seemed through the tinted windshield. Probably wasn't gay, anyway.
If anyone who lived or visited this parochial, hidebound little town was gay, they'd hidden it well. Better than Adam did. Of course, Adam hadn't tried to hide at all after high school.
It was one of the reasons he'd left and why a number of the inhabitants treated him like a leper. Like the gayness would rub off or something. They tolerated him for the sake of his parents, but Adam knew damn well that some of them had entertained the notion that his parents' affliction was somehow his fault, that he'd brought it on them by being a deviant.
So even if the sexy yet shitty driver lived up to the promise of good looks live and in person, it wouldn't matter. Adam would be left to gape from afar. If he didn't want to get beaten up, that was.
Adam slipped his apron over his head and smoothed it down. Good thing he was wearing jeans today, because he was still half hard from his encounter. He'd heard adrenaline sometimes did that, but having his dick sproing
after his near-death experience was unexpected. Probably had more to do with the guy behind the wheel than anything else.
Since it would be an hour or more before the rush began, Adam took his time in the back room, hoping that his erection would subside more before he had to go out and face the public. What he needed was a distraction. Otherwise he'd never stop thinking about that guy long enough to deflate.
The bell above the door tinkled as he emerged from the back room, but he didn't pay any attention. Susie could handle whoever walked in. Or so he thought until he heard Susie gasp. Had her ex showed up again?
Adam looked up, and he couldn't even get a gasp out.
Him. The guy from the SUV. The guy who'd almost run him over. The most heartbreakingly gorgeous man he'd ever seen. If anything, the windshield had protected Adam from that devastating sight. Sexier and better-looking than anything Adam could have imagined, Susie's reaction was no surprise.
Tall, much taller than he'd expected, and muscular. Six-two, at least. Black cotton encased a spectacular torso like a second skin. Bright blond hair, a touch too long to be military, topped the square face.
Oh. Oh my. Adam's breath came back. He bit his lower lip to hold in the whimper wanting to escape. Desperate to take a peek at the package surrounded by black jeans, but given the disparity in their sizes, Adam didn't dare. The blond could kick his ass without spilling his latte if he caught Adam checking him out. Instead he glanced at the other man. The sharp suit gave the older man an official air, but an official of what, Adam couldn't quite guess.
However, neither man was from Rothburg--he hadn't spent enough time away from town to lose that innate sense.
“I'll take this one, Susie,” Adam said, unable to help himself.
“You don't say,” Susie said with a smirk. “They're kind of out of place here. Friends of yours?”
Oh, if only.
“Nope,” Adam replied. But that didn't stop a guy from hoping. His cock twitched as he watched the two men scan the interior of the coffee shop and its patrons as they casually made their way to the counter. Neither of them had looked his way yet, and Adam prepared to paste on his most gracious customer-service smile, all the while telling his overeager prick to ease off. He really
didn't want to be sporting wood at work.
Who were these two, anyway? The blond hunk's demeanor screamed military, but his companion's didn't. Yet they both had the same indefinable quality that told Adam they were there for a common purpose. Which wasn't to get a coffee.
Adam didn't much care why they were there. He'd get the sexy bastard coffee and whatever else he wanted. As his cock leaped up to agree, Adam clutched the counter. A raging hard-on might be a little more friendly than most people expected from good customer service. He felt his smile get a bit tighter and hoped Susie hadn't noticed his reaction.
The other patrons eyed the two strangers as well. Anyone would think they'd never seen a stranger before. Unless lust punched everyone here in the gut like it had Adam. Somehow he couldn't quite see old Mrs. Jenkins overcome by lust. If he ever did see that, he'd have to scrub his eyes out with acid, because yuck.
Okay, good. That horrific thought made his jeans less constricting.
Finally the two men completed their lazy approach to the counter.
“Good afternoon. What can I get you today?”
The good-looking, older man ignored Adam while perusing the menu overhead, but the gorgeous blond dropped his gaze down to Adam and opened his mouth to order. Adam was able to pinpoint the exact moment when recognition struck in those...oh, God...stunning blue eyes, the exact shade of lapis lazuli, Adam's new favorite color.
An adorable flush stained prominent cheekbones, and kissable, mobile lips worked around words that wouldn't come out. Adam stared, mesmerized. Am I drooling
? His unintentional yet self-imposed celibacy had now lasted about a year and might account for his lust. Or was he in the presence of a mind-blowing specimen of manhood?
“Large coffee,” the blond stuttered.
“Anything in it?”
Oh, nice. Adam had flustered him. He hoped it was for the same reason he flustered Adam. Could he--should he--hit on this guy in front of his companion?
“Cream, sugar?” Adam made sure his tone was devoid of sarcasm, tempting as it would have been with anyone else. Wasn't enough to save the blond from further embarrassment, as the blush heating his cheeks got stronger.
“Oh, sorry. No. Black is fine. And, uh...I'm sorry about earlier.” Big-and-Sexy was having difficulty meeting Adam's eyes.
“No problem. It's forgotten. Anything else?” Jesus. Had that sounded as suggestive to anyone else as it had to Adam's ears? Maybe it had, given that the blush somehow intensified. Apparently his mouth had already decided to try a gentle come-on, without his brain's consent. While Adam wondered if he should be more overt, the blond's friend broke the moment.
“A medium latte, please.” The older man gave him a pleasant smile and a nod. He'd clearly recognized Adam, but then, he'd already apologized for the near mishap and undoubtedly didn't feel the need for any further discussion of the matter.
“I'll go get a seat,” the blond said before he slipped away, still unable to look at Adam.
“I can bring you your drinks,” Adam said as he made change for the older man.
“Thanks. That would be great.”
The older man followed his companion to a table in the corner. Both appeared relaxed, but Adam was sure that wasn't the case.
His curiosity stabbed him. Something odd was going on here.
Susie returned from busing a few tables. “Serving them too?” She winked. “Find out what they're doing here. Or, better yet, how long they're staying in town.”
“They're staying in town?” Adam strove for nonchalance but feared he'd failed miserably. “How do you know?”
“The bed-and-breakfast was expecting two visitors today, staying for an unspecified length of time. Maybe they're businessmen looking to invest or something.”
Just a week ago, Rothburg had been crawling with strangers, and the only accommodation within the town proper, the Sleepytime Bed-and-Breakfast, had been filled to capacity. Most of the surrounding area motels, as well as the campground of the nearby park, were too. The sensational riot of color during the autumn turning of the leaves brought tourists flocking every year. But the season was over, and the town was bracing itself for winter's onslaught.
Summer and fall might be busy tourist seasons, but they meant more money for Adam. The slowdown in work would be nice if it didn't mean tightening his belt. Grateful as he was for the job in the cafe, it could never make up for the hours he worked in the park and campground. In the off-season, even the hours available at the cafe were reduced.
The two men weren't tourists, for damned sure. Purpose coiled through them, and Adam was certain they weren't harmless businessmen. He couldn't believe Susie had made the suggestion, but then, maybe he was seeing things that weren't there. Adam shook his head. He had a job to do. Hastily he prepared the two beverages and took them over to the men.
Deep in conversation, the older man said something the younger was not pleased by. As soon as Adam approached the table, they stopped midsentence. The only thing he'd had a chance to hear was the blond telling his companion, “No,” in an emphatic manner. Well, that wasn't going to satisfy any of the town gossips. Adam couldn't work up any remorse, though, since he'd spent so much time as the subject of gossip. Besides, he had other things to worry about--his dick was paying too much attention to the blond, more than was healthy.
Adam pasted on another bright smile as he placed drinks on the table. He made sure to make eye contact with both men as he did so, although those sexy blue eyes didn't meet his for more than a second before avoiding him. Well, that told the story right there. Not interested. Too bad Adam could--oh shit
--smell him. Clean, musky male under the scent of soap. Irish Spring, maybe.
The wattage of his smile dimming, Adam spoke again. “If you two gentlemen will be in town for any length of time, we have great lunch specials every day. And we're open until eleven each night.”
Blond-and-Handsome looked at him, finally, an unpleasant expression marring his handsome face, blue eyes challenging Adam to...something. “Why? What do you mean by 'in town'?”
Uh, gee, what could he possibly mean by that?
“Carmichael! Enough.” Apparently his companion thought he was out of line too.
Carmichael. Interesting name. First or last, Adam wasn't sure, but now he had a name to go with the face. Also interesting was the way Carmichael subsided under the exasperated scolding. His gaze dropped away, and he studiously ignored Adam once more. One more indicator Adam wouldn't be keeping this one company while he was in town. Too bad. The best ones were always straight or taken. Time to beat a strategic retreat.
“Well, if you need anything else, let me know. My name is Adam.” He couldn't resist giving Carmichael one last bright smile, but the effort was wasted with the man refusing to look in his direction. Adam shrugged and returned to his post behind the counter, hoping he could ignore his attraction until the men left.
“What the fuck was that about, Cardoso?” Carmichael was pissed but retained enough decorum to keep his voice low. He might be the junior partner, and younger, but that didn't give Oliver the right to talk to him like a bratty kid.
“You can't antagonize the natives, you know. We're going to need their help.”
“Not his.” He was certain. The kid had to be too young and irresponsible to know anything useful. Carmichael really, really didn't want him to know anything useful.
“You don't know that. In fact, he might be just what we need.”
Need. Yes, need
. Carmichael curled his fingers into fists. “What? No! How can you say that?”
“It's like I told you--we stick out. That's what the kid meant. Look around.” Oliver flicked his gaze over the rest of the people seated in the cafe. Unwillingly Carmichael copied him, even though he'd assessed every single person in there as a potential threat as soon as he walked in.
“Every person here knows damn well we don't belong,” Oliver continued.
Yeah, Carmichael knew it too. Feeling all those eyes on him had made him uncomfortable, which was saying something, considering he was having inappropriate, lustful thoughts about the barely legal kid who'd not only served them coffee, but whom he'd almost flattened in the road not ten minutes ago. Guilt, lust, and embarrassment combusted into a volatile mix of emotions he hadn't experienced since he'd left home to join the army ten years ago. Felt like he was back in basic training, wondering if he had what it took.
Carmichael stole a peek at the kid--Adam--out of the corner of his eye and was treated to the sight of him laughing at something his coworker said. At the twitch in his groin, Carmichael brought his attention back to Oliver. No way was this kid going to break him.
“Fine. Sorry. How did you want to start?” Most times he got the answers he needed by roughing people up. This time, and in this place, that tactic wasn't going to work. But he didn't know if he had the finesse to get answers any other way.
“I told you this wouldn't be easy. No one's going to want to give us the answers we need. I think we could use Adam's help, if he's willing.”
Carmichael's jaw locked. Oliver couldn't be serious. Why Adam, of all people? There had to be someone--anyone--else. He looked suspiciously at his partner, wondering if Oliver had come up with this ridiculous suggestion to torment him. Maybe he hadn't hidden his attraction as well as he'd thought. No, that couldn't be it. There was no good reason for Oliver to want Adam's help if he thought his presence would prove a distraction.
“Why him?” Carmichael knew there was only so much resistance he could put up before he had to come out and tell Oliver why he didn't want Adam's assistance. God help him, if Oliver didn't know he was gay, Carmichael wasn't going to tell him.
“Because he's the only one who, despite knowing we don't belong, hasn't given us any weird looks.”
“Well, he should! We--I almost ran him over!” The effort required to keep his voice low became greater. “He should be more suspicious and hostile towards us than anyone. And if he's not, he's an idiot.” Hmmm. That might be true. Adam had done nothing but smile at them. Carmichael couldn't believe anyone with their full faculties could shrug off an incident like that so easily. Someone a few cards short of a deck wouldn't be of any help to them.
“Stop,” Oliver warned him. “Listen up. We need to get to the bottom of these disappearances, and soon. A friendly contact is the best start. There's nothing to say we won't find someone else, someone more appropriate for what we want. But right now a kid working in a coffee shop might like to make a few more bucks, you know?”
Carmichael bit his lip. Oliver was right. Everything since they'd arrived in Rothburg had thrown him off balance. He was so far off his turf, he was surprised he hadn't drowned. They did need help, but spending time with Adam was going to test his control like nothing ever had, not even the communal showers in basic, filled with wet, fit, naked men.
An image of Adam, dark hair slicked back, water streaming down his lean torso, slipped unbidden into his mind, and Carmichael let out a rather undignified squeak as he crossed his legs to hide the sudden bulge in his jeans. At least Oliver ignored the sound, because the reason behind it didn't bear explaining.
“Fine, do whatever you want.” Carmichael gave in, not at all gracefully.