It was just after six thirty on a cold, gray October morning when Alex first saw him. He joined the morning commuter queue for caffeine as Alex was trying to extricate himself from behind the counter of the Coffee Stop at Edinburgh Airport where he worked.
It had been a long, slow shift—as night shifts so often were—and Alex was eager to make his escape before the morning rush set in. The brief glimpse of broad shoulders and sleep-messed, chin-length dark brown hair pricked his attention but little else. He had a one-and-a-half-hour drive home ahead of him, and that was with a liberal interpretation of speed limits. Alex had no intentions of hanging around just to get a glimpse of a handsome face. That was what the Internet was for. And besides, thanks to what was beginning to feel more and more like an issue of technicality, Alex couldn’t call himself single, no matter how much he wanted to.
He made it almost as far as the staff room door when he heard the crash. With one apron string in each hand behind his back, he turned to see Amy standing in and staring at a large brown puddle of steaming coffee, intermingled with shards of broken crockery and glass. She caught his eye. Alex swallowed his fuck
and padded back behind the counter.
Shooing Amy away, Alex began mopping up the spill, stoking his misery with the equally depressing thought that he didn’t have much to go home for anyway. Rupert would be at work in Glasgow—as he nearly always was—and since all of Alex’s friends had moved out of town after graduation in the summer, the most Alex could look forward to was an empty house and leftovers from the fridge.
Morag, the cleaning lady Rupert had insisted on hiring, would have taken care of any possible chores Alex could have busied himself with. As tempting as the idea of trashing the house so he could tidy it again might be, Alex knew he would pass the afternoon with his usual mix of daytime television, Internet stalking, and sleeping before rushing back down to Edinburgh to spend another ten hours watching strangers get on with their lives.
Maybe if he got back before eleven, he could call Mel in Hong Kong and find out how exciting his best friend’s new job was while trying not to bitch about his own stagnated mess of a life. Mel could entertain him with tales of how much fun he was having traveling and exploring and doing all the things Alex wished he could be doing but wasn’t. That would give him an excuse to spend an hour checking the price of flights to Hong Kong, pretending that he could get out there in the New Year.
Alex thought it as good a way as any to spend a Monday afternoon.
By the time he dumped the cloth and the remaining pieces of debris into the bin, Amy had moved the queue along. Alex turned around and was instantly hypnotized by a pair of dark brown eyes.
He could have walked away. Should have walked away. His shift was over, and he certainly wasn’t getting paid anymore, but the combination of those eyes and those shoulders and that tight white T-shirt stretched across a muscular chest and the scruffy, ripped jeans slung low on slim hips was far too much to pass up.
Alex might not technically be single, but he sure as hell was still allowed to look, and he couldn’t seem to stop staring into those eyes. A dull throb of nerves punched low in his stomach as he stepped around Amy and gestured for the man to approach the second till. Alex almost didn’t trust his voice when he looked into those dark eyes.
The man was a little taller than Alex. He was slouching slightly, apparently to compensate for the heavy-looking canvas duffel bag slung over his right shoulder. Faded black tattoos decorated his hard biceps, and an eclectic collection of jewelry—metal torques and bangles, and glass and wooden beads threaded on leather and drooping elastic—jangled whenever the man moved his hands.
That jewelry should have come off as conceited, like it did on those kids who disappeared at eighteen with a round-the-world plane ticket and came back nine months later sunburned and wearing the entire contents of a hippy souvenir stall, but the man standing in front of Alex pulled it off. It looked natural on him, like a genuine, living representation of his passport, all seemingly well-worn and well loved.
The man too, despite those hypnotic eyes, seemed a little worn-out. Even that sexy smile playing on full, plump lips couldn’t hide the fact that he appeared exhausted. Alex was willing to bet he had been awake for hours. Definitely not just another commuter then. A traveler.
A very tired traveler who nevertheless was ranking high on the list of most handsome men Alex had ever seen and who was making every primped and preened and perma-tanned young businessman this side of the departures lounge dull and unappealing by comparison. He had Alex’s cock thickening without even opening his mouth—which was definitely something that had never happened before, at work or otherwise.
“Just a mug of hot water, mate. Big as you can manage.”
That accent was unmistakably Glaswegian, like Alex’s own, but the consonants were softer, and Alex thought he could pick out a slight American inflection to some of those vowels. Even without that accent, the tone of the man’s voice was enough to get heat pooling in Alex’s belly before Alex could tell himself to get a grip.
“A mug of hot water?” Alex couldn’t work out why anyone would wait in that queue just for some water.
“Yeah. You can do that, right?” Those dark eyes never left Alex’s, and no matter how uncomfortable that stare was starting to make him feel, Alex couldn’t seem to look away.
“Sure.” His voice didn’t sound like his own. “Coming right up.”
“Not boiling water. Just hot.”
Alex pulled himself away from the counter, but he fancied he could still feel the man looking at him. Alex might have stretched and flexed a little more than was strictly necessary, but the thought of the man watching him made Alex want to put on a show. It was the most attention anyone had paid him in months. Hell, in over a year. And it wasn’t as if his so-called boyfriend could see him now. Not that Alex cared what Rupert thought of him. Not anymore.
He turned around, large polystyrene vat of hot water in hand, and found the man staring straight at his crotch. A thick pulse of want thumped through Alex’s body, and Alex moved back to the counter quickly, knowing there was no way of disguising his interested cock. He watched the man lift his eyes slowly, taking in every inch of Alex’s chest and neck before settling back on Alex’s face.
Judging by the way the man had just undressed him with his eyes, Alex suspected he was picturing Alex handing over the cup of water naked. The warmth of tingling nerves in Alex’s stomach and the rush of blood to his neck and straining cock told Alex his body wasn’t particularly opposed to that scenario.
The man reached out to take the water. He ran three long, strong fingers up and over Alex’s, and Alex nearly dropped the cup. The friction in that touch sent shock waves through his body. He felt his lips part, his body catch fire. He hadn’t experienced a sensation like it since high school when puberty and raging hormones had reduced him to little more than a puddle on the floor anytime his crush walked by. And damn it if he wanted to let some stranger make him feel like that at work, but his body wasn’t listening to his head anymore. His self-control had handed over the reins to his cock.
A muffin had appeared on the counter, right beside the second till, and in a bid to regain some semblance of control, Alex relinquished his hold on the polystyrene cup and let it drop the remaining few centimeters onto the counter. It swayed a little, threatening to tip, and the man quickly steadied it. A small laugh escaped his lips as he did so.
That movement of grabbing the cup rocked the duffel bag down from the man’s shoulder, and he tensed his right biceps to catch it. The bag shoved those baggy jeans down slightly, affording Alex a view of tanned, toned stomach heading south to the tight waistband of black cotton underwear. Alex followed that little trail hungrily, distracted only when the man chucked his wallet onto the counter beside the muffin and the water.
Alex watched him drag the bag back onto his shoulder. He left the jeans hanging low. When Alex looked back up into those dark eyes, he found them almost black. A smile that should have been banned in a public place played on the man’s lips. Alex leaned forward, pressing his hard cock against the even-harder counter as he tried to calm himself down. He had no idea what was going on with his body, but he knew he needed to get away from this man before he did something stupid.