"Huh?" Cole turned to see what had caught Matthew's gaze, and saw two glowing golden eyes hovering about six feet off the floor. "Oh! Balthazar." The big orange cat meowed loudly at the sound of his name and sat up from his crouch on the shelving unit. "How the hell did you get up there?" Cole reached out and hauled the feline off the shelf. He turned, cat in his arms, to face Matthew once more. "You're not allergic are you?"
Matthew shook his head, snorted what might have been a soft laugh. "No. You have a cat?"
"In an art supply store?"
"Yeah." Cole set Balthazar on the floor and the cat immediately trotted over to Matthew and began to wind around and around Matthew's feet, purring loudly.
Matthew looked down at Balthazar, but contrary to Cole's expectations, didn't kneel to pet him. Why should I have any expectations? Cole wondered silently. He didn't know this kid from Adam. And yet, he'd let him into his shop, after hours, no one around as a witness if the boy suddenly went apeshit and beat him to death with tub of gesso.
Cole shook his head at himself. Wow. His imagination was really twisted tonight. Besides, if Matthew was dangerous, wouldn't Balthazar have picked up on it? Animals were much better at that stuff than humans.
"I've seen used book stores with cats, but never a place like this. I mean, aren't you afraid he's gonna, you know, break stuff?" Matthew asked, watching as the cat continued to weave around his ankles like some sort of Moebius path.
"No. Listen." This was getting them no where, and frankly Cole was too hungry to care about cats and art supplies and latent homicidal tendencies and strange scars. … Okay, maybe he was still wondering about the long scar down Matthew's otherwise lovely—if rapidly bruising—torso, but he wasn't rude enough to bring it up again. "Are you hungry? I was going to get dinner anyway. There's a good Chinese place a couple of blocks away. My treat."
Matthew's eyes widened and he looked suddenly hunted.
Shit. He hadn't meant for that to sound like he was asking the boy out. He needed to eat or he was just going to get stupider the hungrier he got. "Or we could order in," Cole amended quickly. A flash of lightning lit the darkened street and was soon followed by a low rumble of thunder. "Stupid to go out in this weather if you don't have to. It wouldn't be the first time the Dragon Palace has delivered here, although usually it's lunch. They do awesome mu shu pork and pot stickers." Cole was babbling and he made himself stop. "It'll give your shirt time to dry out," he concluded, and then added to himself, And maybe while we're eating I can figure out what you're hiding. Or hiding from.