Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Round Robin Part VI

Part V

Ahem. Normally, I don’t get all excited about awards, but Dear Author is running a book tournament—a tournament, with seeding—and it just makes me get all sports-crazed so if anyone wants to feed my ego competitive spirit, you could vote for Collision Course over at Dear Author beginning March 19.

Also, on Saturday March 21, I’m going to be participating with a bunch of authors at a party very serious literary event with brownies, margaritas, wine and readings, at Chicket Books in Princeton, NJ (link).

Now back to the story.

(I want an announcer’s voice to intone this with that kind of breathless anticipation.) Previously on the Round Robin:
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.

* * * * *

This guy Cole, Mr. Art Store with his freaky named cat, was much too good to be true. Matthew was still looking for the catch as he watched Cole fold his pancake neatly over his mu shu pork while they ate at the checkout counter of Cole’s art supply store. Hiding a stare under blond bangs in need of a trim, Matthew had been studying Cole since they started eating.

Cole, on the other hand, seemed to be trying to look everywhere but at Matthew. But he’d caught those gazes earlier, the flare of heat and interest, and if the price of rescue was ending up in Cole’s bed it wouldn’t be too bad. Matthew had definitely done worse—would do worse—if he had to.

And it really wouldn’t be too bad. Cole was kind of cute in a nerdy, cat-cuddling way. Auburn hair that had gotten curly in the rain and soft brown eyes, a turned up little nose, and even better, a solid broad chest tapering to lean hips. A little short, a little old, and definitely not the kind of guy Matthew would have expected to ride to his rescue.

Cole’s tongue flicked out to lick the dark drops of plum sauce from his lips and Matthew felt a tug down deep in one place he hadn’t been kicked, thank God. Okay, so maybe the price of rescue would be better than not bad. And Cole wouldn’t ask any more questions and tomorrow morning, Matthew would still be on his way out of town—away from his aunt and uncle—even if he had to do it without the money Tyler had promised him. Matthew wondered if those two assholes had been Tyler’s farewell gift instead.

Cole’s wide pink lips were twitching like he was about to start with his questions again, so Matthew decided to cut him off with one of his own. Around a mouthful of fried rice he asked, “How long have you had it?” He pointed around with his chopsticks.

The cat jumped up on Cole’s shoulder and took a bit of pork from his fingers. “The store or Balthazar?”

“I meant the store.”

“I’ve had them both four years. Balthazar came with the store.”

The steady gold gaze from the cat was a little unnerving, as if Balthazar knew what Matthew had done. Almost done. He offered. I never asked for anything, Matthew told the cat as it slithered down Cole’s arm and stalked across the counter. But the gold gaze seemed more intent on willing the extraction of a piece of shrimp from Matthew’s lo mein than the secrets from his head. He held out a piece and the cat took it gently, a quick rasp of tongue as the shrimp vanished into a purring throat.

“He likes you,” Cole sounded surprised. “He usually takes a long time to warm up to people.”

“I think he just likes the shrimp.”

Cole shrugged. “He was pretty abused as a kitten. He usually sticks to me when someone’s in the store.”

Matthew got it. “You like coming to the rescue, huh?”

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