Part XX here
Matthew swallowed hard, stalling for time, trying to clear the unexpected knot from his vocal chords. When he did, the result wasn't anything he'd expected to say. "How does a guy who runs an art supply store get such ripped abs?"
Cole laughed and Matthew could feel his cheeks flushing. What the fuck? He didn't blush! He'd given that up at the age of eight when getting caught kissing his best friend—his male best friend—behind the swing set on the school playground hadn't brought even a hint of embarrassment. Fortunately, the teaching assistant who'd caught them had shrugged it off as innocent curiosity and never told his aunt and uncle. A rare stroke of luck in Matthew's life.
"I don't know if you've heard," Cole said, his laughter calmed to a small chuckle, "but they have these places called gyms. Anyone can join. It's amazing."
Matthew tried to pass off his blunder with his old blustering front. Even to his own ears, it fell flat. A lame imitation of his street-savvy persona. "Didn't take you for a gym kind of guy."
This time Cole's mirth was nowhere evident. "You've made a lot of mistaken assumptions about me." He headed back towards his bedroom, and Matthew was sorry to think he'd be covering up those muscles with clothing. Although he was willing to bet Cole would look just as hot in jeans and a tight, white t-shirt. Sure it was cliché, but there was a reason the image endured.
"You want some more coffee?" Matthew asked before Cole disappeared behind his door.
Cole shot him a quirk of a smile that Matthew couldn't read. Damn it! What was it about Cole that sent to shit all his well-honed skills at reading people?
"My mug's on the bathroom counter. Thanks."
Wondering exactly when he'd been domesticated—and why he liked it so fucking much—Matthew retrieved the mug and returned with it to the kitchen. He refilled it, poured himself a coffee, and sat at the table to drink it. The kitchen was like something out of one of those home magazines his aunt always had scattered on the coffee table. The sunshine pouring through the window in the little dining nook turned the creamy walls a cheerful yellow and reflected brightly off the stainless steel appliances. The wall over the sink and behind the range were inlayed with painted tiles. The trim around the top of the walls was painted dark blue. It was a bachelor's kitchen, all right, but a clean and cozy one. Matthew imagined what it would be like to watch Cole cooking. Matthew would lean a shoulder against the fridge and Cole would be at the stove, stirring pots of pasta sauce or something, and they'd talk about their days like people did on TV shows. A smile curved the corner of his mouth, and then his lips turned down just as suddenly. Domestic bliss was not Matthew's strong suit. And once he'd given up those answers Cole had asked for, there wasn't much chance Cole would let him finish his coffee, let alone stay for dinner.
"You find some breakfast?"
Cole's voice in the doorway snapped Matthew from his thoughts. The t-shirt he wore was blue, not white, but the jeans were as tight as Matthew had hoped. He hid his interest behind his coffee mug. "Didn't look."
"No? If it were me, I'd've been snooping all through the cupboards. I'm starving." Cole picked up his coffee and with his free hand opened a cabinet. "Cereal okay? Or there's bread if you want toast."
Matthew's guts twisted. The friendly chatter, the host and guest routine they were playing… It was all a sham and he was disgusted with both himself and Cole for perpetuating it. "Quit it."
"I'm not stupid. You're jerking me around. You want answers? I'll tell you. But don't act like we're all buddy-buddy and shit."
Cole turned to him and leaned one hip against the counter, his quest for food abandoned. His expression was cool. "You're still all about mistaken assumptions. But okay. Talk."