Four years ago, Dimitri Petrov had his leg blown off by a landmine while in military service. Suffering from PTSD, he doesn’t do crowds, and he doesn’t do people. If he had his way, he’d never leave his house at all. Dimitri’s sister, Irina, runs a dating agency, and despite that it would be better for business if they had a pretty woman working the front desk, Irina insists Dimitri’s the man for the job.
In a whirlwind of pink shirts, flapping hands, and outrageous flirting enters Elian Hubert. Elian needs a date. Invited to speak on love through time in fiction at a Valentine dinner, there is no way he’s showing up alone. When Dimitri tells him The Single Pursuit is unable to help on such short notice, Elian suggests Dimitri be his date.
Dimitri doesn’t do dates, and he doesn’t do dinners, but Elian’s made him happier in the last few minutes than anyone’s been able to do in years. He might not do Valentine's, and he might not do gatherings, but maybe he can do Elian ... a favor and accompany him to his presentation? If things go too badly, he can always hide behind a curtain and pretend he’s somewhere else.
The next day, the phone on Dimitri’s desk rang seconds after he showed a twenty-something man -- who’d looked at him as if he was a cockroach stomping through his living room -- to Hina for his appointment. He had to bite his lip not to apologize to her for bringing the brat, but Hina could take care of herself.
She was a stunning, tough as nails Japanese woman. Like him and Irina, her family had been in the country for generations, but people took one look at them and deemed them Russian or Japanese -- Dimitri didn’t care, people could think what they wanted.
When the phone rang again, he jumped. Right, phone. “The Single Pursuit, how may I help you?”
It was a man, and how Dimitri could tell from him only having uttered his name he didn’t know, but he was stressed. Maybe something had come up, and he needed to reschedule. “Yes?”
“It’s Elian Hubert. We spoke yesterday, and I was wondering --” He blew out a breath. “How long would it take for you to find me a date -- the match-making agency I mean, not you personally? If I talked to one of your dating agents, or whatever you call them, could they find me a match in a few hours?”
“Erm ... no.”
Elian quieted. “No?” He sighed. “And you still don’t know of any bordellos?”
Dimitri pinched the bridge of his nose. “Are you okay, Elian?” He didn’t sound as ... sparkly wasn’t a good word, but he’d disrupted Dimitri’s gloom and brought life into the lobby.
“Fine, fine ... I keep forgetting there are consequences to me opening my mouth, though.”
The corner of Dimitri’s mouth twitched, but he halted the smile. “What happened?”
The sigh, it did things to Dimitri. He wanted to take Elian in his arms and save him from whatever it was bothering him. The entrance opened and Elian walked in, without a jacket and dressed in a pink tight-fitted shirt. His jeans hung low on his hips and his hair had been messed up by the unforgiving February wind. Dimitri clung to the phone. “You should wear a jacket.”
“I should.” Elian’s lips had a blue tinge to them, and Dimitri didn’t think it was makeup putting it there. Elian should wear pink gloss, not blue.
Slowly, he put the phone down. “So, why don’t you?”
“I was in a hurry to get out of the office.”
Dimitri kept his face blank but scanned the sidewalk outside the glass-front of the building. No one looked suspicious, no one looked as if they were searching for someone. “Is someone following you?”
Elian widened his eyes. “I don’t think I’m interesting enough to follow.”
Dimitri ignored his surprised expression and scanned the street -- no cars slowing down, no doors opening, no one moving too slowly. “Are you in danger?” He didn’t look away from the street.
Elian looked out on the street too. “What do you see?”
“Nothing out of the ordinary, but they always try to blend in, so it’s easy to miss someone.”
He turned back to Elian, who was watching him with a serious expression, something he hadn’t seen before. He still looked younger than forty-two, but the concern made him age before Dimitri’s eyes. “Yes?”
“I don’t think I’m in any danger of getting physically hurt, it’s my ego on the line.”
Dimitri nodded. He needed to protect Elian’s ego almost as much as he needed to make sure he wasn’t being followed or risked getting blown to pieces. He needed Elian to live and drink too much wine, so he’d write essays or whatever about zombie love. “What happened?”