Elliot is hanging on by a thread. He moved away for his new job, cutting ties to his homophobic parents and friends in the process, not expecting to be downsized a year later. Now it’s just him and a pile of bills that he barely manages to pay. But as the months crawl closer to Christmas, the heating bill goes up and his savings -- scant to start with -- go down. In the desperate hope of getting some free food, he signs up for a cooking class at the local community center.
Micah’s life is the store he owns and the people in it, including his closest friend, who insists he needs to date. But with the holidays approaching and a shop to run, Micah doesn’t have time to find someone. Until he walks into the cooking class he’s teaching and meets a young man who pushes all his buttons.
The two hit it off immediately, but Micah thinks Elliot will be a distraction, and Elliot hasn’t told Micah how dire his finances are. As their relationship heats up, that little white lie may lead to a whole lot of hurt.
The topic wandered after that -- noticeably avoiding religion in general -- and by the time Micah was paying the bill, the porn slip was mostly forgotten. Only mostly, because Elliot was still having dirty thoughts of Micah looking at porn and masturbating, even if he was trying hard to be good.
God, he wanted to be good for Micah.
That’s not helping, Elliot.
They’d spent a lot of the time laughing, even when Micah wasn’t choking on ramen, and despite the bright lights and casual atmosphere, the evening felt cozy. No, it wasn’t like a date. It was somehow more like two men who’d known each other for a long time having dinner ... maybe before going home together.
They split an order of mochi ice cream, and that intimacy didn’t help Elliot’s overactive imagination, but he tamped down his yearning in favor of not having his heart broken. It wasn’t easy. After dessert, they headed outside. The night was brisk, and Elliot rushed beside Micah’s long stride, both hurrying to the car. It was going smoothly until the sidewalk leaped up beneath Elliot’s foot. The concrete snagged on the rubber of his sole, and his momentum flung him forward toward the sidewalk. He pinwheeled his arms, trying to catch his balance and not land on his face. It didn’t work. The pavement rushed toward him, promising pain and embarrassment and probably a broken nose if he didn’t get his arms in front of himself in time.
Suddenly the ground was no longer looming and Elliot’s face was pressed to a hard, nice-smelling chest before his entire body went briefly weightless, then landed on his feet. Strong arms were wrapped around him, and though he knew he should pull back, stutter an embarrassed thank-you, and put some distance between them, he found himself leaning against Micah’s broad chest, staring up into dark, hooded eyes as a heart pounded against his palm.
If the wind hadn’t already been knocked out of him, that would have done it.
“Are you okay?” The words were a whisper, inviting Elliot to lean closer to hear him.
He was more than okay right now. Licking his lips, he nodded a fraction, terrified to break the spell.
A tiny smile parted Micah’s lips. He leaned in, words even softer now. “Cat’s got your tongue?”
Heat rushed into Elliot’s cheeks, a dizzying mix of embarrassment and want. Elliot didn’t have a chance to answer -- not that he had an answer to give -- before Micah’s mouth lowered and met his. Warm breath, soft lips, the faintest scent of strawberries. Elliot closed his eyes and returned the kiss. It was everything he had imagined it would be. Better, even, because it was really happening.
As the kiss kept going, his heart raced and his breath came in short, fast gulps, unsure when it would all be over. Micah’s arms tightened, holding him securely, their torsos pressed together. Elliot slipped his arms up and around Micah’s neck, keeping him close. His brain would have been running a million miles per hour if it hadn’t shut down completely. All he could grasp was this moment, and the next, clinging to them.
The blare of a horn passing on the road startled Micah back, breaking Elliot’s hold and putting a foot of distance between them. His eyes were wide, lips parted. He was panting slightly, little white clouds exposing him. “Shit.”
Elliot licked his own lips, imagining he could taste the strawberry flavor from dessert that had lingered on Micah’s kiss. Now that Micah’s body was no longer keeping him warm, he could feel the chill in the air, and he would have stepped closer, chasing it, but Micah looked shaken. Elliot gave him a little smile, hoping it comforted. “That was nice.”
Then Micah twisted his head side to side, and Elliot realized the expression wasn’t shaken. It was regret. “I shouldn’t have done that.”