A chance encounter in a hospital waiting room between twenty-two year old Will Messina and sixteen year old Josiah Pinkerton ends with a gift of a stuffed dragon off the hospital gift cart and a memory neither of them can shake.
Five years later, when a lonely, buttoned-up Will ventures into a gay club, he spots a pale, leather-clad specter with violet eyes tracking his every move. Will realizes he’s being watched by the grown version of the boy who’s haunted his thoughts for years.
Joey recognizes Will, but he’s no longer the sweet, brown-eyed boy worthy of Will’s attention. He’s damaged and defective and lives in a different world than Will now. When his childhood crush makes his way across the bar, Joey doesn’t have time to decide whether to be enchanted or dismayed because, unless he turns and runs, those worlds are about to collide.
Be Warned: m/m interaction
Joey felt out of place in the posh, downtown steakhouse. He’d heard of Messina’s, of course, but he’d never been inside. Will, however, had to be a regular customer there, because everyone seemed to know him and they were quickly ushered - ahead of other customers, even - to a large booth at the back of the restaurant. The hostess - Will called her Trish - handed them heavy, leather-bound menus that felt more like a book. Joey had been aware of people gawking at him as they’d made their way across the dining room, his leather club clothes and assault boots completely out of place in the high-end dining room. After scooting into the booth, he glanced out from under his bangs. No one was paying him any attention. He was used to both reactions.
He pretended to read the menu, but couldn’t help watching Will instead. Why would he bring him someplace nice like this? Someplace he’d have to explain - to people he knew - why he’d brought a freak to dinner?
“You should be looking at the menu. The waiter will be here any second. You can stare at me all you want after we order.”
The blood rushed to Joey’s face and he ducked behind the big menu. “I wasn’t staring,” he grumbled.
Will laughed. “You mumble when you lie. Got it. See? Learned something new about you already.”
He raised the menu higher so Will wouldn’t see him grin.
The waiter came and they placed their orders. Will studied him and Joey fidgeted, feeling off-kilter and lightheaded. Maybe it was because he hadn’t had anything but Coke today and the smell of wood-fired meat was making his stomach growl.
“Relax, Joey. You look like you’re waiting for a mob hit or something.”
Joey slumped, but then immediately straightened and smoothed the tablecloth. “It’s just… this is a nicer place than I’m used to. It’s fancy. Everyone’s in suits.”
Will looked around and shrugged. “It’s just a restaurant. No different than Steak N’ Shake. Just better decorating, different menu, lower lighting, and higher prices. I didn’t bring you here for any of that anyway. I brought you here because I know we’ll get a good meal and because I want to get to know you.”
“Why?” The question was out before Joey could stop it. Will seemed surprised.
“Because I like you?”
“How do you know? If you don’t know me?” He had no clue why he was being such a dick. It was like his subconscious was trying to drive Will away, when, in truth, that’s the last thing he wanted to do.
“Fair point, well played.”
“Why would you bring me someplace like this?”
“You don’t like it?”
“No! I mean, yes! It’s… nice! It’s just, people know you here.”
“Why wouldn’t you go somewhere no one knows you.”
“What the hell difference does it make?” Will scrunched his face in confusion.
“So you don’t have to, you know… explain.”
“Me,” Joey whispered and fidgeted with his place setting. Will reached across the table and took Joey’s hands in his. Joey looked up in shock, but Will’s expression was calm. The waiter came with their salads and Joey frantically tried to pull his hands out of Will’s, but Will didn’t release them until he absolutely had to, in order to make room for their plates. The waiter placed their salads and a basket of rolls wrapped in a linen napkin on the table and took a step back.
“Can I get you anything else right now, Will?”
“No, thank you, Trevor,” Will said and the waiter vanished. Will immediately turned his attention back to Joey. “Why in the hell would I have to explain you to anyone?”
Seriously? He couldn’t be that clueless, could he? Was Will really going to make him spell it out? Joey huffed in frustration. “Look at you.” He waved a hand at Will before sweeping his arm in an arc that encompassed the entire room. “Look at everyone else in here - like you.” He looked at Will and tried not to shrink. “Now, look at me.”
Will studied him for an uncomfortably long minute, never breaking eye contact. Then, to Joey’s shock, he leaned way out of the booth and eyeballed Joey’s entire length, his gaze raking slowly up and down. Will returned to a normal sitting position and leaned in, lowering his already deep voice.
“Thanks for that little opportunity. I’ve been dying to check you out all night, but I wasn’t going to be quite that obvious about it.”
A minute ago, Joey was blushing at his own self-consciousness, but when he met Will’s heated gaze, the blood rushed to his cock, making his inappropriate attire even more inappropriate. He squirmed in an effort to discretely adjust himself, but Will’s sultry smile told him it was no use.