Mark is a man on the horns of a dilemma. He's in the midst of a five-year affair with a married man and he wants out ... but isn’t sure he can give up his lover.
Austin, who lives in the apartment building across the street from Mark, has his own problems. Two years earlier, the man he loved died in a horrible auto accident. Austin is still trying to come to terms with seeing it happen, and dealing with the aftermath.
After watching Mark from his balcony, making up stories about what he sees, Austin decides to meet him. Will the meeting help the two come to grips with their problems? And if it does, can they move on to something more than possible friendship?
Mark looked at the Caller ID, debating whether to answer when he saw Todd's number. He hadn't the previous two times his lover had called -- once just before he left the shop for the day, the second while he was driving home.
"I can do this," he said under his breath, putting the phone down on the kitchen counter before going back to fixing supper. It finally went silent, after five rings -- the number Mark had programmed in before a call would go to his voicemail.
He waited until after he'd eaten before checking to see if Todd had left a message. He had. It said, 'Why aren't you answering, Mark? I'll be in town tomorrow for a two-day meeting, so I'll see you tomorrow night. Miss you.'
"I knew this would happen," Mark muttered. "He rarely asks, he always tells and expects me to be happy when he shows up. Now what do I do? Rent a motel room until he's gone home?"
He started pacing the living room, feeling like a trapped animal. Grow a pair. When he shows up, tell him it's over. Easier said than done and he knew it. He stopped by the window, staring out but not really seeing anything through the softly falling snow, until a movement on the balcony opposite him caught his eye. The man who lived in the apartment opposite his had come out. Seconds later, he was staring at Mark, or so it seemed, making Mark feel like a bug pinned to a display board.
What the hell is with him? I'm half tempted to go over there and find out.
The man stood there for a long moment, then, much to Mark's shock, he saluted before going back inside.
That was totally weird. Mark pulled the curtains closed. Then, deciding he had to get out of the apartment so he could think clearly, he grabbed his coat and gloves and left.
* * * *
"Why the hell did I do that?" Austin said under his breath as he closed the balcony door behind him. Maybe because I wanted him to know I'm aware of him?
The problem was, he didn't know why it mattered, but it did. Perhaps, he decided, just watching Mr. Cute (as he'd tagged him) and trying to figure out what was going on with him had made his own life more interesting. Against his better judgment he opened the door again to look across at Mr. Cute's apartment -- just in time to see the lights go out.
It's too early for him to be going to bed. He stepped onto the balcony, getting close enough to the railing to look down at the street without being seen. His nosiness, he supposed, was rewarded when he saw the man leave the apartment building and start walking down the block.
Going for coffee, or a late supper? Mr. Cute was heading in the direction of the small strip mall which had a couple of restaurants, as well as small shops. It was where Austin usually went when he didn't feel like cooking, so he thought it was possible.
"My chance to meet him?" he murmured, going inside again. "Why would I want to? On the other hand, why not? I'll probably find out he's totally not worth my time, but I would like to know if my presumption about his love life is correct." He chuckled as he went to get his jacket. "I've been editing too many damned romances. Dreaming up stories about people I see as a result. Maybe I should start writing some of them down." He snorted. "Not."
By the time Austin left his building, Mr. Cute was nowhere in sight. His footsteps are, though. He saw them in the fresh snow when he looked across the street. "Big time tracker is me," he said under his breath as he crossed the street and began following them. He almost lost them two blocks later when they mingled with those of other people who had braved the mid-evening snowfall. Then he saw the man a block ahead of him, going into the same coffee shop he favored in the mall.
* * * *
"I'd like a ..." Mark studied the list of coffees, glad there weren't many customers, so he wasn't holding up a line of people while he tried to make up his mind. "Is the maple latte good?"
The clerk nodded. "Different, and not my favorite, but people seem to like it."
"Maybe I should stick with my usual Americano."
"Try the mocha espresso," someone said from behind him. "That is if you like chocolate."
"Who doesn't," Mark replied as he turned to see who was speaking. "You," he said, more than a bit disconcerted. "Are you following me?"
The man shrugged. "Yes, and no."
"Hardly a definitive answer."
"I saw you heading this way and decided I wanted coffee to ward off the cold."
"Uh-huh. Try again." Mark paused to tell the clerk he wanted a large Americano. "I've seen you watching me," he told the man. "It's creepy."
"Sorry. I didn't mean it to be," the man replied. "I have a bad habit, I guess you could call it, of making up stories about people I see."
Mark scowled. "By window peeping?"
"Hey. That's not what I'm doing," the man protested.