When Axel had first seen West in the lobby, he’d actually stumbled then stood there, staring at the man’s profile. The chances of them running into each other again had to be exceedingly unlikely, yet there he stood.
Axel had come out of his stupor, a spurt of joy burbling to life inside of him.
Then that other fool had touched West’s dick. Axel’s mood plummeted to quickly the room seemed to spin with the weight of his disappointment. He’d have left if said fool hadn’t spotted him.
Even then, even thinking West had a handsy boyfriend, Axel hadn’t been able to resist a small flicker of hope that West would be happy to see him. There was, apparently, some idealized little romantic saga going on in the back of Axel’s mind.
It went something like—West would look into his eyes, and an electric energy would spark between him and Axel. Fool-boy would disappear into a vapor or maybe ashes, whatever. He’d be gone and West would take Axel into his arms, and kiss him as if he’d never wanted to be parted from him.
Axel was internally mortified by his hidden fantasy, and he wondered if he shouldn’t have read his grandmother’s old Harlequins. Perhaps they’d set him up for a lifetime of romantic disappointment.
But then…then Axel had run into Jukie and the guy Axel had thought was West’s boyfriend. When he’d bluntly asked, the guy had laughed like Axel’s question was the funniest thing ever before saying no.
Axel had never run down seven flights of stairs so fast in his life. The elevators had already left his floor and he’d not wanted to wait.
Winded more from nerves than the running, Axel saw West step into the rotating door and called out his name. Shouted it across the lobby, really, but he didn’t care that it got him several odd looks. It was only the startled one from West that mattered.
Axel rushed to the door, where West was still standing, temporarily entrapped between the door’s panels. West seemed to be stuck in place, and other people waiting to exit were glaring and muttering.
“Excuse me,” Axel said as he slipped past them, his gaze still locked with West’s. Axel’s heart was slamming in his chest like it did before a competition, right before the calm hit and he lost himself in his routine. He wanted to lose himself in West the same way.
And hopefully there were no zombies around.
Axel stopped and pushed on the door.
West jolted and took a few steps. Axel slid into the next space, then in short order he was standing outside, with West only a couple of feet away.
It would figure, then, that words would fail him. Axel gulped and began to sweat, which certainly wasn’t going to make him more attractive. West probably thought he was a moron, and one with a potentially contagious illness, sweating like he was.
“Um.” Axel licked his lips and was heartened when West dropped his gaze, watching Axel do so. It bolstered his courage, which Axel really needed. “Hey. I was wondering if you’d like to maybe go get a drink somewhere and talk. I never did get to thank you for helping me that night.”
West seemed to be having trouble meeting Axel’s eyes, his gaze still lowered.
Axel licked his lips again and heard the quiet hitch of West’s breath. “Or we could go up to my room and fuck.”
West snapped his head back, his cheeks darkening with a blush.
That was obviously the wrong approach and too strong of a come on. Axel stuttered, knowing he couldn’t let West get away without something more than this stilted conversation this time. “Or not. Maybe you aren’t—“ He glanced around then tipped his head toward the bench away from the entrance. “Look, could we at least sit and talk for a few minutes? Please?”
West scraped his top teeth over his bottom lip, then nodded.
Still fearing West would leave, Axel gestured to the bench. “After you.”
Axel only ogled West’s butt for a second before guilt had him staring instead at the man’s broad shoulders. As shy as West was—and Axel remembered now how nervous West had been simply taking off his shirt—Axel felt like a real perv checking out his ass. It would have made West uncomfortable to know he was doing it. Not getting caught didn’t matter. Axel wanted to respect West, he needed to.
West sat on the bench. The lighting wasn’t very good, and cast him more in greys and blacks than color. Axel still thought he was gorgeous.
Axel sat beside him, careful not to touch. “So, I was surprised to see you here. And I…I thought that guy was your boyfriend since he was, um, groping you.”
“He’s not,” West got out as he looked down at his hands. “Terrence just doesn’t understand boundaries.”
Axel’s heart thudded a little faster. “I do,” he said quietly, willing West to look at him, to see and hear the sincerity he was trying to convey. “I wouldn’t touch you unless you wanted me to. I’m sorry I was so forward. I made you uncomfortable and that was the last thing I wanted.”
There it was again, that tiny hitch as West inhaled. Did that mean Axel had said the right thing or the wrong thing?
West finally darted him a quick glance before studying his hands again. “I don’t…I have four siblings that I’m responsible for raising. I don’t have the…the opportunities a lot of men my age do. My brothers and sisters, they mean everything to me.”
Axel bobbed his head. He supposed that might mean that West was a virgin after all, which, usually he steered away from inexperienced men because they expected and deserved more than he was willing to give. Usually. There was just something about West that made walking away from him impossible. “I get that. I’m an only child, but I’d have loved to have even one sibling to play with. I’m glad you have them, and I think it’s admirable that you’re raising them. Can I ask what happened?”
West hesitated, then he sat up a little straighter, and he began to talk about his parents, haltingly at first, then with more confidence. He even looked Axel in the eyes several times.
Axel thought he could live just for those moments.