Derrick wasn’t a huge fan of crowds, but he loved art, which was the only reason he was in downtown San Antonio on a Friday afternoon. He’d come to the Hemisphere Arena grounds to check out the new Art Bonanza with the hopes of finding something special for his new house.
“Ohhhh, you look like a man in dire need of a walk on the wild side!”
Derrick spun around so fast that he was dizzy for a couple of seconds. He blinked away gray and black dots so he could see who had spoken, or borderline cat-called him. Maybe full-on. I don’t know.
His gaze landed on a short man with a big smile, a lot of freckles, and bright red hair. Derrick’s first thought was the guy looked like a leprechaun.
“Yeah, I’m talking to you, good-lookin’. Come on over here and try my wild and wicked devil-dog!”
What the heck… Derrick noticed the cart and sign behind the man then. Niall’s Gourmet Hot Dogs. He cocked an eyebrow at the guy who might or might not be Niall. “Do you always harass potential customers?”
The red-head’s smile didn’t falter at all as he winked at Derrick. “Well, you weren’t a potential customer when you walked on by me, but now you are, so I’d say my advertising methods work. Gotta take a chance now and then, you know. Nothing ventured, and all that. Besides, you’re here to celebrate art! Have a little fun— and a spicy, amazing hot dog!”
Derrick wasn’t the only by-passer. “Why aren’t you trying to sell to them?” He gestured at some of the people walking nearby.
Rather than answer, the man stepped behind his cart and used tongs to remove a hot dog from the grill. He held it up and waggled his eyebrows. “You know you want some.”
Derrick felt his cheeks heat with a blush. “Are— are you— “ he spluttered, unable to get the rest of the question out.
“I’m just asking if you want a wild and wicked devil dog. Live a little, my man.”
Maybe the guy wasn’t flirting. Derrick had thought— No, he just wants to sell a hot dog. He wouldn’t flirt with me for real. It’d been a while since a guy had flirted with him in any way, however, so it wouldn’t hurt him to get a hot dog and chat with the cute redhead for a minute.
Besides, Derrick couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a hot dog. “Okay, sure. Er, what’s on this amazing hot dog?”
“Why don’t you let me surprise you? I promise, it’ll be a good surprise. I’m Niall, by the way, and you are?” Niall dropped the hot dog onto a bun and started piling on toppings.
Derrick tried not to wince. Relinquishing control of what was going into his body had always been tough for him, and that didn’t just mean food. “Derrick. Tovar. Derrick Tovar.” He sounded like an idiot.
Niall winked at him again. “Well, then, Derrick Tovar Derrick Tovar, my last name is McKinley. Come a little closer. I won’t bite unless you ask me to.”
That blush was back, heating up Derrick’s cheeks. “Do you flirt with all the guys?”
“Nah,” Niall said. “Not even half of them. Same with women. I’m particular about who I offer my favors to.”
Hm. Bet he sells a lot of hot dogs with that schtick. But there weren’t any other customers around. Derrick moved closer to the hot dog cart. His nose burned when he caught a whiff of hot peppers. “I should have taken something for heartburn. Spicy foods, you know.”
Niall chuckled. “Oh, nah, you won’t need any of that with my dogs. I have a secret ingredient that makes ‘em heartburn proof.”
“Sure you do.” Derrick licked his lips in anticipation. So what if he got heartburn? It might be worth it. The hot dog smelled delicious, and it was piled high with toppings.
“It’s true,” Niall assured him. “Old family recipe, brought over with us from Ireland. Here. Take a bite.” He had placed the dog and bun in a white paper tray. “I’ll get you some chips to go with it, and a drink, too.”
Derrick took the hot dog, his mouth watering and his hunger making itself known with a rumble through his belly.
“You want plain chips, barbecue, sour cream, or salt and vinegar? And what kind of drink do you want? I have soda, tea, water.” Niall tapped the salt and vinegar chips. “I think these are the best.”
“Those, then, and a sweet tea, please.” Derrick stopped tormenting himself and took a bite of the hot dog. “Mmph. Ohmygod. S’good.” Forget not talking with food in his mouth; he had to sing Niall’s praises. The flavors of quality meat, spicy peppers, tangy cheese, crunchy…other things, all blended together for a near-orgasmic explosion of culinary perfection. Even a few days of heartburn would be worth the price.
“Told ya it’s good.” Niall opened the bag of chips and set them in front of Derrick. He grabbed a bottle of chilled tea. “I can make better tea myself, but this is easier for the customer and me. Not bad, either.” He twisted the top off the bottle. “Enjoy, stud. I’ve got to take this kind lady’s order. Don’t run off on me.”
Since Derrick hadn’t paid, he couldn’t very well leave. He didn’t mind eating at the cart, though. He had shade, there was a nice breeze tempering the hot, humid day. As Derrick ate, he watched Niall. While Niall was chatty with the customers, he didn’t give any of them the same broad smile he’d given Derrick, and he didn’t flirt, either.
That kind of made Derrick feel special. Stop it. He doesn’t think I’m special.
Niall glanced at him, and Derrick stopped mid-bite, held captive by the Niall’s emerald-green gaze for a moment before realizing he had to look like a fool, standing there with a hot dog in his mouth.
Derrick went back to enjoying his food while Niall served customers and rang up their bills. Niall was outgoing, and the customers seemed to like him, laughing and joking with him. Even one guy who’d been snappish at first, grilling Niall on the ingredients of the hot dogs, had ended up grinning and giggling.
“See? Wasn’t a one of them that I wanted to flirt with.” Niall smirked. “Just you, stud. Tell me about yourself.”
Derrick finished off the bag of chips, then washed them down with a drink of tea. He set the bottle on the cart. “I’m a financial manager with a company that specializes in the medical field.” One of the best and brightest of the up and coming financial managers, but he didn’t add that. He knew how boring his job sounded, so he couldn’t help but add, “I also posed for a charity calendar, um, an all-male calendar to raise money to find a cure for childhood cancer. And I’m ninety-three percent sure the entire photo shoot was jinxed.”
Niall’s eyes went wide, his face lit up, and he snapped his fingers. “Oh ho! I know what photo thing you’re talking about! The one that made the news a few months back because that lady poisoned people then tried to murder her husband? That one?”
Derrick’s gut cramped and he wished he hadn’t brought the subject up. “Yeah, that one. Anyway. How much do I owe you?”
Niall’s expression fell. “Hey, I didn’t mean to make you run off. The meal’s on me.”
Derrick was surprised. “Isn’t your whole point here to make money?”
“Not my whole point,” Niall countered. “I like to feed people, and talk to folks. There’s more to this world than money.”