Parker’s stomach flipped when he entered Balzac’s. Between the animated voices and the pounding, grinding and gurgling coming from behind the counter, he couldn’t hear himself think. He edged his way around the tables and people standing in line, his heart thumping in his chest as he scrutinized the crowd. No Blue Jays cap. Surprised? Not really. Yet he couldn’t get that familiar metallic taste out of his mouth. Should he have known better? Absolutely. But deep down, he still believed in love and, despite his past, that he deserved to be happy.
After one more sweep of the coffee shop, Parker retraced his footsteps towards the entrance. He kept his head down, like a man walking to the execution chamber and finally ready to admit his guilt. He couldn’t bear the shame of it. Why had he thought that Jay would be any different? “God, I’m an idiot!”
Nearing the entrance, Parker stepped aside as a group of burly young men barrelled inside. When he took a step forward, that was when a warm hand grabbed his wrist. He spun around. The Blue Jays cap! And below the bill were those ocean blue eyes that probed and sometimes terrified him. “You!”
“I can’t believe you did this,” Parker said, his voice pitching high. He couldn’t stop the tears pooling in his eyes and, swallowing his shock, rushed outside. He walked quickly, almost running, along the dark sidewalk through the mist-like drizzle. He heard the patter of feet behind him and picked up his pace. But it was too late. The hand on his shoulder pressed down and brought him to a stop. He could not — would not — look into those eyes again.
“Give me a chance to explain,” Jacob Harding said in a whisper. When there was no response, he slid his hand down Parker’s arm and led him into the deserted Liberty Village Park. They stopped near the large Perpetual Motion sculpture, Jacob unable to catch Parker’s eye. “Please, Parker … look at me.”
Parker jerked his arm free. “I can’t,” he said, strained. “I don’t … know who … you are.”
“I’m your friend.”
“Friend?” Parker lifted his head, his eyes roaming the unshaved, rugged face before him. “Friends don’t —”
“Calm down, Parker,” Jacob cut in, raising his voice to match Parker’s. “Just let me —”
“Explain?” Parker took a step back when Jacob went to touch his arm. “You called yourself Jay. And don’t tell me to fucking calm down.”
Jacob removed his ball cap long enough to run his hand through his hair. “Jay’s a family nickname.”
Parker bristled. “The deception. The duplicity. The lies.”
“Fine, I lied,” Jacob spat. He bit down on his lip and adjusted his hat. “I just … I didn’t know how to tell you.”
“This is sick.” Parker’s voice cracked with disgust. “And mean.”
Jacob made another unsuccessful play for Parker’s arm. “I never meant to…”
“I don’t understand this.” Parker rubbed his eyes. “I mean, you score all the time with guys, jocks —”
“Big talk. I’m a flirt. I like the attention.” Jacob pursed his lips and rolled them. “I’m a one-man kind of guy. Silly or not, I believe that my soul mate’s out there.”
“And you think that’s me?” Parker swooned, and before he could gather up his strength, Jacob stepped forward and drew him close, so close he could smell the bacon Jacob had had for breakfast. “You could have any guy.”
“So you say.” Jacob tightened his hold, their waists and stomachs pressed firmly together. “I’d still like to have that coffee with you.”
Parker, his eyes narrowing, twisted out of the embrace. “Like a date?”
Jacob chuckled and readjusted his cap. “That’s kind of how it works. Dating, that is. Two people do something together so they can get to know each other.”
“I know what dating is.” Parker sucked his teeth. “But I don’t…”
Jacob went over and took Parker’s face in his hands. He hesitated just a moment, then drew Parker to him until their mouths met. Being there, like that, with their lips pressed together, said more than words ever could. They stayed like that for about thirty seconds, then he pulled out of the kiss and smiled. “Let’s talk over coffee.”
Parker backed away. “What? And let the world hear how much of a fool I am?”
“You’re not a fool.” Jacob tugged on the sleeve of Parker’s grey jacket. “Let’s go to my place. We’ll have privacy.”
“I’m not sure about that, either.”
Jacob rolled his eyes. “We’re just going to talk. I don’t sleep with a guy on the first date. Or we can go to your place.”
Parker shook his head. “Let’s just walk.”
They walked in silence, Parker catching Jacob’s sidelong glances but never letting their eyes meet. The shock lingered, and he wondered if this was some type of practical joke. It wasn’t funny, or maybe it was in a twisted, macabre way. Or maybe this was about his pride, now wounded and bleeding, because he hadn’t seen the signs. He never thought of himself as Jacob’s type. And a frantic search through his memories revealed that there had never been any awkward moments between them, moments that could have paved the way for a season of love. Like a hand accidentally brushing against an arse. Like seeing each other naked in the locker room when they worked out together. Like… Jesus! He tried to tell me at Octavo yesterday.
Waiting for the light to change at the King and Bathurst intersection, Jacob bumped into Parker. “You okay?”
Parker turned, his gaze levelled at those magnetic eyes, and opened his mouth to speak. No words came. He just didn’t know what to say. Then it happened — the sudden bulge in his pants that made him look away. Christ, what am I supposed to do?
The answer surprised him.
Delete the app.