I’ve joined a great group of authors to write a round-robin story called Different Tracks. We’re posting installments every Monday and Thursday and today is my turn! The other authors are Sophie Bonaste, Brynn Stein, Grace Duncan, Suki Fleet, Elizabeth Noble, Lane Hayes and Charlie Cochet.
Here are links to the first five parts:
Different Tracks — Part 6
The interior of Xander’s Civic was much too small. Xander smelled good—soap, sweat, and sawdust—and the designs on his forearm shifted as he turned the steering wheel. He was skinny—wiry, maybe—but his arms were well-muscled. Droplets of water fell from his hair, dampening his collar. Peter imagined those droplets gliding slowly over bare skin, over the half-finished samurai tattoo, and he imagined licking them away. He shivered violently, then smiled a little when Xander reached over to turn up the heat.
Damn! Xander was so close to him!
Peter glanced at Xander, who was frowning and had caught his lower lip in his teeth. Peter tried hard to find something to say that wasn’t a double-entendre about eating meat. “You don’t—” he began.
Xander startled as if someone had shocked him. “What?” he asked, his voice unexpectedly raspy. He looked briefly at Peter, then back at the windshield, where the frantic swish-thump of the wipers did little to clear the sheeting rain.
Peter cleared his throat. “You don’t have to go to the diner if you don’t want to. I mean, it’s not mandatory or anything.”
“It kinda is.” Xander sighed. “Court order.”
“Ah.” Peter had been wondering about that. Xander worked as hard as any of the volunteers, but carpentry was clearly not his thing. “What did you do?”
“Chopped people up to make my prize-winning sausages,” Xander replied. When Peter snorted an inelegant laugh, Xander chuckled. “Got caught speeding.”
“You must’ve been driving pretty fast,” said Peter. Xander wasn’t driving fast now. In fact, he was crawling along as he dealt with poor visibility and slippery streets.
“I, uh, kinda got caught speeding four times.”
Jesus. He was gorgeous with that sheepish grin. “Well,” Peter said, “I don’t think they’ll give you the death penalty if you decide to skip the diner. I can call Mr. J and tell him you’re bowing out on account of crappy weather.”
Xander rolled to a stop at a light that was barely visible through the downpour. “How come you’re there every Saturday? Do you have a lead foot too?”
Peter did tend to drive pretty fast, but he’d been lucky enough to not get caught. “I’m just a volunteer,” he said. “It used to be something I did with my dad, and when he died, I guess I didn’t have the heart to give it up.”
“Sorry,” Xander murmured.
“Oh, it was a couple years ago. But thanks.”
“You guys must’ve been close.” Xander sounded a little wistful, Peter thought.
“We were when I was a kid. Then….” Peter hesitated a moment. Fuck it, he thought. Hiding the truth never works out well. “Then when I was sixteen I told him I’m gay.” He held his breath as he waited for a response.
Xander didn’t have a homophobic freakout and boot him out of the car. Instead, he turned to look at Peter, his brown eyes wide. “Yeah?”
It took Peter a moment to remember what he’d been talking about, and then he had to clear his throat again. “He, uh, didn’t take it well. We basically didn’t talk for months. But he got over it eventually. Then I guess he decided we needed more bonding time or something. He started joining me on Saturdays when I volunteered for Habitat. We always did a lot of construction chores on the farm anyway, so I guess it came naturally to him. Uh, the light’s green.”
Xander blinked before gently pressing on the gas. “Farm,” he said quietly. That was clearly more of a shock to him than Peter’s sexual orientation. He didn’t say anything right away. They came to another red light, and after he stopped, he rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. “Are you still a farmer now?” he finally asked.
“No. I still own the place—it’s been in the family for generations—and I live in the house where I grew up. But I lease out the land.”
“What do you do for a living?”
Peter looked at the dashboard of Xander’s fifteen-year-old car and then at the sexy tats on his sexy corded forearms. He winced as he admitted, “Software developer.”
“Seriously?” Xander’s eyebrows lifted. “You don’t look anywhere near geeky enough for that.”
“Um, thanks. I guess.”
“I can picture you better riding a tractor instead of a laptop. You’re… strong.”
And then because Xander was so goddamn near, and because Peter could hear him breathing even over the pounding of the rain and the roar of the car’s fan, Peter reached over and used one finger to trace the stubble along Xander’s jawline.
When Xander answered with a shudder and a low moan, Peter’s jeans became much, much too tight. “We don’t have to go to the diner,” he reminded Xander, hearing the catch in his own voice.
Xander’s eyes were very dark, as if the pupils had almost completely overwhelmed the irises. “Yeah?” he responded in a near-growl. “Where would we go instead?”
Peter smiled at him. “We could go to my place.”
Check in with Sophie Bonaste on Monday for Part 7!
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