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He hadn’t reacted poorly when I called him beautiful. He’d looked pleased, and a little shy. I was just freaked out and overreacting.
“How would they know?” he eventually asked.
I tongued my fat lip, then sighed. “I mean, apart from the fact that this is a pretty well-known queer spot?” I asked, and he lifted a brow. “It’s called the Q Inn. I mean, it’s obvious.”
He frowned in confusion.
“Q. For queer,” I clarified.
His brow lifted. “Is it obvious?”
“Okay I guess it’s not to anyone except the locals,” I amended. “Which, according to your accent, you aren’t one.”
“I’ve been living in a community with people who came from the same place I did. I forget that I have an accent sometimes.”
I shrugged. “Well it wasn’t a criticism. I think your voice sounds…” I didn’t want to say beautiful again, and exotic sounded gross and weird. “It’s a nice change from the west coast surfer twang.”
He laughed softly. “Is that what yours is?"
I rolled my eyes. “If it is, I need to throw myself into the bay immediately.”
A moment passed between us, then it shuddered to a halt when the silence became awkward. Alonso cleared his throat, then slid his chair closer to me. His hand lifted and he cupped my chin, and he leaned in. Mesmerized by his eyes, I mirrored him.
And Christ, he smelled good. He smelled absurdly good.
“Poe.” His voice was like warm honey, and never in my life had my own name been erotic.
“Hey,” I whispered.
His lip twitched as he used his grip on my chin to gently ease my head back. I came back to myself in a sudden rush, humiliation coursing through my veins. My face was molten-lava hot, and I wanted to literally be swallowed up by the earth. Was I about to fucking kiss him just then?
“I might have a concussion.”
“Your pupils are even and they’re responsive,” he told me.
“Are you a doctor?”
He laughed gently and began to clean the scrapes on my face with the alcohol wipes. If anything was a boner killer, it was the sterile smell of antiseptic and the chilly pain of first aid. “I’m not a doctor, but I’ve had to clean more than my fair share of injuries.”
“Like all the ones that gave you those scars?” I couldn’t help but ask.
Something in his eyes shuttered, and he glanced away before putting some of the Neosporin cream on his thumb and gently brushing it over the parts that hurt worst. Lord, I wanted to sink into his arms.
Was I really so touch starved that I was going to lose it to a total stranger who was just cleaning me up after I got my ass beat? Maybe I should have asked Nic for more hugs while he was here.
It took me a second to realize he didn’t answer my question about his scars, but I knew better than to push it. He was definitely the kind of man who had been through a life a lot worse than mine had been. And if I was traumatized enough to avoid talking about it at all costs, I couldn’t imagine how much he wanted to avoid those questions.
So I could be that guy for him. I could be soft and easy and careful.
His body stiffened, and it took all of my self-control not to show disappointment when he pushed the chair back and stood. He gave me another assessing glance, then swiped his hands on the front of his trousers. “I think you’ll live.”
I managed a small smile and extended my hand. “Thank you, not-doctor.”
His palm was an odd mix of calloused and soft, and it was so warm, it heated my skin. His grip was tight, and I thought I could have held on to him forever, but he pulled away quickly and reached for his cane. “It was no trouble.”
When he started for the door, I felt a surge of panic. I didn’t want him to leave yet. It was obvious this was just a moment in time and would mean nothing in a week, in a month—forgotten in a year. But it couldn’t end like this.
“Alonso,” I said
He froze and locked my gaze with his before he said my own name. “Poe.”
“Let me make you lunch.”
It starts with a mugging, and ends with me being saved by the love of my life.
In short, my uncle died and left me everything—which is to say a barely surviving pub with no staff and thousands of dollars’ worth of repairs I can’t afford. It also seemed to come with some strange men, dressed in black, who won’t tell me what they’re looking for—or why they seem so interested in who I am.
But when the tall stranger who walked with a cane and talked with an accent literally saved my life, things got a bit more…interesting.
And a lot more complicated.
I’ve lived in the city long enough to know some secrets are best left buried, but the longer Alonso is around, the harder I fall for those dark eyes and jagged scars. I want to believe that the past is the past, but is there a future with a man who won’t let me in? And if he does open up, will I be able to accept who he was, and everything he’s done?
Rapture is a stand-alone, age-gap, friends to lovers romance featuring dark pasts, bright futures, an alley cat who thinks it's a ghost, sleepovers, possessive lovers, praise, hurt/comfort, and a sweet, steamy happily ever after.