A few years back, I contributed a short story to the anthology, This Beautiful Escape, a fundraiser for Ataxia Canada. Within my piece, I included a fun little cameo with Tad and Scott to follow the conclusion of their series. But guess what! Copyright restrictions have ended, and I am now able to share it with my readers! So have at it, good people! I hope it makes you smile.

CLOSING TIME

A short story by Kora Knight

(Tad and Scott cameo)

 

 

“It is a risk to love.
What if it doesn’t work out?
Ah, but what if it does.”

 

― Peter McWilliams

* * * * *

 

Dedicated to the LGBTQ youth. 
You are perfect exactly the way you are.  

 

* * * * *

 

 

It’s almost nine pm and, like always this time of night, the place is dead. As manager on duty of the local Sports Authority sporting goods store, I amble through the lacrosse and hockey aisles, making sure everything’s squared away before I let the last of my employees head home for the night. No point paying them to stand around, especially on a school night. Teens these days don’t get enough sleep as it is. Not that I’m too much older. Just out of college myself, actually. Took me a few months to land this job, but at twenty three, I’d say I’ve made decent time in getting where I am. And I like this job. I mean, hell, I’m surrounded by every sport under the sun, and on top of that, I get to order people around. Not that I’m too hard on my employees. We all actually get along pretty well. They like me. I like them. The road thus far has been smooth.
Turning the corner, I head toward the football section and quickly spot Doug diligently straightening an endcap. Aka working hard to look busy. Which means it’s time for him to scoot. I glance around just to make sure.
“Alright, bud. Your sections look tight. Go give that time clock a big kiss goodbye.”
Immediately Doug drops his busy-busy act. “Sweet. Thanks, Mr. T.” What everyone calls me. Short for Tyler, but with the added show of respect for their superior. Not too much younger than myself, maybe nineteen or twenty, he smiles and shuffles toward the back. “See you tomorrow.”
“On time, hopefully,” I drawl, letting him know I’m well aware he arrived ten minutes late today. 
He flashes a sheepish wince and nods. “Definitely. Definitely on time.”
I smirk and keep going, headed for all things soccer a couple more aisles down. Cassie will be the next one going home. And then Brad after that. Which will have me going solo for the last half hour before closing. Something I do a lot at night when the store turns all ghost townish. 
Ten long minutes later and Brad is finally out from behind his register and pushing through the front doors. He’s a talker, that one. I try not to get him started. Easier said than done, though, when anything at all seems a trigger. Truth be told, I think he’s got a crush on me. Can’t tell if he knows for sure that I’m gay, I don’t exactly broadcast my private life to my employees, but it sure feels like he does. Not that he flirts, per se. Just always with the extra big smiles and those slightly longer moments of eye contact. I don’t reciprocate, though. He’s my employee, after all, and definitely not my type anyway. 
While a dirty blond myself with blue-green eyes, I like my men tall, dark and handsome. Which Brad is not. A good looking guy, don’t get me wrong, but his features are a lot more like mine. And he’s also a bit too stocky. Should probably ease up on the protein shakes. And visits to the gym. Nope, give me someone with a wide receiver physique and I’m already halfway to heaven. Add in some dark eyes and a mane of dark hair and I’m busting through the pearly gates.
I sigh. Only one person comes to mind who fits that criteria, but he’s hardly a promising prospect. Just some guy that frequents the store who, if I’m lucky, I get to swap a couple words with to answer some question about a product. Or point him toward a particular aisle. 
God, he’s got a great voice, though. Low and soft, but with the coolest husky rasp. Always makes me think of pillow talk—and dirty little murmurs. So much so that on a couple of occasions I actually popped a boner. Not that he’s ever stuck around long enough to notice. I think our longest conversation lasted, oh, maybe two and a half minutes. Just long enough to leave me hard… and disappointed. Which is stupid. I don’t even know if he’s gay.
Shaking my head, I squat down and collect the three boxes of Titleist golf balls left under Brad’s register. He should have returned them to the shelves before leaving. Probably got sidetracked while telling me all about his weekend hiking trip and how awesome it’d be if I came along with him next time. And to be honest, I’d been tempted. I love hiking. Haven’t done it in ages. Just would prefer not to do it with Mile a Minute Man. Being out in the remoteness of nature with Brad non-stop yapping in my ear?
I shudder and head for our store’s huge golfing department. But as I make my way past countless aisles along the way, I spot someone out of the corner of my eye. I stop instinctively, ready to ask if they need any help, then suck in a silent breath.
It’s him. Mr. Elusive Tall Dark and Handsome. 
Checking out our volleyballs.  
Hands in his pockets, he stares at the assortment as I shamelessly stare at him. Man, he looks good, all tanned and perfectly sculpted. I eye his black track pants and snug white tee. He seems to wear athletic attire a lot. Add to that how often he stops by compared to others, and I can’t help but wonder if his job revolves around fitness. He’s definitely young enough for that sort of thing, looking no more than a couple years older than me.
I set down the golf balls and head his way. “Hey, there.” I smile, giving a casual nod. “Welcome back.”
He looks my way and stills. Which would seem weird, seeing as he wasn’t really moving to begin with, but it’s something I’ve noticed about the guy in the brief times we’ve spoken. Like he’s shy or nervous or something. And tonight doesn’t appear to be any different. Don’t know why, but for some reason I find it kind of endearing. Okay, and really attractive. Like he’s my very own little mystery man. Not that he’s little by any means. I’m almost six foot and he’s at least an inch or two taller. 
“Ah. Thanks.” He smiles, too, as I come to a stop.
“Need help finding anything?” God, that sounded lame. Generic sales associate much? I want to kick myself in the shin. 
He shakes his head and gestures to the balls. “Nah. Was just checking these out. Our batch is starting to look pretty rough. I’ll be needing to replace them soon so was just kind of scoping out my options.”
I wrap my brain around his words, trying not to get distracted by his insanely velvet timbre. “Ah. What, do you work over at the fitness center or something?”
Again, he shakes his head. “Nah. I teach P.E. at the middle school down the road.” His smile widens. “Love working with kids. I actually coach basketball, too.”
How unexpected. My head cocks slightly of its own accord as I eye him in a slightly new light. A kid person. Nice. Of course, at the same time, I’m also admiring his gorgeousness. Because I’m good with multitasking like that. Thoroughly appreciating that dark-stubbled jaw and those ridiculous kiss me lips. Even his nose, all perfectly shaped, but most especially his eyes. Like always, they captivate me on sight. Huge and round and really dark brown, with the most incredible set of black lashes. To some that might sound weird to point out on a guy, but holy shit, I love them. 
After a minute, he cocks his head, too, as if playfully mimicking my stance. Shit. Was I staring? 
Quickly, I nod. “Wow. A gym teacher. Very cool. Bet all those middle schoolers give you a run for your money.”
“Yeah,” he chuckles. “They keep me on my toes for sure. But I try to do the same.”
“Oh, yeah?” I cross my arms and face him more fully. “And how do you do that?”
He shrugs. “By mixing things up. Keeping it fresh. Integrating into the curriculum activities that spark their age group’s interests.”
“Sweet. What kind of activities are the biggest hits?”
Another shrug. “Hip-hop dancing, rock climbing, parkour, paintball courses…”
My mouth drops open. “Man… That sounds…  You’re awesome.”
He looks at me, eyes glinting curiously. “I am?”
I stare at him, a little surprised by his response, then realize my words hadn’t exactly come out right. Well, actually, yes they had, but not in ways he needs to know about. “Um, yeah,” I back pedal. “Pretty sure my P.E. teachers held degrees in cruel and unusual punishment.”
He laughs and nods. “Oh. Yeah, true. Mine, too. Class could’ve been so much more fun if they’d just put some effort and creativity into it.” 
On the flip side, I’m pretty sure most things would be more fun as long as this guy was involved. Despite his crazy good looks, he’s just got this upbeat air about him. Total magnetic disposition.
“I bet your students love you,” I say.
He holds my gaze. “I hope so.” 
Oh man, the way his voice just dipped, like rich melted chocolate over my skin. Along my crotch. Ugh. I do not want wood right now. I clear my throat and shift my weight. He quickly looks back at the balls. I regard him curiously. He’s acting sort of different. Like he’s feeling more nervous than usual. Not that I have much to compare this conversation to. Already it’s lasted longer than any of our previous exchanges.
Well, one thing I do know is that I don’t want this moment to end. I’m enjoying our chat even more than I expected to. And I expected to enjoy it a lot. Not that we’ve said much. I just really like being near him. Something about him just draws me in. Wish I knew his name. Maybe he’d tell me it if I formally introduce myself. Would that be too forward, though? Screw it. He’s in here a lot, which makes us acquaintances. And that warrants proper introduction. Who knew manners could be so advantageous.
“I’m Tyler, by the way.” 
He looks back at me and smiles. “I know.”
“You do?” 
He gestures to my shirt. “Name tag.”
“Oh.” I laugh, feeling like an idiot. “Right. Geez. Must’ve left my brain up at the register.”
He laughs, too, and offers his hand. “I’m Brian.”
I take it to shake and, holy shit, the second our palms touch, the most incredible warmth washes up my arm. My fingers clutch tighter before I can stop them. Brian glances at our hands then looks back at me. I quickly let go. Did he feel that, too? He’s staring at me as if he might have. Or crap, maybe he just thinks I’m weird. 
Quickly, I motion to the selection of balls. “Well, volleyball was always a sure-fire favorite back in the day. I’m guessing it’s still a pretty big crowd pleaser since yours are wearing out.”
Brian nods. “Oh, yeah. They definitely love playing it and I definitely love watching.” He laughs low and husky. “Some of those kids give new meaning to enthusiasm.”
My eyes shoot back to him. Oh, God. That deep hearty rumble just dive-bombed my groin. I’m getting hard. I can feel it. Never mind that his laugh is now my official new drug. What was he talking about? Something involving balls? 
Before I start panting or making dumb expressions, I force my gaze back to the shelves. “Uh. Right. So, you’re going to want high quality stuff…” I scan the countless brand names. “Ones that can really take a licking.” 
Licking? Oh, geez. Wrong choice of words. I steal a quick glance his way. He’s watching me, but again quickly looks away. Like I just caught him staring or something. Which I guess I kind of just did. 
Huh. He was staring at me. Interesting.
Suddenly feeling a ray of hope, I send out my gaydar feelers. I also allow myself a couple extra seconds to admire him since he’s no longer looking my way. Hmm. The way he’s chewing on that lip. That’s an anxious chew, no doubt about it. And his arms are folded awfully tight across his chest. Like he’s keeping them detained or—Whoa. He totally just stole another glance at me, too. I can feel my heart rate kicking up a notch. Could he actually be into guys? If he is, he’s not out about it, that’s for sure. It’s written all over his demeanor. Cautiously discerning. Carefully reserved.
Still not quite a hundred percent sure, I focus back on the balls. “Wilson’s a great brand. So is Spalding. Either one will take a good beating.”
Brian eyes their sticker prices and sighs. “The school’s budget is pretty tight. No way we can afford those, even at bulk rates.” 
True. I forgot how hard-up public schools always are. Nodding, I scratch my cheek. “Oh, right. Okay. Well, I’m sure I can find something here that’s—” 
“Nah. It’s okay. Like I said, I was just checking them out. I’m supposed to buy from designated wholesalers anyway.”
“Ah. Yeah. That makes total sense.” So, he only came here tonight to look. Is it possible he had other motives for coming, too? Me perhaps being one of them? I can feel my hopes climbing steadily higher. Turning back to face him, I don a playful grin. “Well, if you’re ever back on the market for, you know, volleyball contracts, be sure and let me know. I promise to set you up really good.”
I’m flirting. I’m flirting. Please flirt with me back.
Brian’s eyes lock with mine, a small smirk tugging at his lips. “Wow. That’s very… considerate of you.”
My heart thumps a little faster. “Least I could do for a favorite customer.”
He stills again and lifts a brow. “I’m one of your favorites?”
I shrug and go for casual. “Sure. Why not. You’re in here a lot, have always seemed pretty cool.”
A pair of guys stroll into the boxing gear section a couple aisles across from us. As we both look their way, I contemplate whether or not to go greet them. Job description and all that jazz. Wow. The dark-haired guy is seriously ripped. His lighter-brown haired friend’s not small either, but closer to Brian’s size. I glance at my watch. Nine fifteen. What’s up with the late night traffic? Not that I’m complaining that Brian dropped by. I honestly couldn’t be happier. Although… I look back at him. Now that I think about it, this is the first time he’s ever stopped in this close to closing. Maybe his coaching gig ran late. No way he intentionally timed this visit for when I was getting off work. Or did he. Gah. Listen to me. Since when did I become such a wishful thinker? 
Brian returns his undivided attention to me. Oh man, that gaze feels good.
“So I’m one of your favorites and you think I’m cool, and if I ever find myself back on the market you’re gonna set me up good.” His grin turns impish. “Am I getting all this right?”
I chuckle at his astuteness. “Wow, I… Yeah, I guess you are.” 
No point in denying it, especially when I’m still trying to figure out if we’re batting for the same team. His smile fades a little, as if surprised by my answer. Which could be a good or bad thing, depending on his stance. But screw it, the ball’s rolling and I don’t want to lose momentum. 
Donning my super-subtle, sexy grin, I re-cross my arms and mirror his stance. “So? Any chance you’ll be on the market soon? Because, you know, if you are I should probably start crunching numbers to get you that really great deal.”
Brian’s lips twitch. “You trying to make a commission off me?”
My grin grows wider. “Not exactly.”
A bark of laughter diverts our attention back to those other two guys. I lift a brow. Both have tried on some kickboxing gloves and are halfheartedly duking it out. The bigger one’s fast, but the smaller one’s feisty. I can’t help smiling. Truth be told, their spar’s rather engaging. If I wasn’t so invested in my progress with Brian, I’d probably kick back and watch the show.
Brian chuckles as Mr. Muscles whips an arm around his bud’s neck and tugs him into his chest. But then unexpectedly Mr. Captive cants his head and kisses him on the lips. Brian’s smile fades fast. My mouth drops back open. Totally didn’t see that one coming. Guess the lovebirds have yet to notice us.
Brian quickly looks away, shifting awkwardly on his feet. “Wow. Uh…” He scratches his neck. “Hmm… PDA’s… Gotta love ‘em.”
Unable to help it, I start to laugh. “Yeah. Closing time isn’t typically this entertaining.”
Brian’s big dark eyes search my face. As if looking for something important. “So, that doesn’t piss you off? Two guys lip-locked in the middle of your store?”
I shrug. “My managerial stance on public affection? As long as it doesn’t get out of hand, I’m all for the love. But my feelings on the fact that it’s two guys kissing?” Holding his gaze, I bite the bullet. “I’m gay myself so I think it’s pretty great.”
Brian just stares at me. I hold my breath. God, my heart is pounding. Because this is it. Either I just put an end to our friendly little acquaintance or walked us both across a major bridge. 
Brian’s big, broad shoulders visibly ease. Wow. I hadn’t realized they’d been so tense. I exhale a huge silent breath of my own. He’s not disgusted. Not even a little. In fact, he looks as relieved as me. 
Brian nods with a grin and pockets his hands. “Nice answer. And good to know.”
I smile. “Which? My view on PDA’s and gay relationships? Or that extra bit I threw in at the end.”
Brian chuckles and looks down. “Both actually. The heads up is… convenient.”
I lift a brow, my heart pumping faster. “Convenient? That’s a little left fieldish.”
“Yeah, well, if you knew what’s been bumping around in my head, you’d understand.”
My smile widens. Because now I’m not only excited but intrigued. “Bumping around, huh? Sounds physical. I like physical.”
Brian’s dark eyes lift and lock on my lips. Oh, hell. I lick them before I can stop myself. His gorgeous lashes flutter almost imperceptibly. Wow. That was hot. I swallow, fighting not to wince, because damn, I’m back to getting hard. And at the rate my heart’s pumping, I’ll be filled up fast. I shift my weight, needing desperately to adjust my fly, which seems to snap Brian out of it. 
He clears his throat with a boyish smile. “I like physical, too.”
I grin. “I’d imagine so. Being a gym teacher and all.”
He chuckles and shakes his head, glancing away. “Not the kind of physical I was talking about.”
Yeah, me either. I sigh. This guy is pure sex. And, wow, are his cheeks turning pink? Damn. Right when I think he can’t get more attractive.
I smile and playfully reiterate his earlier words. “Good to know.”
He looks back and meets my eyes again. But now his gaze looks… anxiously impulsive. Like he’s dying to do something but has yet to get up the nerve. Suddenly I have the strongest urge to move inappropriately close. To help his cause or something, I don’t know. But I resist. I’m already way too hard as it is. Besides, I need this bit of distance to keep a clear head. Have a feeling something monumental is about to happen. 
Rubbing his jaw, Brian glances at the balls then focuses back on me. “Listen. Um. When I said it was convenient, what you told me just now? What I meant by that was…” He shifts his stance, delves his hands back into his pockets. “It kinda coincides with the reason I came.”
It takes all I’ve got to keep my jaw off the floor. Holy crap. Is he going to ask me out? Keep it cool, Tyler. You don’t know that for sure. Jumping to conclusions is never a good idea. My folded arms twitch restlessly against my chest. Please let me be right, though. ‘Cause, man, I really like this guy.
“Hm. The reason you came.” I smile. “So, this little stop by wasn’t about just the volleyballs?”
Again, Brian chuckles, low and husky. “No.” He shakes his head. “It was never about just the volleyballs.” His expression turns deliciously sheepish. “Hell, it was never about the volleyballs at all.” He bites his lower lip then lets the thing go. “I came to see you. To talk to you. To, um, ask if maybe you’d want to—”
Another belt of laughter shoots past our ears. Again, we both glance to the two guys down the way. And while I wouldn’t have thought anything could distract me from this moment, the sight has me standing corrected. Lighter-haired Guy is holding up a skimpy red wrestling singlet and wagging his brows at his boyfriend. Darker-haired Dude is shaking his head adamantly, still laughing as he pushes it away. His boyfriend, however, hardly seems deterred. Whipping a matching blue one out from behind his back, he holds it against his body and grins, nodding his head encouragingly. Mr. Muscles doesn’t appear swayed, but he does look amused. As his rumbling chuckle reaches my ears, he takes the bottom of the second singlet and pulls it up and over his companion’s head. Smaller Guy just laughs and snaps his arms around him, blindly trying to kiss him through the fabric. 
The sound of their merriment makes me smile. Such unabashed joy they bring to each other. Despite their surroundings and the cruelty of society. It’s nice. Refreshing. And makes me want the same. I look back at Brian to find him still watching them. He’s got an odd look on his face now. One I can’t quite read. He’s not smiling. But he’s not frowning. Just kind of pensively chewing on his cheek as he takes in the spirited couple.
I glance at my watch. Shit. Nine twenty-five. I need to have the doors locked in five minutes. “Damn it.” I frown. “Can you hold that thought? I have to get these guys out the door.”
Brian gives a small smile and an even smaller nod. “Sure. Of course. Go do what you gotta do. I probably should’ve come in earlier.”
“No, you’re fine. Just… don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back. I promise.”
I hustle toward the two guys, frustration pumping through my veins. He was about to ask me out. I know he was. I can barely freaking believe it. Haven’t been this excited in God knows how long. Boyfriends have been few and far between for me. School and now work steal a lot of my time, but the intolerant world around me has definitely been a hindrance, too. Yet, strange as it seems, these two guys I’m headed for seem to have instilled in me some hope. The lifestyle of a gay man isn’t easy, but with Brian clearly willing to make an effort and these dudes so proudly exhibiting it… 
I smile, my swift strides suddenly feeling lighter. Glancing over my shoulder, I make sure Brian’s still there, that he wasn’t just some fantasy I concocted to help me pass the time. Nope. Still there with hands in his pockets, watching my every step. Phew. Hallelujah. 
I turn back as I reach the others, and immediately have to tamp back a laugh. With Smaller Guy backed-up against a shelf, singlets still clutched optimistically in his hand, the two men appear to be engaged in a stalemate. And a comical one at that. 
 “No, Tad,” Muscles laughs in exasperation. “I’m not gonna wear fucking spandex.”
“Dude. Come on. You’d look frickin’ hot.”
“I’m sure I would. Answer’s still no.”
“Please?”
“Nope.”
“For me?”
“Nope.”
“I’ll wear one, too.”
Pause. “Damn. That’s tempting… But no.”
“Ugh! I’ll let you drive my Jeep.”
Low chuckle. “No thanks. Remember? Suspension’s too stiff.”
Soft growl. “I got your stiffy right here.”
“Mm.” Muscles grins. “Should we take this to your apartment?”
“And leave behind the singlets?”
“I’m wearing a jockstrap.”
“Fuck. You just gave me wood.”
I clear my throat to get their attention, because clearly they’ve still yet to see me. How great to be so wrapped up in one another that they don’t even notice their surroundings. Both jerk their heads my way, the big dude stepping back. 
I smile all professional-like and tap my watch. “Sorry to interrupt, but we’re closing now. If you’d wrap up your shopping, I can meet you at the register.”
The two swap looks. “Uh, sure. No problem,” says the guy named Tad. He smirks at his man and holds up the singlets. “Last chance, Scott. You sure you don’t want one? Might actually help you to win.”
Lips twitching, Mr. Muscles narrows his eyes. “Yeah. I’m sure. But I’ll definitely take a rematch.”
“Any time, any place.” Tad grins, turning to go. 
'Scott' falls in step beside him as they head toward the registers, a pair of kickboxing gloves tucked under his arm. 
I grin. Now that’s a match I’d love to watch. My smile fades, though, as I return back the way I came. Brian’s gone. What the hell? I glance down every aisle as I go. Maybe he’s looking around, killing time until I’m done. My heart sinks lower with each one I pass. I don’t see him anywhere. Did he have second thoughts or something? Totally change his mind? Frowning, I head to the front of the store, clinging to my last shred of hope. Because there’s still a chance he’s waiting by the registers.
My shoulders wilt as I reach the counters. Only people around are the happy couple. Ironic how the sight of them no longer makes me smile. 
I can’t believe Brian left. 
Exhaling heavily, I ring up the set of gloves. 
Yeah, I can. I can believe it. Before now, we’d hardly even spoken at all. But more than that, Brian had looked totally nervous tonight. Guess I hadn’t thought too much of it since, with him still in the closet, his behavior made sense. But the fact of the matter was, he’d been going out on a limb. Maybe he just wasn’t ready. 
My customers exit as soon as I finish, heading hand in hand for the parking lot. I watch them go as I bolt lock the doors. One day. One day it’ll be my turn to have that kind of happy. Thing is, I want my happy to be with Brian. I turn on my heel, grab the register drop bag, and amble toward the office. 
Will he come back and try again? 
Dread fills my gut. What if he doesn’t? Is too embarrassed to show his face?
I push through the office door and get busy with closing tasks, moving at a snailish pace. No reason to rush. Only thing waiting for me is my car. It’s a great car, don’t get me wrong. It just isn’t Brian. 
Brian. 
He’d sure look good in my passenger seat. 
Or my backseat. 
Or working my stick shift. 
Fifteen minutes later and I’m headed for the rear exit where my lonely car’s parked out back. Hands in my pockets, I amble along, trying really hard not to be disappointed. Or mad. Or frustrated at the whole friggin’ world. Because I don’t blame Brian for bolting. Not really. This life of ours isn’t easy. Society’s made sure of that. Instilling in our heads from day frickin’ one that laying low will always be the smoothest path. Hell, I’m only out to a select number of people and even I have hit some serious potholes. So, no. I don’t blame him for having second thoughts. He’d clearly been acting on impulse. Maybe hadn’t really thought it through. And truth be told, I wouldn’t really want to get pulled into a relationship with someone who’s internally wavering. Talk about setting myself up for disaster. 
Been there. Done that. Still got the scars.
Pushing through the thick metal door, I turn back to lock the thing up. 
“There you are. What took you so long?”
I freeze in disbelief. Stare at the stupid door. I’d know that voice anywhere. Melted chocolate. Along my crotch. My heart explodes inside my chest as I whirl around faster than I mean to. 
“Brian. You’re still here.” I exhale in a rush. “But I thought… I was sure… When you vanished into thin air…”
He winces sheepishly, leaning against my car. “Sorry about that. Had to take a call so I ducked outside real quick. But then when I tried to come back in…”
 “All the doors were locked.”  
“Yeah.” He makes a face. “Guess I could’ve called the store, but decided to… I dunno, surprise you.”
“Ah,” I murmur, heading over to join him.
He watches me as I settle in beside him against my car. “Tell me you like surprises.”
“I like this one.”
He smiles. “Good to know.”
I regard him for a minute, just drinking him in. Probably look like a starry-eyed imbecile. But I just can’t find it in me to give a shit. 
Brian hadn’t changed his mind. 
Best surprise ever.
I tilt my head and slide him a grin. “So about that thought I asked you to hold...”
His smile widens. “Ah, yeah… About that.” He glances away and rubs his mouth, then turns back and inhales deep. “I was going to ask if maybe you’d like to… grab a quick bite… or something.”
Celebratory fireworks go ballistic in my chest. It happened. Really happened. Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome just asked me out. After all hope seemed irrevocably lost. I have the strongest urge to pinch myself but decide that’d look beyond weird. 
“Hmm.” I cross my arms and try to contain my smile. “A quick bite… or something. Sounds… mysteriously appetizing.”
Brian chuckles and shakes his head. “God, I suck at this.”
Okay, how frickin’ adorable is he. But now I can’t help wondering…
I bump his shoulder with mine and grin. “What’s wrong, don’t do this often?”
“Ha. Don’t do this ever.”
“Nice,” I murmur.
He eyes me. “How so?”
“Because you finally decided to go for it with me. That’s one hell of a compliment.”
I stand up and face him, faith renewed. People are still brave. And genuine. And amazing. I jingle my keys and gesture to my car. “Climb in, Brian. Let’s go grab that bite. I think we’ve both waited long enough.”