The coffee cup was warm in Seth’s hand, perfect for a chilly Saturday morning in March, but the weather report had promised blue skies and warmth as the day progressed. It had taken some convincing to get Grayson to join him for coffee at Café Perk Me Up so early, but once he had pointed out it was the only way to enjoy their coffee without Logan’s grumbling, Grayson had jumped at the chance. As much as they both loved Logan, he hated nearly everything about coffee, which affected his attitude whenever he joined them at the coffee shop. It was nice to have a moment without Logan frowning at his cup the whole time.
“So, are we going to surprise Logan at his house after this?” Grayson asked, sipping from his cup, wiggling his eyebrows in amusement. He swallowed and basked in the delicious warmth which spread down his throat and into his stomach. It would soon be too warm for him to enjoy drinking hot beverages very often, and he intended to savor it while it lasted.
“Do you think he’ll even be up?” Seth asked, flipping open his phone to check the time. The clock read a quarter to eight, and since Logan didn’t have basketball practice, there was no way he’d be up before ten, and likely not until noon.
“Well . . .” Grayson took another sip. “I can think of some fun ways to wake him even if he’s not.”
Seth shook his head and sighed, and Grayson’s smile fell. Sex was still a touchy subject for the three of them, and Grayson realized it had been a mistake to bring it up in the first place. Logan wasn’t ready to take the physical side of their relationship further, even though both Seth and Grayson were having a hard time resisting their raging teenage hormones.
“I wish he could explain to us why he feels the way he does,” Seth said after a moment. “I love him, and I know he loves me, but . . . Every time I touch him he shuts down. How the hell am I supposed to handle that?”
“Maybe . . .” Grayson said cautiously. Seth turned toward him with a curious expression, and Grayson couldn’t help but blush. He’d had a crush on Logan for almost as long as he could remember, but since getting to know Seth, his feelings for the black-haired, green eyed boy had grown to equal his feelings for Logan. “Maybe,” Grayson began again, “we shouldn’t wait any longer.”
Seth’s jaw dropped. “Are you saying we should . . . that you and I . . .?”
“Excuse me, boys?”
Grayson and Seth both jumped as Kyle Lamb cleared his throat, and they turned toward him as one, their cheeks coloring. Neither knew how much Kyle had heard of their conversation, but one quick look told them they needn’t worry about it too much. Kyle was definitely preoccupied with something else, wringing his hands as sweat poured down his face and his complexion paled.
“What’s happening, Kyle? You don’t look well,” Seth said with concern. “Is everything all right?”
“I need to ask the two of you a favor,” Kyle said, shifting anxiously, glancing at his watch and then at the door before returning his attention to the two boys.
“Sure, Kyle,” Grayson said, glad for the distraction from the awkwardness he’d created between him and Seth. “Anything you need, we’ll be happy to help you out. We don’t have anything going on today.”
“That’s just what I needed to hear,” Kyle said with relief. “Follow me, I need to show you a few things.”
The call connected, and Billy Carlisle’s face appeared on Damon’s computer screen. Damon couldn’t help but smile as he saw the big man sitting comfortably in his dorm room, surrounded by rainbow flags and a large poster of Adam Lambert performing with Queen hanging on the wall directly behind him. Damon had given him that poster a year earlier for Billy’s birthday, and Billy had nearly been brought to tears when he opened it.
During their year long relationship in Sanitaria Springs, Damon had introduced Billy to many things in gay culture which Billy had shunned in his youth because of his upbringing, and during that time Billy had come to embrace many things he would have never thought he’d try. Even though they were no longer dating, Damon was happy to see how far Billy had come, and was especially glad he had been able to be a part of it.
“It’s good to see you’re finally awake,” Damon said, grinning broadly. Billy’s hair was a mess and he was still wiping the sleep out of his eyes, but Damon knew behind that groggy façade, Billy’s mind was already fully awake and ready to face the day.
“Whatever, Dame,” Billy said, smirking. “You knew I was up all night cramming for finals. I wouldn’t be up at all if I didn’t have to take a test in an hour. I was up until three!”
“Yeah, and now it’s six in Colorado, isn’t it? You’re being lazy, Billy,” Damon replied. He chuckled as Billy shot him an indignant glare. “All right, I’ll lay off the bit about you sleeping on the job. Let’s talk about why you were up all night studying instead of doing it earlier and getting a decent night’s rest. How did your date with Nick go?”
“Great. Man, I gotta tell you, I never would have thought it would work out this way.” Billy shook his head, and his eyes lit up as he considered the memory of his date. “I think he might just be the one, Dame. We started off with dinner at this great gay club downtown, and then we danced until we couldn’t stand. After that we drove to the edge of the city and he took me to a hilltop overlooking the city lights. I wasn’t really looking at the lights though, because . . . He was holding my hand at first, and then his arm was around me and—“
“And you had wild sex lasting until morning, and you really didn’t study at all,” Damon interrupted with a devious grin.
“Way to kill the romance, Dame.” Billy rolled his eyes as Damon laughed. “Seriously though, Damon. When are you going to start dating again? You haven’t even tried since I left. Don’t tell me you’re still into me. You’re the one who broke it off in the first place.”
“I’m not still into you,” Damon replied instantly, and Billy laughed at the blunt admission. Damon couldn’t resist and joined in, and when the laughter subsided at last he shrugged and continued. “There really haven’t been guys around here to date. I’m almost twenty-one, and all the guys my age have gone off to college, like you did. I still don’t feel like college is the place for me, so I’m stuck here with no one to date. It’s really not that bad though. I’m kind of enjoying being single.”
“Yeah, I bet you are,” Billy said, smirking. “With how horny you are when we were together—“
“Let’s be honest, Billy,” Damon interrupted, “I think that was your body talking from all those years you held back from accepting who you were. I had my wild sex-crazed days in high school, and I was only matching your needs.”
“Whatever,” Billy scoffed. “You’re a sex fiend, and you know it.”
“Only when I want to be, otherwise—” Damon paused as his phone started ringing with the theme of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’. It was his work calling, and he knew what that meant. “Billy, I’m afraid I’m going to have to go. Good luck with finals and we’ll talk in a few days, all right?”
“No worries, Dame,” Billy said with a grin. “That boss of yours has you on a tight leash, eh? Better answer that!” He made a whipping motion as Damon flipped him off, and then Billy disconnected the call from his end.
Damon put his phone to his ear and accepted the call. “Kyle, what’s going on? Is Sonya in labor?”
“Yeah, her water just broke,” Kyle answered on the other end of the line, sounding anxious. “Can you come in right away? I’m going to leave now while there’s only a few customers here.”
“You’re going to leave customers in the shop?” Damon asked as he stood and reached for his jacket. It was eight in the morning, and he had been ready to go to the store as soon as he was done with his call with Billy. It would take him less than fifteen minutes to get down to Café Perk Me Up, but that was still longer than Damon would expect Kyle to leave the shop unattended while there were customers there.
“Yeah, it’s taken care of. A pair of my regular customers are here, and I asked them to watch the counter. I don’t know if you’ve ever met them before, but they’re good kids,” Kyle replied. Damon heard the sound of the café’s door open and close and then the creak of Kyle’s car door opening. “Anyway, I gotta hang up so I can drive. Give the boys a free drink on me when you get there, okay?”
“Okay, but . . .” Damon trailed off as Kyle ended the call, and he shrugged as he stepped out the door and into the cool March air. If Kyle trusted the boys, then he was sure everything would be fine. He would just have to wait and see what was up when he made it to the café.
“That was a soy latte with two extra shots, right?” Grayson asked, turning his back on the espresso machine and toward Seth who was staring at the cash register with a blank expression as the impatient-looking man stood in front of him, waiting for his change. “Seth. Hey, Seth!”
“What?” Seth asked, turning toward Grayson, his eyelids fluttering. “Oh, yes, that’s right. Hey, do you remember what Kyle said about clearing the last sale?”
“It should happen automatically, shouldn’t it?” Grayson asked as he stepped away from the espresso machine to join Seth at the register. He looked at the register screen which appeared to be frozen while showing the two iced coffees Gray had just made for the last customer as the current order. “What the hell did you do? I watched you finish this order.”
“I know, but when I pressed the new sale button it went back to this screen,” Seth explained, throwing his hands in the air. “I swear, this is the most confusing thing I’ve ever used in my life.”
“Look, kids,” the man across the counter said as he pushed his sleeve up and glanced at his wristwatch. “I have to be at a meeting in the next fifteen minutes, and I can’t wait for you guys to figure this out. Could you just give me my money back and I’ll hit Starbucks instead?”
“Sorry, sir,” Seth said as he handed the twenty dollar bill back to the man who shoved it into his pocket and stormed away. “Have a nice day!” Seth called after him, but he winced as the door slammed shut after the man’s exit. He didn’t know why they had agreed to watch the coffee shop while Kyle was gone, but he was definitely regretting the decision.
The next person in line approached the counter, and Seth was glad to see a familiar face looking back at him, even if it was someone he didn’t know well. “You’re Derek, aren’t you? You’re friends with the Kirkwoods?”
“Yeah,” Derek replied, smiling wide as he studied Seth’s face. “Sorry, but I don’t know your name. You’re a freshman, right? Are you a friend of Jamie’s?”
“Not close friends, but yes,” Seth replied with a genuine smile. Despite their current predicament, he found Derek’s presence almost comforting. “I’m Seth, this is Gray. What can we get for you today?”
Derek smiled at both of them, but then his expression hardened with worry. “You guys are running the shop? What happened to Kyle?”
“He had to rush out because Sonya’s water broke,” Gray explained after handing the coffee he’d just finished making to the woman waiting at the end of the counter. “We were here so he left us in charge until Damon gets here. Which reminds me, it’s almost been twenty minutes now.”
The woman standing behind Derek poked her head around him and glared at Seth. “Would you quit chatting and take his order? Some of us have places to be.”
Seth smiled at her politely, gritting his teeth before returning his attention to Derek. “I’m sorry, what can I get for you today, Derek?”
Derek checked his phone to see the time before returning his grin to Seth. “Hey, I’ve got some time to spare this morning. How about I help you guys out instead? I’ve helped my dad out at the grocery store, and I know a thing or two about how to work cash registers. Maybe between the three of us we can figure it out.”
“We need all the help we can find,” Seth said, nodding behind the counter. “Get back here, wash your hands . . .” he paused and whispered pleadingly, “and help me.”
Derek laughed at the desperation in Seth’s eyes but his grin was disarming, and Seth immediately felt relieved. “You got it,” Derek said with obvious enthusiasm as he hurried to get around the counter. “Let’s see what we’re dealing with.”
As Derek washed his hands, Seth turned to the woman who was next in line. “Good morning, ma’am,” he said pleasantly, no longer gritting his teeth despite her scowl. “What can I do for you?”
“Kyle, why are you calling me? You should be driving!” Damon said as he activated the Bluetooth earpiece. He had just turned on Main St, and would have preferred being able to focus on driving as well.
“He is. This is Sonya. We forgot to grab my phone so I’m using his,” Sonya replied.
“How are you feeling?” Damon asked as he turned the corner onto Main Street. He was only a few blocks away from Café Perk Me Up, and he’d be there in minutes. “I’m surprised you’d be calling at all.”
“I realized Kyle didn’t ask if you—” Sonya screamed into the phone in response to a contraction, and Damon nearly tore the Bluetooth out of his ear. He gritted his teeth and kept his focus on the road as Sonya screamed again, but this time she dropped the phone in the process and it clattered to the floor of their car.
He waited for a moment as he sat at the red traffic light, wondering if she was going to pick the phone back up somehow. By the time the light had changed he had heard nothing more than distant screaming as contractions hit Sonya, and so he ended the call on his end and drove through the intersection.
Which was right in time for a driver to swerve out of oncoming traffic and directly into the car driving ahead of Damon, plowing it to the side of the road as it slid down the road next to him. Damon’s heart caught in his chest and he forgot how to breathe as the debris settled and the cars came to a stop. He had slammed on the brakes instinctively and was stopped a few feet away from where the collision had occurred, and the two cars involved in the collision were on either side of him. He closed his eyes and focused on his breathing, trying to get it under control.
Angry shouting from one side alerted him that the driver from the oncoming traffic was getting out of his vehicle, and Damon glanced back to see a middle-aged man with salt and pepper hair looking down at the damage on his car and yelling into his cell phone. Damon then looked at the other car, the one who had been hit, and saw that the driver was slumped over the steering wheel and wasn’t moving.
Damon overcame his state of shock in that instant and opened the door to his car, removing his seatbelt quickly and sliding out into the street. There were more people arriving on the scene, but Damon knew they had no idea what the state of things was, and he had to act quickly. He rushed toward the car, which was diagonally up on the sidewalk, and tried to open the door but it was stuck. He was directly in front of Schwinn’s Bake Shoppe and was pleased to see Mr. Schwinn running to his aid, his cell phone at his ear as he contacted the authorities. Help would be on the way soon, but Damon hoped it would be in time to help the driver.
“Do you need help?” Mr. Schwinn asked as he ran to Damon’s side. Damon nodded to the car, and Mr. Schwinn paled at the sight of the teenage driver leaning on the steering wheel. “All right, let’s get this door open.”
“It’s stuck, or locked, or both,” Damon said as Mr. Schwinn tried to pull on the door with his free hand.
“Maybe we can get in through the—” Mr. Schwinn paused as his call connected. “Yes, we’re at Main and Fourth in Sanitaria Springs. There’s been an accident and one of the drivers appears to be unconscious.” Mr. Schwinn lost his focus on the car as he spoke with the 911 dispatcher on the other end of the line, and so Damon moved into action. He reached for the door handle as Mr. Schwinn let go and found the door either jammed shut as a result of the crash, or locked.
“Try the other side,” Mr. Schwinn suggested, pulling the phone away from his mouth for a moment.
Damon nodded and circled around to the passenger door. This door was shut as firmly as the other one was, but unlike the driver door, it had suffered no obvious damage. Damon didn’t want to break a window if he didn’t have to, and so he tapped on the glass instead, hoping it would rouse the driver.
The driver shook awake, startled by the noise, and pushed away from the steering wheel with his hand, honking the horn in the process. He covered his ears to block out the noise, tears streaming down his face which mixed with a small rivulet of blood from a head wound Damon hadn’t noticed before.
But the driver was awake, which was better than nothing, even if he was a bit worse for wear. Damon tapped softly on the glass again, and the driver turned toward him, squinting as if he were having trouble seeing him. Damon pulled on the door handle again and then pointed down at the lock. It took several attempts before the driver understood what Damon was asking him to do, but eventually the message was received and the door clicked open.
Damon opened the passenger door and climbed in next to the driver. He looked for any other sign of injury before he spoke gently but clearly. “What’s your name, kid?”
The boy turned toward him, groaning in pain. “John. John Ellessier.”
“Do you have your phone on you, John?” Damon asked, keeping his voice soft.
“Yeah, um. Just give me a sec—” John patted his pocket which was clearly bulging out in a rectangular shape, but then a new wave of pain hit him as he shifted his position to better access the pocket. He swooned forward, leaning into the steering wheel as he clutched at his head again.
“Here, let me get it for you,” Damon said, putting his hand gently on John’s pocket as he waited to make sure it was okay with John. After receiving no protest, Damon slid his hand inside of John’s pocket and withdrew the phone. “Sorry about reaching into your pocket like this, John.” Once he had the phone in his hand, he unlocked the screen and opened up the contacts. “All right, who should I call?”
“My older brother,” John replied. “Richard.”
Damon scrolled down the contact list until he found the R’s, but didn’t find the name Richard anywhere in there. He thought about it for a moment, and realized if John was anything like any other teenage boy Damon had ever met, Richard would have a different name. He scrolled back to the D’s and, sure enough, there was a contact named ‘Dick’.
Without waiting to confirm if he’d found the right contact, Damon called the contact and was rewarded by a deep and charming voice on the other end of the line. “Hey, what’s up, John?”
“Hello, is this Richard?” Damon asked, though he was sure he already knew the answer.
“Yes, it is,” Richard replied cautiously. “Who is this and why are you calling from my brother’s phone?”
“My name is Damon. Your brother is fine, but he was in a car accident.” Damon turned to John again and took a good look at his eyes. They were moving irregularly, seeming unable to focus on anything as John stared forward. “I believe he may have a concussion, and possibly some whiplash.”
Richard’s tone remained calm, but there was definite urgency behind his response. “Where is he? I’m leaving right now.”
“He’s here in Sanitaria Springs, now. On Main and several blocks from Café Perk Me Up?”
“I don’t know where that is, but I assume if I simply get on Main Street I’ll see it?”
“Likely. We’re just north of the center of town.”
“I’ll find you. Thanks for your help.”
“You bet,” Damon replied, nodding even though Richard wouldn’t see it. “When this gets resolved come find me at the coffee shop. I’ll treat you guys to coffee. You’ve had a bad day already.”
“Thanks, Damon. Can I speak to my brother?”
“Are you feeling up to talking, John?” Damon asked. John turned to him and nodded weakly, and Damon handed the phone over to him. He then noticed the flashing lights rounding the corner and coming toward them. “I’ll be right back, okay? Don’t move unless you have to.”
Damon sighed as he climbed out of the car. He wasn’t going to get through this anytime soon, but there was no other option. He’d witnessed the accident, and he had already established a rapport with the victim. It would be awhile before he made it to Café Perk Me Up, and hopefully he’d still have a job when he arrived.
Grayson wasn’t sure if he had whipped cream in his ear, but it was definitely in his hair. He’d never felt so messy in his life, but he was also having the time of his life. Once Derek had taken over the register, Seth had started helping him with making the drinks, and they’d been completely in sync. Whenever one of them didn’t know what to do, the other was right there to help them. Whenever one was about to mess up an order, the other was there to stop them and keep the customers happy.
Derek was a wizard on the register, at least as far as Grayson was concerned. He handled each customer with respect, speed, and precision, and even found time between taking orders to help Seth and Grayson where he could. Between the three of them, they had managed to stay on top of the orders and made it to the end of the morning rush.
The place was even messier than Grayson, and as he surveyed the carnage of their morning battle with whipped cream, hot coffee, cocoa, straws and napkins, he couldn’t help but grin. It looked like a warzone, but they’d won the battle in his mind and had fun doing it.
“Not how I planned to spend my morning, but that was probably better than whatever we were really going to do,” Seth said with a laugh. “The question is now, where is Damon?”
“I saw police lights in the distance. Maybe that has something to do with it?” Derek suggested, peering out the window. “Damon’s the tall guy with the crazy hair, right?”
“That’s the one,” Seth confirmed. “He’s so flaming it’s amazing Logan didn’t realize Damon was gay the first time he met him . . .” He giggled at the thought.
“Is there something wrong with him being gay?” Derek asked cautiously.
“Whoa there, Derek,” Seth said, raising his hands defensively. “Definitely not. You do realize that Logan is my boyfriend, right? His gaydar is just awful . . .”
“I don’t know,” Grayson said, fighting a giggle. “He knew you liked boys before you did.”
“Hah, well, I don’t know about that,” Seth replied. “Knowing it and admitting it are two different things. I knew I had a crush on Jamie before I met Logan, I just didn’t want to admit it.”
“Jamie Kirkwood?” Derek asked, scratching his head in surprise. “Wow, I haven’t met many people brave enough to admit they have a crush on that brat.”
“Well, he is gorgeous,” Grayson said with a dreamy smile. He blushed when Derek turned his wide-eyed stare on him. “What? I’m a sucker for blue eyes.”
“So you’re both gay?” Derek asked, looking between them. “Man, our school gets gayer every time I blink.”
“Well, if you had to label me, I think I’d be considered bisexual,” Seth said, shrugging. “But right now, boys are working pretty well for me.”
“I’m gay. Definitely,” Grayson said, nodding firmly. “I don’t know how my boyfriends put up with women.”
“Boyfriends?” Derek echoed?
“Yep. The three of us are together,” Seth said, leaning in to kiss Grayson’s cheek.
Grayson giggled as Seth licked his skin, and he turned to face him with a grin. “What was that for?”
“You had some whipped cream there,” Seth replied. “I figured I’d help you clean up.”
“Well, now that my mind has been sufficiently blown here, I think we should all clean up,” Derek said, eyeing the counter and shaking his head in wonder. “But afterward, I think we should all have a cup and get to know each other. I’m always happy to make new gay friends, or friends of any sort for that matter.”
“After a day like that, I think we’re practically family,” Seth said with a grin. “But you’re right. We should get as much of this cleaned up as possible before Damon gets here. I think I saw some towels in the back. I’ll go get them.”
Seth disappeared past the swinging door which led into the kitchen. Grayson watched him go and then turned to Derek, a question on his mind. “Does it bother you that Seth and I have another guy in our relationship.”
Derek shrugged and smiled. “Whatever works for you guys. If you’re all happy, who am I to judge you? I just don’t know how you do it. I can’t imagine sharing Austin with anyone. Doesn’t it get complicated sometimes?”
“Yeah, but I love both of them, and I believe they feel the same way about me as they do about each other,” Grayson said, shrugging. “But, sometimes it does seem like it would work better if I could focus on just one of them. Maybe then we’d finally get somewhere.”
“What does that mean?” Derek asked.
Grayson sighed and shook his head as Seth came back through the door and handed both of them a rag. He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively at Gray and asked, “You’re good at cleaning up after yourself, right? I’ve seen a rag like this in your room.”
“You’re terrible, Seth,” Grayson said with a grin, momentarily putting his thoughts aside. As much as he wanted the relationship to move forward, he could afford to wait awhile longer, as long as Seth could still make him smile.
Damon saved the text message he was composing to Kyle and put his phone away when he noticed Officer Stuart Bennion had finished with the Ellesiers and was headed his way. It would make little difference now as to when he sent the message to Kyle. Whatever damage had been done in his absence at the coffee shop would have likely occurred already.
“Damon Bryant,” Officer Bennion said with a relieved smile. “I’m glad you’re here. We need witness statements, and I understand you saw the whole thing. Would you please tell me what happened?”
“We’d just driven through the light when that man,” Damon pointed at the middle-aged man furiously pacing beside his car as he talked on his cellphone, “veered out of his lane and slammed into the car in front of me. I know the older guy. He buys coffee from me most mornings. He’s usually polite enough, but he’s also always in a hurry. I sincerely doubt this was intentional.”
“Thank you for your input, Damon, and I’m sure you’re in a rush to get out of here, but could you describe what happened in detail?” Officer Bennion asked with a polite smile. “I’d rather get my facts straight.”
“If you’re coming to me for straight facts then you must be desperate,” Damon replied, chuckling. He was rewarded with a broad smile from Officer Bennion, and with the mood properly lightened Damon began his recounting of the accident. He was careful to include as much detail as he could remember, hoping that by being thorough he wouldn’t be forced to go through it again.
It paid off a few minutes later when Officer Bennion closed his pad and stuck his hand out for Damon to shake. “Thank you for your time, Damon.”
“Come in for some coffee later, Stu,” Damon said, taking Officer Bennion’s hand and shaking it firmly. “You seem like you’ve had a hard day already. You know Kyle’s always happy to give free cups to the police.”
“I appreciate that, Damon. I might take you up on that,” Officer Bennion said with a chuckle. “You know, I got here so quickly because I was just about to stop into the café when I got the call. The parking lot was pretty full, so I bet Kyle has his hands full over there.”
“Shit . . .” Damon shook his head and opened the door to his car. “I was supposed to be there forty-five minutes ago. What’s the likelihood I can get through this right now?”
“I’ll let you leave, since I know where you’ll be if I have any additional questions.” Officer Bennion nodded and waved one of his officers over. “Thanks again for the thorough report, Damon.”
“You bet.” Damon nodded as he climbed into his car and stuck his keys in the ignition. “I need to get going. I’ll catch you later, Stu.”
“Hey, don’t cause another accident by hurrying,” Officer Bennion warned with a grin.
“I won’t,” Damon replied, returning the grin. “Kyle would kill me.” Officer Bennion laughed and Damon shut the door, turning on the car and buckling his seatbelt. “If he doesn’t kill me already,” he muttered under his breath as he started toward the coffee shop.
The place was spotless; it looked the way Kyle had left it, and Seth was proud of how quickly they’d managed to clean it. They’d even managed to keep it clean while helping the few guests who came in after the morning rush. Seth was scrubbing the last spot of chocolate sauce near the blender when he heard the door open again and he looked up.
“Hey, Damon,” Seth said with a wide grin. “It’s been awhile.” Grayson and Derek turned around at the sound of Seth’s voice to see the stunned Damon looking around the place, noting how clean everything was.
“Seth? Gray?” Damon asked, looking between them. “You’re the ones Kyle asked to watch the shop?”
“We were available,” Grayson replied, shrugging. He gestured around him, trying but failing to repress a smug grin. “Hopefully it doesn’t look too bad.”
“No, I’m surprised to see the shop still standing,” Damon replied, dumbfounded. “How you survived the last hour I have no idea, but thank you.”
“Well, we couldn’t have done it without Derek,” Seth said, nodding toward Derek. Damon approached him and stuck his hand out in introduction.
“It’s true,” Derek said, smiling broadly as he clasped Damon’s hand forcefully and shook it firmly. “Don’t want to brag but, they really couldn’t have.”
“Derek,” Damon said, releasing the handshake. “I’ve seen you in here a few times, but never when it was slow enough for me to introduce myself. I’m Damon.”
“Nice to meet you. Now that you’re here, I should really probably get going, though.” Derek folded the rag he was holding and set it on the counter, glancing at Seth and Grayson with a suggestive smile. “My boyfriend should be available by now.”
“Yeah, Logan should be soon, too,” Seth said, meeting Grayson’s eyes. “Maybe we should go pay him a visit.”
Damon pulled his phone from his pocket as it rang with the ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ theme. “Hey, don’t be so hasty. Kyle’s calling me right now, and I’m sure he’ll want a report of how everything is going.” He answered the call and put it on speaker phone. “Hey boss, how’s Sonya?”
“She’s doing well,” Kyle said, though his tone remained anxious. “They’re getting her prepped for the delivery right now. How is our favorite coffee shop?”
“It’s just how you left it, though with several messy boys who worked their asses off,” Damon said, grinning at Seth, Gray, and Derek.
“They did well then, huh?” Kyle replied with a chuckle. “You kept them on even after you got there?”
“Actually, I just got here. There was a car accident and . . . I’ll explain later,” Damon shook his head and sighed. “The boys ran the morning rush all on their own.”
“Wow, I guess they know more about coffee than how to drink it, huh?” Kyle asked, obvious surprise in his voice. “Hey, why don’t you see if they’re interested in making this a permanent thing? See if they want a job.”
“Yes,” Seth replied without hesitation. He glanced at Grayson who shrugged and nodded. “Yeah, both of us would love to work for you, Kyle.”
“What about you, Derek?” Damon asked.
“Derek? He was there, too?” Kyle asked.
“Yep, but I’ve already got a job,” Derek replied. “But I’ll gladly be paid in coffee for my work today.”
Kyle laughed, but it was cut short as he took the phone away from his ear and had a brief conversation with someone at the hospital. “They’re taking Sonya in now. I’ve got to go. Time for me to go become a dad!”
“Good luck, Kyle,” Damon replied.
“Yeah, congratulations, boss!” Seth shouted.
“The same to Sonya, too!” Grayson added.
“Thanks, boys,” Kyle said and then ended the call.
Derek retrieved his jacket from the rack near the door and looked up at Damon. “It was a pleasure to meet you, but I really do have to be going. Seth, Gray, I look forward to having that conversation sometime. Maybe we can even sit down with Austin and go on a double date or something.”
“That sounds great,” Gray replied. “Why don’t you give me your number before you go so we can set something up?”
They exchanged numbers and then Derek left while Damon took his jacket off and took stock of the café. Everything was perfect, and he was still stunned at how well the boys had done. Seth and Gray were reaching for their jackets when Damon returned from the kitchen and stopped them, keeping his voice neutral and his face expressionless.
“Hey, where do you think you two are going?”
Seth and Gray shared a worried glance, wondering if they’d messed something up in the kitchen. “We were going to go visit Logan. Did we do something wrong?” Seth asked.
“Yeah, you started to leave without saying goodbye,” Damon said with a grin. “Kyle’s going to need extra help around here over the next few days. Are you two free tomorrow?”
Grayson and Seth shared another look and then Grayson answered for both of them, grinning from ear to ear. “Of course. Just let us know what time, and we’ll be here.”
“That’s what I wanted to hear. Be here at seven-thirty,” Damon said, nodding in approval. “To think, by the end of the day there will be three new baristas in the world. Coffee runs in Kyle and Sonya’s blood, after all.”
“Ours too,” Seth said with a giggle. “We’ll see you tomorrow, Damon.”
“I’ve been thinking about what you said earlier.”
Grayson looked up in alarm, hearing the nervousness in Seth’s voice. He wasn’t sure he liked that tone. Although he’d been able to put his thoughts of their relationship out of his mind while they were working, those thoughts had returned in a flood once they were walking away from the coffee shop. They’d been walking in silence, neither one wanting to talk until now.
“Um, I’ve been thinking about it too and—” Grayson started, but Seth cut him off with an upraised hand.
“Please, let me finish?” Seth asked. Grayson nodded and let Seth continue. “I think you’re right, that we shouldn’t have to wait. And . . . I want to take our relationship to the next level, but . . .” Seth shook his head as Grayson held his breath, waiting to hear what the condition was. He didn’t have to wait for long as Seth turned and met his eyes, determination in his gaze. “I think if we’re going to do it, we have to be honest about it with Logan. I’m not going to do it behind his back.”
Grayson nodded, relieved that Seth wasn’t mad and had actually taken the time to consider his feelings on the matter. “I can see why you’d feel that way, but how are we going to tell him? This is entirely new territory for me.”
“Well, if there’s anything I learned from today, it’s that we’re capable of things I never thought of doing before,” Seth said with a shrug. “Today, three boys ran a coffee shop who’d never done it before. It was unexpected, but we pulled together and made it happen. I know it’s not the same thing, but I’d like to think that between the three of us we can make this work. Wouldn’t you?”
Grayson smiled before leaning in and kissing Seth on the cheek. Before pulling away he flicked Seth’s earlobe with his tongue. Seth giggled and reached up to his ear, feeling the wetness there.
“I take it you’re in agreement?”
“Actually, you had some whipped cream there,” Gray replied with a mischievous grin. They shared another giggle and then Gray slipped his hand into Seth’s and they began walking down the street again. “You’re right, Seth, as always. We’ll make this work one way or another. It’s too important not to.”
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