MAX wasn’t at all what Randy expected of an antiques dealer. Even the shop front blew his mind. When Randy thought antiques, he thought rocking chairs and doilies, not classic movie posters and little-dolly-wets-her-pants. Thinking back, it’s not like Max even sounded old on the phone. Randy just assumed he was old because of his profession. He came to the shop expecting to meet with some old dude in a bow tie, but how could he complain when Max turned out to be young and incredibly buff?
“I’ve got a seller in the back right now,” Max called out as Randy kicked snow from his boots. “I’ll be with you in two minutes.”
“No problem,” Randy replied. His voice sounded way too high. It was embarrassing. He pushed it down and tried again. “No problem. I’m early anyway.”
Max nodded and rushed back into the room at the rear of the shop. As Randy looked around, flipping though vintage bumper stickers and counting the Felix clocks, he felt a hell of a lot more nervous than he had on the way over. He had such trouble interacting with cute guys now. He never used to.
A woman in a hippie skirt and plastic jewelery stepped out of the back room. Flipping her long brown hair behind her shoulder, she called out, “Okay, well I’m outta here. Thanks, Max!”
“Thank you,” he called out with a low chuckle.
She threw her head back, laughing as she walked past Randy. She didn’t take a second look at him, which was always a relief. “Bye bye, beefcake!”
“See you next week, draft-dodger,” Max teased as he returned to the shop floor. Looking Randy up and down with a broad smile on his lips, he tapped the glass counter. “Come and show me what you’ve got.”
Show me what you’ve got? Clinging to his shoebox, Randy felt like a kid trying to sneak a pet rat past his parents. He couldn’t bring himself to look a smoking hot guy like Max in the eye. His lungs seemed to rattle as he walked over. He felt like his gait wasn’t wide enough, but he was afraid of knocking something off a shelf and having to pay for it. Money was tight; that’s why he was there.
When he set his shoebox down on the counter, he accidentally looked up. Max was squinting at him like he’d done something wrong. “I can give you an appraisal, but, just so you know, I can’t buy anything without a parent’s permission.”
A wave of relief came over him. Apparently, this cute shop owner liked to joke around with all his customers. Fine. Randy knew how young he looked. He laughed along, even if it was at his own expense. “Yeah, very funny, man.”
Max smirked and tilted his head slightly, but he wasn’t laughing. “No, I mean I can’t purchase goods from anyone under eighteen.”
As relief brewed humiliation, Randy chuckled nervously. He might as well have taken his box and gone straight home, but that deep, commanding voice in the back of his mind told him, Don’t pack it in! Be a man, Randy! “No worries there. I’m probably older than you are.”
Laughing, Max leaned back on the stool behind the counter and ran a large hand through short bleached hair. “I seriously doubt that.” When he smiled, his eyes glinted like tinsel on a Christmas tree. He challenged Randy, “Go on, then. How old are you?”
“No way,” Max said, crossing his huge arms in front of his black T-shirt. His laughter wasn’t mean-spirited, just incredulous. But, hey, if Randy were in his shoes, he wouldn’t believe it either.
“Yeah way, man. How old are you?” he asked, feeling somewhat like an impudent teenager. Why did he ask? What did he care?
“Thirty-eight,” Max admitted.
Randy shook his head when he realized he’d been staring at Max’s chest, with its gorgeous, surging muscles amply visible under his tight cotton T. He didn’t know what to say next. All he could think to do was tear the guy’s clothes from his flesh, but moves like that tended not to be socially acceptable. Certainly not in antiques shop.