Noah thinks he’s nothing special. Average height, a bit on the skinny side, and cute but rather geeky, he’s relentlessly ordinary. He certainly doesn’t expect to be noticed by Sol, the gorgeous dark-haired stranger Noah sees on his commute home most days. But when Noah’s friend, Dom, persuades Noah to take a huge risk in a bid to get Sol’s attention, things turn out better than Noah dared to hope. Noah and Sol start dating, and much to Noah’s surprise, his feelings seem to be reciprocated.
But Noah’s insecurities make him doubt Sol. He doesn’t believe he’s interesting enough or sexy enough to hold Sol’s attention, and as Sol tries to get closer, Noah’s instinct is to pull away to protect himself. If their relationship is going to survive, Sol needs to convince Noah that he sees Noah very differently than Noah sees himself. Because to Sol, Noah is something very special indeed.
“SO, NOAH,” Dom said, as he carefully lined up the books on the shelves from his position on the ladder. “Did you see cute zoo guy on the way home again last night?”
“Yes.” Noah sighed. “He sat right opposite me. I caught his eye by mistake and I could feel myself blushing right down to my collar.”
“So, he was looking at you?”
“Not looking looking.” Noah shook his head. “You know how it is on the tube. You’re all packed in and stuck facing people for ages. It’s inevitable that you exchange a glance sometimes, but I’m sure it’s nothing. I can’t help watching him, though. Those eyes… I’m a sucker for men with dark brown eyes. They’re so intense, like he’s looking right into me.”
Noah stopped, realizing he was rambling and Dom had heard this all before. Noah had been going on about the gorgeous, dark-haired mystery guy for two months now, ever since the first day that Mr. Perfect had stepped into Noah’s carriage on his commute, dressed in a London Zoo polo shirt and clumpy work boots. He’d looked at Noah with those melted chocolate eyes and curved his lips in a small smile, and Noah had been lost. When the guy got off at Noah’s station, Noah had followed him up the steps and watched him walk away. After that, Noah had started looking for him at the station every day, always thrilled when he managed to catch sight of him, or better still, end up in the same carriage as him.
Noah had thought about trying to talk to him, or even slipping his number into the guy’s pocket, but he hadn’t been able to work up the courage. Safe was Noah’s middle name. He’d never been much of a risk taker.
“He might have been looking looking,” Dom insisted. “But you’re never going to find out if you don’t flirt, or at least try talking to him one day instead of burying your nose in a book and trying to hide the fact that you’re hot for him.”
Noah stooped and lifted another stack of pristine paperbacks out of the box. He wrinkled his nose disparagingly at the handcuffs on the cover—whips and chains seemed to sell like hot cakes in WHSmith these days—and passed them up to Dom to arrange on the bestsellers shelf.
“But he’s probably straight, and even if he’s not, he’s way out of my league. I’m sure I wouldn’t be his type. He looks all fit and outdoorsy and he’s really gorgeous, and I’m… well. I’m nothing special.”
Noah shrugged and gestured down at himself. He knew he was relentlessly ordinary: tallish but skinny, pleasant looking but not striking with his short, light brown hair and glasses. Noah wasn’t the sort of guy who stood out in a crowd, but he was okay with that.
Dom sniffed. “Don’t sell yourself short. You’re nice looking, you’ve got a cute arse, and some guys really go for that geeky look you’ve got going on. Hey, it’s worked well enough for me hasn’t it?” He grinned wickedly.
“I’m not you,” Noah replied.
He liked Dom. They’d been mates for two years, ever since Noah started working here and Dom was assigned to show him the ropes on his first day. Their friendship extended beyond the workplace now and Noah was very fond of him. But since Dom had moved in with his older boyfriend, Charles, and was living in domestic bliss, he’d stepped up his campaign to “find someone” for Noah.
Noah appreciated the sentiment, but he didn’t want to be set up on dates or have his number given to random blokes that Dom and Charles thought might suit him. The thought of having to make polite conversation with a stranger over dinner made Noah’s stomach churn. It just wasn’t his thing. He was sure he’d meet someone he clicked with one day, but he’d rather find the person through more old-fashioned means. His brief and ill-advised experiment with online dating a year or so earlier had only crushed his already flimsy self-confidence.
“Well, don’t blame me when you end up dying alone surrounded by cats.” Dom sighed dramatically. “I did my best, but now I wash my hands of you.”
Noah snorted. “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Dom couldn’t resist interfering, so that resolution would probably last all of ten minutes.
He was saved from the current conversation by the arrival of Debbie, the store manager, asking Noah to go and help serve customers because there was a queue building up at the checkouts. He left Dom on his ladder and hurried to the till, running his hands through his hair to straighten it as he went.
NOAH STOOD in the Starbucks queue at lunchtime while Dom saved a table. When Noah came back with the tray of food and coffee, he found Dom lost in a copy of Metro, the free newspaper that was distributed around London. Noah didn’t usually read it, because he was more of a book person, but he’d noticed the dark-haired guy reading it most days on the tube on the way home from work.
Noah put the tray down on the table, obscuring the top half of the page. Dom tutted and pulled the newspaper out so he could carry on reading.
“What’s so interesting?” Noah asked as he started to unload the cups and plates.
“Does your mystery man ever read this?”
Noah frowned. “Yes, he usually picks up a copy. Why?”
Dom lifted his head and met Noah’s confused gaze with a grin and a glint in his blue eyes. He picked up the paper, turned it around so Noah could see, and stabbed at a small column on one side of the page with the title Rush Hour Crush. “I dare you.”
Noah took the paper and looked at the section Dom was pointing at. He raised his eyebrows as he read, folded up the paper, and set it aside on an empty chair.
He shook his head. “Oh no. No way.”
“Why not? Just think how cool it would be if it worked; it would be so romantic. And I know you. You’ll never work up the courage to speak to him. What’s the worst that could happen? If he’s not into you, he’d still be flattered, I’m sure.”
“No!” Noah glared at Dom. “He might be a homophobe who’d be horrified that I’ve been ogling him. He might mock me in public, or worse. It could be a disaster. And then I’d still have to see him every day.” Noah picked up his sandwich and took a large bite.
“Oh come on,” Dom persisted. “Take a bloody risk for once! Even if he has a problem with it, he’s hardly going to jump you on the tube in the rush hour, and as long as you word it carefully, I’m sure it will be fine. I can imagine how it would go.” Dom put his chin in his hands and gazed into the distance. “To the gorgeous dark-haired guy who gets on the tube at King’s Cross. I’ve been wanting to talk to you forever but I’m too much of a chicken. If you’re interested in me, come and talk to me on our way home today, and then go for a drink with me. Then we can have a big, gay wedding and have dog babies—”
Noah choked, spluttering as he forced down a chunk of bread that he hadn’t chewed enough. “No! I don’t even like dogs.”
“Okay, cats, then.” Dom shrugged. “Seriously though, you should do it. At the very least, draft an ad. You don’t have to send it in, but try writing one and see. Just imagine, if he is gay, he might say yes, and then you’d get to have those beautiful dark eyes gazing at you over drinks.”
Noah let himself imagine it, just for a moment, and a warm thrill of excitement tingled through him.
Sensing weakness, Dom got out his phone and started tapping away between bites of panini. Noah sighed. It wasn’t worth arguing with Dom when he was in this kind of mood, so he carried on eating and let Dom type.
BY THE time they’d finished lunch, and two extra coffees, Noah had agreed on a version that didn’t make him cringe too badly, but he still didn’t want to send it in to be printed.
“Let me see.”
Dom handed him the phone, and Noah pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose where they’d been slipping a bit. He studied the words they’d spent the best part of half an hour agonizing over and shook his head as he read it.
“Go on, please!” Dom begged making puppy eyes. “And then I can be best man at your wedding and take all the credit for getting you together. My speech will be awesome.”
Noah rolled his eyes, but he chuckled despite himself.
“I’ll think about it,” he promised. “Really, I will. But I want a little time to decide whether it’s worth the potential humiliation. There’s no rush, is there? I’ll decide over the weekend.”
“Okay.” Dom shrugged. He finally put his phone away and the subject was closed.
AS USUAL, it was busy on the tube on the way home.
Noah worked in the WHSmith at King’s Cross station, so it was only a short walk to enter the underground. He squeezed onto the escalator in a solid wall of humanity. With every breath, he inhaled the scent of the bodies that surrounded him: perfume, hair product, chewing gum, and the occasional waft of stale sweat that was defeating somebody’s deodorant.
He was running a little late for his normal train, so once he was off the escalator, he hurried through the crowds, muttering apologies and excuse-mes. He didn’t want to miss his train, otherwise he’d have to wait fifteen minutes for the next one. Plus he knew that this was the one that the object of his fantasies usually caught—as long as he was working today—and Noah didn’t want to miss him either. He felt ridiculous, mooning over a guy he’d never even spoken to, but commuting was boring and anything that made it a little more interesting had to be a good thing.
A secret thrill of pleasure shot through Noah when he saw the guy waiting on the platform. Feeling like a stalker, but unable to help himself, Noah sidled up and waited nearby. He wanted to make sure they ended up in the same carriage. Thinking about it, they nearly always did, even if Noah hadn’t spotted him on the platform first.
When the train pulled in, it was mercifully a little less crowded than was usual for the rush hour. There were a few spare seats, and the guy ended up sitting. But by the time Noah had followed him into the carriage, there weren’t any seats left, so Noah stood, holding onto the bar near the door, while he tried not to ogle him too obviously.
The guy was on the seat right next to Noah, separated from him only by the plexiglass pane. Noah watched as he opened the copy of Metro that had been lying on the seat and started to read. His head was tipped forward and Noah let his gaze take in the thick black hair where it curled slightly around the nape of his neck. It was cut short at the back though longer in front. The black stubble where it was razored stood out against his olive skin. Noah’s fingers tingled at the thought of touching it.
The sudden movement as the guy turned the page of his newspaper drew Noah’s attention to his hands. They were tanned like the rest of him and broad with blunt fingers that ended in bitten nails. They looked strong and capable, and Noah had to force away the mental image of how they would look against the pale skin of his own body. He’d save that fantasy for later, when he was alone, rather than on a crowded tube. There was nowhere to hide an awkward bulge in your trousers if you didn’t have a seat and, therefore, a lap to cover with a carefully placed book. He tore his gaze away for a while and stared at the window until the train slowed down for the next station.
As people stood and reshuffled, some leaving, others boarding, Noah stayed where he was. But when the doors slid closed, there was a seat free next to the dark-haired guy and nobody else seemed to be making a move for it. Noah couldn’t resist the opportunity. Ignoring the blush that warmed his cheeks, he moved quickly, heading for the seat beside the other man. He looked up and gave a smile and a nod of recognition as Noah passed him. He shuffled in his seat slightly to make space, moving his knees closer together. Noah managed to smile back, and then sat down quickly and held his bag tightly in his lap as his heart beat a little faster.
Once he was settled, Noah relaxed and let himself enjoy the warm press of the guy’s thigh against his own. His neighbor seemed intent on the paper he was reading, and Noah let his gaze drift sideways again to see what was so absorbing. He did a double take, rereading the heading, and then glanced up covertly to check which part of the page his mystery guy’s eyes were focused on.
Rush Hour Crush. Fuck. He was definitely reading the Rush Hour Crush column that Dom had shown Noah earlier. Noah’s heart thumped crazily as he thought about the words saved on Dom’s phone.
Should he go for it? He took a slow, careful breath in, trying to calm himself.
No—it was a crazy idea and would end in mortification at best and a beating at worst. He was mad to even be considering it. He let his breath out in an unintentionally huge sigh, his shoulders slumping as his head dropped.
“Bad day?” A quiet voice from beside him made Noah jerk his head up again to meet the man’s amused dark eyes.
Noah stared, captivated, even as his cheeks flamed hot and presumably grew blotchy pink. His voice came out high and squeaky as he replied. “Um… yeah. I guess.”
“Thank God it’s Friday, eh?” The guy grinned. His gaze lingered just long enough to make Noah’s heart flutter before he dropped his eyes and turned back to the newspaper on his lap.
“Yeah,” Noah agreed. As it happened he was working tomorrow anyway, but the art of conversation seemed to have deserted him.
He leaned back and closed his eyes, replaying the moment that had just passed between them. It had been fleeting, but Noah didn’t think he’d imagined the warmth in those dark eyes. Could it have been an invitation? How was he ever going to know unless he made the effort to talk to him?
A surge of adrenaline coursed through Noah and he snapped his eyes open again and pulled his phone out of his pocket. Suddenly tired of playing it safe and ready to take a risk, he scrolled through to Dom’s number, typed a message, and, without giving himself time to change his mind, pressed the send button.
Do it. Place the ad for me.
Chevalier by Mary Calmes eBook
Loaded for Bear by Cheyenne Meadows eBook
Beauty, Inc. by Tara Lain eBook
Love in Retrograde by Charlie Cochet eBook
There You Are by CJane Elliott eBook
Bad Dogs and Drag Queens by Julie Lynn Hayes eBook
Jewel Cave by Elizabeth Noble eBook
Stained by Chris T. Kat eBook
Sand-Man's Family by CJane Elliott eBook
Not Just Passing Through by Jamie Dean eBook
Requires site membership
Modern Battles by Serena Yates Bundle eBook