IN THE five years since Grant Maxwell, known to his friends as Max, opened his practice, not once had he ditched on a client. He supposed he should feel bad for rescheduling Mrs. Taylor. But her psychopathic and narcissistic issues would just have to wait another day. Max had a brown-haired, green-eyed hottie he hoped to be counseling this morning.
A week ago Max had awoken to find that his coffeepot had passed away quietly in the night. Not one who could start his day without the magical brew—at least not without putting others at risk—he’d headed for the local coffee shop. When Max spotted the gorgeous man—Aiden, according to his nametag—behind the counter, any irritation due to the inconvenience drained away. Also gone was the normally confident, somewhat cocky man, and in his place, a timorous man was left sputtering, barely able to order a coffee, black.
And what the hell had that been about? Better question—why in the hell did his limbs tremble and his heart race like a goddamn madman as he stood in line once again?
Max rolled his neck and then straightened his tie before smoothing down the front of his charcoal-gray Armani suit. A suit he normally only wore for special occasions. This is getting ridiculous. Four days, he’d stood waiting for his coffee feeling like a school kid about to get his first kiss. The other two days he was like a kid who Santa forgot on Christmas morn when Aiden hadn’t been at work.
Well, not today.
I’m an attractive, confident man.
I’m intelligent, educated.
I have a PhD in psychology with a thriving private practice.
I’m a goddamn Dom, for fuck’s sake.
“Good morning, sir. What can I get for you?” Aiden asked politely. His smile was broad, showing off two rows of perfectly white, straight teeth behind full lips.
Max’s pulse sped as he imagined that sexy mouth swollen from passionate kisses.
Would look fucking amazing around my—
Max ripped his gaze away from Aiden’s mouth and looked up. The beautiful pale-green eyes did little to help Max get his thoughts or his libido under control. Christ, get your shit together. You’re losing it. Max smothered a curse and squared his shoulders.
“Large black coffee, please,” he said huskily.
Aiden cocked his head and appeared to study Max. Max forced himself not to squirm under the man’s scrutiny, but it wasn’t easy. After a long drawn-out moment, Aiden smiled, and Max had a funny feeling the man knew exactly what Max had been thinking.
Max watched Aiden as he grabbed a large cup and moved to the coffee machine. Max took a moment to appreciate the handsome man. Aiden was the same six foot height as Max, and they were similar in build. Both broad chested with thick, muscular arms; height and body style were where the similarities ended.
Where Max’s hair and eyes were dark brown, Aiden had light-brown hair with streaks of blond, and his eyes were such a pale shade of green, they looked almost translucent. Aiden also had a softness, an almost delicate look to his features, unlike Max’s square jaw and larger, crooked nose. Aiden, in a word, was beautiful, not in a feminine sense—as there was nothing female-like about Aiden—but in a truly beautiful masculine sense. It was a look that caused Max’s breath to hitch and his pulse go into overdrive whenever he looked at the man. It also didn’t hurt that Aiden had the hottest, roundest, most drool-worthy ass, the sight of which caused blood to rush to Max’s groin.
“Will that be all, sir?” Aiden asked, and from the shy smile on his face and the hint of color in his cheeks, the man had a good idea of the effect he was having on Max.
“Max,” he said, taking the cup and letting his finger slide along the back of Aiden’s hand. “Call me Max.”
Aiden’s smile grew. “Will that be all, Max?”
Spurred on by the sweet grin, Max found his courage. He pulled his wallet out and dropped a few bills on the counter and slid them toward Aiden, holding his gaze. “Have dinner with me.” He meant to ask, but his nerves mingled with his arousal made it come out as more of an order. His strained voice had just a hint of growl in it.
Aiden’s eyes went wide and then narrowed. Max quickly added, “Please?”
“Young man, do you mind playing the dating game after hours? You’re holding up the line.”
Max turned to find a portly elderly woman with a disapproving expression on her face glaring up at him. Behind her a long line had formed.
“Sorry,” Max murmured. “Guess I found my courage at the wrong time,” he told her with a wink.
Max retrieved a business card from his wallet and added it to the pile of bills. “Just think about it,” he said and turned and strolled out of the coffee shop without waiting for an answer.
Fifteen minutes later, as Max stepped into his office building, his cell vibrated. Retrieving it from the inside pocket of his suit coat, he studied the display. A huge smile broke out and he pumped his fist when he read, I’d love to.
AIDEN AGREED to meet him at a local diner a couple of blocks over from the coffee shop. Max would have preferred something fancier, wanting to impress the man by wining and dining him, but he’d take what he could get. For now.
Max spent way too much time in front of the mirror primping and fussing and an aggravatingly long time deciding what to wear. Christ, the green-eyed beauty did things to him, unsettling things, things no one had ever brought out in Max before. He found his interest piqued, not only for the chemistry he’d felt sizzling between him and Aiden, but also his need to discover where this new lack of confidence was coming from. Max hated being out of control and so damn indecisive. The new feelings were completely foreign and not at all something he was accustomed to.
Finally he chose a pair of tan chinos, a white dress shirt, and a thin purple knit pullover and stood in front of the large bathroom mirror giving himself one last once-over. Max told himself the outfit had nothing to do with the way the white brought out the olive tone of his skin, dark hair, and eyes, nor how the tight-fitting sweater showed off his muscular chest and arms. He wasn’t vain, dammit. Well, maybe a little. He smirked at his reflection and headed out.
Max arrived at the fifties-style diner a half hour early and strategically placed himself in one of the red vinyl booths in the corner. From his vantage point, he could watch Aiden arrive, giving Max a moment to control his reaction to the sexy man, but the setting would also afford them a little privacy.
Aiden stepped through the doors wearing a pair of worn jeans with holes in both knees and a gray Henley. The clothing was nothing special, shabby really, but in that instant, Max knew he’d need more than a minute to school his features. Because, holy shit, the man could wear a garbage bag and send Max’s libido into overdrive.
A large smile crossed Aiden’s face when he spotted Max, and Max couldn’t help but return it. He gave himself the few seconds it took Aiden to cross the diner to take a few deep, calming breaths, but the minute Aiden slid into the booth and the scent of his cologne hit Max, it was for naught. Max was anything but calm.
“Hi,” Aiden said shyly. “Thanks for inviting me.”
Max shifted in his seat, thankful for the table screening his crotch. The thought stopped him short. He’d never been bashful or apologetic for his reaction to an attractive man, yet for some reason Max couldn’t quite identify, his physical reaction wasn’t the first thing he wanted Aiden to notice.
“It’s my pleasure. Thank you for accepting,” Max said. He was relieved when his voice didn’t give away any of the nervousness churning in his gut. “I had hoped to impress you with a little more”—Max scanned the area—“opulent surroundings.”
“I don’t even know what that means,” Aiden laughed. “I like it here. They have great food, and the cook is my roommate.”
“Ah! So if the freaky coffee-shop stalker turns out to be a psychopath, you can call for backup?”
“Yup,” Aiden said unapologetically. “The dishwasher is another of my roommates.”
“Damn,” Max murmured and looked at Aiden pointedly. “That throws a wrench in my plans.”
Aiden laughed. “Planned on kidnapping me and having your wicked way with me?”
“No,” Max said coolly. He leaned back in his seat and raked his eyes over Aiden. “I’d hoped you’d come along peacefully.”
“Is that so?” Aiden’s laugh took on a nervous lilt and died all together when Max continued to stare at him, keeping his features neutral.
“Hey, Aiden. Get you and your friend here something to drink?” asked a young, brunette girl who was staring at Max suspiciously.
“Hi, Carina. I’ll have a Coke.”
Carina nodded but didn’t take her eyes off Max. Max had to fight the urge to chuckle at her posturing. She was five foot nothing and maybe a hundred pounds soaking wet. The way she stood, back ramrod straight and a challenging look in her hazel eyes, she reminded Max of a little Chihuahua about to fight a Rottweiler for a bone. Interesting.
“I’ll have the same,” Max replied pleasantly and gave her his best disarming smile.
Carina’s eyes narrowed, but she nodded and moved away.
“Your friend seems to be a little possessive,” Max commented, turning his attention back to Aiden. “Let me guess, another roommate?”
“Nah. Carina and I dated a couple of times. She wanted more, I didn’t.” Aiden shrugged and picked up his menu. “She’s good people though, even if a little crazy.”
“Yup,” Aiden said easily without looking up from his menu. “If you like fish and chips, they have some of the best in town here.”
“Aiden?” Max said cautiously.
“Hmm?” he asked, looking up and meeting Max’s gaze.
“You do realize I invited you to dinner because I was attracted to you?”
Aiden smiled and waved a hand dismissively. “Oh yeah, the way you looked at me at the coffee shop, you made it pretty obvious. Which, I gotta say, from someone as good-looking as you? That’s a hell of a compliment. So thank you.”
“And would it be too presumptuous of me to assume the attraction was mutual?” Max’s gut fluttered. Shit! Had he read Aiden wrong? Considering how crazy Aiden had made Max lately, it wouldn’t surprise him if he’d acted rashly or considered Aiden’s acceptance to dinner incorrectly.
Aiden set his menu aside, a frown marring his brow as he said, “Hmm, I thought I too was being pretty obvious in my… appreciation of your physique.”
Max puzzled Aiden’s answer and glanced to where Carina was drawing up glasses of cola.
“Oh, I get it,” Aiden chuckled. “Yes, I dated Carina, yes, I like women, but I also like men. Gender isn’t an issue with me when it comes to attraction.”
Max’s grin grew as relief flooded him. He hadn’t totally read Aiden wrong. He’d do well to pay more attention to this beautiful, intriguing man. Max had a sneaking suspicion young Aiden would keep him on his toes.
“So have you dated many men?” Max asked.
Aiden’s cheeks colored and a shy smile pulled at his lips. “Uh, no. But I haven’t dated that many women either.”
“Uh oh, that sounds ominous.”
“What sounds ominous?” Carina asked, shooting a glare in Max’s direction as she set down their drinks.
“Nothing.” Aiden grinned. “And stop glaring at my date. Grant Maxwell, meet Carina Owens. Carina, Grant Maxwell.”
Max held out his hand. “Nice to meet you, Carina. And please call me Max.”
Carina stuck her tongue out at Aiden, who simply laughed, and then she stared at Max’s hand briefly before she shook it. “Nice to meet you too, Max,” she said with a sigh. “Are you two ready to order?”
They both ordered the fish and chips, and Carina left—this time without shooting daggers at Max with her eyes. Although, Max could tell it hadn’t been without difficulty.
Max reached across the table and laid his hand on top of Aiden’s, the urge to touch huge. “I can see why she dislikes me. I’d be quite jealous of her if she had you,” he said charmingly.
“Are you the possessive type, Max?”
Max stroked his thumb across the soft skin of Aiden’s hand, Max’s heart quickening with the simple touch. “I can be,” he replied honestly. “Do you like to be possessed? Dominated?”
Aiden swallowed hard. Max’s eyes were drawn to the way Aiden’s Adam’s apple bobbed, and his pulse quickened further. Aiden held Max’s gaze, both unease and desire swirling in the pale-green pools. Even if there was some excitement, the last thing Max wanted was to upset Aiden or make him feel uncomfortable in any way. He’d sort those two conflicting emotions he’d seen in the timid man later.
Max leaned back and picked up his cola, taking a small sip before changing the subject. “Tell me about yourself. Your accent suggests Midwest?”
Aiden seemed to relax with the new direction the conversation was taking, and he smiled. He played with his straw, staring down at the bubbling soda as he spoke. “Yeah, I’m from Indiana, born and raised. I always hate being asked about myself. I never know where to start or what someone would deem interesting.” He shrugged as he looked up. “I’m sure you don’t want to hear about growing up on a dairy farm.”
“Actually I’d love to hear about it,” Max assured him. “Growing up in the city, it was one of my dreams as a small child, to live on a farm.”
“Isn’t that always the way of it? Always wanting what we don’t have. I always wanted to live in the city. I hated shoveling cow shit and the never-ending chores.”
“And what do you think of our fair city now?”
Aiden continued to play with his straw, stabbing at the ice cubes in his glass. He really was the most adorable man Max had ever laid eyes on, and that increased significantly when Aiden appeared timid or shy. It called to his more dominant nature. Aiden tripped all Max’s attraction triggers, both physically and mentally.
“Well,” Aiden said softly. “To be quite honest, it’s a bit overwhelming. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying the hell out of living here, but…. It’s just different, is all.”
“Yes, it can be a little overwhelming,” Max chuckled. “How long have you been here?”
“About four months. Ah, thanks Carina. This looks great!” Aiden said sweetly when she set his fish and chips down in front of him.
“You’re welcome. Anything else I can get you two?” she asked as she set Max’s plate in front of him.
They both thanked her and told her they needed nothing else at the moment. A comfortable silence fell over them as they added lemon to their meals and dug in. Aiden was right, the fish was excellent, but watching Aiden eat was even better. He was a sensualist, enjoying his meal with relish, licking his fingers, humming his delight as he chewed. Christ, what would it be like to have a man like Aiden in his bed?
Max had shared the company of many men, but a true sensualist was a rarity. So many men he’d been with were always rushing to the finish line, the orgasmic prize their goal. They often forgot to enjoy the journey. Yes, he could force subs to go slow, but he couldn’t force them to truly take pleasure from the journey itself. It seemed even sex mimicked the rat race of the city. Everyone always in a hurry. Rush, rush, rush.
“Tell me about your family. How do they feel about you moving here?”
Aiden wiped his mouth and swallowed the mouthful of food before answering. And manners too, Max sighed to himself.
“It’s my mom and dad, two older brothers and one younger. We all did dairy farming, as does most of my extended family.” Aiden shrugged. “I think they’re okay with me moving here. They want me to be happy. My two older brothers love the farm so they’ll be taking it over when Mom and Dad can’t run it anymore. It will be in good hands.”
“And your younger brother?”
“He’s like me, in more ways than one,” Aiden chuckled. “He wasn’t into dairy farming either. He lives with his husband in Oklahoma now.”
“Uh oh! There is that ominous word again,” Aiden said with a scowl.
“Hard habit to break.” Max pushed his empty plate aside and reached out and once again placed his hand over Aiden’s. “Forgive me?”
Aiden studied their hands for a moment, a thoughtful expression on his handsome face. After a few more long beats of silence, he turned his hand over and entwined their fingers. “I’ll forgive you if you’ll take me for ice cream,” he said with a broad grin.
“Let me guess, another roommate works at the ice cream parlor?”
“No, but I do have one that hands out popsicles in a clown suit,” Aiden laughed.
“Wow! Seriously? How many roommates do you have?” Max asked incredulously.
“Just the three. I never realized how expensive living in New York City would be.”
“Ridiculously so,” Max agreed.
“So about that ice cream?”
“And we talk about you instead,” Aiden interrupted.
Max frowned and pretended to consider Aiden’s offer. In reality Max would agree to just about any damn thing for the chance to spend more time with Aiden. With his free hand Max tapped his fingers on the tabletop. He finally relented when Aiden began to shift in his