Prologue

A Missed Connection and a Memory: December 20, 2008

 

THIS MEMORY rose up out of nowhere, so clear and vivid that I can’t help but think it must mean something….

 

I stand at the corner of Pike and Miner, staring into his eyes. Odd how so much communication can pass between two people without even one word being spoken. Right now my eyes are saying to Jackson, this dreamboat I just met, “I love how blue and pale your eyes are. They remind me of ice, yet there’s a paradox there, because they exude such warmth. I love that your eyes are just slightly different in shape and size and the way one eyebrow cocks upward when you stare at me, as though you’re asking a question, issuing an invitation.

“I love that we just managed to have dinner together—a first date at an Italian restaurant, Soldano’s, just down the street—and the whole time we talked to each other like old friends instead of the usual first date chatter. My first dates have always felt like job interviews, but with you, it was different. We opened our minds. We opened our hearts.

“There was some flirting, sure, but the one thing I loved about you, Jack, was that you didn’t try to make this about getting me into bed. That’s the usual modus operandi for the series of first dates I’ve had over the course of 2008. Not that there’s anything wrong with hopping into bed! But when a guy makes you feel like he’s eyeing you as the next course, then you feel like an object, a piece of meat, like a cock connected to a body, a mind, a heart, a soul. And who needs that? You made me feel like you were interested in all of me.

“And for that, I’m grateful. For that, I can’t wait for a second date.”

As though he’s read my mind, Jackson leans forward, touches my cheek, and asks, “When can I see you again?”

I laugh and feel heat rise to my face. “Are you a mind reader?” I tease. “That was uncanny, because that’s pretty much exactly what I was thinking.” I smile up at him, suddenly noticing the first few snowflakes falling. It’s a distraction, because we don’t get much snow here in the Pacific Northwest, and it seems like a sign. I look at the dark sky, at the snow almost dancing as it falls gently on Capitol Hill. “Wow,” I whisper, almost reverent, “would you look at that? Snow.”

He cocks his head to one side, and his lips turn up in an almost unbearably sexy grin. “Are you trying to change the subject?”

“What? Oh no, no! Not at all.”

“Then how about tomorrow night? I have tickets for the men’s chorus and no one to go with.”

“I find that hard to believe.” As much as I would love to make tomorrow night our second date, I can’t. My flight to visit family for the holiday leaves bright and early out of Sea-Tac. “I wish I could, but family obligations beckon.” I give him a smile that I hope conveys my regret. “But I’m back on New Year’s Day.”

“I don’t know if I can wait that long.” Jackson grins. “I just met you, and already I feel like I’d be lost without you.”

“Sweet talker! I bet you say that to all the boys.”

He just shakes his head. “No. Seriously, Beau. I had an amazing time with you tonight.”

“Me too. I never thought exchanging a couple messages online would lead to this.”

“And just what is this?” Jackson asks.

I pause to consider. “Maybe the start of something?”

“I think there’s very little maybe in it.” He sighs. He sticks out his tongue to catch a snowflake. “I guess I’m gonna have to wait.” He gives a little sniffle. “Shoot. I won’t see you now until next year!” he cries and stomps his foot, which makes me laugh.

There’s so much we don’t know about each other. For example, where we both live never came up in conversation. “The time will fly by,” I assure him. At least I hope it will. “Hey, where are you in town, anyway? Because if you wanna share a cab—”

“Is this your sly way of asking me to come home with you?”

Actually, it wasn’t. But now that he mentions it…. Before I can respond, though, he says, “Don’t answer that. I live just down the hill a ways. In Belltown.” He leans in and takes me completely by surprise by pulling me toward him and kissing me. The kiss isn’t openmouthed, but it’s warm, and my knees go liquid.

The kiss is marred by a carload of what I imagine to be teenage boys passing by. One screams, “Fags!”

I look up at him and shake my head. “Well, I guess if the shoe fits….”

He laughs. “Anyway, as I was saying, if you were asking me to come home with you, part of me first would say I’m too full of myself for jumping to conclusions.”

“Oh, you’re not jumping to anything.” I grin.

He grins back. “Second, if you are asking me to come home with you, part of me really, really wants to, and that part’s head is up right now, sniffing the air.” He chuckles. “But the part of me that goes along with your assessment that this, tonight, is the start of something, wants to put off getting to that stage just yet. I want to build up to it. Make it special.” He eyes me carefully. “Does that make me weird?”

“It makes you one in a million, sweetheart. And as much as I’d love to rip your clothes off and ravish you, I really respect that. And want the same,” I say softly. “I’m up in Green Lake. We could still share a cab. No strings attached.” Really? I ask myself. In spite of all my good intentions, there’s still a very large part of me (not that part! Get your mind out of the gutter for once) that would like to wake up with him tomorrow morning, even if I do have to rush off to the airport before it’s even light outside.

“Yeah, thanks, Beau. But I think I’d just like to walk home in the snow if it’s all the same to you.” He peers up, and I notice then how the snow seems to be coming down even harder. Maybe we’ll even get some accumulation? “The snow’s really magical, if that doesn’t sound too cornball to say.”

“It does sound cornball,” I tell him, “but I totally agree. If I wasn’t so far, I’d walk with you. I love the quiet of a snowfall.”

He casts a quick glance around and leans in to kiss me again. This time there’s a flick of his tongue, and I can taste, just for an instant, the cinnamon from the panna cotta we shared for dessert. He pulls back and grins at me like a little boy. “That’ll have to hold ya until you get back from wherever it is.”

“Ohio,” I moan. “The sunshine state.” We both laugh.

“I know Ohio,” he says, his gaze far away. Then he returns those blue eyes to me, their rightful owner. “I’ll see you when you get back.” He pulls a receipt and a pen from his coat pocket. “Turn around,” he instructs.

“You dog!” I say, complying.

He makes a tsk sound and uses my back as a surface upon which to write his phone number. When he’s finished, he turns me back around and presents me with the number. “Call me as soon as you get back. We’ll set up our second date.”

“Is that a promise?”

“Oh, honey, wild horses….”

He turns, and I watch him walk away down the hill. His blond hair, his broad shoulders, and his black coat grow smaller as he descends Pike Street, headed toward the arch of the convention center. And then the snow swallows him up.

 

 

I THOUGHT I’d see him again in a few days. I was wrong.