Rain splattered against the slim fabric hood that was pulled over his head. The water leaked through the flimsy fabric and pressed into his hair, making the strands clump and drip down the back of his shirt. The sky was the colour of dusty ash left too long in the fireplace and the air was thick with ozone.
Trent shivered and pulled the hoodie closer as he tried to keep some semblance of warmth against his skin. The forecast had predicted a beautiful, sunny spring day with a temperature of twenty degrees centigrade. The sun had lasted until he’d stepped out of the office to go home after a nine-hour shift trapped behind a dusty window. He’d touched the pavement and the clouds had loomed in as a virtual monsoon opened above his head.
Walking to work was as much of a blessing as it was a curse. He had no car payments, but he was stuck walking through any storm that decided to roll in. Clouds had a habit of waiting until he left the safety of the building before they unleashed their wrath.
The cracked sidewalks were stained dark with pools of water gathering in every dip and cranny. The few buildings around him were lit up bright against the grey sky, and their signs beckoned anyone who happened to be passing by. Their brick was antique, with lines of grout that had crumbled over time. It gave them more character than the new-builds in an actual city. Their bleached Christmas lights, that were meant to be spring decorations, were charming and the most modern thing about them besides the updated espresso machine in the café.
A burst of yellow swerved along the slim street, and its tyres splashed through the puddle of a blocked storm drain. Water burst up like the landing of a flume ride and smacked against Trent. Gravel and bits of sodden leaves struck him, sticking and clinging to every light hair on his naked shins. A trail of sand curled down his forehead and dripped into his eye.
“Dammit,” he spluttered as thick mud trailed down into his mouth. The taste of tainted water and decomposition made him gag and he spat into the swirling mass around his feet that was searching for a way through the cracked sidewalk. He stopped to watch as the yellow Corvette straightened and swerved back away from the kerb where it had struck the puddle that had completely drenched him. It was a manoeuvre he might expect out of a teenager who might deliberately try to soak unsuspecting pedestrians.
Instead of pulling straight along the thin road, the Corvette kept turning as it lost control on the plane of water. It looped back to the other side of the street and directly into oncoming traffic. There was no squealing of tyres or frantic running as doom approached, only the patter of rain on his soaked hood.
A rusty feed truck, tracking towards the light in the opposite lane, cleared the Corvette by a few centimetres, blaring its horn as the car crossed its path. The yellow machine swerved again, its tyres finally catching and squealing as they threw off bits of black rubber. Trent could just make out the frantic movements of the driver through the dark, tinted windows. His stomach clenched and the hairs raised on the back of his neck as he watched the scene unfold.
Sounds gurgled together as metal struck metal. The pop of tyres burst against his eardrums, accompanied by the squeal of aluminium and the snapping of glass. The muffled thud of airbags joined the fray a second later, then a shout as the bumper of the Corvette crumpled into a parked suburban van.
Trent was moving before he’d fully registered the crash. The mud and leaves were forgotten as his hood fell back and the rain pounded against his face. One of his sandals, slick with slimy water, slipped from his foot, nearly sending him down in the middle of the road. He managed to recover, running lopsided with one foot aching as it slapped against rough pavement.
The vibrant yellow handle was slick beneath his hand as he pried at the passenger door. The cracked window blurred his view so that he could only make out the shape of a person pressed between a white air bag and a black seat. There was no movement inside, not even the frantic flailing he’d seen just before the car had crashed. The handle was locked tight, resisting every pull that he made.
Trent leapt over the hood of the car, neatly avoiding where the two vehicles were entwined in an angry embrace. The adrenalin coursing through his veins gave him the boost to make it almost all the way across before his naked calf snagged on the car’s wet surface. He fell over, narrowly managing to keep from falling to the pavement on the other side.
Despite the terrible noise that the crash had made, the hood of the Corvette had hardly any damage, except a pressed curve along one headlight that folded both the fender and the hood. Shattered glass was strewn along the road, hidden beneath the murky puddles. The suburban had been crushed where it had been struck along its broadside. It was one of the only weak points in the gas-guzzling tank.
Trent stumbled as he found his balance on the other side of the car. There was a coffee shop only a few feet away, and people were gathering at the window and pressing their curious faces against the glass. A handful of customers made it outside, shouting questions over the din of pouring rain. Phones were up, hopefully calling the police and not taking a video of his failed leap.
The pounding of his heart washed away any more sounds of the gathering crowd and their calls from behind the window. The handle of the driver’s side was slippery under his hand and it took two pulls to realize that it too was locked tight. Luckily, the window on this side was broken and scattered like a thousand glistening waterdrops. Rain poured through the gap and onto the driver, spreading across the seat and floor of the vehicle.
Trent’s gaze flickered back and forth as his senses pulled in every detail in a quick assessment. Sleek black leather was polished to a perfect finish, and the smell of sweet, smoky cologne mixed with just a hint of copper. A song was humming on the radio, dark and thick with the promise of love. In the seat was someone who made his staggered breathing come to a halt.
The man looked nearly crushed beneath the wide, white airbag that was pressed to his chest. His eyes were closed, with his head tilted back to reveal a split lip that was quickly swelling. A drop of blood smeared down his lips to a sharp chin that was shaved clean except for a few stray hairs just under his lower lip. His head was as smooth as his chin, with the dark outline of ink against his skull.
The driver fluttered open his blue eyes, dazed and staring as he gazed slowly around the inflated interior. They settled on Trent before going wide with panic.
“Are you okay?” the stranger asked him, his voice strained with his chest still tight to the airbag that was slowly starting to deflate.
“You’re asking me if I’m okay?” asked Trent. “Buddy, you were just in a car accident. Is anything broken?” There was blood on the man’s forehead, but just a small smear. He could just be concussed and confused.
The man paled until he was almost the same white as the airbags. “I lost control and almost hit you,” he said as he looked around the interior of the ruined car, apparently taking in the pierced leather and damp veneer. “I swerved, then I don’t know what happened.” He pushed at the airbag and it sprang back like a child’s bouncy castle at the local fair.
Trent reached through the broken window, trying to avoid the prickling glass that stuck up from the ruined frame. He grasped the door lock from the inside and opened it with a quick jerk.
“Can you stand? We should get you out of there,” said Trent as he pulled the door open. There was no smell of gasoline, only ozone and fresh rain, but he still expected that the car might explode at any moment. The airbag now hung like a shrivelled grape, revealing that the man was still buckled into his seat. His legs were folded, even with the spacious legroom, and his body was thick, filling every bit of available space.
“I think so.” The guy took in the gathering crowd as he finally managed to get free from the airbag. He reached for the seatbelt buckle, but his shaking hands skimmed uselessly off the button.
“Here… Let me.” Trent moved in close and hooked his hand around the belt, sliding down until he met the buckle. The scent of cologne and something else masculine filled his nose as he pressed close enough to feel the heat of the driver through his sodden clothing. His stomach flipped and his face flushed hot as he looked away from blue eyes. He felt for the little red button on the buckle and pushed hard. It was stiff in his trembling fingers and resisted his thumb.
He took a deep breath and couldn’t suppress the shudder that made its way up his spine. The man smelled so good that it was going straight to his groin and shutting down what was left of his thoughts. His body responded against his will and he became aware of the press of his peaked nipples against sodden fabric, so sensitive and ready.
A second shiver wound up through his shoulders. His hand slipped from the buckle to touch the smooth fabric of the man’s pants. It was soft and sturdy under his fingertips and looked more expensive than his entire soaked ensemble.
“You okay?” the stranger asked into his ear, so soft that it made his hair stand on end. He met blue eyes, watery and streaked with red, along with the strain of fear. It was the fear he saw that gave him the strength he was missing from his fingers.
“Just soaking wet and freezing. Sorry.” He finally found the clasp again and the man was free with a persistent push. Trent drew himself out of the car and back into the beating rain. The heat left him as he pulled back, and he shivered in earnest this time.
“Yeah, sorry about that.” The stranger grimaced and leaned forward as he grasped the yellow roof to pull himself out.
The car must’ve been sitting lower on the road than Trent had first realized. The man was absolutely massive. Trent was just under six foot himself, but he was still half a head shorter than the hulking figure. The stranger wasn’t skinny either, but thick and broad like a football player who still had his pads on. Trent couldn’t believe he’d managed to fit into such a fancy vehicle at all.
“I called the cops. They should be here soon,” called one of the onlookers who had managed to wiggle in closer. Trent turned to the voice, giving her a nod of thanks when he recognized her as a local.
The stranger cursed as he looked back at his car. “This is why I shouldn’t get new cars,” he said with a shake of his head. He smoothed his hand over the hood, down to the crinkled corner that now looked more like an accordion than a fender. There was nothing of the headlight left except for a shell of plastic lined with metal and a shattered bulb.
“I really don’t know anything about cars, but it doesn’t look as bad as it sounded,” said Trent as he followed him to look at the damage. Bits of glass dug into his bare foot as he made his way around. He glanced down to find his sandal floating just a few meters away, slowly making its way down the road in the streaming puddles. After he scooped it up, he slid it back onto his bruised foot.
“You’re really lucky, though. I thought that feed truck was going to cream you,” said Trent. Other than the dented corner, broken windows and smashed headlight, the car was in good condition. The SUV looked okay too, with just a hefty chunk out of the side.
“Is that what that was?” the stranger asked as he looked back along the road. The feed truck had pulled over to idle on the side of the road just before the light. The driver was already making their way back towards the Corvette.
“Shit.” The stranger glared at the approaching driver. The man was short and round with a coat that was much too thick for the weather. The colour of his jacket ran dark from the rain.
“Everybody okay? I can’t stop that quick with that old truck. New brakes, but the tyres are shit.” The driver stepped closer. There was the underlying scent of wet cigarettes clinging to his clothes and his meagre hair was flecked with bits of unidentifiable soggy fluff.
“We’re all good,” said Trent. He looked at the Corvette driver, expecting a reply, but the man was silent. His hands were clenched into fists behind his back and he had drawn up to his full towering height.
“Okay, well, I’ll take off then if everyone is fine. I’m already behind as it is.” The driver took a step back as he looked between the two. Trent offered a weak smile before taking a half-step towards the group of gathering people.
“Yep, no problem. Thanks for stopping,” said Trent as the driver turned away. He looked up to the man who was still bristling beside him. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
The stranger deflated and turned to Trent with a grimace. “Yeah. I was expecting a fight.”
“What? Why would he want to fight?” Trent looked around in confusion, then back to the retreating truck driver. He hadn’t seemed threatening in the least. The stranger shrugged.
“Some of the places I’ve been, there’s usually a fight when something like this goes down.” He smoothed his hand back down the car and frowned again at the crushed light. He was completely drenched now, with every inch of black fabric clinging to his chest and biceps as if he were wearing nothing at all. Trent forced his eyes away from the clinging cloth.
“You aren’t from around here then, I guess. Small town folks don’t really care much for a fight unless they’re getting paid for it.” Trent looked to the license plate, noticing the strange image and lettering for the first time. “Wow, you really aren’t from around here. Did you drive the whole way?”
“Three of the best days of my life,” the man said with a smile. “Name’s Ian. Thanks for your help, man. I appreciate it.”
“Trent,” he replied as he grasped the outstretched palm. Ian’s hand felt so warm against Trent’s, which was slippery from a mix of rain and a sheen of sweat. He was sure that his face was beaming red, hopefully hidden by the downpour.
“I’ll stick around until the cops show up, just in case they ask any questions,” said Trent. He leaned back against the side of the suburban and winced as his freezing shirt pressed against the only remaining warm spot on his back.
“Do you know any place I can get this baby fixed up?” asked Ian. “She’s a custom, so I usually wouldn’t let just anybody work on her, but I’m a bit out of my area here.” Blue eyes glanced around and his lips pulled into a frown at the sight of the meagre buildings, looking from the cracked grout to the crumbling brick.
“There is an auto shop about one block that way.” Trent pointed to the other side of the street. “It’s after six o’clock now, though, and I don’t think they’re open again until tomorrow.”
“Shit.” Ian cursed and kicked the thin rubber tyre. “Any hotels then? I don’t exactly know anyone around here either.”
“Uh no, no hotels. No taxis either,” Trent added. He crossed his arms and stuck his freezing hands under his armpits.
“I could just call a ride share.” Ian reached back into the car to withdraw his phone from where it was stashed in the centre console. Trent risked a quick peek—just a peek—as the man bent over from the waist. His pants had started to cling as they soaked through as well, and they left very little to the imagination. Trent bit back the noise that tried to escape and forced his gaze away.
“Yeah, good luck with that,” said Trent after quietly clearing his throat. “Welcome to the middle of nowhere. This coffee shop”—he pointed at the glass window that had mostly emptied of its patrons since the bustle had died down—“is the best one for fifty kilometres. I can say that because it’s the only one within fifty kilometres.”
Ian groaned and sank down along the side of the car until he was hunched on the kerb. “I think I took a wrong turn about two hours ago. I was supposed to be checking into the Marriott tonight.”
Trent couldn’t honestly think of the closest hotel that wasn’t a small operation instead of a chain. Even they were few and far between. Most were closed until the summer began to ramp up.
Ian looked utterly defeated, and it was pulling at Trent’s heart strings uncomfortably. His car was trashed, his body was bruised and his lip was still dribbling slow drops of blood. Ian’s eyes closed and he leaned back against the car, thunking his head into the side.
Trent shifted from foot to foot before shoving his hands deep into his pockets. He could hear his mother’s voice in his ear, telling him to make the situation right.
“You can stay with me for the night if you want,” said Trent with a shrug as he tried to downplay how much he liked the idea. The eye candy alone could last him for a decade. Christ, he would have to give Ian some of his pyjamas. That ass inside of a pair of too-small track pants would be drool-worthy.
Trent shook his head and tried to clear the image from his mind before it could spiral out of control. “I’m just a few blocks away. It’s only a one bedroom, but I can pull out the old air mattress.” He would happily sleep on the air mattress and give up his bed to Ian. Christ.
“You don’t have to do that. I mean, I almost hit you with my car,” said Ian as he stared at Trent like he had sprouted a few extra limbs.
“But you didn’t, and it’s kind of my fault that you hit the suburban.” Oh God, he sounded eager…way too fucking eager.
“That’s a bit of a stretch,” said Ian. His eyebrows couldn’t get any higher at this point, and he had started to lean back with a touch of caution.
Trent shrugged, glancing away and trying to play it off as much as possible. “It’s up to you.” He sighed as he had the strangest craving for a cigarette. Stress and excitement did strange things to him, especially brief grazes with his mortality. He hadn’t smoked since a one-week stint as a teenager. Every once in a while the need struck when the situation called for it.
“You know what? Sure. I’ll take you up on that.” Ian nodded.
Trent couldn’t stop the smile that went wider as Ian smiled back. That simple gesture made the man’s face light up in a way that went straight to his eyes. What was Trent thinking? A sexy hunk of a man in his house for the night? He’d never be able to keep his hands to himself. Well, he would, because consent was sexy, but it would be the hardest night of his life…literally.
“I’m gay though,” said Trent. He blushed as soon as the words left his mouth. “If that’s a problem, no big deal. I just don’t want you to feel awkward.”
Trent saw the sudden blanch, even as Ian tried to hide it, and it made his gut clench. Trent was out and proud of it, but every so often someone had a reaction to the news. Most people didn’t care, but a select few did. Those few always managed to get under his skin and keep him awake at night.
“You don’t have to stay with me. I’m sure you can find other arrangements,” said Trent, backpedalling quickly to avoid any sort of awkward confrontation.
“No, sorry… I didn’t mean…” Ian trailed off as he pushed himself off the kerb. “You just surprised me, that’s all. Most places, you don’t really say that to a stranger.”
Trent opened his mouth, not really sure what he was going to say. Where the hell had this guy been where he fought random truckers and people had to hide six feet into the closet? He couldn’t judge too harshly, though. The population of his tiny town was miniscule, and there were four churches smashed into it. Up until twenty years ago, no one would’ve announced it here either.
His thoughts were cut off by a piercing flash of lights as a police cruiser came around the corner and headed their way. He held out his hand to help Ian the rest of the way to his feet. The contact sent a wave of heat up his arm and under his jacket.
He bit back a sigh and turned to greet the officer.
I am so screwed.