~ San Francisco ~
Asher Brandt knew he was a goner the minute he laid eyes on Brayden Landry. Brayden was everything Asher was not. Tall, willowy and possessing an effortless grace that most people worked their whole lives for. Brayden lived down the hall from him in a three floor walk-up on Bay Street. It was just down the road from Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco. He saw him every day as he left for work, and Brayden left for his studio, usually to the tune of Asher sighing wistfully. He had only said hello in passing, but knew from his other neighbor and best friend, Jenna, that he was an artist, gay and single.
Jenna kept pushing him to strike up a conversation with Brayden, going on and on about what a sweet guy he was. Asher wasn’t sure he had the courage for it, though, seeing as every time he saw Brayden coming, his tongue got twisted up and he stuttered. Asher could give presentations to the high powered ad executives and clients at his firm, but a simple, “How are you today?” was completely beyond him. So he continued to watch Brayden from afar, fantasizing about what could be.
Tonight was no different; he walked up to his apartment building lobby and opened his box to check his mail. A small daisy with vivid white petals and a yellow center the color of sunshine fell out. The flower had a gold string and a note tied to it that read: This flower reminds me of the bright cheeriness of your smile, and the ribbon is the exact shade of your dazzling eyes. –Your Secret Admirer
“What have you got there?” A musical voice said from behind him.
He turned and saw Brayden, swallowed as he blushed and tried to speak without stuttering, knowing Brayden had already seen the note. “Oh, uh, it’s a flower from a secret admirer.”
“Ooh I love a good romantic story!” Brayden’s eyes held mischief. “Any clue who it could be from?”
“Well, I’m not dating anyone, and the only person I know in the city is Jenna. “ He furrowed his brow. “Honestly, I haven’t a clue.”
Brayden let out a titter of laughter, “I’m being nosy and haven’t officially introduced myself. I’m Brayden Landry.”
Asher gave him a shy smile, looking up through his lashes at Brayden. “I’m Asher Brandt; we live down the hall from each other.”
“Oh I know, but we have never stopped to chat. I know your friend Jenna though; we have gotten takeout a few times.” Brayden turned and looked outside. “Looks like the weather might hold out for the evening, any plans?”
“Oh I will probably throw something together for dinner and then watch something on Netflix. What about you?”
“Would you be interested in coming to dinner with me instead?” Brayden had a hopeful look on his face. “I was going to get some tacos at La Taqueria in the Mission.”
“That’s my favorite restaurant!” Asher was smiling ear to ear at this point. The two men headed for the stairs and started climbing up to their apartments. “I’d love to, do you mind if I go put my briefcase down and change really quick?”
“I tell you what; let’s meet right in between our doors in fifteen, is that enough time?” Brayden checked his watch as if noting the time.
“Perfect, see you then!” Asher and Brayden separated to their own apartments and Asher rushed inside tossing his briefcase on the chair. His cat, Bailey, met him at the door and tangled himself around his legs. Bailey let out a loud, demanding meow indicating he wanted his daily Fancy Feast and scratched behind the ears. After quickly settling Bailey, Asher rushed to his closet and dragged indigo jeans, a soft black V-neck and his favorite flannel and changed quickly. He dragged his favorite Doc Martens on and headed to the bathroom to check his hair.
Fifteen minutes later he waited to hear Brayden’s door open before opening his. Brayden walked to meet him in the middle in a pair of light wash jeans and a light blue sweater that matched his eyes perfectly. He smiled at Asher, his eyes traveling from head to toe and back, finally meeting his eyes. “You look amazing, are you ready to go?”
“Absolutely, I can taste the carnitas already!”
The pair walked towards the bus stop, and just barely made it. It was packed on the bus for a Friday, and they had to share a pole next to the back seats. That was fine with Asher, because he got to be close to Brayden. He watched as people came and went from the bus in companionable silence until Brayden spoke. “So what is it you do?”
“I am a junior ad executive at a firm downtown. Right now we are doing an ad for an online app that tracks your calorie intake and exercise.” Asher internally winced. “Sorry that’s probably not very interesting.”
“That’s where you would be wrong, I want to know more about you.” Brayden put his free hand on Asher’s shoulder. “Did you go to school around here for that? Where are you from?”
“Yeah, I had a full ride to Stanford. My parents are gone, and what they left for me covered my books and my living expenses. I had just enough to rent the place I’m in now. As it happens, I am from Sacramento, so I didn’t go too far away.” Asher began to fidget with his hands. “What about you? Where do you work? From around here?”
“I grew up in Half Moon Bay, and went to Berkeley and majored in Art History.” Brayden got a far off look in his eyes. “My mother raised me alone in a small house with a garden where she grew our food. She still lives there.”
“You love her.” He looked back out the window. “It’s all over your face when you talk about her.”
“Yes, she is my rock. I go home as often as I can.” Before he could go on, the bus hit an unexpected bump, causing Asher to bump into Brayden and catch a trace of whatever scent he was wearing and breathe him in a little bit. He gasped and grabbed Brayden’s hips to steady him, heat racing up his arms. He quickly moved away from Brayden feeling like all of his nerve endings were on alert.
They both nervously laughed and drifted into another companionable silence, both looking out the window and watching people mill around the City. When they reached their stop, Brayden slid his hand into Asher’s and pulled him from the bus. “Come on, let’s go get you those carnitas!”
Asher couldn’t help but smile as Brayden gestured to their hands and said, “Is this okay with you?”
“I was hoping you would.” Asher’s smile was probably going to be stuck on his face for days.
The two walked up to La Taqueria, and stood in line to order. Brayden studied the menu and leaned over to speak into Asher’s ear. His breaths causing goosebumps to appear all over Asher’s body. “I have a confession to make.”
Asher swallowed with an audible gulp. “Wh-what’s that?”
“I’m your secret admirer.” When he finally realized what Brayden had said, Asher burst out laughing and Brayden turned towards him and placed his hands on the sides of his face. “I have had my eye on you from the time I saw you moving in, trying to calm your cat with treats in it’s carrier.”
“I almost dropped him when I saw you the first time.”
Brayden’s eyebrows raised quickly. “Why didn’t you ever say anything?”
“Because you’re absolutely gorgeous.”
It was Brayden’s turn to laugh. “I got ready every day, hoping I would see you on the way out, and you would finally strike up a conversation.”
“Jenna tried to talk me into it.” Asher leaned in, putting his forehead against Braydens.
“Well she succeeded with me.” Brayden’s smile turned wry. “This was all her idea!”
“We’ll have to thank her.”
They moved up to the counter and ordered, Asher insisting on paying, and found a seat. They had made it early enough, that it wasn’t packed. Brayden snagged Asher’s hand as they sat and placed his free hand on his cheek. “If you don’t want me to kiss you, say so now.”
Asher didn’t say a word, but he leaned in and placed his lips softly to Brayden’s, feeling him smile against his lips, After a brief kiss, he pulled back and smiled into Brayden’s face. “I knew there would be fireworks if I kissed you.”
TO BE CONTINUED...
Julien, the youngest son of a British aristocrat and barely twenty-one years old, enrolls in college in Boston. He hopes to find freedom to be himself and some peace from his oppressive, anti-gay family. Maybe having the Atlantic Ocean between them will let him relax.
Darius is a student by day and a bartender at his uncle’s club by night. He is perfectly happy focusing on work and school because there is less of a chance to be hurt if you don’t let people in.
When the two meet, the attraction is instant, but will Julien’s family and Darius’ insecurity threaten it all?
This gay romance is approximately 41,000 word in length.
Buy it here!
Genevieve Wolfe lives in Northern California with her very supportive boyfriend, daughter and their two chameleons, Clyde and Karma. When not writing, she has her nose buried in a book or is probably in the kitchen making something she saw on Food Network. You can reach her on Facebook, Twitter or by e-mail and she loves to hear from readers!