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QuinnDK

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About QuinnDK

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  • Age in Years
    30
  • Gender
    Male
  • Sexuality
    Gay
  • Location
    Toronto, ON
  • Interests
    Comics, videogames, infrequent yoga, baking, novels.

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  1. Belated Happy Birthday!

  2. Hello Quinn! Love your stories. Are we getting any new chapters anytime soon?

  3. Also, to follow up on my answer to the last question - there is a huge reference to MLDWY in the most recent chapter of Safeguard, and I'm surprised no one's pointed it out yet (or maybe those two stories don't have much of an overlap in readers 😅).
  4. Thank you so much for featuring MLDWY as this month's story, and for posting this interview! I wrote this story as a queer take on a Harlequin paperback novel, something steamy and a little dramatic with a that you can finish reading in one afternoon. I'm really thankful for the feedback and encouragement it's gotten from readers - and if you're still in the process of reading it, I hope you enjoy your time with Henrik and Ezra!
  5. I'm so impatient right now. All your stories are so good! I need the remaining chapters now! Lol.

  6. QuinnDK

    Romance Languages

    <416-555-6464: Hello. Is this Rowan Watson's number? --Grant><Rowan: Holy crap, the mountain man texted me! Welcome to the 21st century. Yes, it's Rowan. Thanks for your number, I've saved it in my contacts (if that's okay with you). Also you don't need to sign your name!><Grant: Sorry, this is new to me. By all means save my number. I should have given it to you first. I... enjoyed seeing you last night.><Rowan: I enjoyed it too It was the most entertaining thing to happen at work since my boss Neil found a raccoon behind the audiobooks shelf.> <Grant: A raccoon? You need to make a trap. Get a garbage can and place it in accessible location inside the building. Stand a cinder block against it and a second cinder block on its side at the bottom of the can.><Rowan: Uh...><Grant: If the library doesn't have cinder blocks I'll bring some over. Place bait on the second block. Raccoons are omnivores, they'll eat pretty much anything. A scrap of white bread or even an open can of pet food will do. Have it out overnight and check the trap the next morning. Do you want me to send these instructions to your superior?><Rowan: Dude, this happened a year ago. We took care of it.><Grant: Oh.><Rowan: Your concern is very sweet, though.><Grant: I'm not used to being called sweet.>...<Grant: Hey, did I catch you at a bad time? I can "text message" you later. Is there a special etiquette for this kind of thing?><Rowan: Hey, sorry, you're fine, it's just that my roommate has a limitless supply of energy for arguing, as that 30 min silence probably conveyed. I'm free now!><Grant: Glad I live alone, I gotta say. What were you arguing about?><Rowan: She wants to throw a big party for me. Which would be pointless since all the guests would be *her* friends. I'd rather contract Ebola.> <Grant: Don't contract Ebola.><Rowan: Wise words.><Grant: Why does she want to throw you a party?><Rowan: Oh, uh... for my birthday. I'm an October baby. It's this weekend.><Grant: Really?><Rowan: Yep. I'm a Libra. Please don't let that scare you off.><Grant: I have no idea what that means.><Rowan: Such a Taurus thing to say.><Grant: A what?><Rowan: Nothing. Anyway, I just wanted to spend my birthday by myself, I don't like making a big to-do of it, you know? I even booked that day off work so I can eat lemon bars and watch Netflix.><Grant: I get it. I'm not much of a party guy either.> Grant set down his phone and rubbed the bristles of his jaw. The memory of last night lingered like a pleasant dream. A warm feeling clutched him and didn't let go, even in the cool air of his backyard patio. He'd stepped out for some fresh air - and to calm his nerves before his first plunge into the world of text messaging.Visiting the library was unusually compulsive for him. But he had to. He was going crazy, spending all week untangling the complicated emotions Rowan stirred in him, things he'd never felt. Grant had dated his share of guys before enlisting in the Navy but they were all one- or two-night stands. He'd never been in anything approaching a relationship before. It was all about the hookup, the quick satisfaction. And now, well, he'd been a monk since his discharge. Since his accident...As he'd done so often before, he shoved the dark ugly past back into a box deep inside himself and returned to the present. Back to the real world.Back to Rowan.Grant didn't want him disappearing from his life after a night or two. He sensed the younger man wasn't interested in an arrangement like that, either. But anything beyond a two-night stand was uncharted territory. And with that came a heavy, intimidating rush of dread...He didn't know what the hell he was doing. The only thing that calmed him was the thought that maybe, probably, possibly, Rowan didn't either. Yeah, Grant liked keeping to himself. But he also enjoyed how Rowan changed the very air he breathed, how the tightness in his chest lifted when he was around. Trim and lean, and so damn sexy, especially the way he moaned and writhed as Grant devoured him in that kiss last night. He found every part of Rowan gorgeous, from his intelligent eyes to the nape of his neck to those perfect, full lips.God, those lips. They reminded him of hot sex, heavy breathing, and slick, sweaty skin. He almost wanted to laugh. Here he was entertaining the thought of sex and romance and dating when, just weeks ago, you couldn't have paid him a million dollars to feel a damn thing for anyone.Though his discharge from the Navy was honorable ('When you are being separated because of a disability incurred in the line of duty' was the condition he met), the experience had broken him. He gave the military everything - his service, his courage, and by the end, his ability to hear. What was left of his support group did their best to ease him back into civilian life but he grew increasingly agitated with their optimism and platitudes. He wanted to be left alone, to drift away, to deal with his pain in his own time and on his own terms. What he really wanted, of course, was to ignore and deny. Over the past few years he became the type of man his father was - a ghost. Most days he didn't look, didn't think, didn't feel. And then he moved to Canada and met a librarian. Rowan had made him look. Made him think. Made him feel.Grant went inside to start dinner and get the fireplace going. He thought about this coming Saturday. Thought about birthdays. About time spent alone.When he wanted something he fought for it. Grant was a warrior, always had been. Ever since he was kicked out of his own house at sixteen, he'd looked ahead, determined to plot his own path. And it looked like his path was starting to change directions.Maybe it would be okay, just this once, to let someone walk along at his side.He tapped his phone to open the Messages app.<Grant: Come over here for your birthday.><Rowan: Really?><Grant: If you want to. I'll understand if you don't want to waste a day off on me.><Rowan: Of course I want to see you. I'd like that a lot. What time?><Grant: Noon, if that works.><Rowan: Noon your place sounds perfect. Man, I like when a Taurus takes action.><Grant: What?><Rowan: Nothing.> Rowan could barely process Grant's invitation when a call came through on his phone. It wasn't from a number he recognized."Hello?"A woman's voice trilled from the other end, British, posh, a little husky. Vaguely, it reminded him of Emma Thompson. "Mr. Watson! This is Sharon Harkness, I believe we have one Aarani Rabendravarman in common?""Oh! Hello." He completely forgot that he left a voicemail with his roommate's ex-manager. "I wasn't expecting-""Is this a bad time? People your age, always so busy, always on the go. Smoking pot with Rihanna at Coachella one day and pretending to be a talking pony at a comic book convention the next. Ha! Anyway, is this?""Is this...?""A bad time, love.""Um, no, now's fine. Thank you so much for returning my call. Aarani says you give lessons in American Sign Language?""Certainly I do! Have to keep busy. My twins drive me insane. If I didn't teach on the side I'd throttle them. And there's something rather poetic about teaching sign language when I'm trapped at home with two little people who can't even speak English yet. Do you have children?""No, I-""Well, stay that way." A wild bark laughter from Sharon. "Childless, I mean. I don't know what I was thinking. Rotters, all of them. Where in the city do you live?""North York?""Hrm, I'm all the way down in the Beaches. You don't mind the slog? For your lessons, that is. I teach out of my very garish home.""I don't mind.""Wonderful. We can get started as soon as put it back in the toilet! In the TOILET! What did mummy tell you about throwing it on the floor?"There was the sound of water splashing and children screaming followed by Sharon shouting."Uh-""Sorry love," she trilled was if she was in the middle of brunch, "Manny and Meryl are being a bit of a pain today. And naturally the husband unit is in Germany all month for work. I told him, Vaughan, you can have all the bloody bratwurst you want in Toronto."Rowan had a lot of experience dealing with eccentrics from the library. It was easy enough to throw them out if they got too loud or caused trouble. But being taught a new language by one of them? In their home? This was going to be an experience."So, Mrs. Harkness," he said in his best Let's land the plane voice that Neil so often used, "When are you available?""We don't need to figure that out right this second dear, I just wanted to introduce myself. First impressions are Manny I swear if you don't put that back in the toilet right this second, I will slap. I will SLAP." From: Aarani <aarani_da_star91@gmail.com>To: Rowan <neworderinthesun@gmail.com>Hey weirdo. Wanted to wish you a happy bday but to my surprise your bedroom was VACANT when I rushed in with a cupcake and a sparkler. So, this email will have to do. You're 28! God you're old. How do I make a "You survived the 27 Club" joke that isn't in poor taste?You said you wanted to spend the day by yourself so you being M.I.A. right now is kind of a mystery. Please don't tell me you're pulling a Gone Boy. (But do fill me in on the deets of whatever it is you're doing soon, k?)Oh! Halloween is coming which means I'm throwing a party and you are REQUIRED to go. You owe me. You are also required to put more effort into your costume than last year when you wore a shirt that was a size too small and said you were Kevin from We Need to Talk About Kevin.Talk soon. Luv ya.P.S. Sharon called to let me know she loves your voice. Kind of an ironic thing to say about someone she's going to teach sign language to, right? At noon sharp on his birthday, Rowan arrived at Grant's bungalow. He activated the doorbell and watched the notification flash from the living room window. He waited.Nobody answered.Smile fading, he tried the doorbell again. Still no answer. The strobing light was visible from the house so the device definitely wasn't broken. Had he gotten the time wrong? Was Grant asleep or still showering or not home at all?He noticed the front door hanging ajar. Nudging it open revealed a mason jar on the foyer floor. A note stuck to the lid. "This is weird," Rowan said aloud. He unfurled the note from the jar. "Follow." He squinted. Follow what, exactly? His gaze found the next mason jar sitting down the hall. He approached it cautiously, as if he were on a prank show and the camera crew would jump out at any second. Another note on the lid. An arrow pointing to the right. Rowan followed the arrow and saw the backyard.The trail of mason jars led him onto the patio and down the stone steps that bisected the yard into the forest. He thought maybe the trail was guiding him to the pond where Grant took him last week. But at the pond's junction he found a jar with a note that said Keep going. Don't turn here.Anticipation and mischief danced along the start of his grin. "You lumberjack weirdo," he whispered. "What is your endgame?"The last mason jar took him to the end of a winding path that opened into the most beautiful meadow he'd ever seen. The October sun cast a golden glow across the vast field where, to his far right, a modest picnic sat under the shade of a drooping willow tree.By the shade, Grant stood waiting. He looked unbelievably handsome in a crisp blue button-down shirt and dress pants. Though his body was relaxed, his rugged features betrayed his nerves.Rowan approached the scene with a mix of wonder and trepidation. "What is all this?""Your birthday lunch.""You did this for me?"A gingham blanket covered the grass, supporting two baskets of sandwiches, salads, muffins, a thermos of coffee. The sight led him back to Grant, freshly showered and dressed for the occasion. Even his shoes were nice. The sweatshirt and jeans Rowan wore suddenly felt very ill-fitting. "Who else would I do this for?""I don't know, you might have some other librarian on the side.""What?""You're probably juggling three or four guys with glasses and cardigans and a deep knowledge of cataloging policies. I get it. I'm not special."Grant frowned, realizing. "You're teasing me.""Yes," Rowan laughed, "You'll learn to recognize the signs. The skies darken, animals run the other way..."Grant pulled him close with a half-serious grunt. Their faces were inches apart. "I don't let that many people get away with teasing me."Rowan brought his hand to the man's chest and stroked gently. Pure muscle beneath his palm. "You gonna let me get away with it?"He grunted again, eyes smoldering and serious. Rowan's crotch warmed under his jeans. Fuck, he was sexy.They kissed, mouths hot and soft. Rowan squeezed the big man tight, grateful for his embrace. He never would have thought, based on their tense first meeting, that they'd ever become this affectionate. It was like finally earning the trust of a wild animal.They sat on the gingham blanket to unwrap sandwiches and pour coffee. This wasn't at all how Rowan expected to spend his birthday, but now? He didn't want it any other way.He wanted to find out everything he could about this strange man who charmed and excited him so effortlessly. There were clear boundaries to respect, of course, but showing up at the library and then this surprise lunch in the meadow... that had to mean something, right? That Grant was starting to let him in?Grant seemed like he'd lived a life where nothing came easy - and that didn't just include his loss of hearing. He had the hard exterior of a man who was used to fighting for everything. This recent kindness, the romantic gestures... that couldn't have been easy.But Grant was trying. For him. Rowan positioned himself so the other man could clearly see his face and lips. "This all looks great."Grant handed him a napkin and half a sandwich. "Happy birthday."This situation was nearly identical to one of the ASL exercises he watched on YouTube. He signed, "Thank you. When is your birthday," exactly as he remembered it from the video.Grant signed back the date and Rowan realized he hadn't actually gotten that far in the exercise. He made a mental note to ask Sharon to teach him months and numbers first. Noting his confusion, Grant spoke aloud, "Sorry. April 21st.""Good to know. Where are you from?""Colorado. Little mining town outside of Boulder. Nothing special.""What are your... hobbies?""Hobbies?""Yeah, I'm sure that chopping wood isn't the only thing you do well. And you do it very well, by the way."Grant shrugged and drank from the thermos cup. "Don't really do hobbies. Reading, exercising, if that counts. That's it.""Any sports?""I'll catch a hockey game if the Portland Knights are playing."Okay, now we're getting somewhere. "That's the team with the openly gay captain, isn't it?""I guess so. I don't really pay attention to that stuff.""You don't pay attention to guys?" Rowan pulled up a picture of the hockey captain on his phone. It was that rather infamous snapshot of him in bed with another man - some artist who worked for Marvel? - that leaked on Twitter. It had set off a media firestorm and inspired countless articles, memes, and most amusingly, fanfiction. "Don't tell me you haven't seen this picture before. It was all over the news last year."Grant squinted at the screen. He shrugged, took a bite of sandwich. "Come on, you at least have to admit he's hot.""I don't like his beard.""Well, your beard is better.""You're teasing again?""I promise I'm not," Rowan squeezed his thigh. He very much liked that he couldn't fit his hand all the way around it.Grant fought back the start of a smile. "What's with all the questions?""I don't actually know a whole lot about you. If a man's gonna grope me in the library he should at least tell me his birthday and sports team preferences.""Now you're teasing.""Bullseye.""So, was that... okay? Me coming to see you like that?""I liked it a lot." Shyly, Rowan looked at his sandwich. "No one's ever kissed me at work before.""It was a first for me, too."Their hands found each other. Grant's touch was hesitant at first but he soon relaxed into the valley of his palm. "This is new for both of us, looks like." He massaged the rough, calloused knuckles of the man gazing at him. "Yeah. I guess it is." Grant touched Rowan's face, so smooth and narrow, so unlike his.The librarian's heart picked up speed. Really, this shouldn't have worked. They came from two different worlds, barely knew a thing about each other. Although attraction burned like a bright flame between them, they both had walls up. And yet here they were, letting their guards down bit by bit...Shame filled him suddenly. Rowan had let himself be lonely for so long he'd forgotten what it felt like to find warmth and safety in the company of another man. All because of one man from his past. All because of what he let Luke do to him...Grant's grip on him tightened. "Hey. What's wrong?"He shook himself out of it. Although he dealt with the baggage of it every day, he hadn't directly thought about Luke in a long time. No. He couldn't retread the terror and fear his former lover used to instill in him. He couldn't let the darkness thundering between his lungs ruin today the way it ruined so many other days."Nothing." "You're sure?"Grant didn't look convinced. He was trained to read not only lips but body language, expressions, all the little 'tells' that people didn't realize they had. Rowan silently chastised himself. The deep black smear that was his last relationship would need to be kept closer to the chest."You're... sad." Grant negotiated the timbre of his own voice. Not being able to hear himself was making him self-conscious. "I didn't... mean to make you sad.""No, it's not your fault. I think it's just the birthday blues. They creep up, you know?""You should be happy. You deserve that."With his powerful arms, Grant reached over and pulled Rowan onto his lap. His thighs made for a rather comfortable seat. "I'm happy," Rowan whispered close to his face. He leaned in until their chests touched. "I'm happy," he repeated, and wondered if Grant could use the vibration of his voice to interpret the words. Grant stroked the back of the younger man's neck and softly kissed his hair. "Keep talking to me.""I'm happy when I'm with you," Rowan murmured into his chest. The way Grant's hands dipped from his neck and down his long, slender back told him that he could, indeed, understand what Rowan was trying to say... or at the very least, he felt the intent. The emotion. Rowan lifted his chin. The lumberjack was gazing down at him with an intensity that stole his breath. The connection of their eyes was all Grant needed. He took Rowan's mouth in a deep, hard kiss, swallowing the librarian's soft moan as their tongues melted together. Grant was now rock hard and the subtle grinding on his lap wasn't helping to keep his thoughts under control. The need to devour Rowan, to make the librarian his and only his, was stronger than anything he'd ever felt.Grant took him down onto the gingham blanket in one quick move, snaking an arm around Rowan's waist, hand cupping the back of his head. That was a Navy SEAL for you - always ready. Rowan laughed, both at the eagerness of the move and the lustful grin that creased the man's beard. Rowan drew his fingers along Grant's solid jaw. The feeling of facial hair under his fingertips was delicious, intoxicating. Grant guided the fingers toward his mouth and kissed them. "Thank you for spending your birthday with me." Before Rowan could even reply, Grant bent down and licked the vulnerable nape of his neck. His entire body shuddered and surrendered to the man on top of him, fingers raking through Grant's thick brown hair. He decided right then and there that if he was going to let his guard down, this was the perfect man to do it with. Rowan's lower back arched as Grant's bearded mouth continued to explore his neck.Best birthday ever.
  7. Chapter 4 is now up, and without spoiling anything, I'd say it's a pretty damn important one to read! (It also contains my favourite line of dialogue from Rowan that's only three words long...)
  8. QuinnDK

    Shelter

    Grant was drenched in rain by the time they reached his backyard. He'd been trying cover up Rowan as they struggled through the woods. But it was in vain. The younger man hadn't brought his jacket and just moments into the storm his t-shirt was completely soaked through. Rowan shivered and stumbled his way into the bungalow. Grant immediately threw a wool blanket around him and rubbed his arms with long, firm strokes. He wasn't letting anyone get hypothermia on his watch. "Thanks," Rowan managed through chattering teeth. Grant led him to the bedroom and opened his closet. "You'll need to change into something dry." He laid out one of his plaid shirts, wool socks, a pair of his lounge pants. His need to get warm outpacing his modesty, Rowan dropped the blanket and began to strip. It was no wonder he got cold so quickly - he was ripcord lean, flat and taut, not an ounce of fat on him.Grant faced the door to give him privacy. He wasn't a prude by any means. He'd spent hours in locker rooms, in tight quarters with other men in various states of undress. But changing with your squadmates after drills was a little different than standing in your own bedroom with a man you were trying very hard to act gentlemanly toward.Still, Grant caught glimpses. Not that he was trying to. But he did: ivory skin glistening from the rain; round, pink nipples; a light treasure trail; strong, defined thighs and calves. He definitely had a body for running and climbing. Slender, yes, but not fragile.Not at all what he imagined a librarian would look like without clothes.A finger tapped his arm and Rowan was fully dressed again. He already looked better, a flush of color returning to his cheeks. Grant gave him a towel to dry off his hair."Thanks," Rowan repeated. No chattering or shivering this time. The plaid shirt came down to his thighs but he didn't seem to mind. He actually looked comfortable. "The rain I could deal with, it was all that wind that froze me. I couldn't breathe.""Glad I was with you. How is your ankle?""Better, actually. Just a little sore." He wiped his wet bangs off his face. The brilliant blue of his eyes resurfaced. "You really came to my rescue today.""I did what any man would do.""I don't think just any man would have done that." A chuckle escaped him. "Man. You look like Clark Kent but you're so damn modest.""Clark Kent. Huh." He hadn't heard that one before. His nickname in the Navy was Grizzly Adams. "You think so?""Well, if Clark Kent gave up his journalism career and razor to live in the woods by himself. But really, you've said don't think you're a nice guy. Where does that come from?"A knot hardened in Grant's stomach. His hand went to his chest, expecting to find his dog tags, and then he remembered for the four-hundredth time that he stopped wearing them. Muscle memory was a bitch. "I've done a lot of things I'm not proud of."Much to his surprise, Rowan's face darkened. Like a small cloud briefly blocking out the sun. And then it was gone."I have my own demons too. Voices inside me that whisper and tell me I'm no good. Some days I let myself believe them. But..." He looked at his feet, which looked a little ridiculous in the oversized wool socks. "...but I know at the end of the day that those voices aren't real. Because I see what a difference it makes when I help a student find the scholarly journal they need for an essay. Or when I sit down with an elderly patron who needs my help setting up a Facebook account so she can talk to her grand kids. I choose to help people. Just like you chose to help me today."A smooth hand slid onto his. He looked down, finding Rowan had made contact, and didn't know if he was nervous or grateful or a disorienting mix of both.Rowan's lip movement slowed. The vibration of his voice was different too. Low. Earnest. "Those demons inside you, whatever they are, they don't know what they're talking about. Because they're definitely not in control of the man I'm looking at."What Grant did next was something he did not think about. It was the first reaction that came to mind. Pure impulse.He raised Rowan's hand to his mouth and gently kissed it. And as soon as his lips fell away the regret came thundering in. What was wrong with him? Throwing himself at the first person in years who could stand to be around him longer than a minute? And in his own damn home, too. It was a goddamn scene out of Beauty and the Beast..."I'm sorry," Grant said before he could gauge a reaction. "I'll put your clothes in the dryer." He gathered the wet clothes and left the room without another word. Rowan felt like an idiot.He meant everything he said to Grant but he was moving at a faster, more personal clip than the other man was used to. At least, that's how it seemed from his perspective. He hadn't planned on touching his hand but it was sincere, honest.And the hand kiss, well, that certainly came out of nowhere. Not that he was complaining. He could still feel it lingering along his knuckles. Grant's stubble had scratched the back of his fingers but his mouth was soft and hot. It was so old fashioned, too. Sweet. When was the last time a man had been sweet to him? Thinking about it made his heart catch in this throat.But then he remembered the deep pull of embarrassment in Grant's eyes, the sudden way he shut the situation down.Rowan hadn't given much thought to the other man's sexuality before. He had a huge crush on Grant, yes, but he never assumed those feelings were reciprocated. Maybe he wasn't comfortable with that part of himself. Or maybe it was just an odd reflex that meant nothing.Damn it. On top of everything else he couldn't even excuse himself to leave, he was stuck in Grant's pajamas until his clothes dried. An awkwardness permeated the air. Grant was in the laundry room, a part of the bungalow he hadn't seen yet, and Rowan moved to the living room to watch the storm rage in the front yard. He couldn't deny how comfortable Grant's flannel felt on his naked skin, though. The freshly laundered clothes still held the manly, welcoming scent of their owner. Footsteps. He turned from the window and looked up, up, and up into Grant's steel eyes. "Hey. I'll get out of your way as soon as my clothes are dry."Grant peered down and scanned his face, posture, the tension in his shoulders and arms. Rowan felt another blush creep in under his weighty gaze. The stark difference in their physicality really jumped out at him then: one man broad and solid, the other lean and lanky."I'm sorry," Grant signed. "I took it too far.""No, please don't be sorry.""You had just hurt yourself. You were vulnerable. And in my own house.""If you're apologizing because you thought that you were-""I'm a bigger guy than you. I wasn't giving you much room to say no-""Grant, I swear, I never felt like you were crossing a line." Rowan almost chuckled in disbelief. Really, it wasn't that big a deal. "The only thing you did was kiss my hand. And you pulled away, not me.""What would you have done if I hadn't pulled away?"His breath caught as his heart skipped a beat. "What would you have done if you hadn't pulled away?"Grant, who had spent so much of their time together playing the stoic and immovable one, actually seemed flustered. "I don't really do things like this.""Like kiss the hands of librarians? Yeah, most people tend to avoid that.""I mean I gave up that part of my life. Getting close to people.""Well, you shouldn't. That's not healthy.""You're not my doctor.""I didn't mean to judge, I just-""My life is nobody's business but my own. That's my choice.""I respect that but you shouldn't close yourself off to something just because it scares you.""How do you know it scares me?""I meant-"The conversation had derailed so quickly it made Rowan dizzy. "I only wanted to apologize," Grant said with finality. "I'm sorry things got uncomfortable."Whatever tenderness allowed Grant to let his guard down in the bedroom had become something much more curt and matter-of-fact. Rowan hoped his disappointment didn't show. He felt stupid for getting his hopes up. "It's okay," he said lamely. Grant returned to the laundry room and stayed there until the dryer cycle finished. Rowan changed back into his clothes, gathered his things, and left Grant's bungalow with an awkward, ungraceful handshake. "What's up with you?"Neil leaned against the circulation desk as he munched a handful of chocolate-covered almonds. His preferred late-night-shift snack."I'm trying to get this circulation report printed." Rowan usually gave as good as he got but he wasn't in the mood tonight. Or the last four nights.An almond knocked the side of his head. "Hey!""How long are you going to be in this mood?""I'm not in a mood.""You're seven years too old to be in such a CW teen drama snit, my man.""I am not in a mood or a snit.""Then by all means continue to clench your jaw. Should I just make your next paycheck out to your dentist?""Neil.""Seriously, what's inspiring the rain cloud that's been hanging over your head all week? I would've thought that trip to see the sexy lumberjack-""Is the printer jammed? This is the third time I've hit Control-P.""-would've had you skipping around the Harlequin shelf like a hungry puppy. Especially since you never told me why your delivery took two hours-"Did one of the high school kids wedge another fidget spinner in there? God, I swear we need to start putting the printer in a fiberglass case.""-and especially when Crothers Woods is only half an hour away and it takes maybe ten seconds to hand someone a damn tote bag-"The printer sputtered to life. Finally. Rowan headed for it, all too aware that Neil was nipping at his heels. "We've got an hour until closing. Can you save the nagging for another day?""I did want to run something by you. Not about the sexy lumberjack, I promise.""Ah, I can feel my spirits lifting already.""I'm planning on heading home a little early tonight to surprise the wife.""Anniversary?""Yes." Neil cringed. "Well, last week. Unbeknownst to me.""Uh oh, he unloaded a three-syllable word." Rowan snatched the report from the printer. "Marilyn must have been thrilled.""She was ecstatic, trust me. I wanted to know if you'd be alright closing by yourself."He looked around, noting the library's usual emptiness this time of night. "Yeah, we're clear of stragglers, I should be fine. Commence damage control.""Thanks, kid." Neil gathered his coat and briefcase. He leaned in from the exit doorway before he left. "And it's none of my business, as you are all too quick to point out, but whatever's got you in a funk? You'll move on. You're young and still have all your hair.""I'll be okay. I promise." He fanned the printer-warm paper against his chest. "Circ report on your desk alright?""Yeah, yeah." Neil waved him off as he left. "Don't forget your keys this time!""Yeah, yeah!" The exit door shut. Rowan found a space on Neil's desk between a Jessica Jones figure and a Daredevil coffee mug to dump the report. And then he turned with a deep sigh to face the empty library. Without any patrons to keep an eye on, Rowan found an errant cart of unshelved paperback novels and guided them to the fiction shelves. Shelving had been a decent stress reliever for him, it reminded him of his days as a page, just starting out in the public library system. It gave him something to focus on. Something that wasn't about the mortifying way last Saturday ended. As he slid the first paperback into its rightful place, the front door opened and closed. Ugh, Neil was so predictable. "I told you to remember your keys!" Rowan called. "Make sure Marilyn knows I warned you. And I would avoid telling her I'm your 'work wife', she flinched at me the last time she visited."He shelved another three paperbacks. No answer from Neil, only the sound of footsteps coming his way."Dude, your office is on the other side. It's just me and James Patterson over here."A couple of knocks echoed from somewhere in the stacks. His brow furrowed. Why was Neil knocking? He took a peek out of his aisle and into the catacomb of stacks that surrounded him. A familiar voice called out. "Rowan? Rowan?"Heart fluttering, he recognized the deep, halting tone. That definitely wasn't the senior librarian."Grant..."Rowan turned around and there he was at the far end of the aisle, looking big and powerful and sullen and handsome in the dismal overhead light.He started to apologize for mistaking him for Neil but realized, feeling like an idiot, that Grant wouldn't have heard that."What are you doing here?" His eyes were saucers. "Is everything okay?""Can we talk?""If you want to return something or you're not satisfied with your delivery fulfillment then I could-""It's not about the damn books. Please, I need to talk to you."Rowan's stomach wanted to drop right out of him. He nodded, swallowing his fear, and led the two of them through the stacks and into the adult reading room. They sat opposite each other on big, comfy reading chairs. A table of rabbit-eared Entertainment Weekly magazines sat between them. That seemed safe. A barrier. "Okay," Rowan nervously raked his fingers up and down his thighs. "Let's talk.""Are you still my delivery person?""Uh, I..." That wasn't quite what he was expecting. "Yeah, as far as I know.""And you're still coming next Saturday?""Delivery frequency is every month, not every week. That gives the patron enough time to finish using the materials.""What if I'm already finished."A statement, not a question. Rowan tilted his head. "It's been five days. You finished all fifteen books already?""What if I don't find any of the books interesting and want to return them.""I thought this wasn't about the books.""It's not.""Then why are you here?"The man breathed deeply. His pecs, still impressive even under his coat, rose and fell. "I wanted to make sure you were still on my route. And that last Saturday didn't change anything.""You came all the way here to ask me that? You could've sent an email.""I needed to know.""You needed to know at 10 o'clock at night?""Yes."Rowan had to admit, he was impressed. He thought Grant's lone wolf nature kept him from setting foot outside his house. The fact that he came all this way, just to see him, talk to him again..."I'm still assigned to your route. Earth continues to revolve around the sun. Nothing's changed, I swear."Grant absently ran his hand over his stubble, which was much fuller and darker. He hadn't shaved since their last encounter.Rowan smiled at him gently. "I think it's really nice you came.""You do?""Yeah. Also, I can fingerspell my name so much faster now. I don't trip up on the A-to-N hand shapes anymore.""I'm glad to hear that. I mean, to learn that. You know what I mean." Seeing him nervous like this was kind of adorable. As they wrapped things up, Rowan led him back through the maze of stacks. Their pace was leisurely and unhurried. A weight had been lifted. At least, that's what Rowan thought. His guest still looked distracted."Everything okay?" he asked as they passed the biographies."I've been thinking a lot about what you told me," Grant struggled to say. "About how you had demons, too. How we all have those voices inside us.""I remember.""I don't want to let those voices speak for me. Not this time."Goosebumps spiked the back of Rowan's neck. "What do you mean?"Grant slid a mighty hand around the small of the younger man's back. Oh my god."Is this okay?" Frozen with anticipation, Rowan nodded. Grant's other hand went to the back of his head and gently threaded his fingers through the soft brown hair. Nothing like this had ever happened to him before. "And this? This is okay?"Rowan breathed deeply, filing his lungs with the man's spicy, masculine scent. "Yes.""You can say no. I won't be mad.""Grant." He delicately placed a finger over the man's mouth. "Read my lips."Grant's eyes darkened with lust. God, he was so sexy. Dark and mysterious. Challenging. Gruff. But ready. Rowan was ready too. He stood on the tips of his toes - he had to, rather embarrassingly - and eased forward. Grant eased forward too, offering his mouth, encouraging the younger man. His lips found Grant's and lightly tasted them. Grant let out a fierce, shuddering breath, reacting to the delicate yet overwhelming sensation. He pressed more firmly onto Rowan's mouth, making the younger man gasp. And then Rowan's arms wound their way around his trunk-like torso as their bodies eagerly ground together.Grant knew he had to seriously dial down his desire to maul, ravage, and consume the hot young thing in his arms. Otherwise he could get in trouble. But it was hard to control himself when Rowan pulled their faces tighter, his skin soft and warm, his tongue pulsing against his lips, then slipping inside his mouth. Grant met him with an inviting lick, while the librarian's tongue darted inside and undulated against him.Rowan muffled a cry of delight as Grant grunted - actually grunted - and pushed him against the shelf at his back. Books spilled to the floor. He didn't care. Not when such an unbelievably sexy man was exploring his mouth with his tongue and sliding a warm hand down his back to grope his ass. Grant's hips thrusted forward and Rowan felt it for the first time, an immense hardness straining against the man's jeans. He thrusted back as their kiss deepened, both of them swollen with need. Rowan's hands explored his dense, beefy chest, which flexed under his eager touch. Then Grant bent, grabbed him under both thighs and easily lifted him up with both arms. Fuck. The casual display of strength turned him on even more. Rowan hooked his legs around the man's waist, claiming him. Mine, all mine.Grant pushed his thick erection against Rowan's taint, only a few layers of denim and cotton separating their sex. Another book fell, one nearly the size of a cinder block. The sound of it clattering to the floor briefly jolted Rowan back to reality. He was the only one who heard it.He wanted more, wanted all of the delicious man he hooked his legs around. But... wait. That couldn't happen now. Could it? He pulled away. It took a moment to catch his breath. "Hi. I- we-""This is crazy.""I'm not the only one who noticed, huh?""I wasn't expecting this to go so fast.""I wasn't expecting this to go at all."The front door opened and closed. Rowan frowned at the noise. "Shit.""What's wrong?""Someone just came into the library."He crouched to peek through the stacks. It offered a distorted view of the circulation desk where a prim old woman glared at her watch. Ugh, Mrs. Stillwell, he thought with an odd mixture of relief and disappointment. She had a weird habit of visiting fifteen minutes before closing with a volley of questions about her account. Still, it was a fairly good exit point. Not that he wasn't aching to feel Grant grind him against a shelf of urban fantasy novels, but this was all happening so damn fast. He needed time to process it. The distraction of Mrs. Stillwell seemed a small relief to Grant, too. "I should go. I'll let you deal with this.""Alright," Rowan breathed and lowered himself back to the ground. He readjusted his rumpled shirt and smoothed down the wrinkles. His erection, though, would take a few moments longer. "Well. Nice of you to drop by.""I want to see you again.""I do too.""I mean it.""I do too.""Good.""You can text me if you want. My cell number was on the business card I gave you."Grant steeled himself. "I don't think I've ever... texted... before.""First time for everything.""Yeah." He nodded. The idea started to feel good to him. "Yeah, okay."Grant turned in the direction of Mrs. Stillwell to make sure they were sufficiently hidden. He surprised the handsome librarian with a goodbye kiss, hot and sweet and slow. Rowan's face was flush and red with beardburn. Despite that, he smiled. Grant carried the memory of it all the way home.
  9. Fire & Icing is my labor of love, it's still being worked on in fits and starts. Book of Sky and Stars is being put on hiatus - it's getting a little complicated to write and doing contemporary stuff is easier for me at the moment. My chapters may take a while, but I hope they're worth the wait! (Try not to be too frustrated with me, but I actually have another new story I'm planning on getting out soon, too. 🙃 )
  10. A handsome librarian meets a sexy lumberjack. Sparks fly. Of course, it's a little more complicated than that... Let me know what you think as the story progresses.
  11. QuinnDK

    Unspoken

    From: Rowan <rwatson@torontopubliclibrary.ca>To: Neil <nburroughs@torontopubliclibrary.ca>Subject: Home Library Services driver assignmentHi Neil,I was wondering how HLS decides which driver gets what delivery route? And also how do you become a delivery driver? And also can drivers select their own routes? P.S. A woman has been staring daggers at me for the past five minutes because I wont "let her" read Bridget Jones' Diary. ***From: Neil To: Rowan Subject: Re: Home Library Services driver assignmentIs this about the sexy lumberjack?***From: RowanTo: NeilSubject: Re: Home Library Services driver assignmentThis is not about "the sexy lumberjack". Please don't make me type things like "the sexy lumberjack". Gah, you made me do it twice.P.S. The woman is convinced that I'm lying about the last copy of Bridget being on loan and she's threatening to come to your office. ***From: Neil To: Rowan Subject: Re: Home Library Services driver assignmentIf you haven't already submitted the sexy lumberjack's application, give it to me and I'll attach a request (read: a demand) that you get assigned his route. There's some insurance something-or-other you'll need to sign, but otherwise it's as good as yours.P.S. PLEASE direct that lady to the shrine of Debbie Macomber that is our Print Fiction MAC-MCK aisle before she stomps (I'm imagining she stomps) her way over here.***From: RowanTo: NeilSubject: Re: Home Library Services driver assignmentYou don't have to do that. But... if you want to do that... that would be really cool. P.S. She refuses to read Debbie Macomber. ***From: Neil To: Rowan Subject: Re: Vocabulary"Really cool". There's that articulate young man I hired. P.S. Keep her away from me. Don't even tell her that "Neil, the senior librarian" exists. I'm Tony Stark now, as evidenced by my new and legally binding email signature: Tony StarkCEO of Stark Industriesand leader of The Avengersand kisser of Gwyneth Paltrowand 100% not Neil Burroughs, M.L.I.S.***From: RowanTo: Neil Subject: Re: If you're Tony Stark then I'm Wonder WomanJust because you have the same goatee as him doesn't mean you also have an arc reactor embedded in your chest.***From: Neil To: Rowan Subject: Re: You'd look very good in the bootsI dare you to walk the twenty feet from your desk to my office and say that!***From: RowanTo: Neil Subject: Re: I'll wear them to my next shiftOne moment, Mr. Stark, I'm sending Bridget Jones lady to say it for me.***From: NeilTo: RowanSubject: Re: Junior librarians are evil and I demand they all be firedThat's it. No sexy lumberjack delivery route for you. "A blind date?""A blind date," Rowan's roommate Aarani confirmed."Punching me in the face in front of a group of strangers in public would achieve the same result and you wouldn't even need to buy me dinner.""You're impossible," Aarani cried from their kitchen down the hall. "I never understood what it meant for someone to be impossible until this very moment.""Love you too," Rowan replied absently. He shut his Macbook and massaged his eyes. Spending the entire afternoon watching American Sign Language tutorials on YouTube had the unhappy side effect of making the living room blurry and distorted. "You have 'I'm not really listening to you' voice.""I do not."Aarani stuck her head into the hall, a great curtain of black hair cascading down her slim shoulders. "I've already showed this guy your picture. He's totally into you. He digs the sexy male librarian look."Rowan grimaced. "So it would be a blind date where I'm the only one going in blind? And how exactly does a 'sexy male librarian' look?""Like you.""You're crazy.""No, I'm hungry. And I'm also the one making dinner, so be nice.""You're a fantastic roommate.""There's that voice again.""Aarani."She appeared from the kitchen with two plates and an exaggerated sigh reserved only for her closest friend. As teenagers suffering through high school together, neither of them could have predicted they'd be roommates in their late 20s, but the intense bond of their friendship all but guaranteed it. As they grew older, Aarani's social circle blossomed while Rowan's shrank. Though they remained attached at the hip, he couldn't help but feel like her pity friend at times - such as when she pitched him ideas like dating a man sight unseen.Rowan stared at his plate, stomach grumbling, but his mind elsewhere. Aarani nudged him with the blunt end of her fork. "Earth to bookworm. Not hungry?""Hungry." His hand formed a C-shape and brushed his chest in a downward swoop. Aarani peered at him from her end of the couch. "What's that?""Sign language for hungry. I've been trying to teach myself.""That's why you've been hunkered over your laptop all week? I was starting to worry you became one of those flat Earth truthers."Rowan smiled ruefully into his plate. He circled a shrimp in a puddle of sauce. "Huh. Sign language," Aarani said through a mouthful, "Wouldn't French be more useful?""I'm learning so I can help out a patron." "Which one? The sexy lumberjack?""Why is everyone calling him that?""Oh! My former manager Sharon, the one who left to take care of her twins? She's actually a certified interpreter. I could give you her number.""Really? That would be great. I think I'd retain more information face-to-face. There's only so many times I can hear 'Remember to subscribe to my channel!' at the beginning of every damn video..."There was a sparkle in Aarani's eyes that matched the cinnamon glow of her skin. "I'll give you her number if you let me set you up on that blind date.""Please stop calling it a blind date.""His name is Michiel.""Tell him I said congratulations.""He's from the Netherlands and he's not married.""I'm sure one has nothing to do with the other.""Rowan!""Look, I don't want Sharon's number if it comes with conditions, okay? I'll stick with the YouTubers - a declaration I never want to make again." He interrupted her before she could rebut. "My love life is not your responsibility."Aarani let her face fall into her hands. "I'm just trying to be a friend.""We've known each other 15 years," Rowan said, softer this time. "You've got that part handled pretty well.""You know you're hot, right? That your self-admitted inability to connect with another man has nothing to do with your looks?"Rowan set down his fork, suddenly not so hungry. "I guess we're in the blunt talk portion of the evening.""I'm only saying these things because you need to hear them. Because I want you to figure things out and be happy.""How do you know I'm not happy by myself?""Rowan..." She looked embarrassed and lowered her voice. "When I travel for work you practically have a panic attack.""That's not-" He stopped himself. What could he say? That she was lying? Their creaky old duplex apartment felt haunted whenever he was by himself. He couldn't sleep those nights when Aarani was traveling or at her boyfriend's place. But admitting that out loud - as a nearly 28 year old man - was embarrassing in a way that stopped his breath."I worry," Aarani continued. "I can't help it. I know your last relationship was enough to put you off dating for a lifetime. But at some point, don't you think it would be healthier to... move on?"Move on. Rowan broke off her glance. The tight concern in her eyes was too much to bear. The mood was darkening much too quickly now, like a blinking light bulb running out of power. "Move on to an unmarried Dutchman named Michiel, you mean?" he asked with a wryness he hoped would brush the darkness aside. "Fine. You can have Sharon's number without having to meet Michiel. Just promise me that you won't put off being happy?""I'm not putting it off. I promise."They finished dinner and spent the rest of the evening Netflixing in amicable silence. Rowan was the first to call it a night. His first Home Library Service delivery was the next morning. Which meant seeing a certain man again...Before entering his bedroom he saw the envelope - Grant's envelope - on his dresser drawer. He turned on his heel back to the living room. Aarani's glance narrowed. "You have 'I need advice' face now.""Say you had something that didn't belong to you, that should really be in the hands of its owner... but... returning it to them would probably hurt them. A lot. And holding onto it might only make things worse. What would you do?"She thought for a long time. "I would return this exam booklet back to my ethics professor and ask for a different question." Grant studied himself in the mirror. Seemed weird - and also very wrong - to be nervous on a Saturday morning.Last time the librarian was in his home, Grant had been in his dirty sweats. Probably looked like a slob. He made an effort this time: a shower, a maroon Henley shirt, a pair of his nicer jeans. Was a Henley too casual? He shaved, too, for the first time in forever. He went from a beard to stubble, hoping it would look a little less scary. It'd been a damn long time since he cared about not looking scary.The doorbell notification light flashed. That was it. He was here.Grant ran from the bathroom, down the hall, through the living room, into his foyer, heavy footsteps practically shaking the foundation of his house. He steadied himself for a beat before opening the front door. "Mr. Wolfe!"Rowan stepped forward, smiling and fresh-faced, eyes glittering with warmth, a ray of sunlight in the shadow of his porch. "It's so nice to see you again."Grant nodded, relieved he hadn't opened the door to some other library delivery driver, and humbled by someone so handsome being so effortlessly friendly to him.Rowan tugged the hem of his jacket. "I was in a bit of rush to get here on time. I hope I don't look like too much of a mess."That seemed hard to believe. His soft, chocolate brown hair fell in perfectly rumpled waves - he must have run his fingers through it moments before activating the doorbell. Grant found himself resisting the urge to reach out and feel for himself."No. You look fine." He hadn't spoken aloud since last Saturday and the words took longer than usual to come out. Should've practiced more, you big dolt. You knew you'd be talking to a hearing person again. Rowan's inquisitive eyes scanned him. "And you shaved! I can actually see your face now."Grant's hand reflexively went to his jawline. Felt like sandpaper. A closer shave was one of the few things he missed about his military service. The barbers on base had been experts with a straight razor. "Don't worry, Mr. Wolfe, that's not a bad thing.""Oh. Okay."Jesus. Get better at the small talk. Rowan lifted the bright red tote bag by his side. The Toronto Public Library's logo was stitched into it. "So, I come bearing books. There's about ten paperbacks and five hardcovers in there. I'm supposed to warn you about how heavy the bag is but I think that only applies to our elderly or infirm patrons."Grant accepted the tote bag and negotiated the weight in his hand. "Don't think this will give me too much trouble. I've carried sandbags heavier than this.""Sandbags?""Yes. It was part of my tr- truh-" My training. The word stilled in his mouth. He remembered how to say it, how the mouth shape was formed. But he moved to Canada to get away from those words and memories, not to rush headlong back into them."Part of your? Training?" A knowing look crossed Rowan's boyish face. "Let me guess, baseball player. No, rugby player. Definitely rugby, right? You've got the build."Grant's eyes darted to the ground and back up again. Cold pinpricks shuddered up his massive arms. "Rowan. Can I speak to you about something?""Of course. Did you want more books for next month's delivery? You can request up to fifty items.""No, no. Do you think we can talk inside?"Rowan's posture shifted, tightened. "Inside?""If you're comfortable.""I am. I mean, okay. I mean, I'm not uncomfortable-" His lips started moving at a nervous speed. Grant's ability to read him dropped sharply."Wait. Please, slower. Remember?" He gestured the sign for slower, an echo from their first meeting. Rowan's chest grew then shrank. "I'm sorry. I keep forgetting."They stepped into the foyer, halving the distance between their bodies. Grant inhaled the scent of lavender shampoo off the younger man. An uncertain blush of desire roared through his body."Is something wrong?" "I need to explain something to you." This sudden need surprised even him, but if they were going to see each other on a semi-regular basis, Grant thought it was important to divulge. "Last week, when we met. You may have noticed there were a couple of times when it looked liked I had... checked out.""Well, let me apologize for that. I don't always enunciate as well I could.""No, that's not what I meant. This isn't about me being deaf."The librarian shifted again. He started to brush his bangs away - a nervous habit, it seemed - but for once they weren't in his face. "Okay, I'm listening.""Sometimes, I..." Grant started, and hoped against hope that he would put the right words together, that he wouldn't come off as crazy or strange or someone that this incredibly gentle young man should fear. "I have these... I suppose they could be called episodes. I have these episodes. They make me confused. Make me think... that I'm somewhere else, in certain points of my past. I was in the military. Navy SEAL. Don't like thinking or talking about it too much. Every once in a while it just... it floods me."Shame flared in his chest, hot and unwelcome. He didn't like admitting these things to anyone and yet a dam wall had broken wide open, forcing the words to surge forth."So if you're around me and I ever seem lost, or angry, or even scared, it's not because of you. I just need space and time to breathe. Then it's over after a few moments. I just want you know that it's... it's okay to be with me when I get like that. I won't hurt you." The next sentence was the hardest for him to get out. "I don't want you to be afraid of me.""I'm not," Rowan said immediately. He'd been listening attentively, nodding, taking it in. Though his brow was knit with concern there was no trace of pity in his expression. "I really appreciate you telling me that, Mr. Wolfe." "Call me Grant. Don't really like the formal stuff, if that's alright.""Of course. Grant, then," Rowan smiled. The shame in his chest subsided and there was finally enough room in his lungs to take in a full breath. He stood nearly a foot over the average person, knew every type of chokehold and palmstrike, and could perform the quickest gun disarm of anyone in his former Spec Ops team - and yet it was a simple conversation that had him sweating bullets."Would you like a cup of coffee?" Grant offered after his heart rate came back to Earth."I'd love one," Rowan nodded, and together they headed to the kitchen. Honesty seemed like an important thing to Grant. That thought clutched Rowan like a vice as he took a seat at the kitchen table, fiddling with the zipper of his jacket. The note to Tatiana was neatly folded into the breast pocket. He was dead set on giving it back to Grant and he was really, truly serious this time.Except, now? Doubt was creeping back in. To admit to having spells of confusion, displacement, and even anger must have taken tremendous effort on Grant's part. He didn't seem like the type of guy who shared much of himself with anyone. Rowan didn't want to change the mood so drastically and so soon after his confession.Perhaps he could put it off just a little while longer."Your jacket," Grant motioned to him. "You can take it off.""Oh. Alright." He unzipped it awkwardly, all too aware of the thin t-shirt he wore underneath. He hoped it wouldn't get too drafty inside...Truthfully, he didn't know how long he could stay, the library would want the delivery van back sooner than later. But he didn't want to be rude - and he especially didn't want to pass up the opportunity for them to spend more time with each other. He watched his host prepare coffee. Grant had an intense, laser-like focus, as if nothing else existed except the kettle, the mugs, the tray. As the telltale whistle of the kettle shrieked, a device on the kitchen counter started to flash. Alerted, Grant lifted the kettle from the stove. "It's sensitive to noise," Grant said, answering his silent question. "God knows I need it. I drink a lot of coffee.""Me too. I'm an addict.""Cream? Sugar?""Yes, please," Rowan signed in response.Grant regarded him with surprise. "Did I teach you that?""I'm practicing. By myself. A little." His signing still wasn't perfect - it probably wouldn't ever be. But Rowan wanted to make an effort. "How come?" Grant joined him at the table with their mugs. The warmth of his nearness made Rowan sit up a little straighter. "It's good to know another language. And if I can help... you know, someone... or anyone with it, that's a nice bonus."Grant nodded. They sipped coffee. One of these days I'll get an expression out of him. That wasn't to say that Rowan didn't like Grant's face. He liked it the moment they laid eyes on each other. It was a face carved by a hard, but loving hand. Then there was the rest of him. God, where to start? When Grant opened the door and stood there in his dark red Henley, beard shorn down to a medium stubble, sleeves pulled up to reveal those tanned, hairy forearms... well, damn. Even his hair, so thick and tousled, had been combed off his face. Rowan had momentarily forgotten how to speak. Concentrating was difficult even now. The buttons below Grant's collar were undone, revealing a swirl of dark chest hair. The shirt itself seemed a size too small - accentuating his ripped athlete's build instead of hiding it. Oh, he most certainly differed from the scrawny teens and hunchbacked seniors Rowan saw on daily basis.And then he realized he was staring. Grant was staring back, lips slightly parted."Ah!" Rowan exclaimed, to shake himself out of his stupor more than anything, "I forgot to tell you. I can fingerspell my name now.""Can you show me?"He sucked in a small, nervous breath and began what he spent all night practicing. "My name is R-O-W-A..."Shit. The 'N' always tripped him up. Going smoothly from the 'A' to 'N' hand shape was a little confusing since they were so similar. Where was he supposed to tuck his thumb in again? Between the pinky and ring finger or the ring and middle finger?"Here." Grant reached over and guided his signing hand. "N. Like this."Though his fingers were rough and callused, his touch was gentle, careful. As if he were handling a treasured object. Rowan's body thrummed with heat. "So... the thumb... goes between... the ring and the middle finger." He wondered if Grant could also read the shakiness of his voice and hoped really, really hard that he couldn't. He tried again."My name is R-O-W-A... N.""Good," Grant signed back. "Good job.""Yes!" Rowan clapped his hands together and laughed. "I'll get better at this. Maybe. I hope.""You're doing fine."He gave the moment a chance to breathe before he replied. "You're very kind.""Not really."Rowan laughed. "Well, you are to me."It was sweet, but he had to wonder. Was Grant really so terse with other people that these little niceties were considered rare? He had no idea what the man was like when he interacted with anyone other than him. Rowan took another sip and cleared his throat. "You said you were new to the city. How do you like the neighborhood so far?""It's fine.""Are your neighbors nice?"His great shoulders shrugged. "This one couple introduced themselves to me. They kept trying to come over with casseroles, pies. Got annoying. Told them to stop.""I'm sure they were just trying to be neighborly...""They thought I was a charity case. Weekly invites to their church group and all that.""What about your friends? Do they live nearby?"The corner of Grant's mouth hooked into a humorless half-smirk. A smirk that said without saying, I know what you're trying to do. Well, there's that expression you've been trying so hard to get out of him..."I keep to myself.""What do you do for fun, then?" Rowan softly tapped the edge of his mug. He really didn't know anything about Grant, now that he thought about it. Where he was from, if he worked, if he had a girlfriend... "Fun?""Yeah. What does Grant Wolfe do on a beautiful Saturday morning like this?""I normally take a walk around the woods before lunch.""By yourself?""I take my coffee and a book to the pond there sometimes.""A pond? This city has ponds? I haven't seen one since I went camping in grade eight.""Would you like to see it?""Right now?""If you have time."Rowan tamped down the instinct to check his phone screen. This seemed a little more important than keeping to some dumb schedule. "Sure, a walk sounds great."Moments later they were outside in the brisk morning air. Crothers Woods was accessible through Grant's backyard and they followed a beautiful, sun-dappled dirt path through the sea of trees. Autumn had brushed the leaves with magnificent strokes of gold and red. Rowan couldn't ever recall seeing Toronto like this. Even the air was different - cool with a trace of earthiness.Rowan hugged his arms to his chest, lips curving into a soft smile as Grant led him off the path to an opening through the trees. Ahead of him, Grant walked with a long, confident stride, his shoulders wide and square. He was a Navy SEAL, after all. Learning that made a lot of sense to Rowan. The man's physicality, his stoic and powerful presence... even the sense of danger in his gaze. It all pointed to the steely confidence of a man who had served his country. (Well, his country, not mine, Rowan reminded himself.) They walked until they reached a wide clearing. Further ahead was the pond, flat and still as a mirror. As they approached the waterline Grant bent down and skimmed a rock across it, sending waves of perfect ripples across the surface.Neither of them had said a word since they left his house. That was quite alright. Their silence matched their surroundings. Trees cast shadows across the shoreline like the soft quilt Rowan hid under as a child. It was comforting. He always did feel safer unseen.Grant skipped another rock, fleece jacket ruffling in the sudden wind. He looked like a model in one of those outdoor gear catalogs. Rowan tapped his arm to get his attention. "How do you sign 'beautiful'?"After being shown, Rowan mimicked the sign. A sweeping motion across his face. "This place... beautiful.""Good job," Grant signed back."Am I an expert signer yet?"Grant's half-smirk returned. It actually had a hint of humor to it. "Not yet."The wind howled again, colder this time. Clouds were encroaching on the sun, making Grant frown. "Looks like a storm's coming."Rowan followed his gaze until he spotted a tree, old and low, hovering over the far edge of the pond. Something about the dry white bark and the random coil of branches struck him with a vivid familiarity."Oh my god. It's my castle."Grant stared at him, probably thinking he misread his lips. "That's what I used to call this tree in my backyard when I was a kid. It looked exactly like the one on the far side of the pond. I mean, it's uncanny."He ran to it. Childlike excitement fueled every step. Up close, the resemblance was even more striking. He swooped his fingers along the crevices that veined the bark. "I used to climb that tree every day after school," he said as Grant caught up with him. "Sometimes I didn't even want to come down, not even for dinner. My mom would get so mad. Sounds silly, I know. But I loved being in my castle.""How come?""It made me feel safe."His hands continued to roam the tree's old, weathered skin. Its long, thick limbs sagged heavily to the ground. Rowan felt one foot lift, then the other, and before he knew it he had taken point on the lowest branch. Grant moved closer to him. Stood up straighter. "Careful.""I've been climbing trees all my life, dude. I'll be fine." He reached the next highest branch. The thrill of escape that exhilarated him as a child came racing back into his veins. "You don't know how sturdy those branches are. It's an old tree.""Grant, really," he almost laughed, ignoring the creakiness he felt beneath his shoes, "I'll be okay." He climbed onto the next highest branch. Then the next. Grant was tense now, tenser than he really needed to be, in Rowan's opinion. The view from this height was terrific, though the sight of heavy clouds rolling across the horizon was slightly worrying. "Hey, do you think it's going to rai-"A loud SNAP that only Rowan heard filled the air. His footing disappeared and all he saw as he tumbled down was the blur of the surrounding forest. Then he saw Grant, suddenly there like a big dark wall, arms extended, reaching, catching...They slammed into the grass. The larger man covered most of him, one of his hands tucking Rowan's head protectively into his chest. His other arm was around Rowan's waist.Not how I thought this would happen. All he could hear was the ringing in his ears and the heart thundering in his ribcage. And he thought, maybe, Grant's lips were pressed against his hair. Or was it his imagination?Grant's weight lifted and his hands searched him, gentle but purposeful. Looking for injuries. Of the two of them, he seemed way more concerned. Rowan was simply trying to quiet the storm beneath his chest.Eventually, Grant's voice started to penetrate the roar of adrenaline. "Don't move. Are you hurt?"Rowan tried to push a 'No' through his stampede of breaths, but when it didn't come, he signed it instead. It was one of the first signs he memorized, and one of the easiest - the forefinger, middle finger, and thumb clamping together. Grant exhaled. It sounded like relief. "Told you not to climb it.""Sorry.""You're impulsive.""I'm not. Usually.""Don't try anything like that again." His admonishment was sharp."So much for my professional tree climbing career, huh?""You could've broken your arm. You could've..."Grant trailed off and a distance fogged the intense grey of his eyes.A fragile silence. The kind that tingled. Rowan dared to break it. "Hey. I really am sorry."Grant frowned, shook his head, and snapped back to the present. "Come on, stand up."Then Rowan realized things hurt. His shoulder, his hip. Pain shot through his right ankle. Grant's ruddy face crinkled with concern. "You're hurt.""No, I-" Rowan didn't want him to worry but lying was pointless. "A little."Grant's strong hands helped him to his feet. Rowan put a little pressure on his ankle. Not broken but definitely too tender to walk on. "Here." Grant's arm hooked around his waist. "We'll go slow. Lean into me."Rowan did as he was told. He fit perfectly into the muscular crevasse between Grant's arm and chest. Since they weren't facing each other, he signed as he spoke. "Thank you for helping me.""You're welcome," Grant signed with his free hand.Slow and steady, they started down the path back into the woods. It wasn't particularly graceful, with Rowan awkwardly relying on his left foot for forward movement, but Grant remained patient and careful. At one point, Rowan stole a glance in his direction and saw the taller man was concentrating entirely on him. His big dark brows had bunched together and his mouth was a hard, straight line, as if balancing a priceless antique with one hand. "I'm okay," Rowan signed with a chuckle. "I wont break."Grant looked away. "I shouldn't have brought you here. It was my fault you got hurt.""Hey." Rowan tapped his shoulder, drawing their eyes back together. "I got hurt because I wasn't listening. I was being dumb. I'm glad you brought me here, I liked seeing the woods with you.""You did?""Yeah. It's a whole other world. Trees and secret paths and a pond. Plus you're a really nice guy.""No I'm not.""Oh, come on! A mean guy wouldn't let me lean on him.""I don't always feel like a nice guy.""What do you feel right now?" Rowan held his breath after the words left his lips. He knew he was upping the ante."I suppose I feel... useful. Right now.""Useful.""Yes.""Do you feel anything else?"The heavy clouds that had been gathering all morning finally fulfilled their promise and unleashed a spectacular boom of thunder. Grant pointed skyward. He looked relieved. "That. I feel that.""Good save."They continued on toward the woods as the first drop of rain hit the curve of Rowan's goosebump-pebbled neck.
  12. Rowan took a seat on the living room sofa while Grant dried off his chest with a towel. Clearing his throat, Rowan became very interested in examining the stitches of the sofa cushions. He hadn't been around such casual partial nudity since his last gym visit. A year and a half ago."Coffee?" Grant asked. "Oh, yeah, sure." He realized a moment too late that he'd hidden the movement of his lips. He corrected his posture and the position of his chin. "Yes, please. Thank you."Grant draped the heavy towel around his shoulders but it couldn't conceal the power of his body. He didn't seem the type to exercise just for vanity; he was a honed machine, built for a boxing ring or fighting cage. Yet here they were in the comfort of his home and there was too much wariness in his stance, too much danger. Why? Rowan didn't think of himself as intimidating by any definition of the word. "Do you need any help?" he offered. "No." Grant shot off to the kitchen, that gruff expression never changing. As soon as he disappeared Rowan collapsed into the sofa, hands shielding his face. Ugh, it was awkward. No denying that. The situation was uncomfortable to begin with and now that he was dealing with an impossibly gorgeous lumberjack, well...Rowan peeked through his finger tent and took in his pristine, spare surroundings. No television, no pictures or any personal objects of any kind. Just the sofa, a coffee table, and several half-empty bookshelves. Of everything in the room only the fireplace, with its blackened brick edges and deep smoky scent, seemed to get any use at all. He was still hunched into his defeated little curl when Grant returned with a tray of coffee. The taller man made a noise - a grunt that was caught between surprise and confusion - which made Rowan sit straight up. "I was just..." he started, but Grant settled onto the chair across from him and didn't seem that interested in an explanation. He was now in a tanktop and sweats."Spell your name for me." "Sorry?""Your name," Grant said louder as he tapped a blank pad of paper on the table. "Spell it."He did as he was told, feeling Grant's slate grey eyes all over him. When he finished, Rowan pushed the pad in his direction."Roh-wan?""That's my name, believe it or not. It's actually a dumb story. When my mom was in labor she read that the Rowan tree in England was believed to protect people from witches and that was the only thing that calmed her down before the epidural kicked in. In Gaelic it means someone who heals, and... I'm talking a lot about my name, aren't I?"Grant pinned him with an expression as opaque as his eyes. He drank his entire coffee in one non-nonchalant gulp. "Why are you here, again?"Right, Rowan thought with a twinge of embarrassment. Stop wasting the man's time and get down to business.They spent the next several minutes going over Grant's home delivery application, filling in gaps, correcting misinformation. The mystery of his phone number was solved: Grant had been using a phone relay service that he recently decided to disconnect."It was very annoying." He signed annoying for emphasis.Thankfully, Grant also had a smartphone and agreed to update his record with the number. He then provided an email address but warned, "I don't like to check it.""Well, you're going to have start liking it, Mr. Wolfe. Especially if you plan on using our services."Rowan explained his job as a librarian and learned that the correct term for Grant was deafened, meaning he'd lost his hearing as an adult. It fell under the realm of eligibility for the program and the news seemed to be a genuine relief. Grant's shoulders, broad as a mountain rage, actually relaxed somewhat."What can the library deliver for me?""Books, magazines, and DVDs. You'll receive a monthly delivery. You can request specific titles yourself through the library website. Or if you prefer, you can give me a list of genres and formats you're interested in and the selecting can be done for you.""Books," Grant signed. It looked exactly how Rowan thought it would: two palms opening side by side. "Only books."Rowan rather liked watching Grant sign as he talked, it lent his words a certain expressiveness that his face (handsome as it was) didn't quite allow. Even if he hadn't smiled once during their conversation, he still seemed engaged and interested."And what genres interest you?""Biographies. Literary fiction.""So, anything that's won an award?" Rowan teased. "I'm working my way through the complete list of Giller Prize winners." "I'll have to make a note of that." Grant scanned the pucker of Rowan's lips to the arch of his brows. "You're surprised.""I'm what?""The way your eyebrows raised when you spoke. You looked surprised.""It's just- I work in my branch's circulation department and if something hasn't been adapted into a movie or Netflix series, patrons aren't very interested in reading it." A pause. "And now I sound like a judgmental snob...""No, no." Grant shook his head and then signed, "You're fine.""I really didn't mean to. The reason I'm a librarian is because I want to encourage anyone to read or access whatever information they want. I just can't help but notice certain trends, I guess."Grant repeated the You're fine sign. If he was offended, he didn't show it. "What else are you interested in reading, then?""Adventure. Maybe science fiction.""Horror? Mystery? " "I don't think so.""What about... romance?" "No."Rowan kept his face neutral and tried to hush the confused voice in his head. But what about The Time Traveler's Wife?"Back to science fiction, were you interested in any particular subgenre? Like sci-fi fantasy, speculative sci-fi, first contact, military--""No." The word shot out hard and sudden. The hand holding his cup seized with a violent reflex, sloshing his arm with the warm liquid. "No military books. Nothing like that.""Okay." Taken aback, Rowan handed him a napkin. "Take science fiction off my list. Alright?""Alright. It's off."Grant dried off and threw the crumpled napkin to the table. "Excuse me." He was gone before Rowan could protest. Grant slammed into the backyard and took in huge mouthfuls of air. He tried doing all those things his former therapist had told him: go outside if you can, count to ten, root yourself to the ground. He sat on the grass, feet planted and knees up. He slowed his breathing. He counted. One, two...He knew Rowan had looked at him the same way everyone else did when he got this way. Doctor, teammate, family member, friend - like he had those anymore - the expression was always the same. Fear. Stretched tight across their eyes and mouths. That's why he had to get out of there. He hated that look. Hated knowing he was the reason for it. ...three, four...Grant thought he'd been getting better at controlling himself. One year ago he removed himself from his triggers, moved all the way up from the States to Canada, found a nice little place by the woods. Yet he couldn't endure a visit from a damn librarian (!) without needing an escape plan after a few minutes. ...five, six...A librarian. The thought almost brought him out of the darkness, almost put a smile on his scruffy face. Of all the things to trip him up and throw him out of sorts... a librarian? And not some stern old lady, either. Earlier in the yard when Grant realized he'd been approached by a slender young man with chocolate brown hair that fell messily over his wide, searching eyes, he thought... ...seven, eight...Well, he didn't know what he thought. A neighbor? Some kid who'd been trailing the woods and got lost? This Rowan boy hadn't looked scared when their eyes first connected, though he had every reason to be. He was in the yard of a strange man holding an axe. But his approach had been friendly and curious, if not entirely confident. Urgh. Somehow, that made flying off the handle in front of him all the worse. A librarian. God damn....nine, ten.A shadow crossed the lawn. He looked up to find Rowan waving as he approached. "I don't mean to bother you, Mr. Wolfe.""I'm sorry." He signed sorry, a fist closed over his chest that he rubbed in a circular motion.Rowan shook his head. "You don't need to apologize. I just need to confirm a couple of things before I go."Grant started to rise, thinking they should reconvene in the living room, but Rowan joined him on the grass instead. The glow of the low sun highlighted the shape of his face, his high cheekbones and full lips. His eyes flowed like clear tropical water, welcoming and calm.The tightness in Grant's chest unfurled. "What day of the week would you prefer for your delivery?""Saturdays are fine."Rowan ticked off another box on his form. "Mornings or afternoons?""Mornings." "Great. Do you have any other questions before I go?"Grant noticed the younger man's chest was rising and falling at a faster clip. He was nervous, but about what? Saying goodbye?"Are you going to be my delivery person?"A shade of rose blushed his guest's milky skin."Oh, I... I don't know. That's up to the department.""Can I request you to be my delivery person?"Rowan's chest fluttered again as he clearly tried to fight back the start of a grin. "I could try but I can't guarantee anything.""I don't like to meet too many new people. Explaining myself over and over... I don't like that." He signed I don't like that and let his mouth dip into a small frown. Back when he was still learning ASL, his instructors once got on his case for not making himself expressive enough when he signed. Grant then 'expressed' that if someone couldn't suss out the meaning of his signs that was their goddamn problem, not his. His instructors never mentioned it again. Mostly because he stopped going to their classes."I understand," Rowan's lips said slowly. "Can you teach me something? You don't have to, but I'm curious. How do you sign 'understand'?"Grant raised his fist to the side of his forehead and flicked his forefinger upward. "Understand."Rowan mirrored him, positioned his fist, flicked his forefinger. "Understand." He pointed to his chest and performed the sign again. "I understand. Was that right?""You don't have to point to yourself. Just sign it and nod."Rowan did as he suggested. Grant made a thumbs up in approval."Aha, I did it!" He started to laugh. "I actually learned something useful. It only took me 27 years."Since his accident, Grant had no use for laughter. He couldn't hear it and didn't miss it - it served no purpose in his life. But seeing Rowan light up over learning one simple sign... a feeling stirred deep inside him. Something he'd buried a long time ago. Something he had no idea how to handle. "Well, I have all the information I need here." Rowan handed him a card. "Email me if something changes. I definitely recommend setting up your account on our website. That'll make it easier to track your holds.""You're very... helpful. Thank you." He'd almost forgotten how to say it. Did the words come out too fast? Too slow? Though he couldn't hear himself, Grant only hoped he gave the words the conviction they deserved. "I'm just doing my job, Mr. Wolfe."As Rowan motioned to stand up, that unearthed feeling stirred again, making itself clearer and fuller. The chivalry he'd been taught growing up in Dallas pulsed into every limb and nerve ending he had. So Grant stood first, his brawny six-foot-five frame filling the air, as he extended a hand. "Please," he said, "Allow me."After a moment of hesitation, their hands met. Grant hadn't felt skin that soft in ages. It almost embarrassed him how rough and calloused his palm must have felt against those silky fingers. Rowan lifted to his feet without much effort at all as a shy smile emerged in the shadow that crossed his face.A muscle spasmed in Grant's jaw. The involuntary movement made Rowan's smile disappear. "Is everything okay?"There were times when Grant was fine with speaking even though he couldn't hear his own voice. Speech therapists helped him pace his words and form the correct mouth shapes just as he could when he was a hearing man. Then there were times like these, when a question like Is everything okay? inspired such a confusing tidal wave of thoughts that Grant could no longer trust his ability to vocalize. In these circumstances the words wanted to come out faster than his brain could process. He feared what those words would sound like if he ever unleashed him. Would they be striking, loud, terrorizing? Or the same toneless drone that school kids used when they mimicked the deaf or disabled? No. He wouldn't let anyone hear him like that. So he turned every vein and muscle into steel and kept those thoughts inside where they were safe and couldn't hurt anyone. That's enough, a strong voice chastised. There's someone standing in front of you. You're not lying in bed in a cold sweat anymore. Be present. Be the man who got through all three phases of BUD/S.BUD/S. Remembering it was a startling explosion of red in the darkness. Then the images and sensations cascaded: obstacle courses, long distance diving, kicking up sand as his calves screamed, weapons training, brutal three-hour night sleeps, demolitions, combat swimming in frigid waters, the ghostly echoes of shouts and screams and...Enough. The memory of his Navy service was enough to wrench him back to reality, back to the grass under his feet, the trill of songbirds over his head, the early autumn breeze on his bare arms. Rowan's lips were moving. Though he had trouble focusing, he didn't need an interpreter to see how concerned the young librarian was. "Yes," Grant settled. "I'm fine." Rowan buckled his seat belt and readjusted the library van's rear view mirror off his face and onto the road. Grant escorted him back to the driveway to see him off. There were a couple of moments when the man almost seemed to go blank, not to mention that strange interruption that saw him step outside, but otherwise Grant had been nothing but a gentleman. He kept a certain distance, sure, but they were strangers. Not everyone warmed up at the same speed.He was intriguing. Rowan couldn't imagine losing his hearing and then voluntarily living on his own. That seemed scary. But Grant was a great deal more resourceful and resilient than the average man. Whatever led him to his life of solitude, that was his business. And yet.... doesn't a part of him seem... you know... lonely?Grant approached the driver's side door as the engine started. He was still ruggedly handsome, but up close Rowan could see how haunted his features were. Hollow, almost. The features of a man who'd seen - and perhaps did - more than he ever wanted to. And his eyes, intense and alert as they were, hid a profound sense of longing. Stop it, Rowan snapped. You don't know this man. You have a master's degree in library science, not psychology.Grant leaned one muscular arm against the van roof. "When is the first delivery?"Rowan tried not to pay attention to the way that thin grey tanktop generously hugged the outline of his chest. But at least it was a distraction from the flex of his bare arms, which were a deep shade of sun-given bronze. An ache of desire blossomed in his stomach. "It can start as early as next Saturday." "So I'll see you next Saturday.""But I still can't guarantee I'll be the driver."Grant ran a couple of fingers back and forth across his beard. "What sign is that?""No, it's just itchy.""Ah. Right." A finger self-consciously tapped his smooth cheek. "Not being a beard owner myself, I didn't realize they could get itchy. But, duh. Of course they do.""I wont sign something without saying it in front of you first. I'll make that a rule now.""You seem very confident that you'll see me again, Mr. Wolfe.""If the library sends someone else I can't guarantee I'll be as nice to them."Rowan laughed. "Something tells me you aren't kidding." "I'm not." "Then I'll be sure to warn the department head." He brought the van's stick shift out of park and into reverse. "Goodbye for now?"Grant patted the roof and eased away from the vehicle. "Until next time.""If I see you again, you better teach me some new signs!""Okay," Grant signed in response. He recognized the gestures: the hand making an O, and then the forefinger, middle finger and thumb forming the K. Rowan waved goodbye as the van peeled off the driveway and into the street.It wasn't until he'd driven halfway back to library that he remembered the envelope sitting on the passenger seat. And the paper folded inside it, with those troubling words to a woman named Tatiana..."Shit," Rowan hit a hand against the steering wheel. The note had completely slipped his mind. It was the entire reason he came! Returning it seemed more awkward than ever. He didn't want to be responsible for the damn thing. It really was like hanging on to someone else's bad dream. But then he thought of the way Grant asked to see him again, how he curtly insisted that he be the one to make the deliveries. Oh, Rowan hoped he hadn't made too much of an ass of himself. When Grant's large hand slipped over his it was like the air had escaped his lungs. No... not just his lungs. It was like the air had escaped the atmosphere. To think that a man - any man - could pin him down with such a warm, strong gaze - and then ask, no, demand, that they see each other again, well... Shit.Yes, Rowan's head was in the clouds. Yes, he was nursing a bit of a crush. (Just a bit.) He could admit it. He could almost admit that it likely meant nothing. Men like Grant Wolfe were never interested in men like Rowan Watson. The lumberjack and the librarian wasn't exactly a popular pairing. It wasn't an observation rooted in bitterness, but reality. He knew where he stood in the dating pool, and it was certainly nowhere near anyone who looked like they could rip a tree out of the ground with their bare hands.But he could compartmentalize as needed. A crush, while fun, can be put aside. And Rowan knew he would have to, especially if it meant helping out someone who needed it. That made the possibility of returning to the cozy little bungalow off Crothers Woods more than just a silly but pleasant daydream. Grant padded down to the basement he'd converted into a personal gym. His head had been swimming all damn day and he needed a good rush of endorphins to tide him over until dinner. With the casual ease of a man who'd spent his entire life getting fit, Grant gripped the pull-up bar built into the basement ceiling and started his routine.One... two... three... his breaths escaped him in small, practiced grunts.It was his way of coming back to normal. Well, his version of normal. His days usually consisted of exercise, reading, cooking, doing chores around the house, working on his paintings. Long, involved conversations with a hearing person were rare. Well, non-existent, really. He'd forgotten how much work being around the hearing was. Speechreading, something he still hadn't fully mastered, required a profound level of concentration on a good day. ...four... five... six...Rarer still was being around a hearing person he actually wanted to speechread. Thankfully, Rowan was expressive enough and made an actual effort to speak slowly and clearly. Grant only had trouble understanding him when he stumbled over his words. As polite as he was, the younger man seemed to struggle with his confidence. And dealing with Grant's moods couldn't have been easy, either....seven, eight, nine...Grant finished his tenth pull-up and dropped into a set of push-ups. His mind was on autopilot now, drifting toward that night's meal, reminding himself to check the weather forecast, to prepare the fireplace if need be.By the time he started on dips, the faint memory of helping Rowan get to his feet resurfaced. Grant thought of the way that tight runner's body went taut as he stood, how the wind slapped against them in that moment and made him shiver slightly. He'd fought the urge to pull the younger man closer, to warm him against his chest. Grant had to stop mid-dip. His focus was eroding. Tiny streams of electricity danced up his right hand and forearm - the same one Rowan allowed him the pleasure of touching. He wiped at his sweating brow. Where the hell did all this come from? He ran from things like this - ran and never dared to look back. But one simple, unannounced visit had untethered him from the world he worked so hard to build and now he was spinning out of orbit. The weirdest part? He was kind of... intrigued... to see where it would take him.He hoped that this strange creature - this librarian - would show up on his doorstep next Saturday with that same timid smile. Grant strapped on his weight lifting gloves and took a seat on the padded bench. He scratched at his beard again and wondered if he should shave for next time. Huh. Next time. He wanted there to be a next time.How strange it was to look forward to something again.
  13. QuinnDK

    Safeguard

    Absolutely not! I'm bouncing around a few things at once, that's just how my brain works.
  14. QuinnDK

    Lost and Found

    Uh oh, it looks like I've developed a reputation... in my defense, I do have one completed story! What can I say, I just really needed to get Grant out of my head and share him with the world...
  15. QuinnDK

    Lost and Found

    I wouldn't call Grant a bear, but yes, he's certainly hairy.
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