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Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Action/Adventure · #2317297
In which a motorcycle leads to a very important meeting
Bel had another addiction besides Crio Bru and dark chocolate.

Second hand books.

He loved the smell of them: aged glue and aging paper and fading ink. He loved the crinkle that the pages made when he turned them—a softer sound than new pages made. He loved the feel of them, especially when the edges of the pages had been softened by the countless hands it had passed through. Bel tried to explain all of this to Nina once, and she gave him the same look as when he told her milk chocolate tasted like fake sugar.

Which is why he makes his bookstore excursions alone.

And if Nina hadn’t decided to show up unannounced, he could have gone yesterday. But today is just as good. He can stock up on new reading material for the weekend. He doesn’t really feel like navigating through street traffic again after yesterday; so rather than drive, Bel takes the BTS instead.

Which gives him plenty of time to think about the bombshell that Nina dropped on his head. A bombshell in the shape of a USB, with his dad’s code name on it. He’d gone home after dropping her off and looked at the files on the USB.

All five fucking hundred of them.

Because why the hell not indulge his curiosity a little bit?

There were reports that had whole paragraphs blacked out, and spreadsheets with numbers and letters and a whole bunch of other shit Bel didn’t understand, but what had really caught his attention where the pictures.

Some of them were places he and his dad used to visit; some were places Bel had never been; some were with people that Bel had grown up with; some were with strangers; but Bel had scrolled through them again, and again, just so that he could see his dad’s face.

Dad’s smiling face.

Dad’s smiling, laughing face, with gray eyes like Nina’s. Eyes that always seemed to be laughing at something. Eyes that weren’t laughing That Day. They’d never laugh or cry or see anything else after That Day.

Bel pauses in front of the book display just outside the bookstore, pretending to look at the book titles, but actually forcing himself to take several deep breaths. The book titles don’t distract him enough though, so he turns the other way, walking away from the bookstore to the street corner, and tilting his head up so he can see the sky. There are no clouds today, just blue as far as he can see, and Bel uses that clear blue sky to concentrate on while he breathes.

Just breathe, Bel. You are not going to have a damn panic attack in the middle of the street. You haven’t had one in years, so don’t start now.

Breathe, Bel.

Breathe.

Bel concentrates on slowing his breath, keeping his head tilted up toward the sky, and closing his eyes for just a second.

So he hears the traffic but because his eyes are closed and his head is tilted up, he doesn’t see it.

He doesn’t see the black Ducati weaving down the road in between the cars.

The black Ducati that is headed straight for him.

Kam is restless.

Silo’s call last night intrigues him. What could possibly be so important that Silo would cut his “vacation” short? In other circumstances, Kam wouldn’t be so curious. Silo avoided time off like the plague, but the call last night hadn’t sounded like Silo was making an excuse just to come back to work.

But since he nearly lost the Bizzarrini due to Silo’s phone call, Kam decides to have a little fun and make the “meeting place” as inconvenient as possible—at least for Silo. So he hops on the BTS and rides until he feels like getting off.

Which just happens to be just down the street from a second-hand bookstore.

Just as good a place as any. It’s not like he has anything to do after work anyway, other than go home, but go home to do what? He’s streamed everything he’s wanted to watch so far, he cleaned his condo yesterday, his fridge is full, and so is his closet, so grocery or clothes shopping is pointless. So he’ll just walk.

Then he sees the kid on the corner of the street.

This kid is…tiny.

It has nothing to do with his height, or age. He’s definitely younger, and not too much shorter than Kam, but…is there a better way to describe him, rather than tiny?

Skinny?

Lean?

Underdeveloped?

Orders everything—and Kam means everything—in a Size S or XS?

The indigo streaks in his hair are kind of cute though, especially framing that puppy-dog face.

He is currently standing by himself, looking up at the sky, which is odd because there’s really nothing up there to see, is there? Kam looks up, too. Nothing. Just blue sky, the same blue as it was yesterday and will probably be tomorrow unless it rains.

Kam narrows his eyes as he sees a shift in traffic—not a big shift, a subtle one, but a shift nonetheless. There’s a black Ducati that’s weaving in and out of the cars, but something about the way it’s moving makes Kam uneasy.

He picks up his pace, and the bike picks up speed.

It’s moving toward the corner curb.

The corner curb where the kid is standing.

The hell?

In the back of his head, Bel can hear the revving of an engine. There’s traffic, obviously so why wouldn’t he hear that. Funny, though, the revving is getting louder.

Maybe a little too loud?

Bel lowers his head, opening his eyes so that he can see the traffic—and immediately wishes he hadn’t. Because now he sees the Ducati that’s picked up speed. He can’t see the face of the person on the bike, but he’s definitely riding with a purpose.

Riding toward the curb where Bel is standing.

Bel’s entire body freezes. But it’s just a bike right? Maybe he’s just weaving through traffic and in a hurry to get somewhere. Maybe it’s just a joyride. Right?

Right?

Right?

Nina’s words from yesterday flash through his mind: someone wants the two of us dead. While Bel’s brain is screaming at him to move, his feet are cemented to the sidewalk as the Ducati jumps the curb.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A hand clamps down on Bel’s arm, jerking him away from the curb and out of the way of the oncoming bike. Abruptly, the Ducati swerves back onto the road and into traffic. Bel’s feet skid on the sidewalk and his back slams into something solid.

“Mmph!”

The sound comes out of Bel’s mouth but is echoed by another voice, just a little lower than Bel’s. He hasn’t hit an object, but a person. A person who yanked him out of the way of some jackass intent on sending Bel to the hospital—by accident or otherwise.

Bel doesn’t want to think about “otherwise”.

Rather than look behind him, Bel glances down at the sidewalk, and sees a pair of Chelsea boots planted on either side of his smaller feet, braced to keep Bel from tumbling ass first onto the sidewalk. The Chelsea boots peek out from under a pair of black jeans, and out of the corner of his eye Bel can see a black T-shirt.

“You ok?” The voice is low, and dark, and a little rough around the edges. It’s only two words, but hearing them in that voice makes Bel’s heart do this weird skippy thing, and sends warmth throughout his entire body, and he turns his head toward that voice.

Damn.

Coffee-colored eyes bear into Bel’s, eyes that are framed by black hair that’s equally rough around the edges, and a face that’s so close to Bel’s if he leaned in just a little bit then the tips of their noses would touch. Bel is pressed so close against the taller man that he can feel the outline of muscle, and a rapid heartbeat that seems to match his. In spite of the heat, this guy is not sweating. Maybe he’s one of those guys that just doesn’t sweat? Aren’t there people like that?

Irrelevant, Bel. Irrelevant, irrelevant, irrelevant. Stop staring, he’ll think you're crazy. Why the hell hasn’t he let go of me yet?

Kam can feel the heartbeat through the back of the boy’s shirt, pounding with the surge of adrenalin that matches his own. The arm he’s still grasping really is as tiny as he first thought, but not unpleasantly so. The brown eyes meeting Kam’s aren’t fearful, just startled, though whether it’s from the bike that had jumped the curb, or being yanked off his feet and slammed into Kam’s chest, Kam isn’t sure.

The tiny kid blinks at his older savior—and then snaps.

“Get your damn hand off me.”

Kam doesn’t let go. “What, no ‘thank you’?”

Bel gives his arm a yank. But the older boy’s grip is like iron. “‘Thank you’ for what? Cutting off the circulation in my arm?”

“For preventing that bike from flattening you.”

“I was fine!”

“Really? Didn’t look that way to me.” Kam raises his eyebrows, both with curiosity and disbelief. “What were you doing anyway?”

“Nothing.”

Kam’s eyebrows climb higher. “Is that what you were actually doing or do you just want me to leave?”

“The hell do you think?” Bel gives his arm, another yank, and Kam lets go. The kid doesn’t look terrified anymore. He just looks annoyed.

Adorably annoyed.

Now that his arm is free, Bel steps away from the guy who probably just saved his life, not to get a better look at him, but to give himself space. Well, maybe look at him a little bit. Yep, he was right: black shirt, black jeans, Chelsea boots. Bel’s pretty sure that’s a tattoo on the guy's right wrist, but he can’t really tell what it is. The clothes fit him in just the right places, and yes, he is definitely not sweating.

Get a grip, Bel.

“That bike nearly ran you down.” That voice breaks into Bel’s thoughts, making it harder for Bel to walk away. Bel makes himself shrug.

“Maybe he was in a hurry.”

“You think so?” Chelsea Boots sounds like he believes that even less than Bel does. And if he takes one step closer to Bel, his heart is going to explode out of his chest. Bel can feel the heat rising under the other boy’s gaze.

Heat that is rising from the sides of his neck and across his face to the tips of his ears.

And heat is building up in other parts of his body that Bel doesn’t want to think about.

Books. He came down here to get books. So all he has to do is skirt around this smirking jackass and go into the bookstore and stock up on weekend reading material and go home. Simple.
Simple.

Except it’s not.

“Thanks. Now move.” It is surprisingly hard for Bel to make his feet move away from this boy, to walk through the doorway and into the bookstore. The smell of old books usually soothes him, but this time it doesn’t work for some reason.

Maybe that reason is the person who is standing behind Bel.

Right behind Bel.

Again.

“Are you following me?” Bel just wants to be left in peace, but clearly Chelsea Boots has other ideas.

“Maybe I’m just as interested in books as you are.”

“Or maybe you’re full of shit.” Bel turns his back, making it clear that the conversation is over.

Except his ears are still red.

Chelsea Boots doesn’t take the hint. “I’m not leaving until you thank me.”

“I did.”

“Sincerely.”

Bel closes his eyes, keeping his back to Chelsea Boots as long as possible. You are an adult, Bel. You are not going to make a scene in public. You are not going to yell, you are not going to stomp your feet like a four-year-old.

You are certainly not going to swipe that smirk off this guy's face with your fists, not just because you are in a very small store in a very public place, but because you might break his nose.

Or his nose might break your knuckles.

Or both.

Shit!

Why is it so hard to think straight when he looks at me!

Bel clenches his jaw, turning slowly, ever so slowly to face the older boy. He makes himself keep both his gaze and his voice steady, and forces his blood to stay in its proper place and not rush to places it’s not supposed to go.

Especially in public.

Over a complete stranger.

“Fine. Thank you oh so very much for saving my life, I owe you a huge favor that you’re welcome to collect sometime. Happy?” Bel shoots Chelsea Boots a glare that would be deadly coming from someone else.

Kam just thinks it’s adorable.

Bel browses through the shelves, reading titles, pulling some out to read the back, maybe thumb through a couple of pages. All the way though the first floor, and up to the second floor. He’s got a nice stack reading material, but has no real idea what he actually picked up.

Because Chelsea Boots is standing behind him.

Still.

“What do you want?”

Kam steps forward, so that the two of them are almost nose to nose. He lowers his voice deliberately, and not just because they’re in a small space. “What if I want to collect the favor now?”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bel’s fingers go slack, and the books in his hands tumble to the floor. Is this guy implying—

But Chelsea Boots chuckles at the look on Bel’s face and steps back. It’s a warm, rich sound that sends tingles through Bel’s blood.

“Relax. I’m not going to do anything weird. I just want your number.”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bel drops to the floor to gather up the scattered books and his scattered thoughts. He doesn’t look at the guy's face. Just his Chelsea boots. The guy has really big feet.

Irrelevant, Bel! Irrelevant!

“Why do you want my number?” Bel keeps his eyes on the books and the boots. He’s not sure if the answer he’s expecting is what he wants to hear or not. There is silence above him, so he looks up. Chelsea Boots’ eyebrows are disappearing in his hairline again.

“So I can collect the favor you owe me when I want to. Why else would I want it?”

Fair.

And obvious.

Bel gets to his feet, and Kam takes the books from him, exchanging them for his phone. Bel hesitates for another minute, then takes a breath, and types his number and name into Kam’s phone.

“Thank you.” Kam takes his phone back, slips it into his pocket, hands the books back to Bel and steps out of his way.

And it takes everything Bel has not to bolt down the stairs. He pays for the books without even looking at what he’s bought, and only then practically runs out the door and in the direction of the BTS station. He looks back, only once. Chelsea Boots is standing by the book display outside, watching him.

“What if I want to collect the favor now?”

His words reverberate in Bel’s head, not just on the way to the BTS station, but the entire ride home, and are still there when Bel walks through his front door.

Yesterday, his sister had woken him up at two in the morning and said she was coming to see him, and someone wanted them dead.

Today, he’d nearly been run down by a bike and saved by an overly self-confident jackass who asked for his number.

And Bel had given it to him.

Because he’d said he wanted to collect a favor.

What the hell?

Seriously.

What the actual hell?

"5. Job Offer

read from beginning "1. Phone Calls in the Dark

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