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by beetle
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Gay/Lesbian · #2116373
Written as part of assignment #3 for the HSP class, "Building the Emotion & Sensuality."
Bennett's Blooms
Notes/Warnings: None.
Summary: Actor Isaac Hernandez is taking his puppy for a walk when he gets a chance at the part—and the guy—of a lifetime. He aims to get both. Written as part of assignment #3 for the HSP class, "Building the Emotion & Sensuality." The assignment was for a 1,200-word piece. This went . . . longer. But the part that's relevant to the assignment is at the end and highlighted in blue.
Word Count: Approx. 5,300



Morning




“No—no, I can come in for another audition . . . no, yeah, that’s kinda cuttin’ it close, but hey: it’s none of our business. We just show up and act our asses off. Yeah. Yeah.” Isaac Hernandez laughed as he was tugged down the street by his Shiba Inu pup, Dee-Dee. He usually let her lead him whither she willed, since she seemed to know to cross on the green and not in between, unlike so many pedestrians. Though because of New York City’s enforced leash laws, he always had a leash on her when they were out. Admittedly, the leash was usually not in the hand with the plastic bag wrapped around it for pooper-scooping. But then, usually, he wasn’t getting a last minute audition call from his agent, Dawn Vokosian.



“So, what time do they wanna have me come in?” Isaac asked, trying to tuck the phone between his neck and his ear, so as to have his non-bagged hand free for the leash. Dawn’s smoky voice sounded in his ear, somehow audible over the sounds of the New York City streets.



“They want to see you today, Isaac,” she said, sounding annoyed—she, too, hated last minute callbacks, even though they were as integral a part of the business as headshots and online portfolios—but hopeful. “They said as early as possible.” Dawn paused. “This may be the day they offer you the part.”



Isaac snorted. “Not that I’m knocking my own acting ability, but since when do Latinos make it into space? Since never,” he replied to his own rhetorical question. “And anyway, even if they were inclined to cast me, it’s a bigger part than I’ve ever taken: more lines, more screen time, more focus on me. Not leading man-focus, but pretty close. And I won’t be playing a gang-member, drug dealer, or cop. I won’t know what to do with myself!”



“Oh, you’re being too pessimistic! You’re a fine actor and you can get this part. It was made for you—it’s not even acting, really. This character—Wade—has Isaac Hernandez written all over him.” Dawn chuckled. “Frankly, I’m surprised it took them this long to schedule a callback.”



Isaac rolled his eyes and managed to just miss stepping in a pile of dog shit. Not everyone was as conscientious about picking up after their dogs as he was.



Speaking of dogs . . . his puppy had stopped her tugging on the leash—had stopped walking completely, and was watching a young man arrange pre-made bouquets of flowers on a pair of wrought iron tables in front of a small flower shop. Dee-Dee was sitting on her haunches like a puppy-statue, watching him as if he was television, as he tinkered with the bouquets.



“So,” Dawn said when the silence between them had drawn out. “Can I tell them to expect you in their offices by . . . nine?”



“Uh . . . what time is it now?” Isaac asked as he caught up to Dee-Dee, who was still watching the guy micro-manage the flower display. Not that Isaac could blame her. The young man was bending over to pick up a final bouquet from a box on the ground in front of him—some kind of pretty yellow flowers in a small, crystal vase, that Isaac couldn’t name even if there was a gun to his head—which gave Isaac an excellent view of the guy’s excellent ass for a few seconds. And it was excellent, even in horrible, baggy olive-green cargo pants.



Wow, Isaac thought, smiling a little. As the young man stood up to place this final collection of flowers among its brethren, Isaac also ogled the muscles in the his shoulders and arms and back, all moving in eye-pleasing harmony under a nicely filled-out black t-shirt.



“ . . . 8:53, on the nose, kid,” Dawn was saying. Isaac blinked.



“You wanna tell them I can be there in seven minutes?” he asked, louder than he meant to, and the guy arranging the flowers started and turned to face Isaac. Isaac smiled and waved as the guy’s dark eyes ticked from him to the puppy. Him, to the puppy. They finally came to rest on Isaac, giving him a quick once over that Isaac definitely didn’t miss. “Have you ever heard of a thing called cross-town traffic? And it’ll take me at least ten minutes just to get back home to change!”



“Where are you now?”



“Near Mott Street.” Isaac smiled his most charming smile at the florist, who smiled back: a smile as meaningless and professional as any flight attendant’s. “I’m walking Dee-Dee.”



Dawn sighed. “Alright, alright . . . can I tell them ten?”



Isaac groaned inwardly. “Yeah, I think I can be there by ten,” he said doubtfully, watching as the young man left off measuring Isaac with his gaze, to kneel and pet Dee-Dee who, attention whore that she was, yipped and barked playfully. She rolled onto her back so the florist could pet her tummy, which he did, laughing, as Dee-Dee licked his forearm.



“Good.” On the phone, Dawn sounded at least somewhat approving. “You’ll call me when you get there and when the audition’s done, right?”



“Of course.” Dee-Dee was barking ecstatically, her legs up in the air, moving as if she was running, as the florist scratched and tickled her. Isaac’s charming smile became more like his real smile as this complete stranger—Dee-Dee rarely trusted anyone aside from Isaac and Dawn (and, in a limited fashion, Dawn’s husband Ron)—charmed and played with his excitable puppy. “As per usual, General.”



“You know I hate that nickname, Isaac.” He could practically hear Dawn roll her eyes and he grinned.



“But it suits you. You know it does.”



“I know no such thing.” Dawn sounded huffy, but still moderately pleased. “Anyway, knock ‘em dead, kiddo.”



“I will. There’ll be a Latino in space, yet, if I have anything to say about it.” At this, the young florist glanced up at Isaac warily, his face still alight and happy from playing with Dee-Dee. He was every bit as handsome as advertised, with perfect white teeth, skin the color of dark sienna, and a square, manly jaw. “I’ll make ‘em love me.”



“That’s the spirit!” Dawn laughed. “Talk to you later.”



“You, too.” Isaac said, winking at the florist, who—if Isaac wasn’t mistaken—blushed and looked back down at Dee-Dee, still alternately scratching and tickling her tummy. “‘Bye.”



Isaac slipped his phone into the right pocket of his blue jeans and shoved his hands in his brown leather jacket. “She really likes you,” he told the florist quite unnecessarily. The florist smiled again, this time at Dee-Dee.



“Yeah. Animals usually do.” The florist’s voice was low and pleasant, and sent a brief shiver up Isaac’s spine.



“This little girl’s usually very picky about who she lets rub her stomach,” Isaac said in an exaggerated whisper. “I had her for six weeks before she let me anywhere near her tummy. Isn’t that right, Dee-Dee?”



But Dee-Dee just laid back, tongue lolling as the florist worked his magic.



“So, her name’s Dee-Dee?” he asked, and Dee-Dee barked in response to her name, a happy, puppy bark. “That’s an . . . interesting name for a dog.”



I think so,” Isaac agreed, not going into the miles-long story of where the name came from. Instead, he held out his hand for shaking. “Speaking of names, I’m Isaac. Isaac Hernandez.”



The florist gave Dee-Dee’s tum one last scritch and scratch, before standing up and reluctantly taking Isaac’s hand. His grip was strong and dry. “I’m Bennett . . . Bloom,” he said, gesturing at the shop window behind him. Isaac glanced at it again, and noted the name of the shop on the picture window, in baroque yellow and purple lettering was, indeed, Bennett's Blooms.



Isaac grinned. “Wow, that’s . . . a remarkable coincidence: a guy named Bloom going into the floral arrangement business.”



Bennett shrugged. “It actually is a coincidence,” he said without inflection or elaboration. Then he seemed to remember he was still shaking Isaac’s hand. He cleared his throat and let go.



Dee-Dee, sensing that there were no more scritches and scratches forthcoming, got to her feet and stood on her hind-legs, placing her front paws on Bennett’s legs. She gazed up at him as if at a favorite toy.



“Ah—down, Dee-Dee! That’s a bad girl! Very bad girl!” Isaac exclaimed, giving the leash a gentle, discreet tug. Dee-Dee whined up at them both, then dropped her front paws to the ground again.



“I’m sorry, uh, Bennett. She just gets excited, sometimes.” Isaac scratched his own head with his free hand. “She doesn’t usually jump up on people like that.”



“It’s cool.” Bennett smiled wryly. “Like I said: animals like me.”



“And plants, too, apparently.”



“I do have something of a green thumb,” Bennett admitted humbly. Then shrugged again, smiling. This smile was shy and self-deprecating. “Anyway, I should get back to work. It was, um, nice meeting you, Isaac. You, too, Dee-Dee,” he added. Dee-Dee barked that happy-puppy bark, looking from Bennett to Isaac, back and forth, as if she was at Wimbledon. At least until Bennett turned and let himself back into his shop, with one curious, considering glance back at Isaac, who waved.



“Nice meeting you, too, Bennett Bloom,” he murmured, smiling to himself as he tugged Dee-Dee—who was staring after Bennett and whining—back toward home.



Evening




“What can I do ya for?” Bennett Bloom asked as Isaac stepped into his shop—said entrance announced by the bell over the door. Isaac smiled and let the door close gently behind him. The shop smelled of flowers, of course. More scents and sights than Isaac could begin to name.



And in the midst of this, the young florist, Bennett, was writing something down in what looked like an ordinary Marble notebook, leaning on the counter next to the computerized cash register.



“Well, I’d like to get a very special bouquet for a very special person,” Isaac said, and Bennett looked up instantly, blinking and surprised.



“Oh,” he said, sounding rather breathless. And: “It’s you.”



“Yep. Isaac Hernandez, at your service.” He executed a half-bow and smiled, moving deeper into the shop and closer to Bennett. The florist smiled his wry, shy smile and straightened, placing his pen in the notebook and closing it.



“I remember. Where’s Dee-Dee?”



Isaac grinned. “She’s at home, probably asleep. It’s been a long day for her. For the both of us, really.” He stopped at the counter across from Bennett and leaned on it, himself, looking down at the vases displayed therein. “She’d be sorry to have missed visiting with her new best friend, though.”



Bennett chuckled, low and quiet. “Well, she’s welcome any time—um, as are you.”



Isaac looked up into Bennett’s eyes and held his gaze till the younger man looked away, flushing somewhere under that perfect sienna complexion. “Thank you, Bennett.”



Biting his lip, Bennett shrugged. “I’m just glad to have someone in the shop. Even if they’re walking on all-fours.”



Isaac frowned. “Business not going well?”



Another shrug. “Not as well as I’d like, but better than I’d feared. My partner thinks we’re doing pretty well for a new shop. She’s the business-side of this venture.”



Isaac’s eyebrows shot up as the bottom prepared to drop right out from his stomach. “Ah. You have a . . . partner?”



Bennett smiled fondly. “I do. Her name’s Claire. You actually just missed her—she had to run an errand, but she’ll be back soon.”



“Ah,” Isaac said, uncertain how to frame his next question—just business partners? Or business and romantic partners?—without looking like a busybody. Though he supposed he could just rely on his gaydar, which was pretty unerring. It’d been pinging since the moment he saw Bennett—and Isaac trusted it. Whatever else this Claire was, she wasn’t Bennett’s girlfriend.



“So,” Bennett ventured when the silence between them had stretched out for a minute. “You said something about a special bouquet for a special person?”



“Oh, uh . . . yeah.” Isaac was the one to blush, now. “I kinda need some guidance on this because I’ve never gotten anyone flowers before, so . . . I don’t wanna send an arrangement that looks like it belongs at someone’s wake, you know?”



Bennett smiled. “I know exactly what you mean, Isaac. You want something very specific to the person and the occasion?”



“Yes,” Isaac exhaled in relief, laughing a little. “That’s it, exactly.”



“Well, I’d be glad to help.” Bennett made his way around the counter and approached Isaac. “Can you tell me a little something about this person? Her, ah, relationship to you, and maybe what colors she prefers?”



“Actually, she’s a he.” Isaac said, softly. “And I don’t really know what colors he likes best. I don’t know him very well. Yet.”



“Hmm.” Bennett’s brow furrowed as he glanced around the shop. Then he started off down one of the shop’s tiny, narrow aisles, gesturing for Isaac to follow. “Then, I’d say, to start, Queen Anne's Lace,” he said, stopping in front of a bunch of pretty, small white flowers. “They signify complexity and delicateness. They’re kind of a filler-flower when it comes to bouquets—a sort of background to the main flower. Those and Baby’s Breath are, like, the parsley of the flower world. Just for show, really.”



“Well, I mean, they’re nice, but I don’t wanna give him filler-flowers. I want every flower to mean something special.” Isaac said, his face turning red. But he met Bennett’s eyes. “He’s—he deserves to have every petal of every flower mean something.



“Wow . . . he’s a lucky guy. Okay,” Bennett said thoughtfully, his full mouth slipping momentarily into a pout. “Then how many flowers do you want in this bouquet? Do you want a lot of the same flower—I have to say I’m sensing that you don’t. What do you want each flower to say?”



“Well,” Isaac sighed, feeling out of his depth and out of his element. “I guess a dozen is a good number to start with. . . ?”



Bennett’s left brow quirked. “That might be a little overwhelming for someone whom you don’t know very well. Maybe . . . half that?”



“You’re the expert. If you think that’ll do. . . .”



Bennett smiled. “I think if you send the right flower, even one could be enough.”



“Really?”



“Yep.” Bennett gave Isaac a considering look. “What do you want to convey to this person? Bottom line?”



“I, uh . . . wanna say that he’s gorgeous and interesting and that I’d like to take him out, sometime. Get to know him better.” Isaac glanced at Bennett to see the other man was looking around the shop again. Then making a bee-line to vases of roses. Isaac followed, amused and bemused.



“Okay, I’m thinking a mixed bouquet of roses might be what you’re looking for,” Bennett said excitedly, like a man who’s just solved a world-class problem. “By mixing rose blooms of different colors purposefully, you can create a bouquet of emotions. For example, a bouquet of red and white roses would mean: I love you intensely and my intentions are honorable. Whereas a random mix of roses would convey mixed feelings or even send a message! Like: I don't know what my feelings for you are, yet, but I sure do like you enough to get you roses.



Isaac blinked. “Hey—yeah. That’s it exactly! Because I really don’t know what my feelings are for this guy, just that I like him enough to give him roses.” Smiling, Isaac looked at the roses on display. “And I think I would like to send a full dozen.”



Bennett’s brows climbed halfway to his close-cropped hair, but then he smiled. “The customer’s always right. Okay, so, your feelings for this guy are romantic, yes?”



“Um. Yeeeeah.”



“Then first: lavender roses. A lavender rose, like its color, conveys enchantment. It can also kinda express love at first sight. But mostly these roses are used to express fascination and adoration.”



“Yeah, I dunno about that love at first sight-part, but from the moment I saw him, I was definitely fascinated and enchanted. My heart started beating faster, and hasn’t slowed down since.” Isaac laughed nervously, not daring to meet Bennett’s eyes. “So, yeah. He makes my heart beat faster, if there’s a rose for that.”



“Actually, there is,” Bennett said, shoving four lavender roses at Isaac, who took them carefully, with an eye for thorns. Then Bennett reached for another color of rose—orange, this time. Isaac’d had no idea roses came in orange, but Bennett apparently had—and plucked four blossoms after carefully checking them for . . . whatever made orange roses less than perfect. Then he presented them to Isaac, who took them hesitantly. “Et, voila!



“They’re, uh . . . pretty?”



“And more importantly, they signify passion and energy!” Bennett grinned, his face animated and alight with passion and energy, itself. “Orange roses can be used to express intense desire, pride, and fervor. They also convey a sense of fascination. These flowers are only rivaled by red roses as messengers of passion in romance.”



“Really?” Isaac eyed the orange roses with a soupcon of doubt. Bennett chuckled wistfully.



“Trust me on this, Isaac: If a guy gave me a bunch of orange roses, I’d probably swoon into his arms.”



Chuckling, too, Isaac cast that doubtful look on Bennett. At the broad shoulders and defined musculature. “Uh, somehow, you don’t strike me as the swooning type.”



“Well, that depends very much upon the kind of flower,” Bennett said primly, then snorted. “And the kind of guy giving them.”



Isaac smiled at Bennett and Bennett smiled back, bright and happy. And they stood there, beaming at each other for almost a minute, until Isaac cleared his throat and looked at the flowers he was holding. “So, uh . . . we’ve got eight roses. What about the last four?”



“Oh, right,” Bennett looked away from Isaac, back to the roses, his face a bit melancholy, now. “Well, a red rose is an unmistakable expression of love, in its many forms, such as longing, wanting, or desire.” Bennett glanced at Isaac, then away so quickly, Isaac was scarce sure it’d happened. “The number of red roses has special romantic meanings associated with them. Twelve red roses make the most popular bouquet of all. It conveys: Be mine and I love you.”



“And what do four of them say?” Isaac asked. Bennett smiled to himself.



“Not quite love . . . but definitely a slow, intense like.”



Isaac laughed. “That sounds about right.”



“Good! Then I’ll get these ready and ring you up at the counter. C’mon.” Bennett led the way back to the counter. Isaac took that opportunity to ogle his ass again—as much as he could with Bennett in cargo pants and not bending over.



Once at the counter, Bennett cut the stems of the roses and arranged them just so before wrapping them in yellow and purple (or maybe it was lavender . . . Isaac couldn’t honestly tell where the dividing line was) paper, then re-arranging them a bit. Isaac watched the young florist’s hands as they nimbly moved among the flowers. They weren’t necessarily what Isaac thought of when he thought of an artist’s hands—Bennett’s were big, square, with long, blunt-tipped fingers—but they did the work of an artist, nevertheless.



Sooner, rather than later, Isaac was holding his bouquet and Bennett was ringing him up at the cash register. Isaac paid with his AmEx and Bennett gave him that professional smile again.



“Your guy’s a lucky man . . . he’s gonna love that bouquet,” he said, handing Isaac his receipt. Isaac smiled nervously as he pocketed it and eyed the flower arrangement. It was simple, but . . . lovely. And it smelled amazing.



“I hope so. I mean, it’s really pretty and it smells nice,” Isaac said softly. “I don’t know shit about flowers, but this is perfect. You do great work.”



The professionalism slipped out of Bennett’s smile, leaving behind only genuine pleasure. “Thank you, Isaac. I try.”



Isaac returned that smile—fuck, he really does make my heart beat faster—then, after the time for polite good-byes had come and gone, and Bennett’s eyebrows were rising in question, he returned the flowers.



“Um—” Bennett took the bouquet back, his face really a study in questions, now. Isaac’s smile turned anxious and he leaned on the counter. “Did you, uh, change your mind?”



“Not at all, Bennett. I just wanted to give the guy I like his flowers as soon as possible,” Isaac said, holding Bennett’s gaze when the other man met his eyes. Finally, Bennett’s eyes widened and he looked at the flowers. Then back at Isaac. Then back at the flowers. Then back at Isaac, once more.



Then he was smiling radiantly, almost smugly. “You know, I would’ve been really disappointed if you’d actually walked out of here with these flowers.”



“You—wait, what?” Isaac gaped.



Bennett held out his free hand for Isaac’s. It was dry and cool around Isaac’s own warm, slightly sweaty one. “I mean, I totally hated the guy you were gonna give them to if, you know, he wasn’t me. But he was me!” There was definite relief in Bennett’s radiant smile, now. “I knew it!”



Shaking his head, Isaac smiled a little. “So, I was that transparent, huh?”



Bennett laughed. “Sorry, Isaac, but your stealth mode isn’t that stealthy.”



Isaac cleared his throat and looked down, hoping his own flush didn’t show up too much under his tan complexion. He couldn't, however, hide the grin stretched from ear-to-ear. “Wow. So. Um. I, uh, really like you.”



“And I really like you,” Bennett said, blushing hard enough that the faintest red showed up on his cheeks. He sniffed his flowers, then he whooped. “I’m the guy!”



Isaac rolled his eyes, but couldn’t suppress the grin still claiming his face. He and Bennett stood there, on either side of the counter, holding hands and grinning at each other, even as the bell above the door dinged and someone came in swearing and grumbling . . . in an English accent, no less.



“That’ll be my partner, Claire,” Bennett said wryly, without even glancing at the door. Isaac took a breath.



“Partner in the business-sense only, right?”



Bennett was the one to roll his eyes this time. “Yes, only in the business-sense. And the best friend-sense,” he added as Isaac sighed his relief. Then Claire was noisily leaning on the opposite end of the counter, scowling.



“We’ve got to switch banks, Benny, because I swear I’m gonna get mugged and murdered one of these nights when I go to drop off a—oh. Hello,” the business-partner-only said, and at last Isaac turned his gaze from Bennett to her. He suddenly found himself the subject of her laser gaze. Claire looked him up and down, then up again, grey-blue eyes lingering on his and Bennett’s held hands, and ending at last, with Isaac’s eyes.



“So. You must be cute-dog-guy,” she said briskly, moving down the counter and holding out her hand. Isaac glanced at Bennett, who looked down, smiling a little. Then he let go of Isaac’s hand so Isaac could shake Claire’s. Her grip was strong and cool, and her nails were blunt. She looked even younger than Bennett—who looked way too young to be running a business—with a tan face, freckles across the bridge of her nose and cheeks, and her dark brown in a short, utilitarian cut. Her outfit consisted of khakis, classic Doc Martens, a Joan Jett & the Blackhearts t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off, and a black fanny-pack turned to the front.



“Uh,” Isaac said, smiling as his hand was nearly wagged off his wrist. “That depends on whether you mean I’m: the guy with the cute dog, or the cute guy with the dog, or the cute guy with the cute dog.”



Claire grinned and it transformed her keen face into a friendly one, all dimples and mischief. “Well, to hear Benny describe you and your dog, I’d pick the third one. Cute guy, cute dog.”



“Ah. Soooo . . . Bennett’s mentioned me?” Isaac asked turning a smug smile of his own back to Bennett, after Claire let go of his hand and eased past him, deeper into the shop. “And apparently my dog.”



“Oh, yeah. You’re all he talked about this morning—really good-looking guy, sexy voice, nice smile . . . big, capable hands meant for . . . gripping things.” Claire cast an oblique look back at Isaac.



Claire!” Bennett complained, burying his face in his hands. “Shut up!”



“Well, it’s not like it’s a secret that you like him! Obviously he knew, or he wouldn’t have come back!” Claire sniffed some flowers Isaac didn’t recognize, then turned her smile back to Isaac and Bennett. That smile didn’t last long. She made a scrinched-up face, sneezed, groaned, and turned toward the back of the shop. “Ugh, these bloody flowers are gonna kill me before I’m twenty-five. I’m gonna go pop thirty Benadryl before I drown in my own phlegm.”



“Charming,” Bennett noted dryly, but Claire was already walking away, snuffling loudly as she went.



A few seconds later, a door at the back of the shop opened and closed creakily. Isaac and Bennett glanced at each other, Bennett looking painfully embarrassed, Isaac looking insufferably pleased.



“Well. That’s Claire,” Bennett mumbled. Isaac laughed.



“She’s awesome.”



“Well, thinking that is at least one thing you two have in common.” Bennett sniffed, looking irritated. But the look passed when Isaac took Bennett’s hand in his loosely. Their hands were the same size.



“Would you . . . care to join me for a celebratory dinner tonight?” Isaac asked, stroking Bennett’s fingers with his thumb. Bennett shivered and smiled uncertainly.



“Um. What would we be celebrating?”



Isaac grinned again. “Well, this morning, I got cast in the role of a lifetime, is what. Against all odds, it feels like.” He laughed once more. “Anyway, my agent, Dawn, hasn’t had time to set up a proper party, yet—probably not before Friday—but she wanted to celebrate today, nonetheless. So, she and her husband, Ron, are having me over for dinner. And they said I should feel free to bring a plus-one, so. . . .”



Bennett’s eyebrows climbed halfway to his hairline. “Sooooo . . . you’re an actor, eh?”



Isaac bowed a little. “At your service.”



“Hmm.” Bennett’s thick lashes shuttered his eyes for a few moments before he met Isaac’s gaze again. “But wouldn’t it be weird for us both, having dinner with these people that you know and then me, who you don’t know and who doesn’t know them?”



“Well, I am an actor. Worse comes to worst, I can act like I’m comfortable and having a good time.” Isaac shrugged.



Bennett’s brows furrowed. “An actor, but clearly not a comedian.”



Chuckling, Isaac laced his fingers with Bennett’s. “No, I guess I’m not. But Dawn and Mike are so ridiculously easy to be around. They’re like the parents you wish you had—they treat everyone younger than a certain age like their child. So they’ll try to feed you till you explode and they’ll ask what your intentions are toward me.”



Bennett blinked. “Completely honorable, I assure you,” he said laconically. “The most honorable intentions you’ll find for parsecs in any direction.”



“Well, let’s hope they’re not too honorable.” Isaac blushed again, but managed to hold Bennett’s gaze.



Is there really such a thing as too honorable?” Bennett mused innocently, but his lips were twitching like he wanted to laugh. Isaac rolled his eyes and tugged on Bennett’s hand as he leaned over the counter. Surprised, Bennett leaned over the counter as well, right into the kiss Isaac had waiting for him.



It wasn’t a long kiss—it was, in fact, quite brief: just a chaste pressing of lips together, before Isaac broke it to lean his forehead against Bennett’s. “Um—I’m sorry? I mean, I’m not, but I’m sorry if I’m moving too fa—”



“Kiss me again,” Bennett whispered almost hoarsely, licking his lips. “Please?”



Grinning, slow and eager, Isaac nodded. “Sure thing,” he breathed, his lips brushing Bennett’s before taking them in another kiss, this one more heated and demanding than the last. Bennett moaned and brought his free hand up to rest on the back of Isaac’s neck, fingers scritching and scratching there, before sliding up into Isaac’s curly, brown hair and pulling him closer. He moaned when Isaac’s tongue brushed and flirted with his own, while he explored Bennett’s mouth intently.



Bennett tasted like citrus and mint—orange juice and spearmint chewing gum, maybe—and he let Isaac control the kiss for a little bit, before surging up into it like swimmer breaking the surface of a pool. He was nervous, at first, it was obvious. The kiss was a little clumsy . . . but it soon evened out and Isaac found himself relaxing into it as if they’d been kissing each other for years. As if they’d be kissing each other for years to come. . . .



But eventually, it ended, as kisses do. They both needed oxygen, and the panting sips of it they could only barely get while kissing weren’t quite enough. So, Bennett teased his way out of the kiss with several small, sweet, citrus-mint kisses, his hand leaving the back of Isaac’s head to cup his face tenderly. Isaac couldn’t even open his eyes at first, still inhabiting the space of the kiss in perception, if not reality.



“Wow,” Bennett breathed, his thumb brushing across Isaac’s kiss-swollen lips. “That was. . . .”



“Yeah . . . it was,” Isaac agreed fervently, still trying to catch his breath. He leaned back a little to see Bennett’s eyes were still closed, his brow still furrowed, his lips still puckered slightly. “Definitely worth the price of admission.”



“Agreed. Even though I shoulda probably waited till we’d had at least one date before I put out. I mean, what if we discover we don’t like each other?” Bennett’s eyes opened: a dark, mysterious glitter that was Isaac’s whole universe when they were so close. “What if we’re polar opposites politically? Religiously? What if we’re both bottoms? What if—”



Isaac silenced Bennett with a peck on the lips. “Hey, my dog likes you. What more do I need to know?”



Bennett opened his mouth to gainsay that . . . then clearly found he had no quick rebuttal to Isaac’s flawless logic. “She is a discerning creature of impeccable taste. Shiba Inus just naturally are, I suppose,” he murmured, chuckling. Isaac blinked in surprise.



“You know her breed?”



“So, I did a little Googling after I met you guys.” Bennett’s eyes darted to Isaac’s lips yearningly. “Sue me.”



Isaac snorted. “And you said I have no stealth? Ha!” Shaking his head, Isaac smiled when Bennett blushed again. “Oh, and for the record, I top, I lean left politically, I'm not particularly religious, and I doubt there’s anything about you I won’t like.”



Bennett, still seeming a bit shy and chagrined, was also obviously relieved. “Um, good to know.”



“Glad that’s settled, then. So. Wanna come have dinner with me, my agent, and my agent’s husband?”



“Sure. Why the hell not?” Bennett grinned big and bright, still stealing glances at Isaac’s lips.

“Excellent. And now that we’ve got all that squared away, here’s a crazy question: Can I kiss you, again, Bennett Bloom?”



Still grinning, Bennett leaned their foreheads together again. “I’ve been waiting for you to kiss me again, since . . . pretty much the moment we stopped kiss—mmph!” He didn’t get to finish his sentence, let alone finish catching his breath. Isaac’s kiss was devouring and aggressive and, at turns, sweet and tender. And Bennett eagerly gave as good as he got. It was all Isaac could do to keep up, sometimes. He certainly didn’t have any room for extraneous thoughts, and probably wouldn’t for a while, since they were fast approaching melt-down mode.



Eh . . . breathing and thinking are both overrated, anyway.



And that was Isaac’s last coherent thought for quite some time.




END
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