Hello all! Here's my chapter for this week's Different Tracks story.Here are the links to the current chapters and more info on the Round Robin story. http://www.charliecochet.com/free-reads/round-robin-free-reads/
Peter was a man on a mission. Ever since his lunch conversation with Xander on Saturday—if it could be called a conversation—the pieces had started to fall into place. The more he thought about Xander, the more he began to understand what was really going on, and it had nothing to do with the guy’s aversion to relationships.
“You don’t want someone like me, I get it. It was a mistake. Okay?”
Xander’s words had caught Peter off guard, and it wasn’t until long after Xander had gone that they finally sank in. There were times when Xander seemed confident. Like when he was out on the construction site working. He’d quickly familiarized himself with all the tools and handled them skillfully, as if he’d been using them all his life. At least until Peter showed up. Then the guy turned into one of those infomercials where picking up a hammer resulted in flailing chaos with the added bonus of a bandage or two.
Xander didn’t seem to have a problem holding a conversation with Mr. J, Mike, or even Jo. The moment Peter appeared, Xander acted like he didn’t know what to do with himself. He had no idea how sweet he looked, the way his cheeks flushed, or how he mumbled to himself when he thought Peter couldn’t hear him. Those weren’t the actions of a guy who saw Peter as nothing more than a one night stand. For some reason, Xander didn’t think he was good enough for Peter, so it was up to Peter to prove him wrong.
While he dressed, he tried his best to ignore the little voice in his head telling him Xander might bail on him. It had taken a good deal of persuasion for Xander to finally agree. Peter was itching to send another text or call, but he didn’t want to be pushy. The last thing he wanted was to scare Xander off. Tonight was about showing Xander the possibility of something more between them. To show it didn’t matter to Peter the car he drove, what his apartment was like, or what he did for a living.
Peter finished buttoning up his charcoal gray dress shirt, leaving the top two buttons undone. His hair had a small amount of gel in it, his cologne was subtle, and his dark blue jeans gave him a more casual look. He wanted to look good for Xander, but not too dressy. Choosing his outfit had been almost as tough as choosing where to go for dinner. He wanted Xander to feel comfortable tonight, though he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t nervous.
The doorbell rang and he took a deep breath. “Relax. You can do this.”
Turning off the bedroom lights, he made his way to the front door, opening it with a smile when he got there. The moment his eyes landed on Xander, his brain vacated the premises. Holy shit.
“Hey.” Xander smiled bashfully, his hands shoved into the pockets of his black jeans. He was clean shaven and wearing a navy blue dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, revealing his muscular arms. “I hope this is okay. I didn’t know where we were going and—”
Peter kissed Xander, cutting him off mid-sentence. He tasted minty fresh, and his aftershave sent the most delicious shiver up Peter’s spine. Xander leaned into the kiss, his hands going to Peter’s waist and his lips parting to invite Peter in. Peter was very tempted to skip dinner and go right to dessert. Instead, he pulled back with a soft laugh.
“Sorry. I just needed to do that. You look great.” Xander’s smile warmed Peter all over. He motioned behind him. “I’m just gonna grab my keys and jacket.”
Peter swiped up what he needed before locking up then headed down to the truck with Xander quiet at Peter’s side. He remained that way until they were on the road.
“So, um, where are we going?” Xander asked, his gaze focused outside his window.
Peter noticed the way Xander was trying his hardest not to fidget. His knee had bounced a few times before he caught himself.
“Relax,” Peter said, taking hold of Xander’s hand and giving it a squeeze. He smiled warmly, loving the slight flush on Xander’s face. He loved that Xander didn’t pull his hand out of his even more. “There’s this great little steakhouse not far from here. It’s cozy, but grills a mean porterhouse.” He pulled his hand away and placed it on the steering wheel. Slow and steady. He’d need to keep remind himself.
Xander blinked at him. “A steakhouse?”
“Yeah, why?” Peter’s smile faded. Had he made the wrong choice? “Is that okay? We could go somewhere else. Maybe I should have asked you where you wanted to go.”
“No, steak is good. That’s perfect, actually. Really.” Xander’s smile was genuine, reaching his big brown eyes. He visibly relaxed a little and even turned on the radio.
“Great,” Peter replied cheerfully. They chatted as they drove down to the steakhouse with Peter asking Xander what cut of steak he recommended. Peter did his best to help Xander feel at ease. As Xander talked about prime cuts, Peter couldn’t help but wonder what could have caused Xander to have such a low opinion of himself. Why would he think Peter wouldn’t want more from him than the occasional screw?
A few minutes later, Peter had pulled into the steakhouse’s parking lot. Actually it was more a wide patch of gravel than a lot. He turned off the engine and got out, locking up as soon as Xander closed his door. They headed inside and Peter was aware of Xander taking in everything around him.
The place had a rustic look to it, all old fashioned wood and gold accents. The lighting was low, giving it a cozy warm feel. The flat screens above the bar were playing music video and the place was filled with lively chatter. It wasn’t packed like it tended to get on the weekends, but it was still pretty busy.
A large bald man in a checked shirt gave him a nod and smiled from behind the bar. “Hey, Peter. Take a seat. Sheryl will be right with you.”
“Thanks, Kyle.” Peter gave him a smile before headed for a booth at the end and around the corner. Somewhere they could talk without Xander worrying.
“You know him?” Xander asked quietly, following Peter toward their table. Peter slid into the booth and Xander sat across from him.
“Kyle used to help my dad out on the farm when he was younger. Before he opened this place up. Really nice guy.”
Xander shifted his knife and fork to one side. “Does he, uh, know about you. Being gay, I mean?”
“Yeah, he kind of figured it out when he caught me sucking face with Liam, his busboy, behind the restaurant one day after school.”
Xander sat back with a laugh. “Shit. I didn’t know you were so adventurous.” There was mischief in his sparkling brown eyes. Xander leaned forward, his knee brushing up against Peter’s. With a wicked grin, Peter slipped his leg between Xander’s. He hoped tonight was the start of a new adventure for him, one that included Xander.