“How do I look?”
Seb turned to his little brother, arms held out at his sides. After hours of rummaging through his closet and trying on practically every item of clothing he owned, he’d settled on an outfit that Ethan picked out. It was a mossy green sweater—the green bringing out his eyes—over a white shirt, and khaki pants. It wasn’t T-shirt and jeans, but it wasn’t a suit either. He’d been ready to lose his mind until his little brother dropped by, reached into his closet, and plucked the perfect outfit before Seb could toss his entire wardrobe out the window.
“I told you that sweater would look great with those pants,” Ethan replied quietly, a big smile on his face. “You’re really nervous, huh?”
“Yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever been this nervous over a date before.”
“Guess you really like him,” Ethan teased.
“It’s crazy. I barely know him, but….” Seb shrugged as he sat on the edge of the bed and pulled on his brown leather brogues. “There’s just something about him. I mean, he’s beautiful, smart, funny, and his smile just takes my breath away.”
“Wow, you got it bad.” Ethan laughed at Seb’s arched eyebrow. “What? I’ve never seen you like this. I think it’s great. He’s really nice. I like him for you.”
Seb couldn’t help his dopey grin. “Thanks.” Ethan grew quiet, and Seb straightened. To everyone else they knew, Ethan being quiet was the norm, but to Seb, when it was just the two of them and Ethan was quiet, it was worrisome. Ethan was always chatty with him. “What’s on your mind?”
“It’s not important,” Ethan muttered.
“If it’s on your mind then it is. Talk to me.” Seb turned to face his brother. “Come on, buddy. You know you can tell me anything.”
“I hope it works out for the both of you,” Ethan said, his eyes everywhere else but on Seb. “But I feel kind of bad.”
“Why?” Seb asked gently. He placed his hand on his brother’s head reassuringly like he always did when Ethan was little, letting him know that he was there for Ethan no matter what.
“I really want things to work out for you guys because you like him so much, and he makes you happy, but I also want things to work out for a more selfish reason, and I feel kind of crappy about it.” Ethan looked up at Seb then, and Seb was taken aback by the glassiness in his brother’s eyes.
“He understands me,” Ethan replied. “From the day we met him in the training bay, he didn’t question why I couldn’t talk. He didn’t look at me with pity. Instead, he smiled, talked to me like he did everyone else, and understood what I was trying to say. He doesn’t look at me like I’m broken. To him, I’m a colleague, an agent just like anyone one else on Destructive Delta. And even though he’s a doctor, he’s not trying to fix me.”
Seb’s heart squeezed in his chest. It was hard for Ethan when Seb or Rafe dated because their dates weren’t always so understanding. Some tried, but in the end things didn’t work out for some reason or another. Seb figured he hadn’t found the right person yet, because when he did, that guy would love Ethan and the rest of the Hobbs brood as much as Seb did. He didn’t begrudge anyone for walking away from him. His life was complicated, and at times emotionally draining. Between being a Defense agent for the THIRDS risking his life out in the field, his father’s condition, and his little brother’s Selective Mutism, it was too much for some people, and as much as Seb wanted to find love, he would never ever walk away from his family.
“Hey, look at me,” Seb insisted gently, smiling when Ethan looked up at him. “That’s not selfish. You’re my little brother, and I love you. Anyone who really wants to be a part of my life will want to be a part of your too, Ethan. We’re a family. That’s never going to change.”
“Ethan, the right guy will know how much you all mean to me, and he’ll love you as much as I do.”
Ethan’s eyes brimmed with tears. He nodded before throwing his arms around Seb, and hugging him tight. When he pulled back, he wiped the tears from his eyes. His wide grin made Seb chuckle.
“He’s going to love you, Seb, I just know he is.”
Ethan’s faith in him never ceased to astound him. “One step at a time, buddy.” Seb patted Ethan’s shoulders then headed downstairs, Ethan on his heels. He grabbed his wallet, keys, and phone along with his brown leather jacket. His hair had been recently cut so there wasn’t much he could do with it. Taking a deep breath, he followed Ethan outside, and locked up.
“Okay. Wish me luck. And thanks for coming over to check on me.”
Ethan hugged him again before heading off, and Seb promised he’d call to let him know how it went. Seb took a taxi instead of his truck so he wouldn’t have to worry about parking. The restaurant was a cute little Korean place on East 31st Street, one of Hudson’s favorites.
Seb had offered to pick Hudson up from his house, but since Hudson was getting off work later than Seb, he was going to shower and change at work then head out to the restaurant to meet him. A few minutes later, Seb walked in to the restaurant. He’d meant to call Hudson to let him know he was on his way, and completely forgot. He was about to ask the hostess when the door opened, and the most stunning man Seb had ever seen walked in. His black hair was windblown, his cheeks flushed, one side of his shirt sticking out from under his chic button down vest. His glasses were crooked on his nose, and one of his shoes were untied. The man was too adorable for words. When Hudson spotted him, he let out a squeak, and his eyes went wide. Seb smiled and opened his mouth to say hi when Hudson ran back out.
Well that was new.
Seb quickly followed, finding Hudson outside pacing furiously and mumbling to himself.
Hudson gave a start, a hand going to his chest. “Oh good lord.”
“Are you okay?” Had Hudson changed his mind?
“Yes, um, I uh….” Hudson let out a shaky laugh as he ran a hand through his hair. He smoothed down his vest then quickly tucked his shirt into his belt. “I um, I’m so sorry.”
Seb held his breath. “If you’ve changed your mind about this, I understand.”
Hudson blinked at him. “I beg your pardon?”
“You ran out when you saw me. I thought maybe you were rethinking the whole date thing.”
The shout was unexpected, and Seb started. With a groan, Hudson covered his face with his hands. Seb chuckled. The poor guy was working himself into quite the flustered state. Seb realized then what was really happening. He stepped up to Hudson, knelt, and took hold of his laces.
“What are you doing?”
Seb looked up at him with a smile. “Tying your shoe.” He had a feeling if he didn’t the poor man might end up on the floor. The pink that crept into Hudson’s cheeks was just the sweetest thing.
“Thank you,” Hudson murmured, straightening his glasses. “I wasn’t having second thoughts. I thought perhaps I might have arrived before you and could run to the loo to tidy up my appearance. You’re very punctual.”
Seb laughed softly as he stood. “I’m sorry.”
“Please don’t apologize. I’m the one who should apologize, showing up like I’d been ravished or some such thing.”
Seb waggled his eyebrows. “Ravished, huh?”
“Oh, I… bollocks.” Hudson laughed, embarrassed. “Are you certain you’re not having second thoughts?”
Seb closed the distance between them. He placed his fingers under Hudson’s chin, lifting his face so he could meet those gorgeous blue eyes.
“Believe me, the last thing I’m thinking about is walking away from you.”
PART TWO next week!
Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.