Authors: Madeleine Urban,Abigail Roux
Tags: #erotic MM, #Romance MM
Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux
Cameron blinked and then gave him an open and honest smile.
“Yes. I suppose I am.” He placed the cork on the table and poured a couple swallows into a glass for him to approve. “I’m good at it,” he said with a shrug.
“Yes,” the man murmured as he picked up the glass. He sampled the wine and nodded his head in approval. “Being good at what you do does help. Thank you, Cameron,” he said softly.
“You’re welcome,” Cameron said. “Your dessert will be out shortly.” He put down the bottle and left the table, taking the corkscrew with him and fighting back the fluttering in his chest.
“You know, I think he likes you,” Miri asserted with a slight smile as soon as Cameron stepped into the service area.
“For God’s sake, Miri,” Cameron muttered as he blushed deeply.
“He likes you, and you are totally missing it. Would you even know what to do about it?” she challenged slyly.
Cameron made an aggravated sound and deliberately ignored her question. “How in the world is this either relevant or remotely appropriate? You’re talking about a loyal customer, one who Blake always greets personally,” he reminded pointedly.
Never mind that Cameron thought about him fairly frequently.
Wondered about him. Even fantasized about him and that rough, quiet voice.
The waitress shook her head. “Wow, Cam,” she said. “I bet if you made a move, he’d respond,” she hinted.
“I don’t want to make a move,” Cameron insisted stubbornly.
“Why the hell not?” she asked in shock. “
would if I thought he’d go for it!” she claimed with a laugh. “No man who dresses that nice would be straight, though,” she muttered. She peered through the blinds with an exaggerated sigh.
“If you’re this bored, I’m sure we can find you something more to do,” Cameron threatened as he glared at her.
She turned around and winked at him, patting him on the back.
“Fine, Mr. Head Waiter, sir. I’ll take his dessert out then,” she taunted, Warrior’s Cross 13
swooping in to take the plate and ramekin that had just appeared, setting it on a small, linen-covered tray, and heading out to the dining room.
Cameron caught his objection at the last second and watched her go before he turned narrowed eyes on a couple of the other waitresses who huddled at the end of the bar. They scurried back to work with a flutter of giggles. Cameron groaned. This was all he needed. Miri and the other girls would pester him about it forever, never mind that he was technically their supervisor. He didn’t know what Miri hoped to get out of this little interaction, but he hoped she was satisfied with whatever it was.
As much as he hated to, Cameron went to the slats and peered through, watching curiously.
Miri composed herself and approached the man’s table. “Your dessert, sir,” she offered as she presented the plate.
The man watched the plate as it was set in front of him. He slowly looked up at the waitress, his expression blank for a long moment before simply nodding his thanks.
Miri offered him a polite, charming smile. “May I bring you anything else?”
The man gave her his usual jerk of the head in answer as he placed a linen napkin in his lap with his good hand.
“Feel free to flag us down if you need anything,” she told him happily, pausing for a few breaths before moving along to make her way back out of the dining room.
Once through the dark doors, she marched over to Cameron and waved her hand at the blinds. “See?” she said triumphantly.
“No, I don’t,” Cameron responded, looking up from the coffee service he was preparing. Yes, he’d given in to the urge to watch Miri talk to him, but
didn’t need to know that.
“He was annoyed with me,” she informed him with a smile. “He only wants you, Romeo,” she crooned with a smile before heading off again.
Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux
Cameron stared after her before turning to check the dining room.
He watched the man for a minute, examining the set of his shoulders and searching for signs of annoyance before frowning and shaking his head. Why would a man like that be interested in someone like him?
First of all, he’d have to be into guys. And even if he was—which was a long shot in Cameron’s opinion—why pick up a mere waiter? The man looked rich and successful and powerful. None of which Cameron was.
As he watched, Blake Nichols appeared and approached the table.
The restaurant’s owner stood for a long while as they talked, and then he sat on the edge of the chair across from the man, speaking with what was obviously concern. The patron’s expression didn’t change, but Cameron sensed he was speaking to Blake somewhat heatedly, if the motions of his uninjured hand were any indication.
The men were a study in opposites. The unnamed man had a tall, firm frame with tight muscles under his well-tailored clothing, jet black hair with those little hints of gray at the temples, his ever-present well-groomed beard and mustache. Blake Nichols, on the other hand, was clean-shaven with fine blond hair that always looked as if he’d been dragging his socks against the carpet. Fashionably messy. He wasn’t as tall or as broad, but he was still trim and in very good shape.
Another difference between the two men: Blake wasn’t shy about expressing himself verbally when his smooth, polished persona wasn’t required on the dining floor. Cameron was extremely familiar with that.
And Blake was a warm, friendly guy who tended to be easily distracted. In Cameron’s experience, the patron had always been Blake’s polar opposite, cold as ice and unflappable. But now Cameron was seeing true emotion, seeing the dark-haired man come alive, even if it was with some sort of frustration. And he was magnificent.
Cameron cursed under his breath. Now he’d never be able to get rid of the damn crush.
Soon enough, Blake stood and placed his hand on the dark man’s uninjured shoulder before leaving him to his dessert. Cameron watched as the man sat silent and blank for a moment before pulling a small, beat-up moleskin notebook from his seemingly endless supply of Warrior’s Cross 15
pockets and placing it carefully beside his plate. He then extracted an expensive-looking pen and opened the notebook.
He ate his crème brûlée carefully with his injured right hand as he wrote in the notebook with his left. It was something he did often, writing in the little book while eating his dinner. Cameron had noticed that he used either hand to write, and he’d often wondered what the man was doing.
None of it was any of Cameron’s business, and he realized that he was ignoring his responsibilities. He just couldn’t help himself.
Cameron scrubbed his hands over his face and pressed his lips together in resignation before lifting the tray and getting back to work. He served coffee to two tables that were finishing up, and he’d brought an extra cup, just in case. After a look toward the alcove, he took a deep breath to bolster his confidence and decided to go over.
“Would you care for some coffee?” he asked, pausing on his way past. He hoped he sounded calm and collected.
The man didn’t look up from his writing. He gave a simple shake of his head in answer.
Put at ease by the more usual reaction, Cameron went on his way.
He’d just let himself be distracted by attempting personal interaction when he was better served forgetting his silly fantasy and doing his job; that was all. Satisfied and back on balance, Cameron went to finish up the checks for the remaining tables.
Then Blake passed by the man’s table on his usual rounds of the patrons. The man reached out without looking up and snagged Blake by the arm, stopping him without a word. He didn’t even stop writing as he held onto Blake’s wrist. Blake stood there for a moment as the man wrote. Then he gently extricated his arm and slid into the seat opposite the man.
Cameron wondered how it was that Blake knew him. Besides greeting him personally at the door like he did only a privileged few, Blake actually sat and talked with him. Cameron had never seen Blake do that with anyone else.
Blake said something more, and the man raised his head slightly, ran two fingers over his lower lip in thought, and then looked down at 16
Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux
his book with a frown. Blake nodded and stood once more, strolling away from the table with a small smirk, one hand casually in a pocket, obviously pleased with whatever he’d said to make the dark man think.
Frowning, Cameron wondered what in the world was going on. He shook his head and told himself again it wasn’t his business, no matter how gorgeous the guy was. He headed out to clear a vacated table, deliberately keeping himself from peeking back at the alcove.
When he did happen to glance over at the table, the man caught Cameron with his dark eyes and inclined his head slightly. Now this Cameron was used to.
“Are you from here in the city?” the man asked him when Cameron arrived at the table.
The question totally threw Cameron again. He’d been expecting a request for the check or perhaps more wine. “Yes,” he answered tentatively.
“Do you know it well?” the man inquired, either not noticing or not caring about Cameron’s discomfort.
“Yes, I think so,” Cameron answered, slightly more confident.
“Do you know of a place called The Zenith?” the man asked, his voice holding a hint of barely hidden frustration to it. “Anywhere that could be called that? An establishment, a location, a landmark.
Cameron’s cheeks immediately darkened, and his eyes widened as the man spoke. Just when he thought this man couldn’t surprise him anymore, he out and asked about something like the Zenith. Great. Was this what he and Blake had been discussing? Blake wouldn’t know about a club like the Zenith, would he? Cameron blushed further and cleared his throat.
The man’s observant eyes did notice his reaction this time, and he tilted his head inquiringly.
Cameron cleared his throat again, shocked by how uncomfortable one little question could make him. “That’s the name of an exclusive club,” he answered with a nervous smile. “Caters mostly to gay men, I believe,” he hedged.
Warrior’s Cross 17
The man cocked his head and looked away thoughtfully. He pursed his lips and looked back down at his notebook. “Interesting,” he murmured to himself. “You can have the woman bring the check now,”
he ordered without looking up again.
Cameron swallowed hard. “Yes, sir,” he practically whispered.
Once in the back, he stiffly set down his tray with a muted clatter and leaned his head against the wall. The man had asked a question, and he’d answered it. And for that he was not just dismissed, but replaced with another server?
Cameron rubbed at his eyes. What was it about this man that threw him so easily off kilter? With a sigh, he headed into the kitchen to find Miri.
The next time he looked out across the dining room, she was stepping back from the man’s table. She spoke and then turned smartly on one heel and walked away.
The man looked up quickly and narrowed his eyes, glancing around the restaurant slowly as if he were looking for someone. His eyes returned to the kitchen door where Cameron had disappeared and narrowed further.
Cameron, watching from the service area, fought not to shrink back from those piercing eyes. If he hadn’t known better, he would have sworn the man knew he was there behind the blinds.
The man removed a bill from his wallet and placed the money on the edge of the table without looking away from the blinds. Then he walked away with his coat over his arm, not bothering to struggle back into it despite the cold weather. Just before he got to the door, Blake emerged from the hallway that led to the private offices and stopped him for a few words.
The man towered over Blake, but Blake Nichols’ presence alone could overpower a room. Blake had been a medic in the Special Forces, though Cameron had never had the nerve to ask which branch or for how long. Blake carried himself like a capable soldier as well as the affluent businessman he had become. He was a hard man to outshine.
Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux
Cameron watched nervously, knowing his boss was asking the dark man about the service and what had happened. The man pointed at the slats with his good hand and spoke to Blake heatedly. To Cameron’s horror, Blake actually laughed in response. Cameron stepped back so fast he almost knocked down another server. Jesus, what was he telling Blake to make him laugh like that?
He cautiously crept back to the shutters to try to see what was going on. The man said something else, and Blake laughed harder. He took the bigger man’s arm and led him toward the door, helping him into his coat as they went. Surely if Blake were amused, it wasn’t anything bad. Right? Cameron swallowed hard, replaying the evening in his head. There wasn’t a single thing he could see that had been done wrong, aside from knowing the answer to that question. And Blake knew Cameron was gay, so that wouldn’t come as a surprise to him or anyone else who knew Cameron even remotely well.
Blake actually walked out of the restaurant with the man into the lobby of the top floor of the building to the elevators. Cameron held his breath for a moment and let it out slowly to calm himself. It was okay, he told himself. Everything was okay. And he had work to do before he could go home and try not to dream about the man again.
Several minutes later, Cameron just happened to glance up while clearing a table, and he froze. He stood motionless, like a rabbit caught in the eyes of a cougar, as Blake moved toward him. No point in running, after all.
Blake went by the alcove table and swept his hand across the linen tablecloth as he made his way over to Cameron. “May I speak to you for a moment?” he asked politely as he passed Cameron by and crooked his finger, indicating he was to follow.
Cameron reminded himself this was just Blake. He was the restaurant owner and Cameron’s boss, yes, but he’d also become a good friend over the years. He nodded and placed the used glasses back onto the table before following. They walked to the front of the restaurant and into the hallway off the front foyer, where Blake led Cameron into his private office. He ushered Cameron in.