Title: Stay with Me
Author: Lily Adile Lamb
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: July 25, 2015
Publisher: Encompass Ink
***Content Warning: Explicit sexual content, mild violence 18+***
It has been weeks since Curtis first saw the young waiter with the haunted eyes. No matter how often he went to the café to find the right opportunity to introduce himself, that moment simply did not come that quickly.
Joseph was aware of the gentle giant who quietly came to have his lunch and then left day after day. Fearing his father’s wrath and under his ever watchful eyes, he made no moves nor overtures. Until one day when the other man approaches to him…
His colleague Jason spoke highly of the little corner café at the mall. Curtis decided to try the food during his lunch break, since he’d left his sandwiches on the kitchen bench-top at home that morning. Bugger, he thought sourly, because it was a typically hot Aussie day, and he wasn’t in the mood to walk to the mall. Perth had always been sweltering in the summer, but today, it was humid as well. He hated the thought of sweating and then having visible wet patches painting the fabric under his arms.
He didn’t want to give the impression of being a sweaty, smelly, big bear. Curtis was slightly overweight, and at just over six-feet, it made him feel visible and a little self-conscious in the crowd.
He waved at everyone as he left. At the bank where he worked as a teller in central Perth, he got on well with everyone. His colleagues often teased him about choosing to work longer hours, but he took it on the chin. Of course, they’d tease him because he couldn’t hide his shyness.
Emerging from the building, he felt the scorching heat instantly. He quickly walked, using the shade of other buildings. His wallet was in his pocket, and he carried his Kindle. Curtis was a voracious reader and hooked on the newest thriller/suspense novel by his favorite author, Dorien Grey. He’d left his mobile phone behind, so he wouldn’t be distracted by phone calls.
As it was a Friday, the mall was busy. He looked around curiously before climbing down the stairs to the Asian café in the corner. It was busy and had a long queue. Fuck. I hope I won’t spend my lunch break standing here, he thought irritably.
Waiting at the counter to order his meal, Curtis glanced at a short, slim Asian waiter, taking a steaming hot bowl of some epicurean delight to a lucky customer. He couldn't see the man’s face, but something about his general demeanor caught his attention. He moved deftly through the crowds carrying the bowl to its intended customer. What caught Curtis’s attention was the way he hunched his shoulders as if he didn’t wish to be noticed by anyone. No one that young should walk like the weight of the world rests on his shoulders. Curtis couldn’t take his eyes off the man with the fragile appearance.
“What can I get for you?” the elderly attendant asked, looking directly at Curtis.
“Huh? Oh! I’d like to order a small size of your special fried rice, please,” Curtis said. He paid for it and was given a number to pick up his lunch when it was called. He walked away from the counter, but stood close enough to collect his meal. He waited for a while, but grew tired of standing like a beanpole among those much shorter than him, and looked around for a free table.
He again found himself watching the waiter. This time, he had a better opportunity to look at him, noting the man’s full profile. He had short, dark hair that complemented his pale complexion and the pixie-like, fragile bone structure of his youthful face. Curtis sat down but didn’t open his Kindle. Instead, he watched the waiter, whose face appeared sad and pale, as if he didn’t see much sun, despite the sunny days of summer. Curtis sighed and finally opened his Kindle to read. Immersed in the story, he forgot about his surroundings and got caught up in the adventure. Since he had a thing for wounded male heroes, he could already visualize the character, John, in the story.
Excuse me? Did you order the fried rice?” asked a quiet voice.
Curtis looked up and found the waiter he’d been checking out earlier holding his food. “Oh! Yes, that's what I ordered.” Curtis felt bad for forgetting to pick up his lunch. It was clear the guy was extremely busy. “Sorry, I forgot to come to the counter.”
The man smiled reassuringly at Curtis before he dropped his gaze. “It’s fine.” Then he walked away.
For the first time, Curtis had been able to look directly into his eyes. He had delicately exotic Asian features. His eyes are amazing, nearly black in color, yet lack any sparkle. In fact, they looked haunted. He had a cute little nose and his lips were full, almost pouty. Curtis continued to watch the man who was much shorter compared to Curtis’s big frame. He felt suddenly protective toward him.
By the time Curtis finished his fried rice, his lunch break was nearly over. He wiped his mouth with the tissue and stood up to leave, but couldn't resist the urge to look back at the man one last time.
A month had passed since Curtis first saw the waiter. He wasn’t sure whether he should continue going to the café each day for lunch because he hadn’t found the courage to approach the guy. He was worried people had begun to notice and felt nervous that his behavior was stalkerish. He tried to appear as though he went there for the good food only and not for the man himself. The waiter was certainly cute, but more than that drew Curtis in. The sadness that overlaid the sweetness caught his attention and held it. That was what kept him coming back again and again.
It made his heart heavy to think people might’ve noticed his behavior and think he was creepy. Who wanted to be known as a creepy stalker-bear guy?
He prayed he was being subtle and hoped he wasn’t receiving any speculative looks from anyone. But he really had to make a decision soon—either strike up a conversation with the guy, or stop coming for lunch and torturing himself.
There he was, wiping a table for a couple of customers. He was wearing the same style of clothes as before. The jeans he wore looked old and frayed, but they hugged his cute little arse as he bent over, took a swipe at the table with a damp rag, and collected the dishes. When he stood up, it was obvious the shirt was as old as the jeans. It was thinned to nearly nothing from frequent laundering. So transparent, it could have been made of gauze—it did nothing to hide the guy’s ribs.
Curtis didn’t even realize he stood stock-still, staring at the man until his eyes caught the old man at the cashier’s desk glaring at him with a clenched jaw. His deep frown made Curtis feel awkward to the point where he felt his cheeks burning. He looked at his phone and checked for messages but still furtively watched the waiter. He saw the expression he’d come to recognize as sadness, but this time, there was more to it. He looked like a man who’d lost all hope. He was also limping and dragged his feet at times.
Is he injured? Why does he look like he’s in despair? Fuck. What’s happening in his life? .....
Lily Adile, a Turkish writer, lived in the UK for many years before emigrating to Australia. She visits her family in Turkey regularly and travels to other countries, like Singapore, to visit other family members.
She is blessed with three grown up children and a furry child, Sir JJ Basil.