Status Update(9)

By: Annabeth Albert

“Yeah? Which colony did you purchase?”

And just like that, dinner conversation got far easier. They chatted about the game and Adrian filled Noah in on where they were in the release schedule. Noah was ridiculously easy to talk to—a good listener with lots of great questions. As long as Adrian kept the whole right-winger-who-probably-hates-me thing out of his head, this wasn’t going to be a terrible night.

* * *

Noah tossed and turned in his bed, making Ulysses groan. Ulysses was already in a bad mood because Noah had made up the couch for Adrian and Pixel. Ulysses still wasn’t sure what to make of the usurpers, but giving up his bed had made the old dog even more cranky. He’d taken forever to settle and had finally decided that across Noah’s feet was the only acceptable location for his considerable bulk.

Noah wasn’t used to sharing his bed. Wasn’t used to sharing his space. Wasn’t used to a stranger using his sheets, burrowed under his spare comforter, close enough that Noah could hear his soft snores. What would it be like to have another person next to him? Would it be as irritating as wrestling with the dog for space? Or would it be like the winter nights when he was grateful for a little extra warmth? Of course, another human next to him would be all sorts of more complicated than a canine.

And that thought had him tossing off the covers, limbs feverishly hot. It would be so much easier if Adrian were some slacker college student—then Noah could place him firmly in the thou-shalt-not-even-think-of-it category as his own students and head off these errant thoughts. But no, Adrian was a man. Despite his current predicament, Adrian had proven himself to be a highly functional adult. He was a lead developer on a game Noah was dearly anticipating and they’d stayed up chatting about the game for several hours.

Part of why Noah had secluded himself out here for the duration of his book writing was because a powerful Wi-Fi connection was his kryptonite—it was far too easy to lose hours to games and surfing. He’d cured himself of the World of Warcraft addiction he’d had in grad school but Space Villager threatened to be every bit as addictive. Listening to Adrian talk about the game was all kinds of torture—not only did Noah wish he could play it now, but also Adrian turned all adorably focused when he talked about Space Villager.

Adrian had the best kind of voice—animated and enthusiastic with a natural melodic tone. Noah spent plenty of time around stuffy guys with dry, monotone voices. Men who droned on and on held zero temptation. But that wasn’t the case with Adrian. Watching him talk was almost as intoxicating as listening to him. His pale blue eyes got wide behind his frames and his big hands waved about, showing little flashes of that wrist tattoo.

Noah wanted to know what else made Adrian’s eyes go wide and where else he had ink and...

And nothing. In the morning Adrian would have to figure out a new plan because there was no way he could stay here. It was just too darn risky to keep a guy like him around.

* * *

Naturally, the morning conspired against him. Noah awoke to a hard, driving rain and a big temperature drop. Rain seldom lasted very long out here, but it did lessen his ability to send Adrian on his way. Adrian was still lying on the sofa bed when Noah got up with Ulysses, but Pixel did a happy dance when he saw them.

“Better let me take the dog out for you,” Noah said as Adrian stirred under the comforter. “You won’t last a minute out there with no shoes.”

“Thanks.” Adrian sat up and the covers pooled around his waist.

Lord save me. Sometime in the night Adrian had removed his shirt. In addition to the tattoo on his right forearm—some sort of pixelated action hero with a rainbow cape—a massive scene of battling spaceships, each emblazoned with the Space Villager logo, stretched from the top of each bicep, under his collarbones, and skating across his pecs. Fancy Latin script of some sort of motto danced right above his nipples.

“You must really love your job,” he said, the words escaping before he could recall them.

“I do. Robert may have had the prior game-developing experience and the venture capital connections, but I’ve been with the team since the earliest concept drawings.” Adrian had terrible bed head, which only added more appeal to his impish grin. A grin which said he knew Noah had been checking out his ink much, much too intently.

Also By Annabeth Albert

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