World of Love: Poland
Marek and Adrian dated in high school, but a bitter breakup led them to choose different paths. Adrian is out and proud while Marek is in the closet. Adrian embraces his eccentricity while Marek clings to a conservative image. And while Marek worked hard to build a successful life and financial stability by climbing the corporate ladder, Adrian threw caution to the wind and has spent the last five years backpacking across the world.
Now Adrian is back in Warsaw, Poland, but while Marek thinks they will have a hookup and have a blast from the past, Adrian is just looking for a place to crash. Worse still, Adrian turns up at Marek’s advertising agency for help with his outrageous new business venture, and if Marek wants to get promoted, he might have to work with the guy who broke his heart.
World of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the globe.
- 5 To Be Read lists
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Tropes: Enemies to Lovers, Find Love and Come Out, Friends to Lovers, Opposites Attract, Second Chances, Trapped Together, Coming Out / Closeted, Office / Workplace Romance, Out for You
Word Count: 35000
Setting: Warsaw, Poland, big city, Europe
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
IT WAS a day like any other in Mordor, as the corporate district of Warsaw was called by those who spent most of their days there. Population? Possibly zero, unless one counted those who regularly fell asleep at their desks.
The sun was sharp for mid-May. It shone through the large windows, blinding one of Marek’s eyes as he tried to find a sweet spot between the sunlight shining directly into his eyes and it bouncing off the screen causing glare. He sighed, massaging the base of his nose, and wondered how many days it has been since he asked his boss about the promised shutters for the newly expanded part of their office.READ MORE
His gaze trailed to the open door, where he saw the master and commander of this whole endeavor, nursing some kind of expensive coffee while reclining in his swivel chair. Bogdan was an energetic man of forty, with tan skin and graying hair at his temples, which was the only thing about his appearance that suggested an age above thirty. No one knew how he’d come by the first big contract that catapulted the Proxima agency into the world of expensive adverts that ran during every commercial break, but everyone agreed it couldn’t have been honest work.
For a man who demanded so much from his employees, Bogdan was remarkably laid back about his own efforts. Still, Bogdan was the best salesperson Marek had ever met. With a skill for convincing people to his vision that would have made him an excellent con man, were he to choose a less honest profession.
Marek looked at the project he’d been trying to work on most of the day, and sighed, knowing Bogdan would eventually comply about the shutters. He just needed to be reminded every now and then.
Marek was about to air his brain with a bit of small talk, but then he saw Bogdan lean down over his desk, squinting as if he couldn’t read fine print on the documents piled up on the side of his workspace, and obscured the desktop. He tossed something into the trash can and then bowed so low Marek couldn’t see his head anymore. Then came a loud sniff. Marek looked around, uncomfortable as ever, but the other two people who worked in the same room ignored the sound. Maybe they were too focused to notice. Or maybe they didn’t care as long as Bogdan paid them on time and lured in more clients. Marek knew he’d never get used to Bogdan taking drugs at work, no matter how often that happened.
When his coworkers made jokes about it, he laughed with them, but he always found it odd how cocaine and other stimulants were talked about as if they were caffeine pills at best. It was all The project needed to be finished by the deadline, or He would be too tired to party on the weekend otherwise.
Sometimes he wished he had no qualms about snorting powder too. Maybe then his hours would expand, and so would his sad sex life.
The ticking of the clock was unbearably slow, and as much as he wanted to leave the office, there was simply too much to do to go out for lunch. He ordered Chinese into the office with a couple of his coworkers, but they all ate at their own desks. Not the healthiest option, but it would do if he put in the hours at the gym later. He paid for the membership, so he would not miss a session.
If only he could combine the rare hours of free time throughout the year and glue them together into a vacation, he might have a week off. Preferably a real one this time, unlike last year’s when his vacation time got swallowed up by a company integration trip that included paintball, drinking, and the most cringeworthy session of team yoga. He still found it hard to look Marzena in the eyes after his foot had slipped to her crotch when they attempted some convoluted position ordered by the instructor. The photos from that trip proudly adorned the staff room, and everyone had gotten a mug with a goofy photo of themselves. Marek hated his.
So what if the expenses for the trip were paid? If he couldn’t go where he wanted, with the people he wanted to spend time with, free didn’t matter much. He’d rather have divided that week between four days back in Łuków with his family and three days hiking in the mountains with a guy who’d also like to casually fuck before they went their separate ways.
No. Instead, he’d had to spend his technically free time with Bogdan, Piotrek, and Szymon talking about how Marzena’s pussy felt on his foot while being mindful of not letting any female coworker overhear them. He needed to show Bogdan he was “one of the guys,” no matter how many stupid things it entailed.
If only he could gain a managerial position, things would be different.
His phone buzzed next to him on the desk, and he noticed the text-message icon appear on the screen. He wondered whether he should bother opening it, as during work hours any texts he could expect were promotional codes from fast-food joints he patronized all too frequently, and electronic bills. But with the logo project he’d been working on barely visible through screen glare, he opened the message and for a moment was shocked by what didn’t look like promotional material.
[I got this number from your mom] was the first line.
Marek frowned at the unknown number. Was an acquaintance from Łuków not aware he worked in Warsaw now? Or worse, it was someone from Łuków who was aware Marek worked in marketing and design, and wanted to get a cheap, quick logo or banner. Sucker would be getting nothing. Marek knew his worth.
But as he read the rest of the message, his thighs softened and his stomach rolled with heat.
[It’s Adrian from high school. I’m in Warsaw, and someone flaked on me, so I don’t have anywhere to sleep tonight. Could I crash at your place?]
Marek’s mind went blank and then exploded in a plethora of memories. His first sexual experience in a cold tent on a rainy day. First blowjob after swimming in a lake deep in the woods. Months of sneaking around at school and stolen nights in the dusty attic. His first time bottoming on his late grandmother’s bed, right under a picture of the pope.
All with Adrian.
Marek bit his lip, completely thrown off by this blast from the past. He’d been sure he’d never see Adrian again after their sour breakup. His fingers hovered over the phone, work and responsibilities forgotten.
[Hey, sure. I only have a room to myself, but the landlord never visits.]
Marek’s breathing got heavier. Fuck. Would that make him seem like a loser? He couldn’t afford to rent a whole apartment in Warsaw without compromising the rest of his budget. Adrian had spent years abroad, not gracing Łuków with his presence since he first left. Would he be used to more luxury?
Adrian wrote back right away. [Awesome. Are you home now? My backpack is super heavy ;P]
Marek froze. If he said he was at work, would Adrian look for a different friend? But he couldn’t leave early with the project still barely started.
[No, sorry. I’m at work, but just go grab a coffee or something. I finish at 8:00 p.m.]
A compromise. He’d stay at work but pass on the gym tonight.
[Where do you work? I could come over and pick up the keys from you. How about that? I’ll make dinner.]
Marek frowned. Since when did Adrian cook anything other than instant noodles?
[I work at Proxima]—he couldn’t help boasting about that—[but we can’t have guests at work. It’s against company policy.] If the butterflies ever stopped fluttering in his stomach, he could come up with better texts. Adrian was clearly a different person now. Not angry with Marek anymore. Why would he be? It had been five years since they finished high school, and Adrian had gone backpacking through Asia like he’d wanted. Maybe he’d had a boyfriend, they broke up, and he was now looking for a rebound. Would they fuck tonight?
Marek’s lips went dry.
Adrian answered. [That’s fine. I won’t take long. Proxima? That student music club?]
Marek frowned. How could Adrian not know about one of the biggest advertising companies in Poland? It was common knowledge… wasn’t it? [No, it’s advertising. I’m sure you’ve seen some of our ads.]
Adrian replied with a smiley face. [I don’t watch television.]
Marek took a deep breath to calm himself. Of course he didn’t. Freaking hippie.
[Okay, never mind. Just hang out wherever you are, and I’ll pick you up after work.] A good opportunity to show off his Opel Insignia, which Marek could use as a prize won in an employee contest. Adrian didn’t need to know it was a company car.
[See you soon], Adrian wrote and left Marek to his work in the too-bright office, next to coworkers who were too busy to talk and across from a boss who’d just had some coke and then casually put in eyedrops so the client he was about to meet wouldn’t notice a thing.
When Marek went to the restroom, he took his time, making sure his made-to-measure Vistula suit had no creases. He was lucky he’d chosen to wear it today, as it was his only outfit of such superior quality. No hair was out of place in his neat cut, and his slim blue tie was perfection in silk. It took him a while to decide how he should button his jacket to be most stylish. At least he was in peak form, thanks to sweating out stress at the gym. If there was ever a time for rebound sex with Adrian, it was tonight.
He couldn’t focus on work anymore, fantasizing that he would arrive at the coffee shop Adrian chose and walk out of his elegant car all suave and stylish. The sun would be setting, so he’d still have a reason to wear shades, and Adrian would have no choice but to acknowledge how hot Marek was.
He eventually left the restroom and casually made his way past the secretary’s desk and toward his office. Marzena was at his door, smartly dressed as always and with her hair up, next to a man who didn’t belong in the world of clean lines and beige carpets.
Marzena blinked and smiled, already walking toward Marek, with the man on her heels.
“There he is. Marek, there is someone to see you.”
Marek’s eyes widened, and an invisible force must have punched him in the chest, because he couldn’t breathe. This was not how it was supposed to go down.
He wasn’t ready.
Not at work.
He’d told Adrian he would pick him up.
But the sight in front of him stole his breath away and wouldn’t give it back.
Adrian wasn’t the athletic-but-very-slim teenager Marek remembered. He had grown taller. His elfin features had sharpened with age, but he hadn’t lost the playfulness that had always been ingrained in his pronounced cheekbones and incredibly pale eyes that were even more noticeable next to his sun-kissed skin. His hair was longer as well, a wild tumble of blond curls gathered into a bird’s-nest-like bun on top of his head.
It was May, but Adrian wore a pair of colorful flip-flops that were a sharp contrast with his pale, tattered jeans. His shirt had some kind of print, but Marek mostly noticed how it exposed Adrian’s tanned shoulders, which were now covered by an array of tattoos. They weren’t the usual pictures or writing but bold blocks of black, creating firm, masculine patterns that made Marek wonder where else the ink could be.
Adrian sped up, all but running toward him, with a huge backpack wiggling with his every step. “Marek, it’s been so damn long since I last saw you,” he said with a smile so brilliant it could blind Marek with less effort than the sun outside. Adrian hadn’t shaved, and his fair stubble shone on his skin like pieces of gold thread, which Marek suddenly wanted to touch.
Adrian pulled him into a hug.
In front of the whole office.
At least it was one of those masculine hugs with pats on the back, not a kiss. No matter how much Marek wanted to stay in those strong arms awhile longer, he wouldn’t do that here. Had Adrian been abroad for so long he forgot being gay could ruin a career?
Marek pulled away after a few seconds and thanked Marzena for bringing Adrian, but he was still overwhelmed by Adrian’s presence. Marek had gotten a bit taller himself since high school, so he’d sometimes imagined he and Adrian would be equal in height now, but his hopes were shattered. Adrian was at least a few inches taller than he used to be, and the blond mess on his head only emphasized his height.
Where was Marek supposed to take him now? Should he give Adrian his house keys after all? Apart from the wardrobe, his room was a mess. Also, if Adrian got bored and started snooping around, he might find Marek’s sex toys.
Marek gently grabbed Adrian’s elbow to guide him out of the open hallway. “I didn’t expect you here,” he managed, his mind frantic.
Adrian grinned wide, as if his aim was to show just how gorgeously white and perfect his teeth were. Now that they were close, Marek could see Adrian’s earlobes had been stretched around a wooden tube, which intrigued him even more. Did Adrian have any more piercings? His tongue maybe?
“I know, but I thought it would be less fuss if I just took the keys from you. This place looks serious,” he said, looking around.
“It is serious. It’s my job. You can’t just show up here, unannounced, when I’m working,” Marek said, guiding Adrian into the thankfully empty staff room. He regretted his tone as soon as the words left his mouth, but Adrian’s presence here was too overwhelming for him to master his emotions.
A frown passed over Adrian’s handsome features, and he pulled his arm away. “If you don’t want to do this, just say so.”
Marek took a deep breath to calm down and to stop imagining sex with the gorgeous guy next to him. “No, I do, I do.” He leaned down to write down his address on a sticky note. “I’m not out at work,” he whispered, just so that was clear.
Adrian looked at the door before settling his eyes on Marek again. “Wow. Have we as a nation progressed to handshakes being the only acceptable way to greet an old friend?”
Marek closed his eyes for a second. “I’m sorry. I freaked out. Here’s the address.” He passed Adrian the note, along with the keys.
Adrian stood in silence for several moments, luring Marek in with the thick scent of sandalwood and something else that was somehow already making Marek crazy. How would he cope with waiting for a few more hours to see this beautiful specimen of the male sex again?
Adrian squeezed his shoulder. “It’s good to see you. Be back home at eight thirty sharp,” he said and walked off, taking his scent with him.
Marek leaned against the wall, unable to process what had just happened. How long would Adrian stay? Would they get more than one fuck? Had Adrian really forgotten the way their relationship had gone to shit years ago? Marek needed to know all about where Adrian had been, what he’d been doing, where he got those tattoos and the tan…. He’d inhale it all with Adrian’s scent, given half the chance.
He looked at the three clocks on the wall, which were set to tell the time in London, New York, and Beijing. Bogdan’s idea. Marek had to add an hour to the London time.
Six hours to go.
“The romance here is the best kind of slow-burn there is. Adrian and Marek had a whole sack of issues to work through and along with it all, their attraction shimmers and sizzles at a low-flame and catches fire at the absolute perfect time in their relationship. I could not have hoped for a better conclusion.”