Benji Crowe runs a little boutique of all things sweet in an out of the way alley, nice and secluded with a loyal clientele that keep him comfortably afloat and not much in the way of foot traffic. Occasionally someone new will find their way in, either on the advice of a regular or by accident.
When the door slams open one day, Benji thinks that his newest customer must just be really hungry. The man who sprints inside isn’t interested in the pastries, though. He snatches the beanie right off the college student sitting closest to the door before throwing himself into a vacant chair and bundling his distinctive blue coat into a ball that just barely makes it into the trash can. Benji is about to give him a piece of his mind when a dozen teenagers pour through the door shouting about Dane Harper, the latest Hollywood box office favorite.
From that moment, Benji could have been forgiven for thinking he’d fallen headfirst into the latest Hollywood box office feature. Luckily, Dane has enough box office experience for the both of them.
Publisher: Independently Published
Heat Level: 2
Romantic Content: 3
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Famous / Not Famous
Languages Available: English
Throwing himself into work is what gets Benji through the next two years. Sienna cuts her shifts to just the few hours over morning and afternoon rush, more out of love and loyalty than any real need for the wage anymore. Graham is a senior partner in a law firm that his grandfather founded back in the seventies. Benji makes a lot of awkward housewife jokes at the wedding that Graham finds hilarious, Sienna not so much.
His mother tuts and makes concerned noises but never quite gets around to actually having the expected talk about the damning lack of girlfriends, let alone the alternative, and his father drops by some Friday nights after work with a six-pack of beer and quiet companionship.
One Friday night in early November, after a couple of beers each, Benji manages to coerce his father into an apron and they make a dizzying array of scones together.READ MORE
Benji isn’t sure why but he blurts it out while they’re transferring the scones off the baking trays to cool. “Dad, I’m gay.”
His father drops a scone and looks at Benji sideways, disgruntled. “Did you have to say that while I was grabbing something hot?” He bends down to pick it up and then straightens, putting the floor-scone aside. “Not to take the wind out of your sails, bud, and I’m glad you actually said something but we figured that out ourselves when your mom found the stash of men’s fitness magazines under your bed in your senior year.”
The beer dulls the surprise and takes the edge off just enough for Benji to bark out a laugh that is mostly amused and only a little bitter about the time he’s spent agonizing over confessing it. His father slings an arm around his shoulders and drags him in for an awkward hug.
After that, he kind of wishes he hadn’t come out because his mother loses any fear about talking about it.
“Benji, sweetheart, I know you love it but the shop can’t be your whole life. You need to settle down, there are plenty of lovely young men around to choose from!”
Incidentally, Benji doesn’t settle down. He has a couple of short-lived flings that he can’t help but think were doomed from the start, and gets his first taste of heartbreak when Mark, the first hookup that he’s wanted to repeat, doesn’t even bother to let him down gently.
“You’ve been ghosted, dude,” Glen says when he can’t take Benji’s constant hovering over his cell anymore. “Total dick move but happens all the time.”
It’s a conscious choice for Benji to stop going out and looking for company after that.
The fourth anniversary of Cara leaving comes and goes, marked by Sienna’s sixth month of pregnancy and another addition to Benji’s wall of postcards from all over the world. He can’t read the postmark on this one but the stamp has a kangaroo on it and the front of the postcard is a collage of pristine beaches.
“Four years to make it to Australia,” Sienna says when she comes in and lets herself around the counter, seeing the new card. “What has she been doing?”
Benji’s laughter bubbles out of his mouth all over again and he just waves at the card, unable to explain. Sienna lifts an eyebrow and takes it down, flipping it over to read out loud.
“B and S,” she says, already grinning. Her free hand drops down to cradle the swell of her belly. “I’ve enlisted the help of a self-professed expert Australian hunter (we met in a bar in Melbourne) to track down the fabled fourth Hemsworth brother. She says we’re probably going to have to cross the whole country because she’s been looking for years and hasn’t found him yet. I know that you support me fully in this adventure. Do yourself a favor and look up the Great Emu War. I expect an emailed report on it – well, never, but also please do it. With love, C.”
Benji keeps laughing and waves towards the office and the laptop where he’d left the Wikipedia page open when Sienna just looks at him expectantly. “The emu war,” he manages to choke out as she goes. “The Australian Army lost!”
Sienna’s laughter starts up within seconds of her sitting down at the laptop and Benji can’t stop snickering to himself as he goes to get the pastry trays out of the oven when it beeps.COLLAPSE