First chapter of Destiny Collides Past and Present #3

(The Manx Cat Guardians)

Prologue

 

2007

Stuart

 

Stuart’s hands balled into fist, stalking out the Cummings building. He headed straight down Kensington towards Notting Hill tube station. Loosening his tie, he heaved a sigh of disgust at his own behaviour while shifting uncomfortably in his suit jacket. Sweat-drenched his shirt and it stuck to his upper torso. Opening his jacket, the breeze cooled his overheated body.

The oppression that had suffocated him throughout the interview clung like a second skin. Dry mouthed he struggled to swallow past the bitterness, so he looked for the nearest shop. Stopping at the first place he found, he bought a bottle of water. Out of the shop, he stepped around several people to find a place out of the busy street to take a drink of icy water. The chill soothed his parched throat, removing some of the sour aftertaste the interview had caused.

Whatever satisfaction he’d felt at receiving an interview with the prestigious company, was long gone. The meeting may be over, but he internally cursed the reality it had left him with. He was going to need to man up, because it would appear Malcolm Cummings was a first-class homophobic bastard. The company was offering Stuart an opportunity of financial security he desperately needed. The ball of tears that gathered at the back of his throat were swallowed with difficulty. Stuart blinked rapidly, avoiding eye contact with those moving around him.

The grief that was never far away clung to his heart as he struggled to come to terms with everything that had happened. How could a few simple words change everything? Cancer, a diagnosis he’d not comprehended would take away his carefree existence.

Circumstances meant he’d no time to grieve, his father’s death barely weeks ago, had to be paid for. Non funded chemotherapy treatment costs and his sister’s university fees were a reality he now had to shoulder. His mother’s income barely covered the household bills, never mind the thousands of pounds of debt. Promises he’d made on his father’s deathbed to support his family no matter what, were now a hard reality. Stuart fought past the panic, sucking in shaky breath.  The heaviness of the air barely registered past his out of control thoughts.

How could he begrudge those precious months the treatment had given them as a family? At the time any price had been worth paying. Now he hoped his father would understand the compromises he was going to have to make.

Stuart threw the empty water bottle into the bin nearest as he continued on down the street. Thrusting his hands into his silver-blond hair, he pushed it back from his face. Charcoal grey eyes burned with fury as his body vibrated from his wildly beating heart. People moved out of his  away as if sensing the danger.

Fuck, he’d never hidden in his life now at the ripe old of twenty-six he was going to have to jump into a closet he’d never had to use. He would also need to purchase a mask of indifference along with a ‘don’t give a fuck’, because sure as hell he was going to need those. Now, all I need is to find the shop that sells those!

The excitement and noise flowed around him while he stopped at the traffic lights, highlighting his isolation even more. At the hard jostle to his left side he turned and glared. Whatever he’d been about to say, the words died on his lips, everything faded away except for the man stood at his side.

The world condensed down into a pair of chocolate eyes that sparkled with humour behind horn-rimmed glasses. A small Elphin face was consumed by over large glasses that struggled to stay up the upturned nose. Hands waved in animated conversation as the guys cupid bow mouth moved ten to the dozen, hardly stopping to breathe. It was only then Stuart noticed the dark haired guy with the stranger.

The air felt supercharged as did the wealth of need to reach out and touch this random stranger again. What is wrong with me?

No matter how hard he tried Stuart couldn’t tear his eyes away, completely captivated. The guys youthful appearance seemed at odds with the conversation. Not at all concerned that he was earwigging, Stuart had no clue what the electronic components were as they talked, but they sounded complicated. The surge of people behind him had them all stepping forward into the now clear road. In the crowd, Stuart followed a few steps behind the man who carried on oblivious to the lack of response from the person with him. Stuart’s feet kept pace even as he realised he was heading in the wrong direction. The man’s exuberance contagious as was the pull towards the man, as if the earth’s force field were dragging him towards what he needed.

How stupid!

The strangeness caused him to halt mid-stride, then he was pushed from behind. Stuart lurched forward catching the young man’s arm as he wobbled. Stuart offered an apologetic smile, heat already spreading up his neck.  

A cheeky grin was aimed at him as a melodic voice asked, “You okay, man?”

Feeling tongue-tied, Stuart struggled to respond. Strange sensations spread across his chest when the man’s humour turned to concern at his lack of response. Small, work-roughened fingers on his hand caused him to remain rooted to the spot. An internal sizzle started somewhere deep inside him and ignited his body in ways he’d never experienced. Then came an internal click as if a lock had opened inside him with a key the guy held. Holy shit, what on earth was that?

Stuart yanked back his tingling hand, rubbing it down his trouser leg as he nodded, unable to find the words to answer. He watched the other man copy his action, his eyes widened as if in shock. Christ, had he felt it too?

Wetting his dry lips, he gulped in several breaths hoping it would help his racing heart calm the fuck down. The man didn’t wait for Stuart to get his shit together. He bobbed his head giving another quick flash of his amazing smile, before quickly chasing after the other man who’d been oblivious to their moment, and had carried on walking.

Gut churning, the urge to follow came as words formed in Stuart’s mind, mine, mine, mine. The jealousy was so unexpected his hands balled into fists at thoughts of any person touching his man. The stupidity of his own possessive thought not lost on him, it didn’t stop the questions his mind wanted answers to. Who was he? What was the other man to him? Were they boyfriends, work colleagues, friends?

The questions had him pulling his hair in frustration and step into the entrance of a side street the moment he hit the other side of the road. The scent of rotting food hardly registered as he resisted searching the crowd to keep sight of the man for a few seconds longer. He buried his face in his shaky hands. Was the interview and his grief making him a little loopy? It had to be stress? He hung on to the thought like a lifeline, yes it had to be that giving him these weird feelings and strange emotions for a complete stranger. The laughter sounded strained to his ears while he tried to convince himself he was being stupid.

You couldn’t possibly fall in love at first sight, could you? The damn ache in his chest seemed to be telling him differently. Shit, he could be jailbait and straight for all Stuart knew. It’s stress, it is, that’s all.

Then why didn’t his heart believe him?