Excerpt: Percolation, Poetry, and Passion

Beckett did not know the older man’s name, and it didn’t matter. When their bodies met, a hot rush swept over Beckett, his breath catching in his throat. The other man took a step into him, leaving Beckett pressed against the wall. The man leaned in, taking a deep inhale. His rough cheek brushed against Beckett’s stubble, and he pulled back until their lips met.

Beckett lifted his hands, reaching into the man’s soft, graying hair. Clothing had dissolved from their bodies, nothing left to impede. Their arms moved over one another, fingers smoothing along taut muscles and hard lines, Beckett’s olive-toned skin complementing the older man’s deep tan in their tangle.

His lips laid a hot trail of kisses against Beckett’s neck and a low growl rumbled in his chest. Large hands closed around Beckett’s shoulders and turned him around. Beckett’s heart pounded in his ears, anticipation and lust building. The man was rough and strong—knowing what he wanted and what Beckett needed. Then, the nameless man spoke for the first time during their interlude,

“Was my pump sugar-free?”

Beckett startled, blinking a few times.

“What?”

“That syrup you just put in my drink—was it sugar-free? Because that’s what I ordered.”

The harsh mechanical whirl of a blender and the hiss of blow-off steam from an espresso machine brought Beckett back into reality. His handsome stranger had vanished, and in his place was the puffy, pale face of an average guy in his thirties. He was wearing an accusing scowl underneath matte black hair and a salt-rimmed baseball cap.

Beckett took a deep breath, the acrid scent of coffee pushing the last vestiges of his imagined lover out of his mind. He strained to give the customer a pleasant smile.

“Yep. Three pumps, one sugar-free vanilla and two hazelnut—just like it says on the cup.”

Puffy-scowl walked away and didn’t say thanks. Beckett disliked being questioned and prickled further when it was shot from over the coffee bar partition. He took pride in his job as a barista at The Percolation Station. He had been working at the eclectic, industrial-style coffee house since he was a freshman at UC Berkeley. After graduating last week, the four years of pulling espresso shots meant he could make these drinks in his sleep. Sometimes, he did—he always felt ripped-off waking up from a night of those pointless, dull dreams.

An errant thought about adding a pump of simple syrup to the guy’s drink skipped through his mind. Beckett never did understand why people risked being rude to those handling what was about to go into their body.

“Beck, can you cover? I got my fifteen,” Regina, the young woman working the cash register, said. She’d been employed at The Perc’ for a couple of months now. She effervesced without the help of a quad shot latte and was a fun energy to work with. He’d even let her give him a nickname, which was something he never did.

Their shift manager, Jordy, emerged from the back to take over drink making and Beckett signed on the register. He squared his shoulders and mustered his people skills—no more time for pleasant daydreams.

The usual late morning crowd wasn’t a bad group, as far as coffee house patrons went. No one was in a panic to get to work or school or whatever gave them that universal frenzied look between six and eight in the morning. In fact, things were going so smoothly, he didn’t call Regina out when she slipped behind the coffee bar instead of reclaiming the register.

Beckett ran out of quarters with his last customer, so he got a fresh roll and smacked the paper tube onto the edge of the drawer to break it. Not looking up, he told the next customer he’d be right with them. It didn’t matter though; he could hear the customer talking on his cellphone.

Fine, he thought, if this guy isn’t ready to order, I’m going to restock my drawer. There’s no line, anyway. Beckett took his time refilling each change slot and straightening the large bills, tuning in on the customer’s conversation.

“I’m glad to hear from you, too. Yeah, I’ll bring something. Just take it easy today, okay? I’ll be there soon.” Beckett glanced up, hearing a smile in the man’s voice. “Mm-hm. Of course. Love you,” the man said before hanging up.

Beckett noticed he was wearing a good-looking jacket—olive plaid tweed, fit for a professor at an ivy league. The man inside the tweed was even more impressive, and while he flipped through his smartphone, Beckett looked him over.

The man was older, but not ‘old’, maybe teasing into middle age. His ashen hair had some silvering at his temples and peppering the stubble on his chin. His skin was a light tan that looked natural and not procured by UV lights. Tall and well built, Beckett found his total image attractive—elegant and masculine.

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