Jun 28, 2012

For Those Who Wait 1



Title: For Those Who Wait  (click story title to read)
Author: Azalea Moone
Genre: Non-explicit, sweet/fluffy
Warnings: None. Unless you'd rather they get a little dirtier, LOL
Note: This was written for the Love is Always Write event at Goodreads M/M Romance group. There will be a series continuation throughout the next couple months... so come back often. At the end of the short series, I'll publish a full length e-book available for free.

And make sure you check out the other author's free stories in the group! M/M Romance (free & easy join)

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Every year, our town celebrates its heritage days, a week long carnival that I have loved ever since I was a kid. This year was no exception. The roar of the crowd had me energized. The screams and hollers from ride goers pumped me up. I wanted to do just about everything, from playing midway games to checking out the local events, such as the dirt car races.

It was the last day of the carnival, and I’d been here all day doing almost everything I had wanted to do. The only adventure I hadn’t explored yet was right in front of me. And there was a really good reason I was hesitating. Ben.

We’d met in college just six months ago. I was a freshman, he a sophomore, and we were studying the same courses in Information Technology. He’d squeezed by me as I sat at one of the cramped computer desks. The corner of his book nicked the back of my shoulder, damn small spaces, and he turned around with concern to apologize.

My face flushed, but it wasn’t the slight ache from the bruise on my shoulder, it was him. What turned me on about him wasn’t those dreamy hazel eyes, that probably noticed me with my mouth hung open like a rabid dog, or the smooth, broad jaw line. Okay, so maybe it was those things, but what really made me want him was that smile. Shy and modest right before he turned away.

From that moment, I had a hard time keeping my eyes off him. We’d been assigned courses together, I’m sure just by chance, and in our Business Communication class we sat right next to each other.

“Hey,” he’d say every morning, that same gorgeous smile on his lips. But every time we’d start up a conversation, we were interrupted.

“Hello?” Jamie’s voice snapped me out of it. I’d been looking at Ben again. “You seriously have a crush, Chase.”

“Do not. He’s just...” Just what? Sexy? Hot? Gorgeous? Jesus, I was dying.

“Aw, Chase is so in denial,” Jamie teased, poking me in my side.

“Come on, you’ve been crushing on Ben for months.” Tim wrapped his arm around Jamie’s shoulder and pulled her in.

They weren’t a couple per se but, damn, if they didn’t still act like it. We’d been friends for a while; Jamie and I met in senior year and we decided to go to the same college. I’d met Tim, her very open, very straight, off and on boyfriend, my first week in college.

“It’s just a crush.” I shrugged with embarrassment. “Besides, I don’t even know if he’s... into me.”

At first, I had no clue Ben was even there. After running out of ideas on what to do next, I happened to spot a colorful striped balloon taking off into the air earlier in the day.

Balloon rides? That looked awesome, so we gathered at the entrance gate on the opposite side of the lot with our fare, gazing at the vivid yellow and blue balloon. I stilled when Ben turned away from the balloon and approached the gate, wearing a worker’s apron. “Ready?”

Jamie must have felt the rift in the air, because she grabbed hold of my shirt sleeve, pulling me away. Maybe it was a good thing. I certainly didn’t want to stand there stumbling like an idiot in front of him.

“Well, you could always find out,” Jamie chuckled. “Come on, Chase, we’ve been standing here for an hour now. Can we just go before it closes?”

The sky began to glow a beautiful golden hue, signaling the start of evening. There wasn’t anyone else in line, but if we didn’t hurry, I was sure we’d miss our chance. I just couldn’t get over my damn nerves.

“I don’t know...”

“Egh, you’re so shy. I bet you can’t even talk to him without...” she flicked her eyes at Tim who gave her a curious stare. “Hey, give me some cash.”

“I only have fifty bucks for the ride.” Tim motioned to the balloon on the other side of a truck.

“Fine, I’ll take that.” She ripped the bills from his hand and waved them in front of me. “I bet you fifty bucks you can’t even get on the balloon with him.”

“What?” Tim protested.

I felt tense just thinking about it. “I-I’m not--”

“Chase, if you pass this up, you may never know. Or... I could just go right in there and talk to him for you,” she said, in a matter-of-fact way. Knowing Jamie, she would do it.

“No.” I had to find some courage, though the butterflies in my stomach said otherwise. “Fine. I’ll go,” I huffed, yanking the cash from Jamie’s hand.

“Yay!”

“My money? Babes,” Tim turned to Jamie. “Why my money?”

“Don’t be such a whiner; I have more in my purse.” She slapped at his stomach.

They were behind me, arguing about the bet, as we approached the balloon ride again and stood at the gate. This would be it. The thought of standing less than a foot away from each other in a cramped basket made my heart thump with apprehension. At least my friends would be there with us, right?

“Hold on.” Jamie grabbed my wrist. “There are a few details--”

“What details?” I barked.

“Well, that is a lot of money. You need to just go for it, you know. Don’t just talk to him the entire ride. Kiss him.”

“That’s worse, don’t you think?” Tim spoke up.

“Yeah, I-I’m not really--” I twisted around, ready to go back to the carnival.

“Ohmigod, Chase. You’ve had six months to find out, now it’s time to just throw everything out and do it,” she said, grabbing my shirt sleeve and yanking me back to the front of the gate.

Ben approached, his gorgeous smile spread on his lips, and my knees threatened to give out. “Are you ready now?”

I gulped. “Yeah,” and handed him the cash, our fingertips barely sliding against each other’s and I could feel that flush rushing to my cheeks again.

After stuffing the bills in his apron pocket, he unlocked the gate and let it swing open. I had to find some courage. I had to fight those damn butterflies from making me speechless. It had never really been this hard for me, but when I was around Ben I really couldn’t control my emotions.

When I entered the gate, I kept my eyes on the brilliant balloon trying not to think about Ben, who had walked back to the basket and braced against it as it moved. Although the balloon was tethered to the ground, it still jerked in place.

It wasn’t until I was at the basket, prepared to jump inside that I realized that Jamie and Tim hadn’t followed. I turned to see they were still at the gate, now closed.

“Hey,” I hollered. “Aren’t you coming?”

“Naw. We’ll take the next one.” She waved then embraced Tim around his sides.

The next one? But there weren’t any other balloons in sight.

I was really getting nervous. My hands began to tremble, and I could hear my heart pound in my ears. Why me?I caught Ben’s curious stare. “Are you scared?”

The thought of going up into the sky, alone, with Ben? Yeah. “Not really.” What a lie.

He smiled before hopping inside the basket, then held out an offering hand to me. “It takes a while to get used to, but it’s really great once we get up in the air.”

Right. Maybe he thought I was scared of heights? That was certainly better than knowing the real reason why I probably appeared to be freaking out.

I took his soft, but callused, warm hand and about tripped over the side of the basket as I jumped in. What an embarrassment. He caught my arms, helping me straighten my shaky legs before turning his attention to the burner in the center of the basket.

The gas hissed, sending a tall, orange flame into the balloon. I felt the balloon rise above the ground and I grabbed the sides of the basket before he turned off the gas and let it dip down. What? Is he teasing me?“Sorry,” he said with a grin. “I just thought you should know it’s kind of loud.”

“Yeah it is.”

“Are you ready?” he asked, leaning over the side and gathering up the rope the balloon was tethered to.

At the gate, Jamie hooted and hollered and her apparent enthusiasm for the situation made my face flush even more.

“I guess.” But I wasn’t. Nothing could prepare me for this.

Ben started up the gas again, letting the balloon rise, but this time he didn’t take his hand off of the gear. The world below began to get smaller; even Jamie and Tim, the trucks and the carnival, appeared miniature as we rose higher and started to slowly drift towards the east.

When Ben let off of the gear, I could barely hear Jamie’s voice as she waved at us from the ground. I leaned my arm out of the basket, flashing her the middle finger, not knowing if she would see it or not. Jesus, why did she make me do this? But I think I had leaned over just a little too much, the height made me dizzy and the world began to spin. God, maybe I am scared of heights. “How far does this go?” I whispered as I stepped away from the side, only to be caught off guard by the sight of the fascinating evening sky; a gorgeous yellow and orange hue on the horizon as the sun began to set. “Whoa,” I breathed.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Ben asked behind me.

I felt my cell phone buzz in my pocket with a text message, but the view of the world ahead distracted me. This had been the first time I’d ever been up so high, and I had no clue what to expect.

“Yeah,” I answered before noticing the lush green trees below with a stream cutting through them, running across the open field.

Just then, Ben stepped next to me and settled against the side of the basket, looking out at the open land spread out around us. My heart lodged in my throat and there was that slight tremble in my legs again. For a moment, I had forgotten what I was up here for.

“Three miles,” he said.

“Huh?”

“Our landing point is the corner of 52nd and State. About three miles from here.”

“Oh.” I think I’d forgotten everything.

“You’re Chase, right?” he asked.

“Yeah,” was all I could manage.

There was a little laugh, followed by, “You’re in my Info Tech classes?”

“Yeah.”

Damn, couldn’t I say anything else?Ben stepped away a moment, and the hiss of the gas invaded the quiet, open air. Once he let off of the gear, he came back to stand closer beside me. “I didn’t know you were from Sommersville.”

“Huh?” I turned to him in surprise.

“Sommersville Heritage Days. You are from town, right?”

“Oh, yeah, well my folks live here now,” I said, desperately trying to fight down the hysteria so I could, at least, have a decent conversation.

“I see,” he chuckled. Could he tell that I was nervous?

“What about you?”

He dug in his shirt pocket and retrieved a business card. “My pops owns Wilber Amusements. I’ve been riding in hot air balloons since I was little. I love it up here,” he said, flashing the card before putting it away.

Wilber was just a short ten minute drive across the county, and from this height I could spot its water tower springing up from the ground.

“That’s cool.”

He turned to turn on the gas. The flames rose up into the center of the balloon keeping us aloft. This little trip was turning out better than I’d thought. Now I knew he lived just ten minutes away, and that he loved being up here in the vast skies on a balloon.

I continued to look out across the open land, admiring the flourishing wilderness below. When Ben stepped close again, his arm brushed against mine as he folded his hands over the side of the basket, and I stilled.

If I could just get a little closer... I found myself edging near, trying to break my nervousness and the small space between us. My phone rattled in my pocket again, but when he flicked his eyes in my direction, I held his sparkling gaze, uncaring of who was trying message me. It was probably Jamie, anyway.

Not wanting him to see the flush in my cheeks, I turned my attention back to the skies. The sun had disappeared behind the distant clouds, highlighting the sky red and gold. It was too perfect... and too quiet.

“It’s not that bad up here, is it?” he asked.

I nodded. “It’s awesome.”

A slight chuckle escaped his lips before the hiss from the gas invaded the calm.

We’d drifted past the stream; the green overgrowth replaced by large fields of wheat spreading out as far as the eye could see. Just then, I spotted a large animal skirting across the acreage. “There’s a deer,” I said, pointing it out for him.

“Yeah?” Ben cut off the gas and hovered close. Unfortunately, the deer had darted between a gathering of trees. But Ben was even closer now. His arm rested near mine, and his jeans grazed the skin on my leg. “Where did it go?”

Inhaling in his intoxicating cologne, I felt my hands begin to tremble and sweat with the thought of embracing him and getting that kiss. Jesus, why did Jamie have to add that part in the bet? There was no way I could do it, especially since I could barely speak.

“I-I don’t...” I stuttered.

His brilliant hazel eyes caught mine as I turned towards him, and that shy smile spread on his lips. This was the perfect chance, if only I could fight off my nerves. My hands went numb at my sides; my heart thundered in my chest. But it wasn’t just me stumbling, Ben’s cheeks went rosy, too, as we both stilled, taking each other in.

“Do you...” his voice wavered and he let out a hesitant little laugh. “Do you have a, um, girlfriend?”

The question, and his apparent nervousness, caught me off guard. “Um, no, actually.”

“Oh. Probably a weird question, huh?” He flicked his attention towards the sky.

“Not really.”

With my answer, his attention closed on me. But before I could even have the chance to lean in and steal that kiss, Ben had done it for me. His warm, inviting lips brushed against mine, taking me for a loop, and when we both pulled away, it was as if the entire world was spinning.

His eyes widened. “Too much?” he asked.

I shook my head.

No, that was just right.Ben tipped his head, eyes narrowed, before cupping my face in his rugged, broad hands and leaning in to steal my lips again. This time, I wrapped my arms around his sides, pulling us closer together. His heady scent filled my nose; my mouth opened and his tongue darted in, the embrace making me grasp his smooth flannel shirt in fear of melting away.

A pithy moan escaped my lungs as his hands traveled down my neck, easing around my shoulders. A gentle tingle swept through my spine. Had he always want to kiss me, too?

I could stay like this; high in the air with Ben pressed against me, and his warm touch and invigorating lips brushing mine. I couldn’t imagine being back on the ground; back to face Jamie and Tim, to let them know: Hell, yeah, I got that kiss.

As he pulled away, the heat of his breath wafted through my hair and I settled into the curve of his neck, enjoying his warm embrace.

I peered out at the darkening sky. It seemed as if we had floated down, as the world in front of me came into better view, but I didn’t care. Nothing could pull me away from Ben.

“Shit,” he said, and I unwrapped myself away in shock.

“What is it?”

His eyes were concentrated on the ground below, just feet from the bottom of the basket.

“I missed the drop off,” he answered as he swung the rope off of the side of the basket, letting it dangle and land on the ground below. Drop off? “We’ll have to set ’er down here.”

The roaring of a car engine approached fast just as the balloon touched the rough, green grass. Ben hopped out of the basket, so I followed, still dazed by what had happened while we were still in the sky.

Dust kicked up behind an old light blue pickup, the engine loud as it stopped next to us. “Damn, son, you missed the landing point by about a quarter mile.” An older man, presumably Ben’s father, hung his head out of the window, shooting Ben a puzzled look.

“Sorry, pops, I got a little... distracted.” Ben flicked his eyes towards me.

I hung my head. God, how embarrassing.“Well, Jeremy is on his way, we’ll take it down here. I can give him a ride back to the carnival,” his father said as he jumped out of his truck and helped Ben secure the balloon.

I stood quietly, waiting for Ben’s answer. There was a roar of another truck barreling across the field, coming closer. Ben and his father held the rope tight, the balloon bobbing and gliding gently along the grass, when Ben gave me the most knowing look, and that modest smile spread on his lips.

“If it’s okay, I’ll just go with you when we’re done here,” Ben answered, and for a moment, I wasn’t sure if his reply was for his father or me, until his eyes glinted in the last rays of the evening sunset. “Is that cool, Chase?”

“Sure.” I met his smile with my own.

“It won’t take long,” Ben said, then began to help his father secure the balloon.

I stepped away and hung out by the side of the truck, watching as they disassembled the balloon. The beautiful yellow and blue balloon came down, and they stretched it across the grass. Then they rolled it up and tied a rope around it, before they picked up the bundle and threw it in the back of his truck. Next came the basket, which required all three men to carry to the other truck, and secure it with ties.

I fiddled with my cell phone, checking my message. Of course it was Jamie: “What happened? Call me ASAP.” I thought to message her back: LOL I kissed him, but decided to let her wonder. Besides, she was the one who bet me to do this. I didn’t have to report to her, right?

By the time Ben and his father were finished, the sun was long gone and a navy blue hue took over the sky, dotted with tiny stars. In the very distance, I could barely make out the neon colors of the carnival rides and the spotlight dancing up into the sky.

“Alright, let’s go.” Ben’s father patted his shoulder and we all gathered in the truck.

It was a quiet three mile drive along open country back to the carnival. By the time we got back, the sky was completely dark.

“You better go find your friends,” Ben said. We were out of the truck, back at the carnival where the groan from the rides’ generators and excited screams made it hard to hear.

That’s right. I wanted Jamie to eat her words. Yeah, I didn’t need that stinking bet to find out that he liked me. “I suppose I should,” I said, hesitant to leave.

When I began to slink away, Ben said behind me, “You know, I haven’t really had the chance to check out the carnival, yet. And this is the last night... Do you think you’d want to hang out?”

Yes. “Yeah,” I said excitedly. “I mean, sure.”

A smile lifted on his lips, and I felt my heart catch in my throat. “Great.” He stepped forward and swung his arm around my neck.

My thoughts began to scatter. What did I want to do first? I would love to go on the Ferris Wheel; to be high up in the air, again, with Ben close to me. Maybe I could sneak another little kiss, hold his hand, and snuggle against his shoulder. I really needed to slow down.

Once we were inside the carnival area, he unwrapped himself from my side and approached the ticket booth. “Twenty tickets, please,” he told the cashier.

“You don’t need to buy for me.” I was just ready to pull out some cash to pay for myself.

“Don’t worry about it.” He motioned for me to put my money away.

The cashier passed the tickets through the window, as well as his change, and we were back to deciding which ride was first. Since this was his only night to explore and I couldn’t get up my nerves to ask him on the Ferris Wheel, I let him choose first.

Ride after ride, we sat next to each other. Some rides spun us so fast, that we couldn’t help but slam into each other. That was fine with me; I couldn’t get enough of the closeness. But a couple of rides he suggested made me feel a little sick; one ride in particular flipped us upside down and held us there for what seemed like slow seconds, before swinging us around in the opposite direction.

As the night wore on, the crowd began to die out, and our last couple of tickets were spent on the Ferris Wheel. “This is... Thank you,” I breathed as we sat in the metal seat, fingers entwined. “I haven’t had this much fun in a while.”

“Yeah.” Ben’s cheeks went rosy. “Same here.”

I sucked in my lower lip, wanting so much to kiss him. We drifted closer; the ride’s motor groaned and we were moving down, and then back up. His fingers tightened against mine. The warmth from his body made me tingle. As we approached the sky again, he leaned in for a kiss shortly before pulling away.

“I think they’re closing,” Ben said.

I nodded. Out in the distance, car lights shone through the fields; a line of cars stuck bumper to bumper as the crowd began to leave. A few of the street lamps had been shut off within the park, and there was hustle and bustle near the front of the entrance gate.

The metal booster rocked as the motor swung us back down to the ground, and we were ushered from the ride.

“Walk me back to my car?” I asked.

He tipped his head before grasping my hand in his, and we started for the outside fence leading into the carnival. The dirt road was filled with people pulling out of the parking lot. Headlights blinded us for a moment before turning, and the darkness of night settled in.

For such a huge lot, I was surprised to find my car in the distance, barely lit up by the full moon.

“Why did you park all the way out here?” he asked as the faint outline of my car came into view.

“This entire lot was full,” I said with a chuckle.

Ben matched my laugh, and then hovered close, nudging me until I had to walk sideways. I nudged him back, turning it into a game. Once we were just feet away from the car, I slowed down, hoping for these last few minutes to just freeze.

“Well?” He unraveled from me and allowed me to unlock the driver’s door.

“Well... I had a really good time.”

“Same here.” His eyes narrowed and glinted in the moonlight. I leaned back against the car, and he wrapped his arms around my waist. “I’m going back to campus tomorrow.”

There was a twinge of anticipation rising through me. “I’m kind of stuck here for another week. Jamie wants to see her family for a little longer.”

“Oh.” His smile wavered as he pulled away and began to dig into his pocket. “Well, do you have a pen?” He had his father’s business card in his hand. “I’ll give you my number.”

“Yeah.” I dipped back inside the car and dug in the cluttered console for a pen. “I’ll definitely call,” I added excitedly.

Ben jotted down his number on the back of the business card and handed it to me. I already couldn’t wait to get back to my dorm and call him. Matter of fact, I really didn’t want the night to end.

After I stuffed the card in my jeans pocket, I held him close, seeking his lips.

A heavy breath caught in his throat, and after a short kiss he broke away. “What happened to your friends, anyway?”

“They probably went back to the hotel,” I said with a shrug. “Besides, it’s good they’re not here.”

“Is it?”

I couldn’t possibly let him in on the bet. Instead, I buried my head in his broad chest. “I can see if Jamie wants to leave early,” I whispered, hoping she would approve and we could be back at campus earlier than planned.
Ben braced his hands against my shoulders. “You don’t have to.” His warm breath wafted through my hair. “It’s only a week, right?”

I lifted my head and stared into his eyes, their handsome hazel color barely visible in the dark. “Then, I’ll call tomorrow. Bright and early.” I chuckled as I eased out of his caress and sank down into the driver’s seat.

“Hey now, I’m usually not up before ten in the morning.” Ben grasped hold of the door.

“Neither am I,” I said with a wink.

He smiled and stepped away from the door. “Well, have a good night, Chase.”

“Yeah, you too.” I hesitated to start the car. I couldn’t wait to hear his voice again, tomorrow couldn’t come soon enough.

As I backed out of the parking lot, Ben stayed behind, watching as I pulled out on to the road. I’d already begun to miss him: his warmth, and kiss, and smile. But I could wait. 


Copyright Azalea Moone 2012

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