blinked at him, surprised. “Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”
“I was at work. Gabriel came over, his face like stone, to tell me he’d left something on Marcus’s desk. When I tried to talk to him about the fundraiser, he told me he wasn’t having any part of it. When I asked what you’d done to him, he said nothing, and to tell you basically to fuck off and never talk to him again.”
Arthur winced, something tight in his chest going a hell of a lot tighter, turning from an ache into a sharp, terrible point.
Frankie slammed his keys on the counter and peeled out of his coat as he advanced. “What. Did. You. Do?”
“Frankie,” Arthur whispered.
“Don’t you Frankie me. You didn’t see him. He looked wrecked. He’s been so lonely for so long, and now he’s worse .” He glared. “And you did something.”
Arthur averted his gaze to the table in front of him. “I didn’t. Honest. But…I think that’s the problem.”
Frankie folded his arms over his chest. “ Fix it , Arthur. Fix it right now.”
Arthur shrank into himself. “I can’t, Frankie. I would but I can’t, because I don’t…I don’t understand.”
Softening a little, Frankie pulled out a chair. “Tell me.”
Arthur didn’t want to. But he took a deep breath and told Frankie everything that had happened. About them hooking up, going on a date and the kiss he couldn’t follow through with in the parking lot. Then he looked up, not sure what he was hoping for.
Frankie melted. “Oh, Arthur. How can you not see it?”
“See what? Frankie, I can’t tell what the hell is going on.”
Frankie took Arthur’s hands in his. “What’s going on, Arthur Anderson, is you’re in love.”
Arthur drew back. “The hell I am.”
“If you aren’t in love yet, you’re well on your way. What else would you call how you’re reacting?”
Arthur started to argue—faltered as the truth hit him, a ton of bricks in the middle of his face. Gabriel-sized bricks.
“Fuck.” He sank so deep in his chair he nearly slumped in a puddle to the floor. “What the hell am I supposed to do now?”
“Fix it. Go to him.”
Arthur shoved the radio away from him. “I can’t. Anyway, you just said he doesn’t want anything to do with me.”
“Because you rejected him, and he’s hurt. Go to him. ”
Frankie was right. He should. But every time Arthur thought about knocking on that door, his insides quaked. “I can’t,” he whispered at last.
Eventually Frankie stormed off, muttering about pigheaded loggers, but Arthur didn’t argue. He couldn’t make up with Gabriel. He had to let this blow over and die.
Gabriel Higgins might be hot, and Arthur might have feelings for him, but that was all the more reason to stay home and hide. The librarian wasn’t the only one afraid of rejection.
After Frankie’s visit, Gabriel knew there would be an intervention, and all week Gabriel expected Arthur to show up at the library or at his house. He’d worried Arthur might show up during the day, or after the library closed as he’d done before. When Arthur didn’t show up, not even on Saturday night, Gabriel should have felt relieved.
Gabriel didn’t. He went to sleep feeling sorrier for himself than ever. The self-pity lingered in the morning, amplifying as he showered and blow-dried his hair. Gabriel felt sullen, wounded, and increasingly pissed. When the next day and the day after resulted in the same absence of Arthur, those feelings remained.
Which was probably why when he was at the grocery store on Sunday morning and he ran into Paul Johnson, he smiled at him and acted as if they were friends.
Theoretically he knew most of the people in Logan, but in general he kept to himself because that’s how he was. He’d spoken to Paul on occasion, and he had a bit of insight on the man from his DVD rental habits, but nothing more. He had no reason to talk to him today, except this was Arthur’s self-proclaimed ex, and suddenly Arthur