EXCERPT: Bastian [novella m/m romance] #amwriting

Title: Bastian
Genre: mm contemporary romance
Summary: A bookshop clerk meets a businessman and they both get a little crushy on each other. Like literally.


The shop was quiet and still as he reached beneath the counter for some handi-wipes. His fingers felt grimy after he’d feather-dusted the books and rearranged some of the shelves. It was just another boring Thursday.

Quickly wiping his hands clean, he threw the wipe in the garbage and settled down on the stool behind the counter.

He had another hour before he could lock up and head home. Not that he had much to look forward to there. Dinner and maybe a bit of TV. Thrilling.

Bastian sighed and pulled out the graphic novel he’d been reading. It wasn’t the best, but he kind of wanted to finish it after having invested so much time in it.

He’d probably read three pages when there was the cheerful jingle of the bells hanging from the door and he hurriedly looked up. He straightened his shoulders and tried to appear attentive.

There was a man in a dark suit and tie with an open gray trench coat over top. His brown hair was wind tousled and he pushed his silver framed glasses back up his nose with his finger.

“Hello, can I help you?” Bastian asked. Covertly, he slipped his book back under the counter.

The man zeroed in on him and strode forward with a smile. “Yeah, do you think you can point me toward any copies of ‘Alice In Wonderland’ you have?”

Bastian stepped out from behind the counter. He hurriedly tugged his shirt straight and hoped he didn’t look as messy as he felt. “We have new and used copies. Do you have a preference?”

“I’ve been collecting copies for my niece Alice, so if you have some nice used copies… That would be wonderful.” He smiled, flashing a set of white-white teeth.

There was no way Bastian could help the heat that flashed through him. Dark brown hair, light caramel colored skin, and beautiful teeth–it was like all his buttons were being hit at once.

“Um, here, over here,” he said, then winced internally. He sounded like a total idiot.

He hurriedly led the way over to the Classics section. “We’ve got five collectible copies of ‘Alice,'” he said. “I remember glancing through them before they were shelved. Some of them have some very nice illustrations and one even has gold gilding.”

The man grinned at him. “That sounds perfect.” He had a little bit of an upper-crust accent and that only added to the charm.

Bastian felt like his face was on fire when he pointed toward the ‘Alice In Wonderland’ books. He could feel the man looking at the side of his face. “Here’s all the ‘Alice’ we have.”

“Hey, thanks,” the man said, stepping toward the shelf.

Bastian hurriedly stepped out of the way, worried about what he might do if their skin even just brushed. Probably explode into flame.

The man perused the shelves, carefully taking down and flipping through the different editions. “These are really very beautiful,” he said.

Bastian shrugged like it didn’t matter, even though he felt a thrill of delight. “We usually get something like those from private collections. People love old books and they hold onto them. It’s kind of sad, but it’s usually after the owner dies and their family is looking to make some money that we get a hold of them.” He gestured at the books. “I made the selections on those. It was a toss up between a vintage edition of ‘Lolita’ and ‘Alice.’ I chose ‘Alice.'”

“I think you made a good choice,” the man said, smiling at him. “I’m going to take these two,” he held up the leather-bound gilded edition and a whimsical, nearly cartoonish edition. “One looks pretty antique, and the other looks like it’s off the Saturday morning cartoons. I think Alice will be really happy to get them.”

“Will that be all?” Bastian asked, walking toward the front counter.

The man looked around, a regretful expression on his face. “I want to look around more, but this was my last stop for the day and I’m expected for dinner.” Bastian felt a ridiculous rush of disappointment at the thought that the man might be married. “My sister is so impatient. There’s no way she would forgive me if I was late because I was looking at books.”

Bastian smiled brightly. “So you’ll just have to come here again.”

“I think I will,” the man said, setting the books on the counter. The corners of his lips turned up as he looked at Bastian. “I’ve always had a fascination for books and bookshops and… shopkeepers.”

There was no way he could keep the blush off his cheeks and Bastian didn’t really try all that hard. He just started ringing up the books and put them in a bag. It was only after he’d finished his task that he looked up at the man.

“Um, that’ll be $357.50,” he said. “And if you wanted to come here again, I’m sure you could find something to interest you.” Like me, went completely unsaid, though he thought it really loudly.

“Here you go,” the man slid four crisp hundred dollar bills across the counter. “I caught a glimpse of some really interesting things in here. I’m fairly certain that you’ll be seeing more of me in the future.”

Bastian hurriedly made change and passed it over. Their fingers brushed and he couldn’t stop a little gasp. “It would be my pleasure if you came again,” he said. His cheeks felt like they were on fire.

The man glanced at his watch and made a sad face. “I wish I could stay longer now, but I’ve really gotta go.” He started walking toward the door. “I promise I’ll be back.”

“I’ll see you next time!” Bastian called, waving his hand. Then once the door closed behind the man, thumped his forehead against the counter. “Smooth, real smooth.”

If there was one thing he’d never managed to outgrow, it was his ability to act like a total spaz. For as long as he could remember, he’d always gotten flustered and stupid around people he liked even just a little bit.

It had to be the most embarrassing personality trait ever.


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