“Noah? Hey, Noah.”
Someone was calling him from somewhere over the ocean winds. Noah groaned and put a hand to his face to shield his eyes from the sudden light that was flooding into them. As he lifted his head, things weren’t quite right and it took a moment for his sluggish, waking brain to catch up. The light was at a weird angle and the carpet was way too soft under him. The fact that there was a carpet underneath him was strange in itself.
Oh, and he was completely naked.
Noah sat up quickly as someone touched him again, gently shaking his shoulder. “What? What the hell?”
Jude took a step back, holding up his hands. “Whoa, sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said. “Um, what are you doing out here?”
Right. He was at Jude’s house. Still blinking, Noah looked around at the now-familiar living room and tried to put the pieces together. He’d come over under the pretense of dinner. Then they’d had sex. He’d planned to go home but had fallen asleep instead.
And then apparently sleepwalked again. But unfortunately, not into oncoming traffic, which could have helped him avoid this embarrassment.
“Shit, I’m sorry,” Noah said, rubbing his eyes as he stood up. “I must’ve been sleepwalking or something.”
Jude laughed. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “It’s two in the morning. I thought maybe you’d gone home, but I came out and saw you on the rug.”
Noah stretched his neck from side to side, cracking it. “Nope,” he said. “Nope, just…wow.”
Jude smiled, his eyes tracing the length of Noah’s body, then coming back up to his face. “I’m not complaining,” he said. “Are you alright though?”
“I’m fine,” he said. “Just embarrassed. It’s something that’s been happening for a little while. Since, um, since I got home.”
From rehab. While he wasn’t embarrassed about getting sober, talking about it still made him uncomfortable. As if there was some big life thing that everyone else understood, but he’d never learned. Like they could live their lives without needing to be admitted to the hospital in order to learn how to be a functioning adult.
Jude’s face softened and Noah was relieved he didn’t need to elaborate. Things with Jude were nice. There were no expectations and no promises. He wasn’t about to get in a relationship this soon, he wasn’t that foolish. But companionship and sex with no strings attached? Sure, he’d take it.
“It’s okay,” Jude said, pushing a lock of his long, red hair back out of his face. “I did that when I was a kid. My mom ended up putting an alarm on my bedroom door.”
“God, if Liv finds out about it, she’ll probably do the same to me,” Noah said with a laugh.
He was aware that he was standing here very naked except for the cast on his wrist while Jude was still in the doorway with a thin bathrobe over his small frame. At six and a half feet tall, Noah always felt like he was lumbering over everyone in his life. And with Jude, the height difference was almost comical.
“So it’s pretty late,” Jude said. “What do you want to do? You’re welcome to stay if you want?”
The condo was warm while the December night outside had dipped well below freezing. And while Noah’s truck had a good heater, the idea of driving home right now wasn’t too appealing. So instead, he set his embarrassment at this whole thing aside and grinned at Jude.
“I mean, if you’re offering,” he said.
Jude’s eyes locked on his. “Oh, I’m offering,” he said.
He turned and started walking back into his bedroom. Still slightly unsettled, but mostly focused on the prospect of a warm, affectionate body, good company, and a soft bed, Noah followed.
Four hours later, Noah woke up to the sound of Jude coming out of the shower. The other man’s hair was wrapped in that twisted towel thing he’d never quite figured out whenever Olivia did it. Another towel hung low on his thin hips, where Noah could see a bite mark he’d accidentally left behind. Jude was scrolling through something on his phone as he walked in, then looked up and smiled.
“Good morning,” he said.
“I have to go to work, but you’re welcome to stay. Just don’t steal anything.”
“You should have told me that before I brought my truck,” Noah said with a laugh, sitting up. “Thanks, but I’m working today too. And my cat’s going to destroy my house if I don’t go home and feed her.”
“Ah, the old ball and chain.”
Jude was still looking at his phone as Noah got up and started gathering his clothes from the bedroom floor. He found his jeans and pulled them on, then scanned the room for his t-shirt.
“Are you around tonight?” Jude asked, setting his phone down and unwrapping the towel from his hair. “I’ve got a friend, Sarabeth, coming over tonight. Me and her have some plans if you want to join. I think you’d like each other.”
The look on his face told Noah exactly what those plans were. Noah was tempted, but he shook his head. “I have stuff to do after work,” he said. “But thanks. And how the hell do you have so much energy?”
Jude laughed out loud and Noah picked his t-shirt up off of the floor and put it over his head. “I’ve got so many things to fix at my house right now before winter gets here,” Noah continued. “Think of me when you’re with her, because I’ll probably be insulating water pipes in my basement.”
Noah’s leather jacket was draped over the back of an antique chair in the corner of the bedroom. He walked over, pulled it on, then started looking for his socks. Jude was putting on his own clothes while Noah searched, so he sneaked a peek at Jude’s own sleek body as he did.
A few minutes later, socks and wallet found, Noah was ready to go. He leaned down and kissed Jude on the cheek. “Thanks for having me over,” he said.
“Anytime,” Jude replied, sliding a hand down Noah’s side with a sly grin.
His other hand reached up for Noah’s collar, yanking him down into a kiss that made Noah want to forget leaving and climb right back into bed. But before he could float the idea, Jude’s lips left his and the other man was letting him go.
“I have work,” Jude reminded him, patting him on the cheek.
Noah should have had some kind of retort for that, but his brain was still slightly mushy. So instead, he just smiled and shook his head.
He left a few minutes later, after another invitation to join Jude and his friend tonight. As he walked out of the condo and made his way to where his truck parked over in guest parking, the air was bracingly cold. It was refreshing, but Noah didn’t want the winter to come yet. He still had so much to do.
But he didn’t have any control over that. And as if the weather were taunting him, light snowflakes began to fall as he drove through the wooded roads back toward New Winslow. He didn’t have to be at the Christmas tree lot until noon today, and it was only seven. So maybe he’d shower and catch a quick nap before starting any projects around the house.