Marko crooned in stooping to pet the cat, earning him points in Frank’s book. Thumb and forefinger formed an “O” to swipe the circumference of the upright tail to the end. The tip flip flopped encouragingly.
“Male or female?”
“What’s her name?” Marko asked, petting her behind the ears so that she purred.
“Miss Whiskers,” Frank said, feeling his face flush slightly. “My sister and I were kids when we named her.”
“It’s cute. What do you call her for short?”
“It used to be Missy but now I’m more likely to call her Whiskey. It fits her better; she’s a no fuss cat.”
“And she responds to any of the three?”
“Are you kidding? She’s a cat. She’ll respond to a plate of food. The rest of the attention she gives me is icing on the cake.”
Marko stood, swiping long hair from his neck. A grin lit his angular face, softening attractively sharp features to make him look younger than his professed twenty-four. Frank suddenly thought he looked better than any old cake, even one with his favorite butter cream frosting.
“Your bio mentioned two cats.”
“Bigelow is a big fraidy cat. He hides the moment the doorbell rings.”
“He’s huge. Has been since I got him from the shelter. They just called him Big Boy.”
“I hope I can meet him later. Maybe after the movie he’ll be willing to greet me without the doorbell to scare him.”
Frank couldn’t believe he’d heard right. Marko acted awfully sure of this first date. Their eyes met over the silence. Standing about the same height as Frank, Marko seemed to suddenly realize what he said by the slight widening of his eyes.
“Uh, shall we go? We’ll have time to get snacks and watch all the previews if we leave now.”
“Sounds good. We might not catch a cab right away, anyway.”
“I told the driver to wait.”
Frank liked that Marko showed no ulterior motive in agreeing to meet at his apartment. He tested his first dates that way, and most never survived to a second. They usually pushed intimacy too fast for Frank’s comfort
He shut the door soundly on that thought and locked it just as surely as he did the physical door to his New York apartment. He might have needed a shoehorn to move in but it served well as home for the three “people”, as Frank liked to think of his feline buddies.
“Your place is nice,” Marko praised belatedly.
Following on his thought about the size, Frank almost laughed. Instead, he managed to thank the other man with only a slightly self deprecating comment.
“It’s tiny, but it’s home.”
“Who needs a big place when you’re young, anyway? I have a shoebox, myself. I’d rather spend my money on living than a place to sleep my life away.”
“I like the way you think.”
They exchanged good humor at that, their chuckles echoing in the elevator they entered. The pair already knew what movie to see, having decided while communicating through the gay dating website.
Plans changed when they agreed that the movie stunk. The conclusion occurred to Frank early on but Marko spoke up first.
“You’re an old movie buff. What about watching a classic instead of this 3D mess?”
Plan B took shape by the time they returned to Frank’s place. Soon they munched popcorn and sipped beer over a romantic comedy from the forties.
“Much,” Frank agreed.
The clean-cut brunette’s agreement grew when Marko’s hand brushed his in the popcorn bowl. An on-screen kiss led to an admirable imitation on the couch with Marko taking the initiative. He turned Frank, whose fingers tangled in shaggy blond locks. Frank tugged lightly until their lips parted.
“Too fast?” Marko breathed.
“I don’t know.”
“Then let’s just relax and watch the DVD.”
“Okay,” Frank answered.
The coiled heat in Frank’s abdomen protested a shift to again face front from the sofa. Reaching for his beer, he saw Bigelow chose that moment to walk in front of the television.
The Maine Coon mix trotted to Marko’s outstretched hand. Bigelow sniffed, then batted his forehead against the back of Mark’s knuckles, a sure sign of acceptance.
“I think he likes me,” Marko enthused.
“I’ve never seen anyone allowed to touch him on the first visit.”
“Technically, it’s my second.”
“Oh, yeah,” Frank mumbled. “I guess it is.”
“You’re really cute when you blush. What if I told you I’d like to spend the night and make more of you blush?”
“I’d say we’re definitely rushing things, then.”
“All right. Let’s finish the movie and I’ll go.”
“Really? I don’t mean to be a jerk.”
“Hey, you’re just being honest. I respect that.”
After the closing scene, Marko stuck to his promise. Frank saw him off with a chaste kiss and plans to go out the following day. Nothing specific set other than where to meet, not even a time, Frank found himself unable to sleep.
The doorbell rang about forty-five minutes later. Wide awake, Frank walked to the door in his boxers figuring his neighbor just wanted to talk about her boyfriend trouble. He never should have started offering an ear at all hours. Instead, Marko stood in the doorway with a box of donuts.
“Hey, Frank. I figure it’s tomorrow. I hope you don’t mind.” To the unasked question, he answered, “My uncle owns the pastry shop around the corner. These were just made for the morning rush.”
“They smell like heaven. I don’t know, though. I’m dressed for bed and everything.”
“Perfect,” Marko growled. “Oh, yeah, there’s that red face. Come on, let me in. I won’t go any farther than you want. We can even watch another movie if you like.”
Frank nodded, smiling. Bigelow liked the man, after all, which said a lot. And the donuts would help keep his inner werewolf at bay. It wasn’t meat but, with any luck, Marko would survive the night so they could enjoy getting to know one another.