Authors: Cecil Wilde
Tags: #Gay romance, Trans romance, Contemporary
On the search for a cup of coffee before the guest lecture he's giving, Tom spies a tired, half-frozen young man who looks even more in need of coffee than him. On impulse, he buys the man a cup—but an attempt to strike up conversation ends in the young man walking off, seemingly put off by Tom Walford—the tabloids' favourite billionaire—buying him coffee. But when he reappears in Tom's lecture, all Tom knows is that he doesn't want the man slipping away a second time.
Agreeing to dinner with a man he only knows from internet gossip columns isn't the wisest decision Cin's ever made, but he wants to like the infamous Tom Walford and he can't do that if he doesn't give the man a fair chance to be likeable. Which he is, almost frustratingly so, to the point Cin wishes maybe he hadn't been so fair because he never had any intention of getting attached to Tom, who seems to come from a world far too different from his own for anything between them to last. Little does Cin know, they've got a lot more in common than he imagines—including their shared discomfort with their assigned genders, and all the complications that go with it.
A Boy Called Cin
By Cecil Wilde
Published by Less Than Three Press LLC
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission of the publisher, except for the purpose of reviews.
Edited by Amanda Jean
Cover designed by Aisha Akeju
This book is a work of fiction and all names, characters, places, and incidents are fictional or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people, places, or events is coincidental.
First Edition July 2015
Copyright © 2015 by Cecil Wilde
Printed in the United States of America
Digital ISBN 9781620045589
Print ISBN 9781620045596
To all my fellow trans babes—here's to happiness
There's a kid sitting on the low wall by the coffee cart—the only one Tom's found on the whole campus, which seems odd, considering the amount of caffeine students consume—wearing two coats and three scarves. The layers are probably because he's too tired to keep himself warm anymore, unless it's a fashion statement that Tom's too old to understand. Dark circles under the kid's eyes hint that it's not for show.
Tom orders two coffees and goes to sit down next to him when they're ready, holding one out in front of him in offer. The kid looks at him dubiously, bright blue eyes wary, but maybe just a hint hopeful. "You look like you could use it," Tom explains, still patiently holding the cup out.
After another few seconds, the kid takes it and holds it reverently in fingerless-gloved hands, pressing his nose to the little spout on the plastic lid to warm it with the steam. Tom watches this as he sips his own. It's still too hot for normal human beings, but he's had a lot of practice getting coffee into his stomach as quickly as possible. Coffee's a lot more effective in the blood stream than in a paper cup.
The kid pretty much looks like the living embodiment of finals week—which as far as Tom knows, it isn't, but not everyone's classes run on the same schedule—and just remembering what that was like makes Tom a little nervous. "Rough week?" he tries to break the silence again.
A soft little grunt is all the reply he gets at first, but then his impromptu coffee companion takes a sip, swallows, makes a sound as though he's just had the politest orgasm ever, and then finally speaks up. "Has it occurred to you that unbridled charity with no fixed goal in mind only serves to create dependencies in those having charity inflicted on them?"
"I'll take that as a yes." Tom sips his coffee again. "Business major?"
"Fine Art. But I figure I might as well attend as many lectures as possible while I'm here."
"So do you believe that, or do you just like to antagonize strangers who bring you coffee?"
"I don't know, but I've been thinking about it a lot," the kid replies thoughtfully, after another mouthful of coffee. "I thought you might have an answer."
"You recognize me." Something twists uncomfortably in Tom's stomach. He's still not really used to total strangers knowing his life story, and while it'd be unreasonable to expect the average modern twenty-something not to be a solid wall of cynicism, he knows he hasn't got half a chance with this one. Not that he's entirely sure why that seems important.
"I would have to be both blind and deaf not to. I imagined you shorter." He pauses for a second to draw his knees up to his chest and wrap his arms around them, deftly juggling his coffee. "Not that I've spent a lot of time imagining you, to be clear."
"Obviously." Tom's suddenly extremely conscious of not being twenty-five any more, aware of the kind of stuff they Photoshop out on magazine covers and that doesn't show in head-and-shoulder shots.
"I try to leave the idol worship to the actual business majors. Your face is much more interesting in person, though."
"Interesting?" Tom raises an eyebrow.
"I stick by that adjective." The kid peels the lid off his now-cool coffee and tips his head back to drink it in a few dramatic gulps, then stands and throws it in a nearby trash can with impressive accuracy. "Thank you for the coffee."
"You're welcome," Tom calls after his retreating shoulders.
When he's surprised by seeing the kid he had coffee with earlier wandering in to listen to his lecture, Tom feels instantly stupid. The kid pretty much straight up
him that he'd be there. It just hadn't occurred to Tom that one of the 'as many lectures as possible' might include his.
The kid's lost two of his scarves, but he's still wearing two coats when he wanders in and flops into a seat in the front row, grinning broadly at Tom when they make eye contact.
It hits Tom, belatedly, that he's really attracted to him. Normally, he'd try to avoid being attracted to people probably half his age, so it's fair enough that he didn't get that straight away. Probably. In any case, it makes him even more self-conscious and unable to look at him—and he needs to stop thinking of him as a
because that's suddenly creepy—for a few minutes.
As he relaxes into the familiar pattern of lecturing, though, he finds himself talking more and more to the one semi-familiar face in the room. He knows that the audience is made up mostly of actual business majors and the inevitable few groupies, except this one guy. He looks like he's listening, but not like he's hanging on every word or like he's desperate to interrupt with his own ideas. Just absorbing what Tom's saying.
It's a change, and it's one he's finding he really likes. Especially since it's business majors he's lecturing about how good business is mostly about taking people's needs into account, and they're largely budding sociopaths. The cute art student isn't one of His People either—Tom's an inventor, out on his own, and he's never actually studied business formally—but he's
to being so.
Tom’s got no idea what kind of art he does, but creation is creation, whatever way you look at it. People tend to think of programmers—which is what Tom really is, behind all the smoke and mirrors that make up the PR part of his career—as pure scientists, but to anyone who really understands how code works, they’re poets. An art student is a lot more likely to understand that than a business one.
Plus, he's cute. That definitely has a lot to do with Tom's assortment of warm feelings toward him. No one ever said he couldn't be shallow.
Tom makes up his mind to see if he can catch the guy before he leaves. He manages to forget, however briefly, that the problem with that plan is that he's a rock star. Normally, the part where a bunch of bright-eyed and excited college kids flock to him to tell him how cool he is serves as a massive ego boost, but today, it's an annoyance at best. He wants to chase after the weird art student, no matter how stupid that may be, because he's still young enough to do stupid things and he hasn't done anything really ill-advised in a while.
After making his way through the crowd—and signing about four hundred things, including someone's boobs—Tom heads for the solitude of the campus coffee shop, which he'd finally discovered two minutes before he had to be in the lecture hall.
As fate would have it, this also involves literally walking right into the person he's thinking about. The guy rolls his eyes when he sees who it is and quickly pockets the small sketch book he'd been absorbed in.
"Shouldn't you be fucking one of the business majors?"
He's a real charmer. Tom feels he's chosen well.
"I'm pretty sure I'm actually not supposed to do that, but I'm glad you've bought into the hype. Did you at least get something out of the lecture?" Tom's suddenly desperate for approval. He's aware of it, and yet still in need of reassurance that he isn't a total waste of space.
"I know what I'm doing for my mid-term exhibition piece this semester."
"Yeah?" Tom's honestly interested. He knows exactly nothing about art, and normally he doesn't care, but this is an interesting artist.
"The pretty face of ugly capitalism." The guy nods seriously. "It's gonna be a huge portrait of you, surrounded by people starving and dying on the streets."
Tom's hurt for a second. He hears it all the time, obviously, but you'd think there would be a point at which you did enough to help people that they'd take it on good faith that you were
to be one of the good guys. Apparently, the hurt shows on his face, because when he looks back at his accuser, the guy's face has softened considerably.
"I don't actually believe that. But that's how you get good grades in art degrees."
"Just business—I can respect that. Plus, you think I'm pretty."
"I think your face will be interesting to paint and might stop me choking on the sheer volume of my own bullshit while I do it."
"Do I at least get a name, if you're gonna defame me for personal profit?"
"People call me Cin." He offers his hand like this is a completely civil conversation, which it kind of is. More civil than a lot of conversations Tom has, though they're not normally as direct. Tom takes it automatically and shakes it like he's closing a business deal before he can really stop himself.
"But your real name is…?"
"Hyacinth. It's French."
Tom raises a disbelieving eyebrow.
"Why do you think I get people to call me Cin?" he answers the unasked question.
"Fair point." Tom nods. "I've got an answer for you, about charity, by the way."
Tom sees his opportunity and decides that it can't hurt to take it. "Something I'd like to tell you over dinner."
Cin snorts. "I thought you were supposed to aim high."
"Offering a student a free meal isn't exactly a good way to get a feel for how much they like you."
"Does it make you more likely to say yes?"
"It does. I will graciously allow you to feed me."
"Then I'm getting exactly what I want." Tom grins at him like he's won something.
"I imagine you're used to that." Cin doesn't seem remotely impressed. Which is fine, because Tom hasn't really had a chance to impress him yet. That's what dinner's about.
"You'd be surprised." He shifts his weight, unsure if that was a definite yes. "So, can I pick you up… around seven?"
"Do I need to dress as though I'm not a broke student?"
"Not if you're with me." Tom's not exactly proud of the fact that people let him get away with a lot, but he's not about to make them stop, either. Opportunism is one of his best qualities. It might actually be his only business-related ability.
"Then you can pick me up around seven. I'll meet you out here," Cin agrees. He pushes past Tom to leave the coffee shop, giving him a lazy wave without turning back as he walks away.
Tom's had dinner with less combative, more grateful people. He's also had dinner with more combative, less grateful people, but usually, there's been an offer of money or services on the line, so he was more inclined to put up with them. Cin's right, too; he should've just picked out one of the business majors. He rarely meets one that wouldn't take the opportunity to sleep their way to the top, and he assumes this is because they're majoring in business and they're aware it's all down to luck and connections.
Instead, though, he's picked out an art student who may or may not hate him or think he's a joke or possibly the equivalent of a war criminal or something.