An excerpt from Nice Tie

Another Monday morning, another bus ride into work. Another hour of staring at a book or into space or at the other passengers.

Alex was perfectly happy to do all three, if perhaps not all at the same time. The bus took fifteen minutes longer than driving did, but he’d tried driving into the city center and decided that an hour of staring into space, et cetera., et cetera., while someone else dealt with the traffic was much preferable to forty-five minutes of clenching the steering wheel and grinding his teeth. Cheaper too--he’d pay more just for parking than a weekly bus ticket cost him.

The downside of using the main university bus route was that the bus filled up with university students--who tended to be terribly bright and cheerful even on a Monday morning, at least this early in the term. The upside was that there was a bus every five minutes. Which meant plenty of commuters like him, along with the university students. Ample opportunity for people-watching on the days he didn’t feel like reading a book.

Today he had a nice profile view of some eye candy. Eye Candy had got on the bus a few stops down from Alex’s stop, at the point where there were usually still a few seats downstairs but often only the poor ones, either at the back facing the rear, or the sideways-facing folding seats in the wheelchair bay. The students mostly piled upstairs at that point; the commuters mostly chose to stay downstairs away from the bright chatter about lectures and each other. Eye Candy was clearly a commuter--late thirtysomething and in a good suit.

Eye Candy was also clearly not enthralled by wearing a suit. Either that or he’d been a bit late leaving the house. Most of the ensemble was reasonably neat, but the tie was loose and the collar a little open.

The reason why quickly became clear. The man lifted one hand to the side of his neck and rubbed at it, tilting his head a little as he did so. Poor sod obviously had a stiff neck, likely the sort you got from sleeping awkwardly.

Sympathy didn’t stop Alex from enjoying the view. The guy had nice hands and was now displaying one of them to perfection. Right in Alex’s general field of view, where he could openly watch without staring or looking where he shouldn’t, at least not in public. He could indulge in a happy little fantasy about that beautiful, elegant hand massaging something else, as long as he kept the accompanying happy little smile inside and not on his face. This morning’s entertainment was definitely a step up from reading the Metro.

And then it got even better. Eye Candy pulled the tie looser so that it hung slack around his neck. But rather than pulling it over his head, he undid the knot and slid the tie free of his collar, giving it a quick snap in front of him to shake out any wrinkles. Alex approved of this sartorial thoughtfulness. The tie looked as if it was silk, smooth and lustrous. It was a deep red silk that suited the man’s skin tone. It deserved to be shown off at its best.

Eye Candy flipped his collar up and settled the tie back into place and then proceeded to retie it neatly. Two-handed, keeping it under perfect control. Fingers dancing smoothly through the motions needed for a half-Windsor knot, in and out and around.

And Alex had a perfect view of it. So damned perfect that he regretted not having picked up a Metro this morning, because a newspaper in his lap right now would cover a multitude of sins. There was something very, very hot about watching an attractive man put together an attractive tie. Stripping a tie off a man was pretty damned nice, but watching him put it on...

The show was finished. Almost. Eye Candy leaned his head back against the window of the bus, stretching his neck out. The sort of posture a man might use when inviting someone to kiss his way down that elegant line of neck.

Not on a bus, of course, but the thought still kept Alex entertained for another mile or so of creeping through the Monday morning rush-hour traffic. Another benefit of taking the bus--not having to keep his attention on the traffic around him. He could spare it all for whatever he felt like daydreaming about. Well, almost all--he had to leave a little bit of attention left for making sure the happy little smile stayed inside him where it belonged.

He finally turned his attention back to the book he was supposed to be reading. Too much perving and he ran the risk of being noticed by the object of his attention. It wasn’t polite to make someone else uncomfortable on his way to work.

He was soon absorbed in his book, the regular landmarks of his journey barely registering on his conscious mind. Even so, he noticed when there was movement in front of him. The guy with the tie and the nice hands getting up at the first stop in Portland Street. City center worker like him, presumably.

Nice arse to go with the nice hands, he noticed rather absently before turning back to his book. He should just have time to read the final two pages in the chapter before the bus reached the last stop.

* * * *

Alex saw the man with the nice tie and hands and arse occasionally over the next two or three weeks, noticeable mainly by his habit of redoing his tie shortly before he got off the bus, even if just to straighten the knot. Only occasionally, because one of the side effects of a bus service running every five minutes was that you saw a lot of the same faces, but not every day. A few minutes earlier or later leaving the house, and people would be on a different bus. And he saw the guy only in profile, in the sideways seats or across the aisle a couple of rows forward.

So when Alex glanced up at the person who’d just sat down in the seat facing him, it took him a few seconds to place why the man seemed familiar. It was Mr. Nice Tie, looking tired and weary, reluctant to face another day at the office. Hardly surprising on a Friday morning. The seat he was in was again one of the ones always left until last, the rear-facing foldaway one that was horribly uncomfortable on the back of anyone forced to sit on it. It certainly wasn’t comfortable to slump back against it, as Alex knew from unpleasant experience, but that didn’t stop Mr. Nice Tie.

He didn’t have a tie on today, and Alex felt a small pang of disappointment. The open collar gave a nice view of the hollow at the base of the neck, but it didn’t look quite right with the suit. On the other hand, Alex was going in later than usual, which meant that the man opposite might also be running late and had left home without quite finishing his morning routine...

Yes. It took a few minutes, and Alex had gone back to reading his book by the time Mr. Nice Tie sat up straight and took a tie out of his pocket. Which meant Alex could surreptitiously look up from his book and watch the performance without having to look straight at the guy’s face.

Again the long, beautiful fingers twisted and tucked the strip of shimmering silk. A little more slowly, a little more awkwardly today than on previous occasions. Not just because he was tired--he was using a different knot today. A full Windsor by the look of it, just the thing to suit today’s shirt. Nice to see a man who cared enough to match knot style to shirt. Nice to watch as he did the last twist and slid the knot into place, neatly filling the gap in the wide-set collar.

Too nice, perhaps, because Alex was getting hard just from watching, never mind thinking about watching in a more intimate setting. He kept holding his book right where it was, because dropping it into his lap would only draw attention. The problem with being somewhat short on actual sex of late was that fantasy sex could get a bit out of hand.

The book wasn’t really helping as a distraction today, but he kept his eyes focused on it all the same, all the way into town. He didn’t look up as Mr. Nice Tie got off the bus. Just in case Mr. Nice Tie met his eyes and read him as easily as he would normally read his book.

* * * *

Another day, another client. He already had a briefing note about the new client and the contact man, but it didn’t give a lot of information. He’d get most of that in person. The person being one Robin Wood, on his way up in the lift right now.

Alex had left his door invitingly open, so it was easy to hear when the man arrived. He went out to greet him and found him hanging his coat up. “Mr. Wood?”

“Yes. And you must be Alex Hall.” Wood held out his hand for the ritual shake. Alex was pleased to find a firm grip but no silly macho games. “Please call me Robin.”

“If you’d like to come through to my office. Tea or coffee?” Alex ushered him through, feeling a little puzzled. Robin Wood seemed oddly familiar, as if he’d seen him somewhere before. But he couldn’t remember having met the man, and Taylor’s was a completely new corporate client, so it wasn’t as if they’d passed in the corridor somewhere.

“Coffee, please, but not just yet,” Robin said. “I presume you’ve already seen the briefing notes?”

“Yes, although there wasn’t a lot of detail. Are you only considering a contract for a single building at the moment?”

Robin smiled. “For the moment. We may well be expanding our property portfolio in the near future, but the initial contract is only for the new premises we’re proposing to use ourselves. It will be a showcase site, and we don’t have the in-house expertise to do the full range of property management for something more than a ready-to-move-in site.”

“Why pick us?”

“You’re small, but you have a good reputation. This contract won’t be more than you can handle, and if you’re a good match, you could grow with us.” He opened his briefcase and pulled out a packet of documents. “If we could go over these...”

As they went through the documents, Alex’s feeling that he knew the man from somewhere grew. And it wasn’t just him--he kept getting puzzled looks in return. But it was only as they broke for coffee that Alex asked, “Do I know you from somewhere?”

“I keep thinking that as well.” Robin shrugged. “Can’t place it, though.”

Alex glanced down at the documents he was holding before putting them down on the table--and then looked up just in time to see the shock of recognition in Robin’s eyes.

“You’re the guy on the bus who gets a hard-on watching me do my tie up!”