Jasper had only meant to get a bottle of wine. He didn't mean to pick a guy up. Things like that normally didn't happen to him. Well, fuck. Things like that never happened to him.
He studied himself in the mirror and worried over his appearance. He had put on a thick orange-colored sweater with a high neck and wooden buttons on the side. He had paired this with dark jeans and his biker boots.
Jasper hoped this was acceptable attire. After all, what did someone wear to meet a virtual stranger?
The way it had all come together was like something out of one of his novels. He wrote gay romances for a living and loved it. It paid well, and he enjoyed the gratification of delving into the taboo world of fantasy.
That was the thing: all good romance novels depended upon a coincidence of some kind. What had happened to him only a few hours ago was like a romantic coincidence.
He wrote about shit like this. Shit like this didn't happen to him.
Studying the mirror a final time and declaring himself presentable, Jasper took one final moment to calm his nerves. He could do this, he thought. He could. It had been a long time, but it was like riding a bike, right? No one ever really forgot how, no matter how long it had been. Right?
He did find the situation slightly ironic. Jasper wrote about men who were afraid, who were terrified; but ultimately, they gave into the all-consuming power of love. It was ironic because he was terrified of doing the same thing in real life. He had no illusions or delusions. He may be writing about himself in some way, but his romances were usually grounded in fantasy, despite the autobiographical content.
He had always been shy. Jasper overcompensated for this by having a big mouth and using self-deprecating humor to distract people from the real him. Like the heroes he wrote about in his novels, he was broken.
And he had long ago stopped wondering how to fix it.
At first, after his marriage had failed, he had given himself time. He had taken a year to get his shit together. He had made a home, cleaned out closets, and chased away ghosts. He had filled every minute that had been taken up by his ex-husband. Jasper had been so busy ignoring the world around him that, when the year was over, he realized how much time had passed him by.
He had a few friends, some family. But he hadn't dated anyone. He hadn't wanted to. He had promised himself a year of cleansing. Jasper had thought he had been getting ready for love, preparing to welcome it in.
But the year had passed, and he hadn't found anyone who had sparked his fancy. He went on a few dates, but the men had wanted only one thing and sent up little red flags he was very familiar with by now.
He hadn't bothered after the third attempt to meet a guy resulted in another encounter with a jerkwad. The man had made comments about Jasper's weight from just a picture, and they hadn't even met yet. So much for meeting men online, Jasper had thought.
So he had waited, figuring Fate would put a man in his path.
But there had been no one.
Jasper had gotten to the point where he was comfortable in his own company again. He liked living alone. At the beginning, it had seemed a long stretch of time. Now, he wondered at how it had seemed such a large expanse in the first place.
In the end, Jasper realized he had given up. He had no illusions about his looks. He was handsome but not movie-star handsome. His dark brown eyes were offset by slashing brows and brown hair peppered with a sheen of white. He had a full Roman nose and thick, supple lips.
He had hated himself once. But now he'd gotten to the point where he could love how he looked. However, he still had no hopes of attracting various men of the gay community.
He dared not even approach the muscle jocks. The leather knights scared him and usually smelled. The stand and models and the stand and model version 2.0 were off-limits to almost everyone. The bears were nice but could be pigs. And the less said about the twinks, the better.
Jasper had explored some dark territory in his quest to understand himself and his sexuality. Fetish clubs, bars, a stairwell of an apartment building. But he had never really found that spark to light him on fire. He had never found the spark he wrote about.
When he had begun writing romance novels, it was because he believed that true love--real, enthralling love--existed out there somewhere in the world.
Now he knew differently.
Now Jasper wrote about a spark and a love he thought of as unattainable. Now his fantasies had become just that: words on a page that would never be fulfilled.
He was surprised to find that he didn't mind, that the idea he would spend the rest of his life alone was not a frightening thing. But he still wanted to spend it with someone.
He wondered if he had changed or if the world around him that had done so, but it didn't matter. He knew without a doubt there was no one out in the world for him. A person only gets so many loves in their life, even if some of those loves are total asshole rejects.
That's what made the whole thing with the man at the wine store so bizarre.