Love by Birthday Cake
“Aidan! It’s time for your cake.”
Aidan scowled. He didn’t want cake. He didn’t eat sweet, sugary, gooey things. Everyone knew that, so he couldn’t understand why they were insisting on this farce of a birthday party.
Aidan was “quirky,” as his mother liked to call it. He couldn’t tolerate tags in his clothes. He didn’t sleep well in unfamiliar places. And he possessed about a dozen other traits that could fit into the autism spectrum, despite never receiving an official diagnosis.
Of all his “quirks,” it was his refusal to engage in silly traditions, like eating birthday cake, that seemed to bother people the most.
Some of these traditions didn’t even make sense. Encouraging children to gorge on candy, for example. Illogical.
But he’d heard it all his life:
“Aidan, it’s your birthday. You have to eat some birthday cake.”
“Aidan, it’s Halloween. Don’t you want some candy?
“Aidan, how can you not like ice cream? That’s a crime against humanity!”
He only agreed to a party at all for the presents. Presents, unlike cake, were always welcome. The more, the better.
Aiden grumbled his way into the dining room, where a small group of people had gathered. His mother hovered at the head of the table, a big smile fixed on her face. Aidan didn’t smile back. He counted on his mother to head off situations like this. She’d let him down.
Jesse’s grandfather was there too, with his big bushy eyebrows. He sat in a chair, talking loudly with one of Aidan’s work colleagues, Sharon. Jesse’s Gramps, who was starting to lose his hearing, did everything loudly. Two of Jesse’s friends rounded out the small gathering. His boyfriend was smart enough not to suggest a larger crowd at least. Aidan wasn’t the most social guy.
Jesse waved him over. “Come here, Aid. I promise it’s better than you think.”
God, not that again. I promise you’ll like it. Just try it!
He frowned harder. “It’s my birthday. I don’t have to eat cake if I don’t want.”
He crossed his arms, feeling mullish. If they were alone, he’d tell Jesse all of the things that were better than cake. Like Jesse’s mouth, the taste of his skin, the feel of his body surging against Aidan’s.
Jesse laughed and kissed his cheek, making him blush. “Just look at it.”
Aidan looked down, and his mouth dropped open. The cake was decorated like a baseball score card. Long plastic dividers separated the numbers into columns, and shorter ones underlined each stat.
“Jesse, this is … fun.” He looked at his boyfriend, marveling again at how gorgeous he was with his perfectly symmetrical features, his sprinkle of freckles that Aidan loved to count with his tongue, and his colorful hair, dyed with streaks of blue this week. “I still don’t want to eat it, though.”
Jesse grinned wide, then moved to the side of the table. “Who said anything about eating it?”
And with that, he lifted up the cake. Aidan watched, eyes wide, as his birthday cake was tilted vertical. A laugh blurted out of his mouth when his mother handed him a large, baseball shaped cookie.
“Put it in the top, like Plinko,” she said.
Aidan realized now the dividers didn’t just form the columns and rows of numbers for the baseball stats, but also served as a path for the baseball cookie to take. He set it at the top middle, between two dividers, and dropped it.
Everyone clapped and cheered as it be-bopped its way down the cake to settle into the bottom left. Aidan bent down to read some small text at the bottom of the cake.
“Double play,” he said, with a chuckle.
It was clever, but Jesse had mixed Plinko and baseball. And it wasn’t exactly logical …
“I know, I know,” Jesse said. “It’s not how baseball actually works. You don’t have to tell me.”
Jesse knew him so well. “I just wanted you to have a birthday cake you could actually enjoy.”
Aidan wasn’t too comfortable with public displays of affection, so he tugged on a lock of Jesse’s hair when he really wanted to kiss him, push his tongue in his mouth and worship the man who actually got him, quirks and all.
“Thank you. It’s the best birthday cake I’ve ever had.”
DJ will give one winner a free copy of Love by Number, featuring Aidan and Jesse, available on Amazon/Kindle Unlimited now: mybook.to/lovenumber
LOVE BY NUMBER
Aidan doesn’t have the best record with relationships, but he’s had a lifelong love affair with baseball. Player stats and computer simulations make sense. People don’t. But when he needs a ride to the World Series, he must rely on another person: a sexy artist who is as spontaneous as Aidan is predictable.
Jesse doesn’t care about baseball. As an artist, he’d rather paint a player than watch him at bat. But his grandpa loves the Kansas City Royals, so he takes him to every home game. He has no idea a fender bender in the parking lot is about to deliver new inspiration in the shape of a man with a whole bag of quirks.
Despite their differences, Jesse and Aidan hit it off, and their sexual chemistry is fantastic. But when Aidan’s numbers betray him, Jesse isn’t prepared for the fall-out. If Aidan continues to put his passion for baseball stats above everything else, he could miss out on the most important numbers in life: the sum total of smiles, kisses and laughs they could share in a journey of a lifetime.