"The Lifecycle of the North American Love Virus"
Dr. Oswald Culpepper is an island unto himself. A respected infectious disease researcher, he is used to doing things his way and everyone else going along with it. When the new dean demands Oswald take on an apprentice like all the other researchers, Oswald is forced to agree. And when he sees Aiden Pearse walk into his lab, Oswald knows he’s in trouble.
Aiden is everything Oswald isn’t. Entertaining, gregarious, tall, dark, and gorgeous. Oswald should hate him on general principle. So why does he watch his new assistant when he thinks the young man isn’t looking? And how is he going to make it to the end of Aiden’s apprenticeship with his dignity intact?
Written for the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s Love Is Always Write event
Cover photo © Joe Biafore, Licensed from iStockphoto
Oswald ticked off the house rules as he led Aiden to the guest room. “No food or drink in the room. No loud music. No clothes left on the floor. No guests. Understood?”
Aiden threw his duffle on the bed. “Just one question.”
Oswald waved his hand. “Yes.”
“Am I allowed to sleep on the bed? Or should I just curl up on the floor so as not to muss up the sheets?”
“The bed will be perfectly fine. Just make it each morning.”
Aiden chuckled. “Sure thing, Doc.”
Oswald sighed, irritated at Aiden’s nicknaming habit. He’d already corrected Aiden twice that day. “Just be downstairs in thirty for dinner.” He spun on his heel and dashed for the door.
“Yes, dear,” said Aiden before shutting the bedroom door.
In the kitchen, Oswald slammed one cabinet door after another. He’d originally wanted spaghetti for dinner, but he could only imagine what kind of mess Aiden’s burly hands would make trying to eat it. Grilled chicken and vegetables it was, then.
He was already furious, but the “Yes, dear” had just taken the cake. Aiden was like all the rest. He saw Oswald’s slight body, average stature, and delicate features and immediately assumed he was submissive, needed taking care of. Oswald didn’t even question that Aiden was gay. Oswald was never wrong about that.
He heard heavy steps approaching as he plated dinner. Turning with food-laden china in hand, Oswald was again mesmerized by the bottomless eyes staring at him. Aiden’s tongue swept across his lips, and Oswald momentarily wondered what it would taste like.
“Wow, that smells delicious!” Aiden smiled and patted his stomach. “I’m starving. Haven’t eaten since I got to the airport this morning.”
Oswald tried not to be happy that his efforts were appreciated. He placed the food on the small breakfast nook table and took a seat across from Aiden. Aiden saw the full tea glass next to his plate and took a huge swig. Oswald watched Aiden’s prominent Adam’s apple bob up and down as he swallowed.
“Oh, that is good.” Aiden smiled. “There’s no substitute for good sweet tea. One of the best things about being back in the South.”
“You didn’t like San Francisco?”
“I loved it. Nothing like being able to walk down the street and be yourself, you know?”
Oswald didn’t know. He’d never been to San Francisco. Come to think of it, he wasn’t sure he’d been anywhere he’d felt comfortable being himself. “So why did you leave?”
Aiden stabbed his chicken with his fork and cut off a hefty chunk. “I missed my family. My sister is getting ready to have twins, our family’s first grandchildren. I didn’t want to miss them growing up.”
Picking at his food, Oswald thought back to his own family. An only child raised by older parents who were both scientists, he’d had no living grandparents as a child, and both his parents had long since passed away. At forty-five, Oswald was completely alone in the world.