Cinnamon Roll (Bold Brew #9) - Anna Zabo

Chapter One

Maxime Demers eyed the ad pinned to the community bulletin board on the wall of the Bold Brew coffee shop. Well, well, well.

Gay sub seeking Dom for pain play, bondage, & sex. Assholes & jerks need not apply. Ask for Tom.

Max ran a finger across the phone number listed under the ad and tapped the paper once. The author was Tom Cedric. Had to be. Max didn’t know Tom’s number, and he didn’t know Tom personally, but he and Tom shared friends and they’d seen enough of each other from a distance over the years. Max understood all too well the quip about assholes and jerks.

Tom had terrible taste in men. Every guy he’d seen Tom date fit that description to a T.

It wasn’t any of Max’s business, but that ad wasn’t going to bring Tom the Dominant he wanted. Max suspected the result would be quite the opposite: even more jerks.

Then again, stranger things had happened in this coffee shop, so maybe he’d be wrong.

Ech, leave it, Maxime.

He had no time for subs or significant others. The fall semester was in full swing, he was teaching four courses instead of his usual three, and he had his own research to attend to, if he could squeeze that in.

Tom was a lawyer. He could take care of himself.

Rather than linger at the bulletin board, Max headed to the counter to order. Lupé was on this afternoon, and their smile, as always, was warm and friendly.

“Find anything?” They nodded at the bulletin board.

Max shrugged a shoulder. “Just looking. You never know what you might see.”

“That’s true. I found an awesome four-poster bed there.” They grinned, then gestured dramatically at the drink menu. “New fall specials! What’ll it be, Professor? Feeling adventuresome?”

Max laughed. “Lupé, my dear, this is me.” Of course he’d try something new. He’d try most things at least once. “Why don’t you pick for me?” He gave them a smile and a wink.

They pretended to swoon, then rang Max up. Years ago, when Lupé had started working at Bold Brew, they’d looked Max up and down and decided he was a little too pretty for them. “Sexy French pirate isn’t my thing,” they’d said. But Lupé still bantered and flirted, even now that they had a partner.

“You going to tell me what you’re making?”

“Nope.” They waved him away. “Go set up your grading nook, and I’ll bring it out to you.”

Max chuckled and headed over to the fireplace near the front of the shop. He tossed his jacket, a tweedy green-and-brown a former girlfriend had said practically screamed college professor, over the lounge chair, then pulled the side table over so he could unpack his satchel.

He settled in. Laptop. Stack of essays. Three pens—orange, blue, and black. He didn’t use red. That had always felt too critical, and he’d vowed early in his career not to become like one of the professors who’d set his teeth on edge.

He still expected the best out of his students, but he tried for kind and fair. Students were human and often stressed in ways he hadn’t been at their age.

He wasn’t far into reading the first of the essays when Lupé arrive with his drink. “One very special drink for a very special professor to enjoy while he grades his very special papers!” Lupé said in Spanish.

Max answered in kind. “More like one tired professor who is utterly grateful for the caffeine.” He took the drink from Lupé and savored the scent. The coffee smelled of autumn and came with a nice leaf design on the frothed milk.

Cinnamon, nutmeg, a hint of cloves. Something else. Chocolate?

He took a sip and closed his eyes, letting the taste melt over his tongue and flow down his throat.

Yes, all the above, plus a sharp sting of heat. He flicked his eyes open and met Lupe’s amused smile. “Mexican chocolate?”

Lupé shook their head. “Belgian chocolate, but that’s chili you taste.” Lupé rested their butt against the armrest of another chair. “What do you think?”

Max took another sip before answering. “It’s divine. Like a warm fall day that has the promise of a crisp evening.”

That got a laugh from Lupé. “You should’ve been a poet, Professor. You have a way with words.”

Max scoffed. He liked words, but he loved languages. “Is there a name for this?”

“Campfire Mocha, and you just gave us a great description for it!” Lupé stood. “Enjoy, Professor. Holler if you want another.” With a wink and a smile, Lupé headed back to the