One: Taxi Driver
*Notice: Important author's note explaining why this exists below
He was here again. That taxi driver. The one with the leather jacket and the smelly cigarettes that only partially covered his natural woodsy scent. Wren had only called for a taxi three times in the past two months and yet somehow, he got the same driver every single time.
Wren wasn’t sure how that was statistically possible. There were twenty million people in the city and probably five thousand taxi drivers. The chances of Wren getting the same one three times in a row seemed unlikely. Wren could see how this might happen if he were calling for the taxi at three in the morning every time or something. But he wasn’t. He usually called for it around seven or eight p.m., on nights when he had to work late at the office and didn’t feel like walking home in the dark.
Wren might not have noticed the coincidence, except this particular driver was hard to forget. Though he didn’t talk except to ask Wren where they were going, he had a presence that was a little overwhelming, especially for an omega like Wren. Wren had avoided making friends with anyone with a strong scent since he was young. His nose was more sensitive than most, and alpha pheromones like the driver’s tended to make his head go a little fuzzy. Thankfully, the drive from Wren’s office to his apartment was only a few blocks, so Wren could take shallow breaths for the fifteen-minute ride and be fine.
But being subjected to the driver’s overwhelming presence and scent three times in a row was starting to frustrate Wren. Not to mention, it was a little creepy. Wren had heard all the horror stories about omegas being stalked and kidnapped in big cities and never being found again.
Even more confusing was that the driver didn’t seem like any other taxi driver Wren had encountered. Most were pretty average people – they didn’t stick out much, and in an effort to avoid offending their customers, they often wore scent-concealing perfume. In fact, some taxi services required it of their workers.
This driver either didn’t care that his unconcealed alpha scent could make his passengers nervous or aggressive, or he was leaving it unconcealed on purpose precisely to make omegas like Wren uncomfortable, and as of yet, Wren couldn’t figure out which it was. Additionally, the first time Wren had ridden with this driver, the thing that stuck out the most to Wren was that the driver didn’t seem like he was living off a taxi driver’s income. His clothes were expensive and well-suited to him. Wren would almost guess they were tailor made. His shades were definitely name brand, and he had a Rolex on his left wrist.
Maybe the driver had a wealthy family or something. But still, most people who came from wealthy families had more glamorous jobs than driving a cab. Whatever the case, it was weirdly incongruous, and Wren took notice.
Additionally, the driver was handsome. Handsome to the point that even behind the shades and baseball cap, anyone could tell. Wren had even seen a few omega girls pointing at the driver and squealing from the sidewalk while they were stopped at a red light the one time. Wren hadn’t ever seen him without the sunglasses, even at night, which was definitely dangerous, and concerning.
Wren stood under the awning at the front of his company, Perry’s Event Planning, which was, as it sounded, an event planning company. Wren worked mostly with weddings and graduations, specifically with acquiring catering and entertainment. He had stayed late tonight to wait for a confirmation email from a caterer. He could have gone home on time and just dealt with it then, but Wren had been promised the email would come no later than five thirty, so he stuck around the office to wait for it.
Clearly that hadn’t happened, as it was now almost seven forty-five. The sun was setting earlier now, and it had started raining heavily sometime around six. Wren hadn’t brought an umbrella with him to work because he thought he’d be home before the rain started. Thus, he called a cab.
And immediately, he regretted it. He could tell all the way from the steps in front of the building that the cab idling on the curb belonged to the weird driver. He could see his silhouette, see the cigarette smoke billowing out of his cracked driver’s side window. Wren took a deep breath and considered hiding and waiting for the driver to get fed up and leave. He also considered going around the back of the building to avoid being seen and walking home in the rain anyway.
It was the coward’s way out, but Wren didn’t particularly care. Something about this alpha made Wren feel like he was on the edge of a cliff, one misstep away from a bloody death of shattered bones and bruised skin. He didn’t know the man’s name or anything about him other than what he’d observed, but the tingling in the pit of Wren’s stomach whenever they were in the car together told Wren there was something dangerous in his vicinity.
It didn’t help that Wren had had maybe two conversations with alphas he wasn’t related to in his entire life. In addition to homeschooling Wren, his parents had done everything in their power to ensure that Wren never had the opportunity to make friends with an alpha. It came from a place of love, Wren knew. Wren’s own father had been knocked up at seventeen – he didn’t want the same thing to happen to his son.
Was it a little extreme to keep Wren from even talking to alphas? Maybe. But Wren didn’t particularly care. He had no desire to date, unlike most omegas he’d known. Still, having had little exposure to alphas put Wren at a disadvantage here. It was harder for him to read the driver’s intentions, harder for him to handle his breathing and heart with those pheromones drowning him.
Well, Wren had called for the taxi. He might as well use it, even if the cigarette stink made him nauseous. With a deep sigh, Wren went down the steps and ran to the car, an arm over his head to protect his eyes from the rain. He pulled the back door open and practically fell into the car, shaking his head like a wet dog once he was seated.
The driver didn’t move, and as far as Wren could tell, his expression never changed, but Wren could feel the driver looking at him through the rearview mirror even behind those sunglasses. Wren met that gaze in the mirror and fought off a shudder, pulling his cardigan closed tighter around his throat.
And then – was that - ? Did the driver just smile? At Wren’s discomfort? Wren blinked hard, but he was sure he’d seen a devious flash of straight white teeth in the mirror for the briefest second.
Wren felt his cheeks warm up involuntarily. It was embarrassment, sure, but mostly he was upset. That smile – no, that smirk, was so – so derogatory. Wren was so disconcerted, in fact, that he reached for the door handle to get out of there, but as if reading Wren’s mind, the taxi quickly spun out of it’s parking spot and Wren lost his chance to flee.
Thankfully, the rest of the ride was about what Wren had experienced the last two times. It was quiet, without even the radio to break up the silence, and tense. Wren covertly breathed through his mouth to avoid smelling both the driver’s scent and the cigarette stench, huddled as close to the door as he could get, counting the streets between his job and his apartment. He definitely did not steal glances at the driver from the corner of his eye, and if he did, it was only to keep an eye on him and make sure he didn’t do anything funny, or so he told himself.
Finally, the cab came to a stop at the entrance to Wren’s apartment building, and Wren wasted no time pushing the door open to get the hell out of there, dropping the cab fare that he’d counted out beforehand into the driver’s waiting hand. However, before he could exit the car, a large, warm hand closed over his wrist.
Wren froze, turning back to the driver, who was now leaning between the seats to stare at Wren. Wren’s first thought was that he might have accidentally given the driver the wrong amount.
But just as Wren opened his mouth to ask if that was the case, the driver dropped a piece of paper into Wren’s hand. Wren grabbed it on reflex and the driver released his wrist.
“I’m Vincent,” the driver said, voice deeper than Wren had been expecting. “Call me if you want a ride you won’t forget.” Then, to Wren’s utter confusion, he smirked and leaned back into his own seat.
Wren stared, mouth agape, for several seconds before snapping his jaw shut. He glanced at the paper and saw the man had written ‘Vincent’ and a phone number with a little winky emoji next to it. Wren didn’t understand.
“How could it be better than this?” he asked, blinking innocently at the driver – Vincent – and waiting for an answer. Maybe he ran his own cab service on the side or something, with a better car? Wren didn’t particularly care about the kind of car that drove him around, honestly, so he was confused about what Vincent was offering.
Ever so slowly, Vincent turned in his seat to look at Wren again, something legitimately surprised in the slackness of his mouth. Wren tilted his head, more confused than before.
…What had he missed?
Vincent didn’t say anything to answer Wren, and finally, uncomfortable, Wren just shrugged and left, stuffing the paper in his pocket, feeling Vincent’s stare on him the whole way.