Sunday Snippet: Shining in the Sun
All the “S”s today 🙂
Damn it, a man shouldn’t always have to be afraid…
Alec Goodchilde has everything a man could want—except the freedom to be himself. Once a year, he motors down to an exclusive yacht club on the Cornish coast and takes the summer off from the trap that is his life.
When his car breaks down, leaving him stranded on the beach, he’s transfixed by the sight of a surfer dancing on the waves. The man is summer made flesh. Freedom wrapped up in one lithe package, dripping wet from the sea.
Once a year, Darren Stokes takes a break from his life of grinding overwork and appalling relatives, financing his holiday by picking up the first rich man to show an interest. This year, though, he’s cautious—last summer’s meal ticket turned out to be more pain than pleasure.
Even though Alec is so deep in the closet he doesn’t even admit he’s gay, Darren finds himself falling hard—until their idyllic night together is shattered by the blinding light of reality…
Darren took a step back, snapped out of his post-wave high. What the…? He’d heard some chat up lines in his time but that won points for being the most desperate. As he rocked back, leaning on his board, Krissy gave him a little head toss of exasperation and lead the others inside. He could hear them laughing all the way to the bar.
“Are you buying?”
Sheesh, the guy had still not sat down, was leaning forward over his table, all Hugh Grant floppy hair, starched designer shirt and pleading. He gave a little wince as though he hadn’t expected the voice – they never did – and fell over his lolling tongue to say “oh yes. Yes of course. Anything.”
“If you like.” Not a flicker of calculation in the blue slate eyes, only a kind of awe, like someone witnessing the second coming of Christ. Darren tilted his head to one side to see if that would make the expression look more like lust. It didn’t.
The air crackled about him with the intensity of that stare. He bit down on the urge to look behind him. Maybe the guy wasn’t talking to him at all?
“I’m not sure it’s the sort of place where you can get champagne though.” The stranger dropped his eyes, gave one of those sweet, self-depreciating smiles all the rich boys must get taught at finishing school. What the hell was a man like him doing, having to pull rough trade off the beach when surely all he had to do was crook a little finger and every strapping lad in his Eton rugby team would be on their knees in gratitude in seconds?
This is the point where you run away. Yeah?
“No, it’s not. I’ll have a beer.” He didn’t trouble with ‘thanks’. They both knew the sort of thank you acceptable in this game.
“Really? You will?” He watched the blush smoulder slowly from the man’s white open collar to the roots of his glossy coffee brown hair, annoyed with himself for saying yes, annoyed with the stranger for giving him another chance to say ‘no’. C’mon now, get it out; ‘no actually I won’t…’ and walk away. C’mon now Darren, you promised yourself.
Not a bad looking trick. Ah, who was he fooling, the man was gorgeous, his face all well bred angles and perfect skin. When he looked down, as he was now, the blush turned brown eyelashes to bronze. They made soft little glinting fans over film-star cheekbones, gave him an inward, dreaming look as if he was up on a billboard, contemplating the scent of infinity (bottled by Louis Vuitton.)
“Really I will, but you’ll have to be quick. My mind’s not made up at all.”
“Don’t go anywhere. Please. Please.”
As he watched the man walk away – back straighter than a fire poker, bare feet frisking across dirty red tiles – Darren grounded his board and sank onto the bench. He pushed his fingers into the drying tangles of his hair, and as he did so, Krissy, bottled water and choc-ice in hand, slithered out from the crowd and propped a knee beside him.
“So you told him to go fuck himself, didn’t you?”
She unzipped and peeled her arms out of her wetsuit, letting the top droop like a deflated twin about her waist. Sand and water droplets gleamed on her dark skin. She caught him looking and cuffed him on the side of the head. “Didn’t you?”
He pulled at the Velcro at his throat, fierce summer sunshine and shame roasting him together. “It’s just a beer.”
“Oh for Christ’s sake!”
“Krissy, I…” Darren rubbed a hand over the back of his neck to conceal his frown, scarcely conscious of hitching forward over the phantom throb of long healed ribs. He was thinking of wheelchair lifts, and Gran lying broken at the bottom of the stairs; grubby hospital corridors, the old lady soldier-brave, talking away to the nurse, her skin gone blue as whey. “I need the money.”
“Not this much.” She placed her hand over his; a strong, capable, almost motherly hand. “Not enough to risk another Max.”
“Yes, this much.” At the name his body tightened up, muscles locking solid. Pavlov’s dogs – I hear his name, I get ready to be hurt.
“I can get you a job at the office. They’re always looking for someone to do filing, make tea.”
If he looked up he could see the stranger at the bar, nervously counting out change. Apricot coloured afternoon sunlight drenched the man’s hair, made it look edible as treacle toffee. The white slacks had an old fashioned charm, discretely suggesting the curve of a nice arse without going so far as to flaunt it. Something about the posture, the poise of that carefully laundered back implied a private gym, an athletics coach or two, who made the man’s body their personal work of art.
He had a nice smile. Diffident, almost frightened. His teeth were crooked and a little stained.
Despair slammed into Darren like a wave, sucking him down, slamming him, limp and helpless, against the lightless rock and ooze of sea bed. I stack shelves all year long, Krissy. This is my month, my one month of freedom. You don’t understand. “I don’t want a job.”
The stranger had stopped, arrested on the way back to the table by the sight of the two of them. Glasses and beer bottles shook in his fingers, chiming. He looked stabbed, stabbed to the heart, and Darren knew he couldn’t get up now and leave. It would be like kicking Bambi after his mother died.
Max hadn’t trembled, hadn’t looked at him like he was the driver of the chariot of the sun. Max had just smiled that ‘I’m going to eat you up’ smile and beckoned.
“It’s just a drink,” he said again. “I’m thirsty.”
“Pratt.” Krissy shoved him hard in the head, leaving him with a roaring sensation in one ear, and opened her choc-ice. The top fell off onto the bench beside him with a splat and lay there like the droppings of an enormous albatross. She made a sound of disgust and stalked away, throwing a glance spiked with poison at the trick, who returned her the flinch of a smile.
“Am I interrupting?” Jeez, the man was like a ghost, soft voiced, all in white, so little presence you forgot he was there. Darren wondered; if you could walk round him, at the right angle would he disappear altogether?
“Krissy,” he said. “She’s a good friend of mine. Surfing buddy.” And then, because his instincts had been all wrong about Max too, “I’ve a bunch of friends here. We look out for each other.”
“That’s good.” He sat like a schoolboy, tucking himself neatly into the bench beside his upturned leather shoes and folded blazer. “All I seem to have is family, and they…but you don’t want to hear about all that. I’m Alec, by the way.”
“Ryan,” said Darren, concentrating on pouring his beer.