DANNY changed after he met Jake, in small ways, and big ways too. When he started working with the World War II veteran, Danny swore a lot. At only nineteen, he was the youngest of the construction crew, and in an attempt to appear older he started out by sprinkling a curse word liberally amidst every sentence, mimicking the other tile workers who did that as a matter of course.
But Jake was a quiet one, rarely showing any anger or frustration and hardly ever cursing. It wasn’t exactly that he was shy, more that he was self-contained.
“He’s a vet. Who knows what kind of crap he saw in that fucking war? Dead guys, blood and guts, you know, and he probably killed his share of goddamn Krauts.”
That was the explanation Danny got from another coworker, an older Greek who also happened to be Jake’s cousin. The tile company that employed them was owned by a Greek family. In fact, Danny was the only employee who wasn’t Greek.
He was Cuban, or at least his parents were. He’d been born in Cuba, but his parents had emigrated to Florida right after he was born. He was raised in Miami, which didn’t seem to make any difference as far as what people thought about him. His name was Danielo Ramirez and he was Cuban and that was it.
He didn’t exactly look it. His parents were both Spanish Cubans and proud of that Colonial heritage. With soft brown hair that framed his round face and bright hazel eyes, a splash of freckles across the bridge of his nose and a wide, bowed-lip mouth, he could even have been Greek like the others he worked with.
Jake Tyler didn’t look Greek at all. Apparently his father was a Brit who married a Greek woman. His hair was sandy blond, his eyes very pale blue, and his skin almost fair. He was three years older than Danny but acted as if he was even older than that.
The spate of new hotels being constructed along Miami’s beachfront offered work for hundreds, and Danny was glad to be one of them. It was a postwar boom, and Miami was really taking off.
With beachfront galore and lush tropical vegetation, the 1930s Art Deco buildings mingled with the postwar industrialism taking hold of America to create something unique. The architecture of South Beach and Ocean Avenue was awash in curves and a color palette of turquoise, cream, and peach. Mixed in with that, Italianate Renaissance mansions dotted the beach front. European-style tile work decorated many of the hotels, and this was where the company Danny worked for found their contracts.
He had no idea what he was doing when he started and was fortunate that Jake was assigned to train him. The others were older and volatile in their mood swings. Jake had nowhere near the experience of those older guys, but he had been tiling for almost two years, since the end of the war. He’d also been an apprentice at just sixteen for a year before joining up and heading off to Europe.
It wasn’t Jake who told him any of this. His gossipy relatives filled Danny in during their breaks, while Jake himself usually withdrew to sit by the beach and drink his coffee or eat his lunch.
“I need a roommate. Want to move in with me, Danny?”
It was out of the blue. They were kneeling on the floor of a fancy new hotel, carefully placing some terrazzo tile, when Jake asked him. The young Cuban-American looked up to see Jake smiling at him. That gentle smile was so genuine Danny couldn’t help responding just as honestly.
“I’d fucking love it,” he blurted out, momentarily forgetting his vow to stop swearing. “Uh, when can I move in?”
Jake laughed, a chuckle as gentle as his smile. “Any day. Tomorrow, if you want. The rent’s not bad and split between us it’ll be all that much cheaper.”
Danny’s dick rose up stiff under his work overalls. That in itself was not unusual; he’d been springing wood at least a half-dozen times a day since he started working with Jake. The guy really got him excited for a number of reasons, including his personality, his looks, and the respectful way he treated Danny.
But now the very thought of sharing a place with him, seeing him every morning and night and sleeping near him, had him so excited that hard-on just wouldn’t subside. “I’ll tell Mama and Papa. They’ll be glad to see me go. My brothers will too!”
Danny had three younger brothers, and he shared a bedroom with one of them. Now Emilio would get his own room, and he would be thrilled about that. His parents wouldn’t really be glad to see him leave, unless it was to get married, but they wouldn’t argue with him about it either.
The next afternoon he brought his few belongings in a suitcase and filled a rickety old dresser Jake managed to get for him from one of his relatives. The place was near the beach, like just about everything in Miami, with palm trees outside the windows and a sweet breeze off the water. It was small, one bedroom, a living room, a tiny kitchen, and a bathroom with an actual shower. It was heaven.
The first night Danny could barely sleep. Jake slumbered in the other twin bed only a few feet away, and with the heat of a warm spring, he shoved off his covers and rolled around fitfully. Naked!
Of course Danny stopped wearing underwear to bed after that, seeing as how Jake obviously didn’t bother with them at night. The only drawback was that his boner would be pretty obvious if Jake managed to spot it in the murky darkness. He did his best to hide it every night.
Both dressed casually in T-shirts and skivvies during the morning and in the evenings too sometimes. Danny got a good look at his roommate’s solid body. Not particularly tall or broad, the sandy-haired construction worker was muscular in a compact way. In short sleeves most of the time, Jake’s powerful forearms were nearly always on display. Danny was fascinated by them.
In Danny’s eyes, Jake’s body was nearly perfect—though there was one flaw he noticed the first night they undressed together. A long ragged scar ran along the inside of Jake’s left thigh. It wasn’t ugly, not really, but it was intriguing. Jake didn’t limp or favor that leg at all so it seemed it must have healed all right, whatever accident had caused it. Naturally he guessed it had something to do with the war. He wanted to ask, but thought it might be better to pretend he hadn’t noticed.