A Five Boroughs Story
Michael Rodriguez and Nunzio Medici have been friends for two decades. From escaping their dysfunctional families in the working-class neighborhood of South Jamaica, Queens to teaching in one of the city’s most queer friendly schools in Brooklyn, the two men have shared everything. Or so they thought until a sweltering night of dancing leads to an unexpected encounter that forever changes their friendship.
Now, casual touches and lingering looks are packed with sexual tension, and Michael can’t forget the feel of his best friend’s hands on him. Once problems rear up at work and home, Michael finds himself seeking constant escape in the effortless intimacy and mind-blowing sex he has with Nunzio. But things don’t stay easy for long.
When Michael’s world begins to crumble in a sea of tragedy and complications, he knows he has to make a choice: find solace in a path of self-destruction or accept the love of the man who has been by his side for twenty years.
2015 Rainbow Awards Best Gay Contemporary General Fiction Runner-Up
“YOU SHOULD be glad he cheated on you, Michael.”
“That’s one of the stupidest things you’ve said to me.”
I looked up at the sound of clinking glass. Nunzio was pulling bottles of liquor from a black plastic bag and lining them up on his chest of drawers.
“My point is, Clive was a dick and you were never going to end it. He gave you a way out.”
“Whatever you say.”
Nunzio finished emptying the bag and balled it up. “Stop moping. It’s Friday. We’re young… ish, in the gayest neighborhood in New York, and now we’re both single. The possibilities are endless.”
“The possibilities are annoying.”
A few weeks ago, I would have been the first one out the door, but now I couldn’t muster a single thread of enthusiasm. I couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason why the charm of going to the club every weekend had faded, but it’d likely had something to do with my now ex-boyfriend’s endless litany of disapproving complaints.
We’d been together for nearly two years, but Clive had gotten over me at record-breaking speed. In a span of five minutes, he’d called to tell me that we were finished, changed his status on Facebook, and blocked me. Social media made relationships less private and more shallow, and Clive’s burning desire to flip me off in front of our mutual friends had led to me deleting my account.
If I wanted to be honest with myself, I should have expected it. There had been red flags from the start. If I had never watched Closer and developed an infatuation for Clive Owen, I would have never dated the fuckhead. The name had hooked me, and his body had drawn me in, even though he had been smug about everything from his appearance to his law career. I’d let those minor niggles slide until his aggressive insecurity caused me to consider jumping back into the sea without a life jacket. But he’d decided to end it before I’d found the courage to do it first.
“You look so damn miserable, Mikey. It’s making me want to smack you around a few times.”
“What do you want me to say? It was brutal, and I’m in a bad mood.”
Nunzio’s pale blue eyes flashed the way they did when he was ready to light the fire on his Sicilian temper and go explosive on someone who had pushed him—or someone he cared about—a little too far.
“What did that motherfucker say to you?”
“The usual. I’m just a broke-ass teacher with a bum-ass family, and I drink too much and spend too much time with you. Us going to Italy together this summer was his breaking point, so he took the liberty of banging other dudes for the past few months until he found a suitable replacement.”
“Want me to fuck him up?”
“Oh please. I could fuck him up if I wanted to, pendejo. But we’re thirty-two, not eighteen, and it doesn’t work that way anymore. Just forget it.”
Nunzio was still looking like he wouldn’t mind imprinting his knuckles on Clive’s fine-boned face, and the sight of him all bent out of shape was enough to make me smile for the first time all day.
I stood. “Cógelo suave. I’ll be fine.”
“You sure? Because—”
“I said I’m fine. I’m more pissed off than hurt. It’s okay. I’ll go out.”
It wasn’t really okay, but I didn’t want to be responsible for Nunzio’s pretty-boy face going all mean mug, or the way his shoulders built up with tension. We’d known each other since we were twelve, and he’d been protective of me since then, even though I’d grown up taller and broader.
I rubbed Nunzio’s shoulder. “Seriously. Relax.”
“Fine.” Nunzio gestured to the bottles he’d lined up. “Pick your poison. It’s time to get faded.”
I nodded at the tequila, and he measured out the shots. I watched the amber liquid pool in miniature glasses from different vacation destinations around the world and tried to rally myself for the night. Nunzio and I had stumbled our way into adulthood drunk and oversexed, and we’d always had a good time doing it. Even if I was tired of the club scene, I knew we would ultimately have fun.
We did two shots together before Nunzio assessed my outfit.
“I hope you know you’re not going out like that.”
He scoffed, not dignifying the question with an answer. Tall, well-built, and lankier than I was, Nunzio looked sharp in dark jeans and a button-down. He didn’t try very hard, but he didn’t have to—his piercing eyes, olive skin, and tousled black hair ensured that he always looked gorgeous. My tendency to forget to shave and my love for time-beaten T-shirts and broken-down jeans put me into the hot mess category more often than not.
“I don’t look that bad.”
“You look like you’re about to start doing jazz hands for change on the subway. Did you even shower?”
“I brushed my teeth.”
Nunzio gave me a look of disgust. “Look, I know you’re upset, and I don’t blame you, but we can’t go have rebound fucks if your ass isn’t even washed. It’s inconsiderate and unhygienic.”
“Christ. It’s not like I skipped out on my annual bathing.”
“Go, you filthy animal. I actually have clean towels this time.”
He blasted music while I showered, but my enthusiasm was still nil despite his efforts. I finished up, left the stubble spreading across my jaw, and didn’t bother styling my hair. By the time I left the bathroom, Nunzio had found me an outfit more appropriate for hunting down a rebound lay.
“We could just stay here and drink.”
“No, dude. When you get dumped, you have revenge fun.”
“You sound like a fucking rom-com.” I approached the dresser and downed two more shots in quick succession.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Nunzio held up his hands. “Put on the brakes, big boy. It’s called pregame, not introduction to sloppy drunkenness before we even get to the damned club. Slow that freight train of intoxication down.”
“I’m good.” I loosened the towel wrapped around my waist and dried myself in front of him, shaking my head at the theatrical leer he aimed at my dick.
“I can’t believe that idiot cheated on you. You’re almost as hot as me.”
I didn’t answer. I jerked on the slim-cut jeans and the random black polo he’d decided I should wear. Everything felt too tight on my broader frame, but he walked around me as if assessing whether or not I’d get him any good offers on the auction block.
“Your ass looks good in those jeans.”
Nunzio stopped in front of me and crossed his arms over his chest. “Your bulge looks good too. Damn. I dunno if I like you being my competition for meat.”
“Get over it, Medici,” I said with a half grin. Nunzio got competitive over everything from teaching practices to how much ass we got at a club. “If you want me to get into party mode, you better get used to it. Just wait until we leave for Italy. It will be no-holds-barred.”
“Give me a break. Even before your boring-ass boyfriend was in the picture, it wasn’t no-holds-barred.”
Nunzio bumped me out of the way of the mirror and adjusted his own collar, popping it up before smoothing it back down with a grimace, and then angled himself sideways to check out his profile. He adjusted his dick, stared harder, then gave a decisive nod.
I stifled a laugh.
“Let’s do this.”
I WAS starting to hate nightclubs almost as much as I hated Top Forty, and even Nunzio could not change that. Between the endless stream of either heckling or harassment from strangers with you-better-fuck-me smiles, and the depressing spectacle of at least a dozen fading gays yearning for approval as they watched the dance floor from the bar, only Nunzio’s energy kept me in the game. That being said, I did like to dance. As much as rhythmic grinding could be called dancing.
We’d only been at the club for an hour, and I was already three sheets to the wind and writhing against the nearest hard bodies. Sandwiched between my best friend and a tattooed guy in a sideways baseball cap, life could have been worse.
I gasped in Nunzio’s ear that I was thirsty, and he shoved me in the direction of the bar.
Clive popped into my head, uninvited. I scowled at the bartender, demanding water, and banishing the mental image of my ex. Who cared if he’d always taken care of me when I drank too much? He’d been lining up backup generators in case the power in our two-year relationship fizzled.
“Come on,” I muttered, glaring at the bartender’s back. “I just want some water!”
The bartender turned, scathing in his spike-covered vest, and gave me a glass of water the size of a thimble.
“Fuck you too.”
The aggressive beat of the music almost drowned out my voice.
“What do you expect? You snapped at him as soon as you got here, and I’ve been waiting ten minutes for a beer.”
I looked to my left, prepared to unleash the full extent of my rage on the poor bastard who’d dared to speak, but the words shriveled up before I could get them out of my mouth.
The guy was lovely.
I noticed the smile first—too big, drunken, but bright enough to light up a funeral parlor. He had a great face—big dark eyes that stood out like coals in a pale face, wide mouth, and platinum hair. He was several inches shorter than I was, and his body looked slim beneath a T-shirt emblazoned with the periodic table.
“Nice shirt you have there. Nerd.”
“What’s nerdier? Me wearing it or you knowing what it is?”
“What idiot wouldn’t recognize the periodic table?”
The guy raised his hand and twirled his finger to indicate the people around us. “Mostly everyone who’s tried to shove their hand up it.”
“Could be if I’d thought to keep one. Keeping track of the number of morons in the world didn’t seem like a useful way to spend my time.”
I wanted to have sex with him.
“Who’s this?” Nunzio slung an arm around my shoulders and sloppily kissed my cheek. He squinted down at T-shirt Guy. “Whoa, the periodic table! That’s awesome!”
I wanted Nunzio to piss off. Instead of saying so, I shoved him away and wiped my face.
“It would figure that the only two smart people in this establishment are together.”
“We’re not toge—”
“It’s because we’re teachers,” Nunzio interrupted. “Teachers are supposed to be smart or the world turns out stupid.”
I willed a sinkhole to open under Nunzio’s feet.
“I’m Nunzio and this fine as fuck Puerto Rican piece of man-meat is my best friend Michael.”
“Hello there, David.” Nunzio grabbed the front of the shirt and tugged David closer. “So, check it. Michael just broke up with his boyfriend. You should suck his dick to make him feel better.”
I hated Nunzio less. Especially when David looked up at me with a 100 percent interested smile.
WE CRASH-LANDED into a cab at five in the morning. Nunzio swiped his credit card at nothing, missing the card reader twice before managing to pay, because he had one hand down David’s pants while David tried to figure out how my tonsils tasted. The cabbie watched us in the rearview mirror, unmoved.
“No mess,” he said when David let out a low moan.
“You got it,” Nunzio gasped.
The card machine beeped, and I opened my eyes just enough to see Nunzio kick open the door and stagger out. I hauled David out with me, nearly breaking my neck when the guy shoved me backward in an attempt to grind up against my dick. My back met air, and I crashed down to the stoop.
“Jesus, you horny little freaks, get your asses inside,” Nunzio said with a husky laugh.
“You taste good,” David panted into my mouth.
“You taste gorgeous.”
My words were nonsensical and so slurred they barely sounded like English, but David didn’t seem to mind. He licked the side of my face with a hot, wet swipe of his tongue and followed it up by biting down on my lower lip. The ability to move was fading fast, but Nunzio grabbed my shoulder and hauled me up.
My desire to get David in bed was so urgent, the four flights of stairs seemed more like four hundred. He ripped my shirt off the moment we entered the apartment, and I heard Nunzio flip the locks as we stumbled to the bedroom. Nunzio was close behind, but I almost forgot he was a participant until his breath ghosted along the ridge of my ear.
“Get his pants down.”
I nodded and he pressed his face against my neck. I could feel the filthy smile tipping up the corners of Nunzio’s mouth as his hands got busy with my belt. When my pants were gaping open, he helped me get David shirtless and worked off his jeans and shoes.
David lay splayed out on the bed beneath us. His heavy-lidded eyes moved between me and Nunzio. He smiled.
I grabbed the band of his briefs and tugged without bothering to be gentle. His dick aligned with his taut stomach and smeared precome on his pale skin.
Nunzio’s breath was hot on the back of my neck. “Damn, that slut wants it.”
I shuddered at the words and stretched my body along David’s, sprinkling kisses along his throat and smiling when I felt the vibrations from his answering moan. I trailed down, dragging wet patches across David’s warm, sweaty flesh, and occasionally nipping at it to leave little red marks.
David writhed on the bed, making breathless noises that were eventually muffled—by Nunzio, I assumed, because his presence disappeared from my back. I looked up, and my dick pulsed in response to seeing my best friend balls-deep in David’s mouth.
It was hot—intensely, incredibly, mind-blowingly so. Before I’d drenched myself in shots and beer chasers I hadn’t wanted to share, but now it didn’t matter. Without Nunzio orchestrating this little porn opera, I wouldn’t have even been able to skin David out of his pants. And being this close to Nunzio while he used the guy’s mouth was more of a turn-on than I’d expected. In fact, I couldn’t stop staring at his cock—slick with saliva and so hard the veins protruded.
“Jesus, his mouth is sweet.”
My hands went still, and David was temporarily forgotten. I lost my fucking mind at the sound of Nunzio’s voice scraping out low and throaty, his eyes closed and head tilted back just so. I only stopped staring when Nunzio bucked his hips forward hard enough for David to jolt.
I exhaled and knelt between David’s thighs again, tracing my tongue up the side of his dick before wrapping my fingers around the root. I sucked on the head, flicking my tongue along the slit, and started working his girth with my hand as I took him deeper into my mouth. David’s hips gave a stutter before flexing into a full-on, brutal face pounding, and I pumped and sucked to help edge him along.
My own erection was agonizingly hard. The feeling intensified every time I looked up to find Nunzio staring. He seemed transfixed, and that ratcheted up my pulse further.
“Shit, Michael, you suck dick like a pro.” Nunzio pulled back, his cock stiff and damp with spit. “I want to watch you fuck him,” he said.
I sat up on my knees, fly hanging open and jeans sliding down my hips like the request had been a command. My belt buckle hit bare flesh, and the cold scrape of it snapped me out of my daze.
“You want it?” I asked David.
I caressed his smooth, pale thighs, gliding up and down, before brushing his balls with my thumbs. I could hear things being knocked around in the side table that was still littered with empty shot glasses.
“Yeah,” David whispered. “We could take turns.”
The square of a condom smacked me in the chest.
Nunzio chuckled. “Nah. Sorry, champ. We’re not about that life. A little touchy, some huggy, but no fucky when it comes to Michael and me. Unless he’s feeling adventurous….”
“Shut up.” I ripped open the condom and rolled it onto my dick.
“Too bad,” David said. “You look good together.” He bent his legs at the knees, spreading them, and my balls tightened at the sight of his hole waiting and wanting.
“Too many clothes, Mikey.”
Nunzio’s voice came from behind me again. His hands hooked into the belt loops of my jeans and tugged them down all the way. He wrestled them off and forced me to relinquish my hold on David to free myself of shoes and pants. Nunzio squeezed my cheek to illustrate the a-little-touchy rule, and muttered something about my ass having been wasted on the ex. Then he reached around and slathered my dick with lube, teasing me with two pumps of his hand.
“Fuck,” I gasped.
“You want this little twink’s ass, not my hand. Right?”
A faint, pathetic noise escaped me. I realized that I wanted both.
“He talks a lot,” David slurred.
“It’s part of the charm.” Nunzio gave the cheek he’d just squeezed a firm smack. The head of his own dick crested along my ass. “Rail this motherfucker while I jerk off on you.”
The abused curve of David’s mouth curled up into a dirty smile. I grabbed one of his hips, guided him up, and I slammed in with one smooth thrust.
“Oh shit,” David gasped. His back bowed, and his fingers clawed in the wreckage of Nunzio’s bed.
He was so tight that I released a sharp cry. It was too high, too desperate, and too close to a needy whine to belong to me. Nunzio made an appreciative noise in my ear, bit it, and rutted up against my ass like maybe he wanted to get in it after all. I pushed back on him and reached behind to grab his hamstring.
“Don’t tempt me, Michael,” Nunzio whispered. “Don’t fucking do it unless you want it.”
I ground back on him again, drunk and mindless, knowing only sensations and no logic as he humped my ass with more intent. My mind supplied images of him drilling into me, using me as I used David, and I pushed back harder.
“Oh fuck, maybe this was a bad idea.”
“Shh,” I breathed in a way that was likely not reassuring at all, and started a slow, rocking rhythm as David stared right up at me.
Between him and the surprising way Nunzio was turning me inside out with lust, this was a hell of a rebound.
I dipped my head forward, and slid my tongue between David’s parted lips while my hips went to work. We tongued each other until my breath caught in my chest, and I pulled away to lick a trickle of sweat from his temple. Everything about him felt so good that I couldn’t get enough, or so I thought until Nunzio yanked me back by a fistful of hair and I had to fight a sudden urge to kiss him too.
I turned my face as I slammed my hips forward, and Nunzio’s mouth latched onto my neck. He sucked lightly, and I knew his eyes were glued to the way my dick was stretching out David’s hole. I couldn’t rip my gaze from Nunzio’s rapt expression until David started getting loud enough to disturb the neighbors. I took it as a sign to give it to him harder.
It was a rough ride, but David took it all in, wrapping his hands under his knees and holding them up and back so I could angle deep. The pleading noises falling from his mouth should have been enough to enrapture me, but I really just wanted to encourage Nunzio to keep his hands on me. At one point he cupped my balls and my heart stopped, jump-starting only when he pulled away. Every touch of Nunzio’s hands on my body was a tease, and I wished I could see him jerking off.
“So hot,” he panted. I could feel the head of his dick gliding against my ass with each of his strokes. His free hand grasped my jaw as he spoke directly into my ear again, deep voice reverberating. “Give him that big dick, Michael, and make him fucking come.”
Heat sluiced through me, and when Nunzio’s fingers brushed my lips, I sucked them into my mouth in a fit of delirium. I blew the long digits like I’d have blown his cock.
Nunzio’s voice broke on the last syllable, and his hips shifted, angling up with a low groan. The sudden burn of my ass being breached swept through my nerves. I shouted in surprise.
His cock slid home deep inside me, but the pain didn’t override my hunger for him. I lost my grip on David when Nunzio speared into me with two more delicious strokes. I wanted—needed—more, but he came on the next thrust, and the hot rush of his semen filled me.
David arched up, planting his hands on the mattress, and kissed me again. I tensed, bowstring tight, and fucked myself back on Nunzio before shoving my hips forward to impale David on my dick. Nunzio was still stiff and rooted in my ass, his breath guttering out when he reached around to jerk David with erratic twists of his wrist. Things got messy and tangled, hands and mouths everywhere and a cluster of three deep voices encouraging and groaning, until David came all over Nunzio’s hand and I busted so hard I lost the ability to breathe.
I listed forward, but a sticky hand held me in place.
“Sorry,” Nunzio muttered.
I pulled away and collapsed on the bed next to David. He rolled on his side, exhausted and sweat-covered, and curled against me like the spot under my chin was made just for him.
Despite the sarcasm oozing from his voice, Nunzio cozied up behind me and wrapped an arm around my waist. He buried his nose in the nape of my neck, muttering another abashed apology, and I dozed off sandwiched by them both.
Intelligent, moving and very sexy! Wonderful story and characters. I highly recommend this book and I'm looking forward to the next one!
This book floored me. I got soooooo turned on for the sex parts. The heat factor alone made for an excellent read. I was angry by some actions, saddened by others. There's angst and drama. There's sweetness. I loved it because it made me feel so much. I thought that Michael's break down was interesting and heartbreaking, but I did want more of Nunzio and less of that part. I will continue the series. When this one ended, I was craving more.
Review by Wendy
If a book could have an actual personality, then this one would be the equivalent of a classic bad boy – a few cuts, scrapes, and bruises to show that life isn’t always easy on him, but with bedroom eyes and a whiskey voice that go a long way towards making you forget it. The combination of family drama, pent up desire, pain, angst, and sexual tension will have your insides coiled tighter than a spring and your panties a hot mess after reading this one. Dayum!
Michael and Nunzio have been best friends for years. They’ve also been co-workers and partial roommates, but never lovers or friends with benefits… that is, until a night of dancing and alcohol set them on a course from which there is no return. This book is all about the shift in the dynamic of their friendship where we learn that one of them has wanted this for a long time, and the other has been fairly clueless. Since the book is strictly told from Michael’s POV, Nunzio’s thoughts and actions remain shrouded in a bit of mystery. The questions, the doubts, the dizzying high of off the charts sex, and the low of alcohol induced responses to other life stressors – these things will mix and mingle to create a vortex that will suck you in to the story and not let go until you reach the other side feeling a little worse for wear.
This book wouldn’t necessarily fall into the typical definition of a romance – it’s much grittier and true to life than most of its counterparts; however, it will absolutely pull all kinds of emotional responses from the reader – from pissed off at times to stupidly happy at the good feelz. You’ll be rooting for Michael and Nunzio through all those very real and sometimes very ugly challenges that riddle their journey.
The secondary characters were as vivid as the MCs in this story which means I’m completely hooked and waiting for book number two. If romantic fluff is primarily your thing, you won’t find it here. For everyone else, you won’t be sorry for checking this one out. Highly, highly recommended!!!
My friend Gabby and I had a long conversation about Sutphin Boulevard for the blog we review for. In reality, it could have gone on much longer that what we posted. There aren't enough ways to show and tell how much we loved this book. The book impacted me in a very personal way. Santino is an exceptional writer, gifted with an amazing talent for storytelling.
I hope everyone reads this book and has someone to talk about the issues with. It's a powerful story filled with real life ups and downs, family struggles, personal demons. Everything is handled in a way that puts the reader in Michael and Nunzio's shoes. I felt it. I felt it to my core.
Get the book. Read it. You'll love it. There aren't enough stars to give it. 5 seems too little.
This isn’t your typical friends to lovers type of story. Like the city it takes place in, it’s gritty, rough, and unforgiving. Set in Michael Rodriguez’s point of view we get a very detailed view of his mind… and all the shattered pieces that linger there. This is a man who is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders and he really shouldn’t. Mentally he can’t handle it, physically it’s killing him. His family is a mess, his job is drama filled, and his best friend Nunzio is the only anchor he has… and he’s losing that too.I was born in Flushing Queens NY. Queens is a borough I know well. I love that Santino is a New Yorker and was spot on with his geography. Nothing worse than reading poor researched books. It’s the little things, you know? This story is a tear you apart, chew you up, spit you out kind of story. There’s great pain and great triumph. There’s hate and there’s love. No matter what you get you get it epically.Sutphin Boulevard is not a fairytale, it’s reality. I loved that most about it. There wasn’t that, okay I forgive you let’s hug it out crap. It was no, it’s not okay, work out your shit! That was fantastic!Santino Hassell’s writing is stunning, his descriptions are beautiful, and he writes the human condition like poetry. This is a book you want to own!
Sutphin Boulevard is one of the best books I have read this year. I love the way the author tells the story about two friends that in the midst of their 20 year friendship encounter a lot of good times but also the tragedy of not being accepted.
Michael and Nunzio learned to love each other from the heart but also had to fight to realize that there was more than a friendship behind their good times.
I love the realism of the culture difference and the way he portraits what Michael, specifically, is feeling about being gay but also what lots of people consider a minority. The way all is written is excellent.
I have to say too … that I laughed about the whole Puerto Rican phrases and comments … Love it!!!!
Looking forward to reading about Ray and David’s story … Mi Dios!!!
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