Chapter One

 

“Would you like anything else, Mr. James?”

Adam looked up at two big blue eyes and two good-sized boobs. He’d like sex, scotch, sunshine, and the hell out of this meeting, but he’d keep that to himself. “No thanks, Tiffany. I’m good.”

“You sure I can’t get you anything?” She leaned over, presenting the cleavage carefully arranged in a low-cut peasant blouse, for his appreciation. This girl didn’t know her customer. Of course in his case, no one else knew him either. “I’m sure, thanks.”

She smiled at the three other men at the table without quite the same level of gushing enthusiasm. “Can I get you anything?”

Bill Woolsey gave her a huge, slightly bleary smile. “Sure, sweetie, I’ll take another scotch and water. Light on the water.”

Ed Arturo looked up from his omnipresent smartphone. “Yeah, one more.”

Keith Milton shook his head.

The waitress blasted Adam with another smile and then scooted between the crowded cocktail tables toward the big center bar.

Bill burst out laughing. “It sure pays to be young and beautiful, Adam. I thought she was going to stretch out on the table and give you a piece.”

Adam smiled. “Really? I didn’t notice. I guess I’m distracted. Damn city council meeting, taking my mind off the important things in life.” He grinned and the guys laughed. Yeah, he might be distracted, but not by business. The council meeting could mean a million bucks to him, but right now he just wanted to get settled in at his buddy Carly’s place by the sea and let his cock do the working for a change. He’d had it with these guys, his business, and life in general.

Keith leaned forward. “Y-you still d-d-ating Miss N-November?” His stammer got worse when he drank.

Adam sighed. He hated to flat-out lie. “You know it’s hard to sustain relationships on our schedules.” Keith always asked about the gorgeous woman Adam had brought to a WMA Development retreat last year. Adam neglected to say he’d paid her to come.

Bill nudged him. “Hell, Adam, I keep telling you. Get married. Then you can have pussy at home waiting for you when you need it.”

“Not sure it’s worth the price.”

Bill barked out a laugh. “You got that right.” Bill was forking over big bucks to two previous Mrs. Woolseys. Mrs. Woolsey the third had a huge shoe habit.

Adam looked down at his tablet on the table. “Okay, have you got questions about any of the city council members? We know we have one sure vote.”

Bill nodded. “Good old Earl. Never can resist the wining and dining.”

Ed grinned. “Or the bribing.”

Adam pushed on. “Lilly March is the biggest worry. She’s a tree hugger and could prick the consciences of some of the others. The council has to understand we have the skill and money to handle the toxic cleanup, or we’re toast. We have to score points before the Newport Nature Preserve gets organized. They might command a lot of opposition, and the council could cave in.”

Ed shook his head. “Those wusses.”

Adam nodded and scooted his chair in as an older man from the next table pushed through. “Yeah. Well, let’s not get overconfident. You know how much money this represents.” He put the tablet in his briefcase beside his chair.

Someone next to him moved, and he found himself eye to eye with a smiling twink at the next table. Small, with longish brown hair and big eyes, the kid couldn’t be much more than twenty-one. Pretty in a flamboyant sort of way. The guy who left must have been his sugar daddy. The kid smiled and fluttered his lashes. Adam’s cock fluttered back.

Shit. That just showed how damned desperate he was. He straightened.

Keith had leaned in toward Bill, all hush-hush. “H-how did that w-work on the land go?”

Bill glanced at Adam and shook his head. “Oh, fine. No problems.”

Adam frowned. “What?”

“Nothing, buddy. Can’t compromise your legal ethics now, can we?”

The pretty Tiffany delivered the drinks, and Bill took a big slug as soon as the glass hit the table. The waitress flashed another smile at Adam and left.

Adam touched Bill’s arm. “Come on, Bill. You shouldn’t be doing anything that will put us in a difficult position legally. They have to check the parcel for environmentally sensitive habitat. It can’t look like we’re trying to hide anything.”

Bill waved a hand at him. “No worries.”

These guys loved to skirt the rules. Adam was no Boy Scout, but sometimes the WMA partners made him cringe. Fucking with the land before the city council ruled could bring down a flood of hot water.

Ed raised his lip. “Do you see that fag at the next table? He came in with some old dude. Man, that turns my stomach. I’m gonna see that picture all night in my nightmares.”

Adam held his breath. These guys hated anything gay. They just didn’t know who that included.

Keith grinned. “S-speaking of gay, did you hear about the two g-gay judges?”

Ed shook his head. “No. Tell me.”

“They t-tried each other.”

Ed split a gut. “What do you call fifty lesbians and fifty government employees in one room?”

Adam’s hands clenched. Shit, he’d heard this joke so many times. Today he wasn’t in the mood.

“A h-hundred people that d-don’t do d-dick. You told me before.”

Ed shrugged. “Still true.” He went back to his cell phone.

Bill nudged Adam. The guy had a shit-eating grin. “Know why so many gay guys have mustaches?”

Adam did not want to hear it. He shook his head.

“To hide the stretch marks.”

Ed and Keith laughed. Adam showed some teeth, but his face hurt doing it. “You’re funny, Woolsey.”

The guy was on a roll. “Yeah, and it’s a good thing they won’t find any fairy shrimp on our property. Get it?”

Enough. Adam pushed the chair back. “Excuse me, gotta go to the head.”

He walked down the hall and into the large men’s bathroom. Some days the huge paycheck wasn’t worth it. He took a deep breath and blew it out. Most days it was. This project was the one. His piece of the action would set him free, but he couldn’t blow it just because he was horny. So horny he could fuck a duck if it had good tail feathers.

He went to a urinal, reached in his fly, and hauled it out. God, just holding the thing made him want to shove it in a hole. The door to the bathroom opened. He glanced up in the mirror. The twink from the table came in.

Crap.

The guy affected a graceful sway as he sauntered to a urinal and unzipped. Adam stared at himself in the mirror. This was the wrong time for a bashful bladder. He breathed out and finally got a good stream going.

The kid glanced at him and smiled.

He smiled back.

That produced a bigger smile from the twink. “You waiting for someone?”

“No, just peeing.”

The kid pushed out his lower lip. “Oh, I thought you might be waiting for someone.”

Adam didn’t answer.

The kid produced a small stream and then jiggled his cock mightily. Adam tried not to check it out, but… damn. The boy had a nice penis, although Adam didn’t want to show appreciation. He squeezed out the last few drops.

The kid smiled real big. “You sure you wouldn’t want to be waiting for someone?”

Exactly what the hell did the twink plan to do with his sugar daddy? Ask Adam to fight for him? Nevertheless, his cock stiffened. “Sorry, kid, I think you got the wrong impression.”

The lip again. “Oh, did I?” He sneaked a peek at Mr. Half Mast; then he smiled. A world of hard-won wisdom shone from those pearly whites. “Really sorry, handsome.”

Yeah, so am I.

Adam tucked, zipped, washed in record time, and pushed open the bathroom door into the growing crush of Friday-night happy hour. Shit, he was hard as stone. He had to get out of this fucking meeting and get to Carly’s.

Deep breathing the whole way, he walked slowly back to the table until his erection finally gave up. The guys had switched from gay jokes to a discussion of the various waitresses. Just great.

He pulled out his chair.

Ed pointed. “Hey, Adam, whaddaya think of the redhead with the gazongas? She’s new, isn’t she?” This was Bill and Ed’s favorite restaurant and bar, where they catalogued everything female.

Adam laughed. “Only the gazongas are new. I think she just bought them. I seem to remember seeing her before with a much less impressive rack.”

Ed fell back against his chair, clutching his chest. “Nooo. I want to believe they’re one hundred percent gen-u-ine. Don’t burst my bubble.”

Keith glanced up from the phone. “M-make sure you don’t b-burst hers.”

They should all go home to their wives. “Okay, gentlemen… and I use the term loosely.” He grinned. “We meet with the architect again on Monday to run through the presentation.”

Bill nodded. He had a lot of extracurricular activities, but underneath he was all business. “Yeah. I’m playing golf with Earl Hamston on Sunday. Want to come?”

Hell no. “Sorry. Have some family duties this weekend. Call me if you need me and leave a message. I’ll be checking in.”

Bill cocked his head. “Thought your family was back East somewhere.”

“Yeah, uh, extended family.”

Ed laughed. “A weekend with family. Thrill a minute.”

If they only knew. It wasn’t their fault he was so deep in the closet he could find fucking Narnia.

 

 

Adam rang the buzzer on the gate in front of Carl “Carly” Cameron’s. He could see through the iron slats that a couple of cars were already parked in the circular driveway. Good. The gang was all there. God, he was so tired.

The speaker clicked on. “Yes, sir.”

He smiled. Waldo was safe saying “sir” to anyone coming to this house. Few ma’ams were allowed. “Hi, Waldo, it’s James Adamson.” He breathed in deeply. He loved being somebody else. There were days when Adam James’s life was shit, and this was one of them. Being James Adamson now and then kept him sane.

The iron gates opened. He drove the Mercedes in and parked on the far side of the fountain next to Ian’s Maserati and an unfamiliar red Ferrari. Wonder if Ian still had that adorable Latino boyfriend? No matter if he was alone, though. Ian didn’t turn Adam on. Too hairy. Adam glanced at the Ferrari, gleaming under a new coat of wax. New blood. Promising.

He’d kill for the balls to just come out and drive a “gay” car. He looked in the rearview mirror and ran a hand through his hair. It was too long, but he kind of liked it that way. Actually, he wished he had the balls to just come out, but way too tough on the income. He flipped up the mirror. WMA wasn’t his only client, but they were the biggest. His assistant, Cat, kept telling him he needed to change that. One of these days. Meanwhile, the Rendall Ranch project was more than a paycheck. Adam was in line for a percentage. A big one.

He popped the trunk, climbed out of the Mercedes, and grabbed his weekender. Mostly swim trunks and a lot of sunglasses, but Carly might throw a party requiring clothes. Of course, the dress code would be California casual, but these guys did fashion. He’d had to go to the back of the closet where he kept the Versace for something flashy enough for Carly’s crowd. He couldn’t wait.

Waldo held the door open with a big smile of welcome. “Mr. Adamson. Good to see you.” Waldo was only about five foot five and likely in his forties, but Adam had the feeling Waldo could handle himself in a fight. The term “fireplug” came to mind. Always the essence of polite and respectful, he was a great cook and probably a great bodyguard too.

“Nice to be here.”

“You’re in the usual suite.”

Behind him, the gate opened and Bruce Landon drove in. Adam waved, then turned back to Waldo. “It’s okay, I can find my way. You help Bruce. He always brings way too much stuff.”

“Are you sure, sir? Thank you. There are fresh towels and the shampoo you like in your suite.”

Adam grabbed his bag and walked into the house. The slate entry gave way to a huge living room that faced the pool and beyond it, the ocean. Carly’s voice floated in from the patio. If Adam stopped to say hi, he’d never get settled.

Some gorgeous portraits of nude men decorated the hall on the way to his suite. Adam recognized the brushwork. They were probably by Roman, a great painter whom Adam loved. He couldn’t have art like this in his own house, though. People might get the right idea. He grinned and followed the oriental runner to the door at the end of the hall.

His favorite suite. The sun shone through the tall windows, throwing streaks of light across the polished wood floors. His shoes sank into the large plush rugs sparked with bold graphic patterns. French doors opened out to a garden next to the pool deck. This room had it all—privacy and access.

He threw his bag on the king-size bed. It looked good. He could almost sleep for the whole weekend. He shook his head. Hell no. Sleep he could get at home—sex was tough to come by. The houses were close together in Newport Beach, and his neighbors knew his business. The occasional “watching football with a buddy” might work, but cars around overnight?

Wonder what the pickings will be like this weekend. Carly certainly would have invited someone Adam James, aka James Adamson, would like. Carly took his hosting and matchmaking duties seriously. Of course, the matches only lasted a couple of days.

Adam unzipped the bag, pulled out clothes on hangers, and carried them to the closet. The last time he’d been here a couple of months ago had been fun. He’d met that businessman from someplace in the Midwest. The guy had definitely been Adam’s type. Clean-cut and well-built, but not too hairy. And he liked to switch. Yeah, they’d fucked on the beach and in the car one night when they’d ventured out for some Mexican food. The man had an exhibitionist streak Adam hadn’t loved, but he’d still had fun. Mr. Midwest had said his name was Harry or Barry or something, but nobody really went by their own names at these parties or talked about themselves much. Everybody was here for the same thing—great, anonymous sex in a safe, upscale environment. Maybe Harry or Barry had come this time too.

Adam arranged his clothes in the drawers and toiletries in the bathroom. After he stashed his bag, he changed into shorts, a hand-painted T-shirt, and flip-flops.

He got halfway to the door when his cell rang. He glanced at the screen. Mom. Awkward.

He clicked the phone on. “Hi, Mom.”

“Hi, Adam. How are you, darling?” Bright and chirpy as usual.

“I’m good. In the middle of a big development deal.”

“Wonderful. I’m so proud of you.”

“Thanks, Mom. How’s the weather been?”

“Hot and humid as usual. Summer in Philadelphia. Your father and I are thinking of a trip to the Poconos.”

“Great idea. I’m sure that will be fun.”

Slight pause. “Is there any possibility you’d like to come with us?”

“Sorry, Mom. This case is huge, and I’m at the center of it. We’ve still got to work out the traffic planning and the environmental reports. We’ll be at it for months. You guys go and have a good time.”

Another pause. “So, you’re doing… well?”

“Yeah. I’m great. Just great.”

He thought he heard her sigh. “Well, all right, then. It’s good to hear your voice. Take care, darling.”

“’Bye, Mom.” He clicked off and stared at the phone. How would she have reacted if he’d said no, he wasn’t doing well? No, he wasn’t great. No, he could use more love in his life. No, he would like it if she knew something about him. He sighed. The chances of him saying those things to her were zip. They’d freaked when he came out of the closet and seemed perfectly happy when he’d shot back in. Now everyone was polite. He had a world full of polite.

He needed some impolite sex. Rowdy, rude, down-and-dirty sex. He shoved his sunglasses on against the last of the summer rays and headed out to the pool. The voices were louder than when he’d come in. More guys must be here. Good. He could start looking. He stepped onto the deck.

Carly waved. “Hey, James. Great to see you, buddy.” He was a fairly average guy. About five foot nine with brown hair and nice gray eyes. But what he lacked in physical beauty, he made up for in style and color. He wore yellow shorts and a brilliant print shirt that probably cost more than some people’s rent payments. After hugging Carly, Adam surveyed the three men in the group. Ian Brolly, Bruce Landon, and a guy Adam had never met. The Ferrari driver, no doubt.

He shook hands with Ian, then hugged Bruce. Bruce clapped his back. “How the hell are you, handsome?”

Adam smiled. “Hey, flattery will get you everywhere.” But they both knew that wasn’t true. Adam liked the tall, lanky Texan, but no sparks flew.

Carly put a hand on the new guy’s shoulder. “James, this is Gary Smith…. I thought you guys should get to know each other.” Carly winked.

Adam shook the guy’s hand. Good firm handshake, and he looked promising. Just the height Adam liked, a few inches shorter than his six two. The body under Gary’s shorts and tank top was fit and tan. The guy had medium blond hair with phony streaks, but they looked good with his big brown eyes.

Adam smiled. “Have you been in the water yet? How is it?”

Gary shook his head. “Not yet. I’m too busy sucking up Carly’s delicious mai tais.”

The problem with these parties was that the relative anonymity made conversation hard. Most of the usual chitchat about work and family got a little too close for comfort. Carly was the only one among them who was completely forthcoming about his identity. Of course, Carly knew who his guests really were. He just didn’t tell, which gave him huge clout he seldom exercised. When he did, he could get a judge appointed or a front-row seat at the Lakers when he needed it.

Adam nodded toward the drink in Gary’s hand. “I think I’ll follow your lead.” He walked over to the patio bar, where a large jug of mai tais and a giant ice bucket of various wines commanded the counter. He grabbed a glass and poured some of the sweet, potent rum and fruit juice. He usually drank scotch, but hell, this was a party.

A hand touched his arm. He looked over his shoulder into Gary’s big brown eyes.

Gary smiled flirtatiously. “I’ve only been to one of these shindigs before, but I kind of know the ropes. I know a good-looking guy like you is watching for the best hookup, and right now I may look like it. No offense to the other guys, but I figure you know them and have ruled them out for one reason or another. Anyway, you may not want to commit in case George Clooney shows up later. But I want you to know that’s okay with me. I’d be happy to fuck now. Or suck if you’re saving yourself.” He grinned. “And we can both change partners later. I love variety, see. I wouldn’t even be true to George. So… you wanna fuck?”

Adam laughed so hard he sucked mai tai up his nose and had to cough. “I love a man who wants to be appreciated for his beautiful mind.”

“Hey, we’ve only got the weekend. Might as well make the most of it.”

“Shit, yes.”

Shit yes you agree, or shit yes you want to fuck?”

He smiled. “Both.”

Gary pumped his fist. “Shit, yes!” Other men looked up from their conversations.

Adam waved at them. “Hey, we’ll see you later, okay?”

Bruce slapped his leg. “Yee-haw. Now that’s what I call getting down to business, baby.”

Adam just grinned and followed Gary into the house with the sound of the other guys’ laughter floating behind them. He stopped inside the huge great room. “My place or yours?”

Gary grinned. “Mine’s closer. C’mon.” He took Adam’s arm.

“You have lots of supplies?”

“Yeah, I’ve got ’em. But everybody’s clean. Carly checks the medicals.”

“I still like condoms if we’re going to fuck.”

“You okay with sucking latex-free? Because, baby, I love to suck.”

Now that sounded promising. “You got it.”

Adam let himself be dragged to Gary’s suite. It was on the other side of the hall from his and lacked beach access, but the french doors led to a beautiful garden.

He barely got to notice the scenery. Gary closed the door and slammed Adam back against it. Adam’s shorts were down around his knees and his cock was headed straight for Neverland in about two seconds. Gary knew just what he wanted, and despite being a few inches shorter and twenty pounds lighter than Adam, he had determination on his side.

“Whoa!”

Gary wasn’t kidding about loving it. He made deep moaning and mewling noises as he sucked, licked, and pumped. Hell, you’d have thought he was the one getting sucked, he was so into it. But Adam wasn’t complaining. He just closed his eyes and surrendered to some much-needed sexual bliss.

 

 

What a great day. The sun reached through Adam’s skin right to his soul. The kayak bobbed on the small waves, and splashes of cool seawater made him gasp. The water didn’t usually warm up until September, so maybe he should have brought a wetsuit. But Carly’s didn’t fit him, and Adam had been in such a hurry, he’d forgotten to pack his own.

He adjusted his tanks and then tossed the small sand anchor over the side. He was probably far enough out to see some terrific fish. Plus he really enjoyed the peace. He loved being underwater for the quiet, loved the way the whole world slowed down and waved at him.

The serenity was so different from his daily life. So different from last night! He chuckled. Man, Gary had sucked him dry. Or so Adam had thought until they’d had dinner and gone back to the bedroom, where he’d returned the favor by hammering Gary’s ass into submission. Even Gary the Energizer Bunny had finally said uncle, falling asleep on his back with snores that shook the walls. Good thing Adam hadn’t planned on sleeping with the guy. He’d crept back to his suite, crawled into bed, and slept like an honest man.

Adam awakened full of energy, longing for sunshine and water. The rest of the house was still asleep or at other pursuits. He’d found Carly’s tanks, mask, and fins, and here he was.

The sand anchor seemed secure. He tumbled over the side.

Wow! The cold water struck every nerve. He gasped and bounced, trying to get used to it. A swell splashed him in the face, and he tasted salt. He rinsed his mask, put it on, and stuck in the mouthpiece. The air rushed into his lungs. He let go of the kayak, and the buoyancy vest took him down.

He loved this moment. The murky water seemed impenetrable at first. Then his eyes and skin began to adjust. Fish darted in small schools, not much different in color from the blue-brown water. He wasn’t too deep, only twenty-five feet or so, and the water became clearer as he got to the bottom. Hillocks of sand met small gardens of kelp with shiny silver residents.

Bubbles rose up around him as he breathed. He didn’t have a plan. He just wanted to see stuff and drift…. Coral grew close to the bottom, and he swam down to peer at its brightness against the tan sand. He looked around. Nothing too interesting. Maybe if he got a little closer to the drop-off….

He grabbed the anchor cord and hauled the kayak with him as he swam, checking out a big halibut on the bottom. Cool. Maybe he’d see a thresher shark. A bit farther, kelp blocked his way for a few feet, and he skirted the patch of weed.

Movement, but not a fish. Is that a diver? Adam swam toward the wavering outline. No bubbles. Couldn’t be a diver. A shark? Excited, he swam closer. No, it was a person. The diver’s wet-suited back was to Adam. The tall, lanky guy seemed to be studying something closely.

How the hell did he get around so freely? His tanks were small, light. Rebreather tanks, probably. That system reused the exhaled oxygen and scrubbed the carbon dioxide. Rebreathers didn’t need such big tanks because nothing was wasted. Plus no bubbles. Adam had never seen a rebreather rig up close. Not a lot of sports divers used them.

Who was this guy? He might as well be standing in his backyard, he looked so at home. What’s he doing?

Adam floated a little closer. He caught his breath. An octopus. The guy was looking at an octopus. Maybe better to say he was kind of dancing with it. The octopus still had a few of its arms inside a hole in some coral, but the rest were waving from side to side, kind of like it appreciated the guy but was telling him not to come too close.

Okay, Adam was losing it. Anthropomorphizing an octopus.

His bubbles flowed upward as he swam closer. The other diver turned, his movements languid. His hand rose up toward Adam, warning him off.

Well hell, it’s not his octopus. Adam swam to the right, and the guy blocked him. Asshole. Adam rushed to the right again and got around him just in time to see the octopus pull back into its hole and disappear. Shit!

He turned toward the guy. Hell, all he’d wanted to do was see the fucking octopus. He put his hands on his hips, trying to show his pissed-off-ness. The guy shook his head and waved his arms at Adam. Double asshole. Adam turned back toward the hole where the creature had vanished. Maybe he could get the critter to come back out. He swam forward.

A hard hand grabbed his arm.

Damn. Who did this guy think he was? Adam whirled as ferociously as the ocean, a mask, regulator, and two huge tanks would allow, and the other diver backed off with his hands up. Adam frowned and then realized how stupid that was. The man couldn’t see his expression. The octopus was completely invisible, so there wasn’t much going on. Adam wouldn’t get in an underwater fistfight over a vanished cephalopod.

The other diver still watched Adam closely.

Shit—done. No octopus. No peace. He might as well go back to Carly’s and have sex. With a push of his foot, he swam toward the surface.

A half hour later, he lay on the sand, still annoyed about the asshole and the octopus. Why had the guy been like that? They could have shared the creature.

Oh well. He should go back inside and get another hit of Gary, but it felt good just lying on the sand. He’d purposefully chosen a stretch of beach without many kids. Less noise but still close to Carly’s.

He raised himself onto an elbow. Everyone else would be up by now. Way up. Maybe he’d see who he could find. If he was honest, Gary was almost too much of a good thing. The guy swore he wouldn’t care or be jealous. Of course, he’d heard that before. He shrugged and glanced over at the kayak full of Carly’s scuba gear. Might as well get to it….

There he was—rising from the sea like some merman. Not a bubble. Not a ripple. The diver just appeared, manifested by Neptune. It had to be the octopus guy, right? A tall, slim figure strode through the shallow water, navigating the surf like it wasn’t there. Like it couldn’t drag him down and out to sea.

Octopus-man stopped at the waterline and pulled off the tanks, unfastened the hood of his wetsuit and shoved it back, then shook his head like a dog and fluffed out light brown curls that surrounded his head like a halo.

Perfect, because from this distance the guy’s face looked totally like an angel. Wide eyes, full lips, and high cheekbones that gave him a slightly hollow-cheeked look. The diver walked a few more steps and dropped the rig, then dragged down the wetsuit, revealing a long, lean body, thin but well-muscled, like a long-distance runner He must spend a lot of time in the sun if he was a diver, but his skin was only a pale tan. Man, under his bathing suit he would be alabaster.

What else was under that bathing suit?

Adam forgot to be pissed. The guy started to gather up his stuff, and Adam jumped up. “Excuse me.”

The angel face turned toward him. Neutral. Maybe he didn’t recognize him from the underwater encounter.

Adam took a couple of steps toward him. “Hey, I’m the guy you chased off the octopus down there. I know you got there first and all, but hell, all I wanted to do was see the thing. You didn’t have to make a huge deal out of it.”

A crease appeared between the arched eyebrows. “Your bubbles. They were bothering her. I’d been coaxing her out for over an hour, and then you came barging in like some hippopotamus.” The guy picked up his tanks and started walking.

“Wait!”

Angel face stopped and looked back.

Okay, why did I stop him? “I’m, uh, sorry. I didn’t realize. I just saw the thing and really wanted a better look.”

“There’s a nice aquarium in Long Beach.”

“Hey, I said I’m sorry.” He walked up to the man. The diver had an inch or more on Adam. Funny, he wasn’t used to looking up. Adam stuck out his hand. “Ad—uh, I’m James.”

The guy stared at the offered hand, then his gaze dropped to Adam’s feet and slowly rose. Talk about appraisal. Shit.

Adam assumed he was weighed and found wanting.

A long, lean hand grasped his. “Sky. I’m Sky.”

“You’re a diver?”

“Obviously.”

Jesus. This guy was tough. “I meant by profession.”

“Yes, among other things. I’m a rebreather diver.”

“I figured that was a rebreathing rig. I’ve never seen one before.”

Silence. And not a comfortable one. The guy just stared at Adam with slightly narrowed, stormy eyes. Adam looked back at Sky, his mind working without his permission. “Uh, there’s a bar up there at the hotel. Maybe I could buy you a drink to apologize.”

“It’s 10:00 a.m.”

“Bloody Mary? Mimosa?”

He got a tiny curve of the lips for that. Sky nodded toward his tanks and wetsuit. “Sorry. I don’t want to haul this stuff around. And you’ve got your kayak.”

Adam pointed toward Carly’s. “It belongs up there. Tell you what. Help me haul it back to the house, and I’ll go in and get us some fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and bring it out. You stay with your gear, and I get to say I’m sorry.”

He got that level gaze again. The guy’s big eyes were just like his name. Sky blue on a very cloudy day. “Sure, why not? I love grapefruit juice.”

Son of a bitch. “C’mon.” Adam grabbed the end of the kayak, and Sky picked up a side and his own gear too. After a short, awkward haul, Sky dropped off and let Adam take it the rest of the way to Carly’s. Adam looked over his shoulder and saw Sky sit on the sand facing the surf, his curls rippling in the light breeze off the water. Adam stowed the kayak and headed into the house toward the kitchen, hurrying. He didn’t want Sky to give up and leave.

Well, hell. He stopped in the dining room. What am I doing? This man was not really friendly, Adam had no reason to think he was gay, and even if Sky was gay, he was not what Adam would define as his type. Why had he even spoken to him?

And why the apology? His beautiful face? Adam didn’t like pretty guys, usually. And he didn’t go for tall and lean. Short and built was his style.

Different. Yes, Sky seemed different from anyone he knew. For some reason different was very appealing.

Adam scurried into the kitchen past a startled Waldo, grabbed the pitcher of fresh-squeezed juice from the refrigerator, poured two glasses, waved at Waldo, and went out the kitchen doors to the beach. He didn’t really want to run into the other guys just yet.

Sky hadn’t moved. He leaned back on his forearms facing the ocean, his head turned up a little toward the sun.

Adam walked up behind him. “Here ya go. As promised.”

Sky sat up and reached for a glass. “Thanks.” He took a sip. “Wow, good. Fancy too.” He lifted the cut crystal glass, clearly admiring it. Yeah, maybe that hadn’t been the best choice for the beach, but Adam had been in a hurry. A big hurry.

He grinned back, sat on the sand beside Sky, and sipped his juice. It really was delicious, with that tart-sweet flavor only grapefruit had. He nodded toward the spot up the beach where they’d met. “Are you doing underwater research?”

“Yeah. That’s one of my locations.”

“Do you specialize in octopuses or something?”

“Among other things. Until you came along.”

Adam eyed Sky, who was smiling. Sky jerked his head toward the house. “Do you live there? It’s quite a house.”

“No. It’s just a friend’s house. I’m here for a weekend house party.”

Sky looked back toward the sprawling beach “cottage” spread out around its patio and lawn, which verged on the sand. Carly and two of his late-arrival guests were sitting in chairs on the patio, eating breakfast. Adam didn’t see Gary, who was probably doing his vacuum cleaner imitation on someone else.

Sky stared back at the ocean and took another drink. “I don’t see any women.”

Okay, so why had the guy made that observation? “That’s because there aren’t any.”

Sky took two more sips. He seemed to be savoring every mouthful. He glanced toward Adam and then away so fast his eyes seemed to bounce. “You gay?”

Two could play that game. Adam took a slow sip of his juice. Was he going to share his carefully guarded secret with a stranger? Hell, why not? He was James today. He could be gay. “Yep.”

They both drank simultaneously. Apparently Sky digested the information with the citrus. Only the waves broke the silence.

A standoff. So Adam would ask the obvious because, frankly, he was dying to know. “You gay?”

“Yep.”

Adam looked toward Sky and got the full blue-gray gaze. Then Sky smiled. The storm clouds broke. It was like Adam had been given a gift—white, beaming with dimples for miles.

There was no possible way not to return that smile, so Adam did. “That’s nice to know.”

“Yeah.”

They went back to sitting and sipping.

Adam got to the bottom of his glass. “I don’t suppose you’d like to come in and meet the other guys. I mean, it’s no big networking thing. Everyone kind of stays to themselves, if you know what I mean. But you could have a drink… of grapefruit juice.” He cast a sideways grin at Sky.

At least he got a smile back. “Thanks. Can’t. I have some business to attend to today.”

“Underwater?”

He shook his head, curls bouncing. “Dry land.”

Okay, one more shot. “Uh, there’s going to be a cocktail thing around seven if you happen to be free.”

“Here?”

Adam pointed at the terrace. “Right there.”

“Could I just show up? No one would mind?”

“No. It would be fine.” I hope.

“I can’t say. There’s a chance.” He looked at Adam. “I guess you’d need to know for sure.”

“Heck, no. Show up if you get free.” His heart was beating fast.

“Yeah. I might do that.” He handed Adam the glass, picked up his dive gear, and walked away down the beach. Tall and thin, with curls bouncing almost to his shoulders, Sky was sort of like Shirley Temple meets Clint Eastwood.

Adam looked down at the empty glasses. So what the hell was that all about? He’d just invited a stranger to crash Carly’s party. Nobody crashed Carly’s parties. His host was going to think Adam had lost his mind. He agreed. But his half-hard cock did not want to hear about how crazy it was, so he’d better go face the music.

He went onto the terrace. The two guys with Carly were new to him. “Hi. I’m James.” He stuck out his hand and met them both.

“George.”

“John.”

Carly pointed his chin in the direction of the beach. “Who’s your friend, darling?”

Adam sat in the extra chair at the iron table. “A guy I met diving. We had an altercation over an octopus.”

George laughed. “What?”

“It’s a long story.”

Carly grinned. “Pretty as hell.” He never missed much.

Adam grinned back. “Yeah.”

“Does he play for our team?”

“So he says.” Adam stared at the ocean. “I, uh, invited him to cocktails tonight.”

“Here?” Carly asked.

“Yeah.”

He breathed through the silence. He didn’t want to talk first. Make Carly object.

“So. He’s real pretty.” Carly got it for sure.

Adam laughed.

 

 

Sky loaded his gear in the back of the Prius, stalked to the driver’s side and got in. What exactly are you considering? That made him grin and frown at the same time.

He started up and pulled out of the parking area, crossing the highway to head left toward home. Time to trade fish for a dog, a cat, and dinner and petting for all. Well, petting for Gore, his mutt, and Cousteau, the cat, but none for Sky.

Maybe that’s why I didn’t shut that guy, James, down. Sky might like animals more than people, but his cock didn’t and he sure as hell wasn’t immune to dark hair and big brown eyes above an athlete’s hard body. James looked to be a major player, but for a night, Sky could use some playtime. Funny, he usually wouldn’t mess with a rich-bitch corporate type like James, but something in those wide eyes spoke of a longing for freedom. That desire Sky understood down to the ground.