Excerpt from Pool Boy

plbymerfednewThe beach here could adorn a postcard, it was exactly what one would want a beach to look like with white sandy beaches and lovely blue waters. The good-looking people laying on towels or strolling down the beach didn’t hurt the picture either.

I found a good spot and lounged on a towel for a few minutes, closing my eyes and enjoying the way the sun felt on my body. Then I popped in my earbuds and got ready to watch some episodes I downloaded of my latest favorite guilty pleasure TV show. I had two weaknesses. Gummy bears and trashy TV. Though I was currently on Grey’s Anatomy and it was pretty damn good. Wildly medically inaccurate but quality TV.

I was a 17-year-old guy who was a self-described nerd. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone, but I still didn’t need other people to know my current favorite show was Grey’s Anatomy. Watching this in public, I felt a little thrill. See, this counted as being adventurous, right? Well, it counted for me.

I sat up and watched an episode with the tablet on my lap while occasionally glancing at the waves or stretching out my toes to wiggle them in the sand. This was definitely the perfect way to soak up some vitamin-D. Yeah, maybe this chilling at the beach thing wasn’t so bad.

One minute I was watching tiny Dr. Bailey taking names and giving orders and then there was a shadow over me. I paused then instinctively put a hand over the tablet so that whoever was above me wouldn’t see what I was watching, even though it was probably just some stressed out traveler who had forgotten their sunscreen.

Except when I raised my other arm and squinted upwards to glance at the person without being blinded by the sun, it wasn’t an anxious tourist… it was a really hot guy.

The really hot guy had an easy smile on his face and seemed relaxed, more so when he sat down next to me after a moment so that we were on the same level. He placed his arms over the valley of his knees while he continued to look at me with interest.

“Please don’t tell me you came to the beach to watch TV?” came a friendly if a little incredulous voice. His voice was… inviting, that was the best way to describe it. I resisted the invitation.

“I’m relaxing at the beach,” I said while forcing myself to look away from him. “This is how I want to relax.”

“You could go for a swim.” The voice was definitely amused now.

I looked back at him… and had some trouble looking away.

He was wearing a thin white t-shirt with a V-neck and a hint of dark chest hair poked free of the material. He looked the same age as me and was tall and masculine, the way I expected a guy who was my age and had more chest hair than me to be, but there was also something softer about him.

Maybe it was the deep brown hair that trailed down and stopped just past his chin. Most of it was pulled back in a short pony tail but a few tendrils curled slightly and framed his face. He had a strong jaw but a delicate nose and intelligent green eyes stared back at me. He looked almost familiar but maybe he had one of those faces. It wasn’t like I knew anyone here.

It was only when I began to categorize his lips that I realized how long I’d been staring. He didn’t seem to mind though. Wasn’t this always how it went? I didn’t many suitors before but now that I had a boyfriend, I’d gotten someone else’s attention without even trying.

Um, what had we been talking about? Oh, going for a swim. “I don’t know how to swim,” I offered up before I could think about whether I wanted to say that or not. The attractiveness of the guy I was talking to short circuited my brain.

“I could teach you,” he offered. His long limbs were well-formed, with corded muscle in every inch of them. I definitely believed he knew how to swim, that could be where he got his toned body and thin torso.

Part of me wanted to say yes but that would be foolish without knowing his credentials. “Are you an instructor?” I asked.

“No.” His lips quirked upwards. “But I know how to swim.”

Why was he even talking to me? Most people here took one look and ignored me. I was too nerdy, too poor, or too something else I didn’t want to think about lest I get a complex.

“Have you taught anyone else before?”

“You’d be my first.” His smirk widened as his tongue peeked out quickly to wet his lips. “In that regard.” He had full lips, how did they look like that? Did he use Chapstick with this heat?

Man, it was hot out here. I felt parched all of a sudden. I did my best to carry on the conversation. “Are you CPR certified?”

He started to laugh, then paused when realizing I was serious. “Come on.”

“That’s a valid question.” I forced myself to hold his gaze without backing down in embarrassment.

But really, what was I supposed to do? Take one look at him, imagine his body shirtless and wet, and then happily hop in the water with him? Probably. That didn’t sound like a bad idea actually… but that was how sharks got you.

His eyes narrowed as his lips pursed in thought. “You don’t know how to relax, do you?”

At first glance, he might know a lot about how to relax. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine him spending his days here stretched out on the sand as his skin glistened with sweat and moisture from the nearby ocean.

When I caught myself looking him over again, I forced my gaze to his face and said with as much dignity as possible, “I’m here to lay in the sun and unwind with my favorite guilty pleasure show. That sounds pretty relaxing to me.” Wasn’t that the point? To chill how I wanted to?

On the other hand, he didn’t look overly or artificially bronzed. His lightly tanned skin looked naturally sun kissed. I admired him idly while he thought. The people here were all attractive. It’s like you weren’t allowed to live here if you didn’t meet certain aesthetic standards.

He came to a decision. “Okay, you got me.”

His hand moved toward me, palm up, while he looked at me expectantly. He had a rugged but artistic vibe. Big hands with long, almost delicate fingers: an artist’s fingers.

“What are you doing?” I asked the stranger who kept sitting next to me like we were friends. I didn’t necessarily mind, I’d just never made friends this easily before.

“I’ll watch it with you,” he suggested. “See if you’re onto something with the way you relax.” Before I could do anything, he said “Is that, are you watching Grey’s Anatomy?”

It wasn’t a sunburn but a blush staining my face as I managed to respond with a weak, “I said it was a guilty pleasure.”

“No judgement,” he responded immediately and I peered at him skeptically. “Okay, there is some judgement,” he admitted. “But not much.” He laughed but not at me, like he was sharing a joke with me. “I’m judging both of us because I can apparently recognize it with just a glance. So, ready to watch?”

He made a grabbing motion with his hand as he kept waiting for an earbud while he scooted closer. We’d have to be pressed together along one side to make this work.

“But this isn’t how you relax,” I deflected.

“No,” he agreed. He let his hand down but didn’t move away. He lowered his voice to say, “But there’s too many people here for I how relax.”

My eyebrows rose. I didn’t let myself think about the words too closely, just asked, “You have a dirty mind, don’t you?”

His smile looked genuinely pleased at what I said. “I haven’t gotten any complaints about it so far.”

We sat there, too close and staring at each other while my stomach acted up, feeling all tingly and weird. Maybe I’d had too many gummy bears.

“Are you going to share?” he asked after a moment, gesturing for the earphone again.

“I don’t even know you.”

Like that was what he’d been waiting for, he said, “Reese.”

“Colin,” I replied. I wasn’t sure which one of us put our hand out first but then we were shaking hands, which was kinda weird because I don’t think I’d ever really done that with anyone who was my own age. This was… flirty. An excuse to touch each other. My heart started beating a little faster, and I felt a twinge of guilt, but I forced myself to get it together. Relax. It was just a freaking handshake.

“Great, now we know each other,” he said easily while his hand caressed mine and I almost wanted to chase it when he pulled his away. “You show me your way to relax and then later maybe I’ll show you mine.”

“M-Maybe we better not,” I sputtered out. Flirting. There was so much flirting. Why had I not shut it down immediately? Maybe it was still somewhat surprising to be flirted with. It hadn’t happened much aside from Wyatt.

“Did I say something wrong?” he raised his hands in a placating gesture, showing he meant no offense.

“You’re being very flirty and I have a boyfriend,” I explained, looking away.

He nodded and made a ‘hmm’ considering noise. “Would it be really crass to say that what happens in Sterling, stays in Sterling?”

I smiled despite an effort not to as I told him, “That’s Vegas and he’s here too.”

“You sure about that?” He looked around. “I don’t see anyone who’s mad I’m hitting on their boyfriend.”

The weird, somewhat fun novelty of this exchange wore off at that. Wyatt was here in town, not here at the beach with me. Thanks so much for reminding me.

“You’re right,” I said getting up and dusting sand off my shorts. “This isn’t the right way to relax at all.” I started gathering my stuff.

“Hey, sorry, hold on.” He touched my arm briefly and his face looked sincere. I paused in my hasty retreat and he gestured towards a nearby shop. “Let me get you a lemonade or something.”

“I told you—” I started, ready to repeat I had a boyfriend in case he didn’t believe me the first time.

“No, just to be nice,” he clarified. “Sorry if I came on too strong.”

I studied him for a moment and took his statement to be genuine. “Okay,” I said and we walked side by side to the nearest shop with drinks. To be safe, I had to emphasize, “I wasn’t kidding about the boyfriend.”

“Alright, I get that now.” He held the door open for me as we walked into the little shop. “Do you work here?”

“No, why?” By here, I took that he meant in town and not the store we walked into.

“I do,” he offered. “I thought you did too and figured I’d take a chance.”

He was trying to be nice, so I forced a smile while ordering a small lemonade. Then I asked, “I don’t look good enough for this place?” I already knew it, but it wasn’t great to know how obvious it was.

“It’s not a bad thing,” he insisted immediately. “You’re the only person our age I’ve seen, besides me, who isn’t wearing TOMS.”

He got a small iced water for himself and we took our drinks and went outside. He flustered me a little when we first met, between his looks and blatant interest in me, but the mood felt companionable between us now and I liked him.

Ordering the ice water was what did it. Everyone else here was busy enjoying their lazy day in the sun, but it was clear to me that all this stuff was normally out of my price range. I didn’t really belong. I liked having someone else who felt that way here. Who didn’t or couldn’t splurge on sodas. But he got me a drink anyway.

Eventually, I said, “I feel a little out of place here sometimes too.”

He looked at me with a peculiar expression. “I didn’t say that.”

“You didn’t have to.” I gave him a little smile.

“Okay, well, we can be misfits together,” he decided.

“Sounds like a plan. Thanks for the drink.”

He nodded. “Enjoy the rest of your day.”

I was dating, not dead or whatever so that didn’t mean I couldn’t look. I watched him walk away. The shorts he was wearing were a little baggy, but he still had a nice ass.

***

More about Pool Boy by Finn Manning

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