By Darien Cox
Tired of running wild and drifting without direction, Joe Amato craves some stability, wanting to belong to something, someplace, or even someone. When he sees Cameron, a gorgeous blond lifeguard working the beach near his sister's house, suddenly he knows exactly what he wants to grab onto.
Swamped with suitors, Cameron seems unattainable, so Joe can't believe his good fortune when the lifeguard seems to fall for him too. But there's Natani, a former lover of Cameron's who refuses to let go, and her persistence quickly turns to stalking and crazy antics.
Cameron struggles to dissuade her, desperate not to ruin things with Joe, but Natani has a secret, one that could destroy their happiness forever.
Joe Amato lay on a beach blanket, propped up on his elbows, watching the waves come in as scantily clad bodies frolicked in the surf. For a June day, it could have been hotter, a cool, salt-scented breeze carrying a coconut hint of suntan lotion. Beside him on the blanket was a gorgeous woman in a bikini: golden brown skin, auburn hair, killer smile. The best part was that she loved him unconditionally and thought he could do no wrong. But then, she was his older sister.
“Hey, there’s one for ya.” Alyssa prodded him in the ribs as an attractive, bikini-clad brunette strolled past their blanket.
“Very discreet,” he mumbled.
The girl glanced back at them. His sister Alyssa’s ‘whispers’ were always a bit too loud, and the passing beauty gave her a scowl. Her eyes slid to Joe, lingered for a moment, then she moved on, tossing her shiny dark hair over her shoulder.
“Ooh.” Alyssa shook her head. “You got the dreaded hair-flip blow-off.”
Joe laughed, flicking a pinch of sand at her. “I think that was directed at you, big mouth. And stop trying to pick out girls for me. It’s creepy.”
She shrugged and took a swill of Diet Coke. “I’m just trying to help. You’re a great looking guy, Joey, but you got no game.”
“Okay, now it’s creepy and insulting. And don’t use the word game like that, you can’t pull it off.”
“What? I’m not that old, I’m still cool!”
Joe laughed, his head falling back. “Lyss, you were never cool. And truly cool people don’t use the word cool either.”
“Cooler than you, grumpy.” Alyssa gave him a light punch on the shoulder, then turned over to tan her backside.
Joe sat up, resting his arms on his knees as he stared out at the frothy green sea. He wished he could appreciate the relaxing beauty of it all, just lie down and get a tan without a care in the world the way his sister did. But Alyssa could afford to relax. She had her shit together: twenty-seven, married, nice big house near the beach. She had a college education that she didn’t feel motivated to use because her husband owned a marina and was extremely well-off.
Their parents made no secret about thinking she was selling herself short in bypassing a career, but in his opinion, his sister deserved to kick back and enjoy life. Six years his senior, he’d seen firsthand the hard time their parents gave her growing up, always pushing for perfection, judging her every move, taking it so far as to choose her friends for her. As a kid, he felt bad for her, but didn’t exactly empathize until he got into his teens. Then the childhood honeymoon was over and they started the same routine on him.
His parents were both Italian, grew up in the same neighborhood in Boston, got married young, had kids, and went to church on Sundays. That their children would choose to deviate from this lifestyle even slightly was beyond their comprehension. Especially for their father, an old fashioned, over bearing prick.
And I am a typical, rebellious son, he thought distastefully. He hated being a cliché, twenty-one years old with no idea what to do with his life. And he hated that he was going to spend the summer pumping gas for the boats that came into his brother-in-law’s marina—not that he wasn’t grateful for the job. But he was hyperaware that while he spent the summer providing fuel for expensive boats he couldn’t afford, most of his old friends were graduating college and getting real jobs. Having relationships. Living.
“Just take the summer to get your head together, figure out what you want,” his sister had said. Alyssa was the only one that had any faith in him, but while it should have warmed his heart, he secretly thought her sisterly bias was blinding her from seeing what a screw up he was. But he loved Alyssa for that, and he could hardly say no to a job and a place to stay.
After flitting around aimlessly for so long, he felt a burning need to belong to something, to somewhere, to someone, even. Although he doubted he’d have any luck with the latter. He had exceptionally good looks, and that had been enough back when he was seventeen. But at his age people were supposed to be getting their lives together, and a gas pump jockey with no future wasn’t exactly a shining beacon for love interests.
His eyes were drawn to a young man that passed by their blanket on the right, heading down toward the shoreline; a head of windblown blond hair, wavy locks that reached just past his chin, golden tanned shoulders and perfectly sculpted back tapering in a narrow V down to a trim waist, and tight, rounded buttocks beneath red surf shorts that hung around his hips. The slightest hint of virginal white ass cheek peeked out above the hem of his shorts, contrasting with the tanned curve of his lower back. He carried a red and white torpedo shaped float under one arm. Lifeguard, Joe thought. No wonder he was in such great shape.
Joe tore his eyes away and forced himself to look out at the sea rather than at that gorgeous tanned body. No one in his family knew he was bisexual, including Alyssa, and while he wasn’t ashamed of it, the chaos it would create if his father found out was the last thing he needed right now. The old man was disgusted that he’d quit college, and he’d likely not be in the mood to hear that his son liked guys as much as girls. Joe had made himself a promise: he’d get through this summer keeping his head down and his eyes off the boys.
And he would have been able to do just that if he hadn’t seen the lifeguard’s face...
It happened when a voice shouted down from the seawall behind them, loud and female. “Cameron!”
Joe looked over his shoulder and saw a fit blond woman in a red one-piece standing on the seawall, hair pulled back in a long braid, dark sunglasses hiding her eyes.
“What?” the blond guy called back to her.
Joe’s eyes turned involuntarily back to the lifeguard, and he sucked his breath in. He was stunning, ethereal, with sad blue eyes, a strong jaw and sensuous lips. His streaky blond hair blew back from his forehead in the sea breeze, cheeks sun-dusted with golden pink. He’d turned, so Joe also got a full view of his bare chest and stomach, which were just as alluring as his back. A thin trail of white downy hair snaked below his navel and into his shorts, and Joe wondered if he was as pale blond down lower too.
Despite his decision not to fall for any boys this summer, he thought of peeling down those red shorts and nestling his face into that downy hair, greedily taking the boy’s cock into his mouth. He pinched his own arm hard to avoid getting an erection in front of his sister.
“What time are you working ’til?” the girl on the seawall asked.
“Four,” the lifeguard shouted back. “Why?”
“Never mind,” she said. “I was gonna ask you to take my shift at North Beach. There’s a party at the dunes later.”
“No can do,” he called back. “But cheer up, Hannah, I’m sure watching old ladies swim all afternoon will be just as fun.”
“You suck!” she yelled.
Alyssa lifted her head, frowning in the direction of the woman’s curse.
“But I’m so good at it!” the lifeguard responded, grinning. His smile revealed a dimple in his right cheek, and was devastatingly cute, crinkling his blue eyes and revealing perfectly white teeth. Joe found himself involuntarily grinning in response. To his embarrassment, he was still doing so when the young man caught his eye as he turned. The lifeguard paused. He stared at Joe for a long moment, his smile sliding away, then he moved off down the sand toward the shore. He looked back at Joe once, then continued on to the tall lifeguard chair. He dropped the float on the sand and stretched his back, looking like a postcard for Hedonism.
Joe wanted to punch himself for smiling at the stranger. He hoped he hadn’t looked like a slobbering goofball. But strike him down if that wasn’t the most insanely attractive man he’d ever seen. Cameron. That’s what the woman had called him. He liked the name, it suited him. Cameron and Joe. He warned himself not to get carried away. He knew nothing about the guy. It was a bit early to start carving their names into trees.
“Wow,” Alyssa said. “He’s a serious cutie.”
Joe flinched at the sound of his sister’s voice, so caught up in ogling the lifeguard he’d almost forgotten she was there. “Who?” he asked casually.
Alyssa flipped over onto her back then sat up, making a visor of her hand as he stared. “The lifeguard. He’s hotter than Hades.”
“You’re married,” Joe said.
She smirked at him. “Doesn’t make me blind. Did you see him?”
Joe shrugged. “I didn’t notice.”
Alyssa and Joe both watched as Cameron tied his hair back into a short ponytail, then climbed up onto the lifeguard chair, sculpted arms and abdomen rippling with little muscles.
“Oh my, my, my,” Alyssa said. She shook her head and lay back down, closing her eyes. “If I were single, I’d eat that boy alive.”
Joe frowned at her, then turned his attention back to the lifeguard chair, where the most beautiful man he’d ever seen gazed out at the ocean swimmers.
Not if I eat him first, dear sister. Not if I eat him first.
He felt the familiar swell in his shorts and knew he was getting hard. “I’m going for a swim,” he said, and took off down to the water before she had a chance to offer to join him. He needed cold water, and fast. Though it was excruciating, he avoided glancing at the lifeguard chair as he passed by, knowing a glimpse of Cameron would only make the situation harder.
But after plunging into the brisk water and cooling his throbbing body, he spotted Cameron watching him from his perch above the crowd. At least he thought he was watching him; there were several other people swimming nearby. He decided to test his theory.
Joe went into a backstroke, moving away from the other swimmers until he was undisputedly alone, set a watery length apart from the crowd. When he looked back up, Cameron’s gaze was definitely on him. Maybe you’re such a bad swimmer he thinks you might be drowning, the insecure asshole who lived in his head suggested.
But to his surprise, a half grin curved the gorgeous young man’s lips, and he held two fingers up in a peace sign. Joe actually looked behind himself, out into the vast depths of the ocean to see if Cameron was waving to someone else. There was no one there. When he turned back, the lifeguard appeared to be laughing, arms crossed in front of his chest, gaze still set on Joe. What do I do? Wave back to him? Give him a peace sign? What if it wasn’t a peace sign? What if it was some obscure surfer gang sign and I do it wrong? Worse, what if I wave back and it wasn’t really me he was waving at? He ordered himself to get a grip.
Determined to save his dignity by not smiling openly at the alluring stranger a second time, he kept his expression blank and dove under, swimming through the cool salty water, letting it clear his head. Finally he emerged, and walked stoically back up to the blanket. He risked a glance and caught Cameron’s eyes following him. Excitement lurched in his stomach. Oh boy. I could be in big trouble this summer. He fought the urge to look back after he’d gone by the chair, but the very thought of Cameron watching his backside caused his cock to stiffen again in his wet shorts. Yep. Big trouble indeed.
When he got back to the blanket he picked up a towel and rubbed his wet hair. Alyssa got another Diet Coke from the cooler, and handed him a root beer.
“Thanks.” He cracked it open, taking a long sip.
“Why didn’t you wait for me? I would have gone in with you,” she said.
He shrugged. “Sorry. I thought you were sleeping.” He dug into a bag of chips, stuffing the greasy, salt-laden goodness into his mouth, crunching as he watched a gorgeous black woman in a thong bikini and long, silken hair approach Cameron’s lifeguard chair. She smiled, chatting away and gazing wistfully up at him where he sat on his throne of hotness. At the same time a buff young man with a crew cut yelled to Cameron from the water, waving his arm over his head. Groupies, thought Joe. A guy that looks like that is probably in high demand. His heart sank a bit when he realized he probably didn’t have a chance.
Alyssa fished a paperback book out of her beach bag, then scowled at Joe as he tipped the package of potato chips into his mouth, savoring the last of the crumbs. “Hey! David is grilling fish tonight in your honor, don’t fill up on junk.”
Joe chewed, wiping his mouth with his wrist. “Don’t worry, my appetite is without limits,” he said, gazing across the sandy distance at Cameron. A woman with a boyish crop of dark blond hair approached him and climbed up the lifeguard chair, leaning between his legs. Cameron seemed to be discouraging her, holding his hands up in front of him, but the young woman grasped his wrists and moved his hands aside. Joe couldn’t hear her words, but her gestures spoke of someone intimately acquainted, somewhat possessive. After several moments of whispering in his ear, she climbed back down, blew him a kiss and strolled down the beach, hips swaying seductively in her leopard print one-piece. She had the body of a swimsuit model.
Joe’s heart sank lower. Was the pixie-haired vixen Cameron’s girlfriend? A friend? A part-time lover? He felt an impossible jealousy that he knew was ridiculous. He didn’t even know the guy.
“I’m scorched, Joey, I’m heading back to the house. Do you want to stay here for a while? You can come home at dinner time.”
Joe stood and grabbed his belongings, his mood crashing. “No, I’ll come with you now. There’s nothing here for me.”
Alyssa frowned at him. “That’s a little dramatic.”
“I’m a serious dude.”
“Right. You want to hit the penny candy store on the way home?”
Joe grinned. His sister possessed the evil power to devolve him to age-six. “Pixy Stix and Swedish fish? Hell yeah. I’m in.”
They headed up toward the seawall. “I hope they have those candy buttons that come on a scroll of paper,” Alyssa said.
Joe risked one last look over his shoulder at the lifeguard chair. Cameron’s groupies had left, and he now gazed placidly out at the sea, one arm resting behind his head. “When am I starting work with David?” he asked Alyssa.
“Tuesday,” she said. They climbed the stone steps over the seawall. “That’s when Devin, the kid doing it now, is moving back to Colorado.”
Good, he had a few days to screw off and hit the beach before starting his job...a few days to try and woo the lifeguard. If he came back tomorrow and Cameron was on the beach, he’d talk to him. He’d swallow his shyness and say hello. He wasn’t sure why this felt so urgent. He’d had lovers before. Not many, mind you, but enough, and he’d never felt anything like this desperate need. Why such a reaction to someone he’d only glimpsed? And a total stranger? He’d heard of love at first sight, getting shot by cupid’s arrow, but always dismissed it as trite romantic delusion.
But now it seemed that nasty little arrow had struck him. Only it wasn’t sweet and pink with love hearts and fairy wings. It was dark and desperate and boiling. Seeing Cameron had been like seeing something that had always been his, something he’d forgotten he owned, and needed to reclaim. These thoughts were nuts, he realized. His instincts, and his father’s ever-present voice in the back of his mind, told him to stop fooling himself. Life was about practicality, not romance. Not passion. Not heat.
Just take a chance, give it a few days, the other side of his mind told him, the side that owned his deepest desires. If nothing happens, you can forget him and go back to practical-land.
“Why?” his sister asked, interrupting his thoughts. “Is Tuesday not a good day for you to start?”
“No, it’s fine,” he said. “I just might want to go back down the beach tomorrow.”
“Oh good!” She wrapped an arm around him as they sauntered down the sun-baked road toward the candy store. “See, I knew you’d find something you liked in this town.”
Joe smirked. “Yeah. We’ll see.”