After a long and tiring flight, Jim had arrived in Orlando. In the hustle and clatter of the terminal, he’d made a fast phone call to Dirk from a pay phone, telling him that he had confirmation that the warrant had been lifted, but advising him to stay hidden for a while longer, just to be sure.
Jim retrieved his car and drove to the chandlery in Fort Pierce, and after checking to make sure it was okay, he went to Dirk’s home and slept for fourteen hours.
Officer Mike Gonzalez was a careful man, who took his job seriously. As such, he was gravely troubled by the leak in his department, all the more so because whoever was disseminating confidential information was doing so to a suspect in a murder case. That offended Mike Gonzalez on many levels, and he’d made finding that leak a priority, one known only to himself. He already had a full case load, so his new investigation necessitated working on his own time. That suited him just fine; if the investigation into the leak was official, he’d have to tell his superiors, and for all Officer Gonzalez knew, one of them could be the leak.
He still had a cruiser parked across the street from Lisa and Robert Whitaker’s house, though due to manpower constraints it was now usually manned by only one officer, and the vehicle was usually an unmarked car. The mission had shifted somewhat; from overt protection to protection combined with information gathering.
As soon as Officer Gonzalez’s shift ended, he drove to the cruiser’s location, and joined the surprised officer on duty. It was one of the means by which Officer Gonzalez was injecting himself into the case, in order to find out exactly who knew what, and how. It is a truism of investigation that the more you put yourself out there, poking around, the more likely you are to find a clue.
It wasn’t standard procedure; working on your own time was in fact against department policy and procedure. However, Mike Gonzalez didn’t believe in policy and procedure: he believed in Justice.
After an hour of shooting the breeze with the uniformed officer, Officer Gonzalez noticed a car approaching slowly, and then parking at the curb, next door to the Whitaker house. He watched it intently, suddenly growing more concerned as no one got out. ‘I don’t know that car, and I can’t make the plates from here in this light,’ he thought, instinctively reaching for his gun.
The two officers emerged from the unmarked car, walking a few yards down the dark street to approach the suspect vehicle – a green Toyota hatchback – from the rear.
In the darkness, the officers couldn’t see inside. After waiting a while, with no sign of activity, Mike Gonzalez nodded to the uniformed officer and whispered, “I’ll take the driver; back me up and illuminate after I knock.”
Drawing his gun and pinning his badge to the pocket of his civilian shirt, Officer Gonzalez advanced, approaching from the rear, with his gun at his side but in his hand. Standing behind the doorpost, he knocked twice and yelled, “Police, open the door and step away from the vehicle.”
The flashlight beam blazed on, and Officer Gonzalez looked inside the Toyota, seeing two teens frantically scrambling apart.
After a few seconds, the car door slowly opened, and Lisa’s friend Cindy said, in a stunned, halting tone, “We weren’t doing anything, officer! We’re just here to pick up a friend and take her to see a movie.”
“Let’s see some ID, from both of you,” Officer Gonzalez said, hiding a grin as he saw the boy in the passenger seat still struggling to close his zipper.
Ten awkward minutes later, Officer Gonzales was back in the parked cruiser. Cindy and her boyfriend Steve walked to Lisa’s front door and, after a glance at the vehicle that they had seen the cops return to, rang the bell.
When Lisa answered, Cindy scowled, pointed across the street, and said, “You’ve got cops across the street. What’s going on? I thought they were going to arrest us.”
Lisa glanced across the street, and then at Cindy’s car. Taking note of Steve and Cindy’s disheveled hair, Lisa smiled and, already guessing the answer, asked, “Why would they arrest you? What were you doing in front of my neighbor’s house?”
“It didn’t look like anybody was home, and it was dark,” Steve said, looking slightly bashful and not meeting Lisa’s gaze.
“Never mind that, why are the cops there?” Cindy asked, giving Lisa a puzzled look.
Lisa sighed. She decided that she might as well tell the whole thing, because the rumors would soon be flying anyway. “That’s kind of a long story. I’ll tell you guys on the way to the movie.”
Atlantis cut through the blue seas, making seven knots through the Gulf of Taranto.
After leaving Sicily, Trevor and Joel had spent five idyllic days on the south side of the province of Calabria: the toe of the Italian Peninsula. They had explored the small seaside towns clinging to the cliffs, and then, on their final day, they had taken a bus inland, to see two of the fabled hill towns. The medieval walled cities, with their narrow cobbled streets and countless bell towers, had been a wonderful end to their restful days. Joel had even had his fill of Italian food – almost.
It was time to go, but one thing remained.
Relaxed and happy, with the port of Taranto just an hour away, they went over Trevor’s shopping list. It contained a little bit of everything; all the supplies he wanted to stock up on; spare rigging parts, rope, marine tape, fiberglass patch kits, coaxial cable for the radar, a spare voltage regulator, diesel engine parts and filters, silicone sealant, inflatable docking fenders, shrouded pulleys, exhaust stacks, and a set of spare propellers. It was everything that he could think of that he felt he could afford; all the supplies and spares he’d wished he’d had more of before setting out. Trevor glanced again at the list, and said, “I already have fuel pumps and a bunch of other stuff in my spares kit, but this will round it out and beef it up for doing long-distance cruising.”
There was one item that wasn’t on the list, and Joel brought it up again. “I still think you should try to get a satellite phone,” Joel said, from his station at the helm.
Trevor, in his beanbag, nodded. “I’d like to, but you need a contract for those and I’m too young to sign one. Anyway, if my dad is on the level, he’ll let you go pick mine up and send it to me when you get home,” Trevor said.
“Yeah, I can do that, but where the fuck do I send it? You’ll be transiting Suez a couple of days after I head home. Do you really want me sending it to Egypt?” Joel said, referring to their updated schedule; they’d had internet access at their last port, and Joel had booked his flight from Cyprus. He had found, to his and Trevor’s delight but his father’s dismay, that he’d be staying with Trevor for six extra days due to seat availability. With that extra time, they had been able to allow themselves the five days in the toe of Italy, and still have two weeks left to get Joel to Cyprus. The only change Trevor had made was to decide to make the run to Suez and then transit right after Joel’s departure, in order to make the beginning of his fall weather-window in the Indian Ocean.
Trevor gazed ahead, seeing the approaching coast. “I’ve come this far without it, and I don’t think you could get it to Egypt in time, even if you got it from Dad the day you land. I’m thinking Australia. I’m sure they’ve got safe mail and package delivery there, even if it is by kangaroo pouch.”
Joel chuckled, but he wasn’t willing to let the issue drop. “You could get your dad to send it to you now, but that would mean giving a location where you’d be. What if you had somebody else pick it up for you?”
Trevor shook his head. “No way in hell do I want Lisa anywhere near my dad, and neither do you; he could be a killer, Joel. I don’t want to think that, but there’s a lot that points that way.”
Joel shook his head. “I didn’t mean Lisa, exactly. I was thinking he could ship it to my dad; he already knows my address. Or, we could get a few of our friends from the swim team to pick it up and take it to my dad, and then he could ship it to us.”
Trevor nodded, grinning at Joel. “That could work. I’ll give it a try, next time I talk to my father. I’d like to have it, but I’m not too worried; I’ll probably reach Australia a month to six weeks after transiting Suez.”
“That’s one hell of a long way, over seven thousand miles by the route you showed me, via the Seychelles. You’d have to average ten knots day and night to make it in a month, and your route takes you through the doldrums. You could end up becalmed for weeks,” Joel said.
“I’ll have a full fuel load. If I keep my speed down to four or five knots, I can motor for close to two thousand miles if I have to, but I’ll save that for the long transoceanic stretch. But, the doldrums are usually only a few hundred miles across and sometimes don’t occur at all. Yeah, I could be becalmed, and if I am, I’ll wait a while before firing up the engines. If it looks like I’d be stuck there for a long time, I’ll start motoring. I’d like the sat phone, but I’ll be okay without it,” Trevor said, reaching out to give Joel a punch in the leg before adding, “Besides, even if I do get becalmed, the only way a sat phone would help is I could call you and bitch about it.”
Joel chuckled, deciding that there were other ways to get even. “Hey Trev, it’s morning, and if that marine supply house we found via the ‘net has everything you need plus the stuff you ordered, we should be done pretty quick; it’s only a short taxi ride. Turns out, there’s some good stuff near the yacht marina...”
“Shopping,” Trevor said, rolling his eyes.
“Got it in one. It’s my last chance to clothes-shop in Italy, and it looks like there’s a shopping district within a block,” Joel said, not mentioning what else he’d looked up on the internet. “Besides, we should hit up another bar. The ones in the last two ports were fun, and this is our last chance; the drinking age in Greece is eighteen.”
Trying to look as if he’d just been sentenced to a fate worse then death, Trevor replied, “Okay, shopping it is, and then a bar. There should be some hotels with bars close to the marina.”
Joel just nodded, hiding a smile.
After docking in the marina, they pulled on shirts and shoes, locked up Atlantis, and headed ashore. They soon found a taxi, and handed the driver the address of the marine supply house, which was a few miles away, near the commercial port.
Walking into the big warehouse-style store, they found that the ordered parts – the stainless steel exhaust stacks – had arrived. Everything else was in stock, and Trevor used his ATM card, which was also a Visa debit card, to pay, cringing as he approved the charge, which was nearly a thousand euros.
With some help from the clerk, they loaded the waiting taxi and headed for the marina.
Back on Atlantis, as they stowed a few of the supplies, Joel picked up a roll of what looked very much like duct tape. “I can see why yachts cost so much to run. Thirty euros for a roll of tape?”
Trevor shrugged, stowing the tape in a locker forward of the starboard forward cabin, the same cabin they were using as a pantry. “I have regular duct tape too, but this is marine tape. You can even use it under water. I have one roll in the Zodiac, along with a patch kit, but it’s good to have a spare. Same with the spare rigging stuff; it’s expensive, but if I’m out at sea and need it, it is worth it – and now I have it. I feel a lot better about doing the circumnavigation now that I have all this.”
Trevor sealed up the small hatch in the cabin’s forward wall, and Joel asked, “How do you get in there during a charter? Is there another way in, besides this cabin?”
Trevor shook his head, replacing the wood paneling that concealed the hatch. “Nope, so I normally only keep inventory in here, like extra dish soap, and other odds and ends. It’s only a small space, but it’s useful. I can get to it between charters, or just go in while the passenger is out on deck. There’s not a huge amount of storage space aboard, so I make use of what I can.” Trevor returned to the galley and looked at a few of the mechanical spares. “We’ll need to prep the metal parts for storage so they won’t corrode. I usually just spray them with preservative oil and then stick them in a zip-lock bag, but we can do that while we’re at sea.”
Joel nodded, glancing at this watch. “It’s just after noon, so how about we hit up the stores?”
“You’re cruel, but okay,” Trevor said, chuckling.
Again they locked up Atlantis and walked ashore, with Joel leading the way to the shops. “This looks great; we can spend hours here,” Joel said gleefully, sporting a wicked grin as they entered the first one.
Trevor rolled his eyes and followed, hoping that Joel was joking.
Joel’s first stop was a rack of shorts. He pawed through them, picking out a pair of white patterned boardies, and then a flash of red caught his eye. Pulling it out, he held up the pair of red poplin jogging shorts. “These’d be good in the heat; they’re made for it, and the material is light and thin.” He held them against his waist. “What do you think?”
Trevor nodded approvingly. “You’d look great in those, and Lisa will love ‘em.”
Joel pulled out a second pair. “I’ll take two and keep one pair new for when I get home.” Joel kept looking, finding another pair of boardshorts, which had a checkered design that he considered awful. “What about these?”
“Perfect, if you want to look like a dork,” Trevor said, laughing.
Joel put the checkered polyester shorts back. “Amazing; you do have some fashion sense after all,” Joel said, before heading for the shirts.
Joel flipped through them, and after a couple of minutes, he pulled out a black muscle shirt. Glancing at Trevor, he said, “Do me a favor and try this on. If it looks good on you, it’ll look good on me.”
Trevor stared at Joel for a few seconds, and then replied, “They’ve got a mirror right over there; why don’t you try it on?”
Joel shook his head. “This looks like it’ll have a snug fit; it’s better if I see it on you. Come on, please?”
Trevor sighed, and peeled off his T-shirt. “The things I do for you,” he muttered, as he pulled the muscle shirt on.
Joel walked around Trevor, studying him closely, before pronouncing, “That looks hot. Perfect.”
Trevor pulled the shirt off, handing it to Joel as he said, “Anything else you want me to try on?”
Joel flipped through the rack again, and then replied, “Nah, not right now.”
Trevor pulled his T-shirt back on. “Did that really help you, or are you just torturing me?”
Joel chuckled. “I really did want to see how it looked on you, honest. Making you squirm was just a fringe benefit. Okay, I don’t see much else that I want that I can’t get back home. We only wear shirts when we go ashore anyway, and we probably won’t need ‘em much at all in the Greek Islands. So, let’s go check out the pants.”
Joel flipped through a few racks, and then pulled out some white cotton pants, shook his head, and put them back. Then, he returned to the shorts section and picked out a pair of khaki cargo shorts, similar to what he’d bought in Gibraltar.
“You already have a pair like those,” Trevor reminded Joel.
Joel shrugged, adding them to the other clothes on his arm. “I like cargo shorts and these’ll go great with that muscle shirt. Okay, let’s see what else we can find.”
After ten more minutes, Joel had found nothing else he wanted, and they headed for the register. With the four pairs of shorts and the shirt in a bag, they returned to the street and walked to the next store. They emerged with no further purchases, and to Trevor’s delight, Joel said, “That’s it for me. Want to head back to Atlantis and get ready for tonight? I was thinking we could hit up a restaurant on the way.”
Grinning and nodding, Trevor asked, “Do you mean stop at a restaurant on the way back to Atlantis, or on the way to the bar?”
“Both, of course,” Joel said, already having spotted a restaurant.
“I should have known” Trevor said with a laugh.
After their meal and a hike along the waterfront, it was nearing five o’clock and they returned to Atlantis, heading to their respective cabins to shower. Joel waited a few seconds, and then dashed out, keys in hand, heading out on deck and forward, to Trevor’s crew cabin, where he unlocked the hatch.
Dropping through the hatch, Joel flicked on the light. ‘Now where would Trev hide stuff,’ he wondered, first checking the under-bed drawer. Joel wondered if Trevor even had what he was looking for, but felt certain that if he did he would keep it in his crew cabin, not in his father's house. Joel’s next target was a drawer built into the bulkhead, and in the back, in a cardboard box, Joel found his objective. Putting the two items in his pocket, he turned out the lights and relocked the cabin, before walking back to the salon and to his own cabin to take his shower.
When Joel came out into the salon, clothes in one hand and toweling his hair with the other, he found Trevor, in boxers, looking at weather plots. “I was thinking; we’re going to a hotel bar, so why not dress up a bit? Not formal or anything... just looking good,” Joel said, as casually as he could.
Trevor nodded. “Fine by me. I’ve got some polo shirts I use on charters–”
“Nope, I said good, not geeky,” Joel shot back, snickering. He tossed Trevor the new khaki cargo shorts and the black muscle shirt. “I’ve seen your wardrobe; you need these. I’m wearing my black tank and cargo shorts.”
Remembering that he’d had to model the muscle shirt for Joel, Trevor gave Joel a suspicious look. “You had me try it on, and now you’re giving it to me? What are you up to?”
“It’s a loan, just for tonight,” Joel replied, combing his hair.
Once they were dressed and their hair neatly combed, Trevor and Joel headed ashore to eat. Trevor picked a good restaurant, and insisted on paying.
After the meal, which they both enjoyed, they walked out onto the street, and Trevor pointed across the busy traffic. “That big hotel over there should have a bar.”
Joel shook his head, turning to walk north as a puzzled Trevor followed. “I’ve got a place picked out. It’s about a mile from here,” Joel said, grinning.
Falling into pace by Joel’s side, Trevor arched an eyebrow. “When did you do that?”
“On the internet,” Joel replied cryptically. “You’ll see.”
After a fast walk on the busy streets, they arrived at a bar with a large, flashing sign. Joel led the way inside, glancing around the bar, seeing the small, brightly lit dance floor and high-backed booths in the shadows, Joel said over the blaring disco music, “Let’s get a booth.”
They slid into opposite sides of the booth, and as a server appeared, they ordered beers. Trevor glanced around the bar, which had just a few patrons. “This is different. Kinda loud, but retro. That glitter ball must be right out of the sixties. Goes with the music.”
The beers arrived, and as the server withdrew, Trevor looked at the server’s outfit. The server, a handsome guy in his thirties, was wearing a white button-down shirt and skin-tight jeans. The shirt was unbuttoned all the way to his abs, showing off his chest.
Joel just nodded, wondering how long it would take Trevor to figure it out. They drank their beers for a few minutes, listening to the ancient disco music and chatting about their route through the Greek Islands.
Several more people came in, and Trevor glanced at two who were heading for the dance floor. He did a double take upon realizing that both were male. Trevor jostled Joel’s foot under the table, and motioned with his eyes for Joel to look at the dance floor. Joel did, and then turned back to Trevor, shrugging and smiling.
Puzzled by Joel’s noncommittal reaction, Trevor looked around again, seeing that several of the booths were occupied by couples: three male couples, and one female couple. Taking another look at the two dancing middle-aged men, Trevor looked suspiciously at Joel and asked, “This is a gay bar, isn’t it?”
Joel glanced at his watch. “Wow, it only took you ten minutes to notice. Wasn’t the disco stuff and the same-sex couples a clue?” Joel asked, wrongly assuming that all gay bars would be similar.
Grinning, Trevor rolled his eyes. “Give me a break; I’ve never been in a gay bar before.”
“And you think I have?” Joel replied with a snicker. “I looked this place up and did a translate on the page. It said disco and dancing, and it was listed as a gay bar.” Joel glanced around, noting the absence of anyone under their mid-thirties. “I hope it gets busier.”
“And just why did you decide to take me to a gay bar?” Trevor asked, already suspecting the answer.
Joel laughed. “I’m still trying to get you laid, remember?” Joel reached into his pocket, and then handed Trevor a packet of condoms and a small tube of lube. “I’m wondering if those are still any good; they only have a shelf life of a few years.”
Recognizing them as his own, Trevor stuffed them hurriedly in his pocket. “It’s hasn’t been that long, you ass. How did you know where to look?”
Joel smiled proudly. “You mentioned once that you’d had your ex-boyfriend Pete on Atlantis a few times. I figured you’d use your crew cabin, and so that’s where you’d stash your condoms and stuff. I wasn’t sure you’d have ‘em, but I figured it was easier to look there than go to a pharmacy. I snuck in while you were in the shower.”
Trevor laughed, shaking his head. “Sometimes, you’re just a bit too accepting. Thanks, man.”
Joel glanced around. “Don’t thank me yet... I don’t see any likely targets. I have my keys with me, so if you meet somebody, I’ll take off for Atlantis. If you bring ‘em back, I’ll kick it in my cabin if you want.”
Trevor shook his head. “Just hang out in the salon; if I want to do anything, I’ll go to my cabin.”
Joel glanced at the now-empty dance floor. “I picked this place because it said dancing. I figured there’d be a lot of guys dancing around, and you could join ‘em and have your pick.”
Trevor snorted. “Just because I’m into guys doesn’t mean I know how to dance.”
Joel turned to look at Trevor in mild surprise. “You can’t dance?”
Trevor shook his head. “I’ve never tried. Dude, I can’t get into bars back home any more than you can.”
“There are dance clubs, man. Okay, come on, I’ll teach you,” Joel said, standing up.
Trevor leaned back, his jaw dropping in feigned shock. “You can dance?” Struggling to keep from laughing, he gave Joel a studied look. “You like to shop, you can cook, you knew about Stonewall, you’ve got gaydar, and now I learn that you can dance. Are you really sure you’re straight?”
“Are you really sure you’re gay?” Joel shot back, chuckling, and then added with a shrug, “Yeah, I’ve taken Lisa to a few dances, at underage clubs, junior prom, and stuff. I learned by dancing to music in front of a mirror. I’m not good but I get by. I don’t know how I’ll do with disco, but we’ll see.”
Trevor stood up, glanced at the dance floor, and then at Joel. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
Joel rolled his eyes. “We’re in a gay bar. What are they gonna think that they don’t already? Come on,” Joel said, heading for the dance floor.
On the dance floor, which they had to themselves, Joel turned to face Trevor, and as the next disco tune began, Joel said, “Just watch me and follow along. All you have to do is move with the music.”
Joel began to dance, moving to the music, and Trevor did his best to follow along. He was clumsy at first, but soon, he was dancing with Joel and enjoying it.
“Use your shoulders more,” Joel advised, moving more freely as Trevor got the hang of it. “The idea is to make yourself look good, to draw eyes.”
The next song queued up and Trevor felt more confident, dancing closer to Joel, who gave him an unexpected hip bump, grinning like a maniac.
As the song ended, they headed back to their booth, and ordered another round of beers. “Thanks, that was fun,” Trevor said, amazed that Joel seemed so at ease.
“That’s just a start. You did pretty good, but there’s more. Want to try again in a few?” Joel asked, taking another drink of beer.
Trevor looked around the bar, still not seeing anyone his own age. “Sure. Think this place will pick up?”
“I hope so. It was the only gay bar I could find close to the marina,” Joel replied.
After a third round of beers, they returned to the dance floor. Trevor glanced around, feeling a good buzz, which put him at ease. As the music began, he danced with Joel, just a couple of feet apart, and then, with a smirk, he danced closer, saying just loudly enough for Joel to hear, “Having fun?”
Joel grinned and nodded, and as Trevor watched, Joel raised his arms, still moving to the beat, and said, “Yeah. I just wish more guys would show up.”
They returned to the booth, and Trevor suggesting moving to the bar. They took their beers over, and once there, Trevor tried asking the barkeep if the club would get busier, but the language barrier stood in his way.
Standing at the bar, their backs to the dance floor, they exchanged a knowing look, both thinking that the bar trip was a bust. As two guys walked by, Trevor saw Joel stiffen, his eyes opening wide in surprise, and then a split second later, Trevor felt why. “Did somebody just pat your ass like they did mine?” Trevor asked, leaning close.
Joel chuckled and nodded. “Yeah, kinda made me jump. I guess I’ve been sexually harassed by somebody other than you, for once.”
Trevor laughed and looked around the bar, seeing no new arrivals. “I hate to say it, but I think this is an older crowd, and not much of a crowd at that. I’ve had fun here, but maybe we should check out some other bars?”
Joel nodded. “Yeah, there’s a row of big hotels near the marina. Let’s do a bar crawl!”
As they left, emerging into the falling darkness, Joel snickered and shook his head sadly. “You’re pathetic; you’re a hot looker, and I set you up in good clothes and haul your ass to a gay bar, but you still can’t get laid.”
Trevor snorted. “It would have helped if there had been somebody within a decade of my age in there. That guy who felt us up must have been fifty.”
Joel laughed. “The way you’re going, you might have to stop being so damn picky. Anyway, I have a plan. All I need is a marker pen.”
Trevor recognized Joel’s twitching smile, and knew he was being set up. “Okay, I’ll bite; what’s the marker for?”
“Phase two of my get-Trev-laid plan. You take your shirt off and I’ll write ‘Free Gay Sex’ on your chest and stand you at a busy street corner. I’m sure somebody will take you up on it – eventually,” Joel said, and then began cracking up.
“You ass,” Trevor said, giving Joel a punch in the arm. “I’m not that desperate.”
“Yet,” Joel added helpfully, darting away before Trevor could slug him again.
After a couple of blocks, they reached a massive hotel, and found the large bar off the lobby, with just a few people inside. The bar, which was laid out similar to an American sports bar, had booths on the side opposite the bar, and a large alcove containing three pool tables. Joking and laughing, Trevor ordered a round of beers and challenged Joel to a game.
As Trevor racked, he looked up at a booth in the corner, his vision drawn by the sight of tan skin and sun-streaked sandy-brown hair. He watched for a moment, trying not to stare at the handsome teen in a white tank top, sitting with a brown-haired girl in a booth. After he finished racking, Trevor kept looking at the guy in the booth while leaning over to replace the rack, accidentally bumping his nuts on the corner of the table.
Wincing as the deep, burning pain filled his gut, Trevor took a step back. Joel, casually chalking his cue, looked at Trevor in surprise and then said softly, “Trev, it’s not your balls you’re supposed to rack; it’s the ones on the table.”
“Shut up,” Trevor said, grinning despite the pain, which was now ebbing.
Joel snickered, and then, seeing Trevor glance down the table again, followed his gaze, seeing the object of Trevor’s interest take a drink of beer. ‘About our age and hot, but he’s with a girl, damn it,’ Joel thought, and then whispered to Trevor, “He’s some nice eye-candy for you, but I just hope you stop abusing your nuts.”
“I was distracted, he’s hot,” Trevor replied, taking another glance at the guy, and then picking up a cue and lining up for the break.
“At least you’re not walking into bulkheads, but that’s probably only because there aren’t any around,” Joel said, snickering.
“I knew I’d regret telling you about that,” Trevor said, remembering how clumsy he’d been while distracted by the hot surfer on a charter, and how Julie had teased him about it.
Trevor broke, but sank nothing, and Joel took his turn, calling stripes and sinking two balls. Trevor managed to sink two himself, and then as Joel lined up, Trevor glanced at the booth, watching the blond guy tapping away at something that looked like a calculator. Trevor let his eyes linger, and then he noticed the blond girl staring at him and quickly looked away.
Trevor snuck a few quick looks, but then he saw the guy looking back at him. Hurriedly averting his gaze, Trevor watched Joel sink a shot, and then scratch.
As the game progressed, Trevor was more surreptitious in his glances, but once, he found the guy looking back intently. ‘Damn, busted again, I better knock it off,’ he thought resignedly.
Trevor still had one ball on the table when Joel sank his last ball and lined up on the eight ball. “Eight ball, side pocket,” Joel said, and then paused, looking past Trevor.
Trevor nearly jumped when a voice from behind, with a heavy Swedish accent, said, “May I play winner?”
Trevor turned around, finding himself looking into a pair of stunning, twinkling blue eyes. “Uh, sure,” Trevor mumbled at the lean, handsome, smiling guy in the tight white tank top.
“I am Torsten, from Stockholm,” he said, flicking his hair back.
Joel waited, and then, realizing that Trevor was tongue-tied, said, “I’m Joel, and this is Trev; we’re from Florida.”
Torsten nodded in greeting, and Trevor managed to say, “You’re a long way from home.”
“Not far as you,” Torsten replied softly, in broken English, with a shy smile on his handsome face as he studied Trevor.
Seeing the obvious signs, Joel took his shot, intentionally scratching and thus throwing the game. “Looks like it’s you and Trev, Torsten,” Joel said, handing over the cue and hiding a grin.
Torsten had noticed the looks he was getting from Trevor; he’d been watching the two blond Americans closely from the moment they had entered the bar. He glanced at Trevor, and then at Joel. In a quiet voice, Torsten asked, “Are you together?”
Trevor blinked at the blunt question, and the casual, friendly ease with which it had been delivered. Seeing no look of recrimination in Torsten’s features, Trevor replied, “We’re best friends and traveling together...” Trevor said, before becoming tongue-tied.
“I’m straight, Trevor isn’t,” Joel said with a grin, jumping into the awkward silence.
“Straight?” Torsten asked, taking a few moments to remember the meanings of the English word, giving Joel an inquiring look, and then typing at the handheld language translator. Glancing back at the girl he had been sitting with, Torsten said, “She is my sister, Ingalill. She would like to meet you.”
Joel ginned and shook his head. “I’ll go say hello, but I’m not single; I’ve got a girlfriend. Have a good game,” Joel said, giving Trevor a knowing smile. Joel walked towards the booth, and introduced himself to Ingalill, finding that she spoke a little English, though enough to show interest. Joel let her know that he wasn’t single, and she smiled and shrugged. “Last day of vacation. We are here with our parents, we go home tomorrow,” she said, and then haltingly added, “I see your friend looking at Torsten and I tell him. They have fun.”
After a slow, halting conversation with Ingalill, whose English was slightly better than her brother’s, Joel saw Trevor win the game, and then, with Torsten at his side, Trevor joined them at the booth. Grinning in a way that Joel could tell was slightly bashful, Trevor said, “Torsten suggested we play doubles, me and him against you and Ingalill.”
What conversation there was soon became slow and somewhat awkward, the language barrier making things difficult, but speech is not the only means of communication, a fact that Trevor was quickly discovering.
During the first doubles game, Trevor noticed that Torsten was always close by his side, jostling his arm or bumping his shoulder, which was always followed by a smile and lingering eye contact. Trevor gave Torsten another appreciative glance, and began trying to flirt back, mesmerized by Torsten’s casual, graceful moves, confident smile, lilting accent, and exquisite features.
A few minutes later, while Torsten was taking a shot, Joel leaned in close to Trevor and whispered, “You’re doing okay, but you need to flirt back more. More eye contact and more physical contact.”
“Since when are you an expert at flirting with guys,” Trevor whispered back, grinning, and then he added, “Okay, you’re right.”
One game turned into seven, along with four rounds of beer. By the end of it, Trevor and Torsten were openly flirting, and Trevor’s arm found a comfortable perch on Torsten’s tan shoulders. Trevor had felt awkward at first, but now, it just felt natural and good.
Joel headed for the bar to buy a round of beer, and Torsten fished in his pocket and leaned close to Trevor, pulling a hotel keycard out and holding it in his hand to show Trevor. “I have... for me, not Ingalill, not parents. My room. You... stay tonight?” Torsten asked softly, as his arm settled around Trevor, leaving no possible doubt as to what he was asking.
Trevor looked into Torsten’s sparkling eyes, and replied with a smile and a nod.
When Joel returned from a trip to the bar, Trevor took Joel aside and whispered, “Torsten has his own room here and wants me to stay over.”
“Have a blast, man,” Joel whispered back, grinning.
After a final game, Joel finished his beer, said goodbye, and walked back to Atlantis alone, all smiles.