By Scott Pomfret
By Scott Whittier
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around June 15, 2005. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
Troy, a hip fashion designer, is the fabulous force behind a string of Boston’s trendiest boutiques. He’s got swanky digs in Beacon Hill, quality social credentials, and pecs you could break your teeth on. Brad’s mad for Troy and vice-versa. In fact, the two are so for real they’re getting ready to tie the lavender knot.
Enter Aria Shakespeare. Peroxide-pretty Aria, one of Troy’s simmering old flames, tells Brad that his lover has been slutting around behind his back. And Aria says he’s got proof! Truth or fairy tale, it’s the start of a love-struck ride that will take Brad and Troy from tony Boston to torrid Bermuda and back again. On the way they’ll learn that sometimes you just have to trust your heart…even if you can’t believe your eyes.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the authors' imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2005 by Scott Pomfret and Scott Whittier
All rights reserved.
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Visit our website at www.HachetteBookGroup.com.
First eBook Edition: September 2009
The authors would like to give special thanks to the following people whose generous contributions, creative genius, and enduring support made Romentics possible: our photographers (Bob Ward, Blakely Crawford, Amy O'Connor, and Marilyn Humphries); our design team (Rob Tighe, Jamie Allison, and Alla Litovchenko); our agent, June Clark; our editors, John Aherne and Emily Griffin; and our official Romentics artist, Michael Breyette (http://www.studio1088.com).
Brad Drake woke up to a wet dream: Troy Boston stood at the foot of his bed. His torso was bare. His hair was wet. He was wearing nothing but a plush red towel wrapped around his waist.
Droplets strayed down between his broad shoulders and into the small of his back. As he ran his hands through his thick dark hair, his shoulder muscles rippled. The reflection in the full-length mirror at the foot of the bed showed Troy's broad chest narrowing in a V to a tiny wasplike waist a gay man half his size would have killed for.
Two years ago, a vision of Troy at the foot of his bed might have been a masturbatory fantasy or an idle daydream. Impossible and unattainable. Something Brad had cooked up to get himself off after another night in the bed alone.
It wouldn't have crossed Brad's mind back then that he could get a piece of Troy Boston—or anyone even half as hot. He had pretty much given up trying. In fact, in those dark days, Brad had sworn off gay men forever, believing each and every one to be a liar and a crook, shallow and cruel. They were living, breathing, walking advertisements for the joys of a celibate life.
Troy continued to fuss with his thick, coarse hair in the mirror on the wall at the base of Brad's bed. He slicked his palms with gel and ruthlessly shaped the mane that—he complained—never obeyed him. It took him a full five minutes of work before he was satisfied.
To Brad, Troy looked just fine—before, after, or during the arranging of his hair. It didn't make a bit of difference to Brad. Troy looked hot every which way. Any time of day.
As he tugged the last recalcitrant locks into position, Troy caught Brad's lustful look in the mirror's reflection. He flashed a half smile at the mirror. Then he turned toward Brad, who sprawled comfortably in their bed. A sheet was twisted around one arm as if he was in bondage. His brown hair was tousled. One of his feet stuck out beneath the covers at the bottom of the bed.
A rush of guilty pleasure raised the bedclothes like a tent over his crotch.
"You peeking?" Troy teased.
Brad nodded. He had never been much good at hiding his feelings. His body betrayed him: his anger, his passions were all right on the surface, raw and available.
He couldn't help it. He was a chef, and being a chef was all about display, about revealing the secret flavors that lurked in food. He was not one of those cool cucumbers who wore a mask twenty-four-seven.
Troy let the towel on his waist drop. The morning light falling into the room put his abs and pecs and nipples into perfect relief.
Brad gasped, as if it was the first time he had seen what was hidden beneath. Troy was a magnificent specimen of manhood. At thirty-three, three years older than Brad, he had the firm, hard stomach of a high school athlete. His muscles were naturally lean and ropy; he was strong, but he had none of the false bulk of a steroid queen.
Troy playfully let a hand drop to his crotch. Although they had been together almost two years, the size of Troy's member never failed to surprise Brad. Troy tensed. His cock twitched obediently.
Brad's mouth went dry. His penis throbbed. Hunger rose up from a place deep inside him, an animal hunger, basic and carnal.
The muscles of Troy's belly wrestled one another like animals under a blanket. And the thin treasure trail from navel to crotch seemed positively alive.
All thought rushed out of Brad's head. He threw back the covers.
Troy laughed. He picked up the wet towel from the floor and threw it at Brad.
"Not today, sweetheart. It's Friday. I've got a breakfast meeting with the investors and a dog-and-pony show this morning with the mayor to talk about the Club. Only three months until the target date for our grand opening, remember?"
Being business partners and opening a club together were exciting developments in their relationship. But Brad wished they focused as much on their romantic connection as they did on being business partners.
Troy's fine, firm ass pranced into the hallway and disappeared. Even though they didn't officially live together, Brad had turned over the hall closet to Troy to store a few things, so that he did not have to go home every morning to change. Brad was looking forward to the day when they would share a bedroom with enough closet space for the both of them. That would be the day he would have the luxury of watching Troy dress each morning, bare-ass in the sunlight.
Brad touched himself beneath the sheets. The thought of sharing a home contented him. It was a feeling less urgent than the animal desire that had just coursed through his veins. It possessed a richer, fuller flavor. A long, round finish. Hints of chocolate and berry. Pinot noir. A whiff of something evergreen.
Brad often thought of love and sex and relationships in terms of flavors. Sharp, piquant encounters on the beach in the summer with a new friend were a kind of sweet mango salsa. The return to the bedroom of a comfortable ex-lover for a little backsliding was slow comfort food with hot barbecue sauce. The bruising yelp of being with a big man had all the subtlety of a thick piece of beef, nearly raw, and tender on the inside.
Brad closed his eyes, dozing in half sleep, laughing at himself for being so goofy.
What was Troy, he mused, in this world of flavors? Red-hot Creole? Succulent lobster? Braised lamb with mint at the end of a tired day?
All the labels fit to some extent. But none was quite right. Brad had not found the culinary match that captured Troy Boston. Troy was elusive that way. Making love with him was like making love with many different men, all with the same face and perfect body. Brad never knew what the flavor of the day might be.
All he knew was that Troy had the ability to make him randier than a high-school cheerleader at homecoming. And at the same time, to make him feel like the most important person in the world. Brad was—in a word—crazy about Troy Boston.
"You dreaming about food again, pretty boy?" Troy whispered. He was leaning over the bed, his lips to Brad's ear. His breath sent little electric sparks all over Brad's skin. His distinctly male scent at close range brought Brad fully awake. "It's giving you another hard-on."
Brad's eyes popped open. He had dozed off.
"I was thinking of you."
Troy trapped Brad in the bedclothes. He stroked Brad's head with his large, strong hands. The palms were cool and smelled of cologne and soap. He put a finger on Brad's lips and Brad suddenly opened his mouth and bit it, gently, holding it between his teeth.
"I don't know how you stay so skinny when you think about food every second of the day," Troy wondered. "And night. I would be a fat-ass if I did that."
It was a lie. Troy Boston would never be a fat-ass, no matter how long he lived or what he ate. He could swallow six Big Macs and never gain an ounce. And he could go without food for three days and never notice the difference.
And, Brad thought, I am not exactly skinny. Not fat either—well-toned and developed, a little stocky, with good shoulders and, he prided himself, a flawless gymnast's chest. And Tour de France thighs. But unlike Troy, Brad had to work his ass off in the gym to get and keep the body he wanted.
"Why do you think I was dreaming about food?"
"You get this fat lusty baby look on your face," Troy teased. "Drooling. Content."
"Trust me, honey. There's enough sexy about you to make a half dozen boys happy."
Troy kissed him on the forehead and stood. Brad glowed, and ran an appreciative eye over his boyfriend. Troy was hot naked, but he could peg the mercury in the thermometer even when he was fully dressed. Today, he was wearing a charcoal pin-striped three-button flannel suit that perfectly complimented his slim, muscular figure.
"You look hot."
Troy nodded. His confidence was not arrogance. He had designed the suit himself, so it damn well better look hot. It was part of the Troy Boston label and would have cost a mint at retail in one of Troy's stores. Troy prided himself on never wearing another designer's clothes, although he made an exception for Prada.
"You going to come over tonight after work?" he asked.
It was not really a question. One of Troy's great talents was his ability to get people to follow his commands without even knowing they had been commanded.
Troy smiled, turned, and then blew a quick kiss over his shoulder.
"Wish me luck."
Then Troy was gone. He bounded down the stairs of the condominium two at a time. The outside door slammed shut behind him with a sound that rattled the whole building. The apartment was suddenly as still as the dead, as if Troy had taken all the energy in it away with him.
Brad sighed. "Luck" was not what he would have preferred to say as a last word when they parted in the morning. Brad would have liked to say, "I love you." Or better yet: "Be late to meet the mayor and make love to me."
But "I love you" was an expression they never used. If Brad had pushed him for a declaration of love, Troy would have gotten all squirrelly. Troy spoke eloquently enough with his body and lips and hands. He was quick with a compliment and a reassuring touch. He might have pointed out that actions were more important than three words that were easy to say but hard to mean.
Troy never mentioned love. He never said so much as "You make me happy." He never revealed a trembling lip or eyes filled with tears. He was focused, hard, and exquisitely controlled. His cheekbones were dark and angular and his forehead was honest, but his penetrating eyes never gave up a secret. He was a fortress, absolutely impregnable when it came to his feelings.
This sexy unavailability only made Brad want him all the more. He plotted constantly about how he would taste that forbidden fruit hidden inside the walls that surrounded Troy's heart.
Someday, he vowed, Troy would surrender control, break, and confess his love. And that day, Brad would be waiting to embrace Troy and be his forever.
Brad snuggled into the flannel sheets, which were as deep and soft as blankets. He tested the pillow beside him for a quick hit of Troy's animal smell. He inhaled deeply, and again won that deep contented feeling that told him he was the luckiest man in the world. Everything he wanted would come. Spring in Boston was right around the corner. He just needed to give Troy time. The two years they had been together were not (yet) enough.
Brad rolled over to try to get more sleep. Unlike Troy, four hours' sleep was not enough to tide Brad over. Fifteen hours would have been nice. Followed by breakfast in bed and a full-body massage by six sculpted members of the United States swim team in their tiny blue Speedos.
Seconds later, the alarm bleated six inches from Brad's head.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
Brad groaned and swatted at the clock. He knocked it clear across the room, where it bleated in the corner, happily unchecked.
"Make it stop!" Brad cried out, holding his pillow around his ears to drown out the sound. His wish did not come true.
Finally, with his body screaming for more sleep, Brad hauled his sorry carcass out of bed and kicked the alarm off. Then he dragged himself in front of the mirror, where Troy had stood hours before, and contemplated the damage to his body that had been done by aging overnight.
It could have been worse. Years in a steamy kitchen had not yet put a line in Brad's good skin. (The secret was eye cream, applied religiously, morning and night.) He had broad shoulders and Pop-eye forearms, a powerful wrestler's build, and a lean-meat body, courtesy of regular torturous workouts with a personal trainer who had interned at a Siberian death camp.
Brad's hair was brown and naturally spiked from sleep, and he again decided he would put some color in it for the summer. He regularly decided this, year after year, spring after spring, and then chickened out when summer arrived. He calculated that an inch or two of extra height would have been nice, but to his chagrin the night's sleep had not produced such a change.
Despite his general satisfaction, Brad thought he detected a little pudge that had not been present the day before. It was right there, above his hip. And chubbing around toward the back above his boxers.
Before the fat could get hold, he decided, he needed to destroy it. Four hundred sit-ups. Four sets of pull-ups. Four hundred push-ups. And dumbbells. By the end, his shoulders and arms hung dead at his sides like slabs of beef in a meat locker. It was only after this whole process that Brad permitted himself even to look at his refrigerator.
Troy constantly teased Brad about his kitchen because—although Brad was the top-rated chef in Boston and maybe the country—his own kitchen contained only a case of springwater, a can of tuna, and some stale high-protein cereal. Nothing more. The refrigerator was a desert. The granite countertops were immaculate and the utensils were in perfect order on racks to the right of the commercial-grade Viking stove, but this tidy, stainless arrangement only emphasized its barrenness.
Brad would have loved to get more use out of that kitchen. He would have loved a long Saturday to cook a meal that only he and Troy would share. To light candles and decant a fine Barolo into the flared crystal Riedel decanter that was stored upside-down and unused in its rack. Serve up a meal personalized and seasoned with his love for Troy.
But even if Troy had had the time, Brad could not spare a Saturday. He had three restaurants to run—Jean-Baptiste, Cheval, and Coriander—and was busy consulting with Troy on a fourth restaurant that was part of the new Club Troy. These restaurants needed more maintenance than the worst of boyfriends. Indeed, even as Brad took a break from his workout, his cell phone chortled, right on schedule.
A quick glance at the number showed him it was Turner Page, Brad's best friend and business partner. Turner was a big, soft-spoken, religious African-American man. People tended to respect him on sight. He was generally warm and open, with a craggy smile and an immense, playful intelligence.
But Turner was a very private person. The moment a stranger innocently probed too far into his private affairs, he became perilously still and completely expressionless. His face went dead calm and grave, and—always with glacial politeness—he would simply decline to answer the too-intimate questions.
Only with Brad did Turner permit himself the comfortable gossip and dish of two old friends, who were as close as brothers. Even though they no longer shared the same roof, like they had during the early days at Borneo Bistro, they did share the same business, and Brad trusted Turner as he trusted no one else on earth, even Troy.
"Yo," Brad said.
"Yo yourself. You want the bad news or the real bad news?" It was the same thing Turner said every morning. He lived for pessimism, a habit Turner felt he had earned, the way things tended to turn out.
"Give it to me straight, bro."
As Brad munched a couple of handfuls of protein cereal and washed it down with water, they went through the morning routine. Personnel matters, purchasing, and the multitude of other obligatory details of running a restaurant that Brad hated because they took his mind off the food.
If Brad was the heart of his kitchens, Turner provided the brains and muscle. He was manager, minority owner, and all-around hard-ass. He was tireless and exacting, as fanatical and obsessive as Brad himself. Brad ensured that not a single dish went to the dining room floor until he had inspected it and made sure it was flawless. Turner handled the other end of the process. Nothing entered any of Brad's kitchens unless Turner had given his personal approval that the goods were fresh and of the highest quality.
Bored by the discussion of budgets and projections, Brad picked a dumbbell up from the floor and grunted as he worked through a set of curls.
"Am I interrupting you?" Turner snapped. "If you need some time by yourself…?"
"Just making sure the pipes look good. You never know when the UPS man is going to show up with an urgent package," Brad joked.
"You're so hung up on that man of yours, you wouldn't know what to do with a UPS man if he threw himself on you."
Turner could see right through Brad, and they both knew it, but Brad wasn't going to let Turner get the satisfaction of showing him up.
"I can take Troy or leave him," he lied.
Turner laughed out loud. "It's been what? Almost two years of taking, as far as I can see, hasn't it? That's all you do."
"Two years last month," Brad said proudly. "And I don't just take it, Turner. Sometimes Troy's the bottom."
"Whoa, mister. WTMI. Way too much information. I don't need no full-color glossy pics, you know what I mean?"
"Deal. So long as I don't have to hear anything about pussy from you."
Turner laughed his deep, comforting laugh, which had not changed in the ten years they had known each other.
"So… Last month, eh? You been together two years. Well, time flies, doesn't it?"
"I mean, one day you're in here bragging about how you finally conquered your dream man who can't do no wrong, and now it's two years later and you come in every day bitching about where this relationship is going."
"I do not!"
In fact, Brad had been complaining to Turner that he did not know where he stood in his relationship with Troy. But this was just garden-variety bitchery. About as necessary to a gay man like Brad as breathing. It meant absolutely nothing. In fact, Troy was, as far as Brad could see, devoted to their relationship, certainly above and beyond anyone else he had dated.
It wasn't perfect, of course. The absence of "I love you" or any other tangible sign of long-term commitment was a problem. And that's why Brad had been venting.
Brad understood, of course, what he was fighting against: Troy was damaged goods. Troy had already been in love, and it had ended badly. Kurt Tamweiler, the man Troy had lived with for five years, had been killed in a polo accident when he was thrown from his horse. And Troy never spoke of Kurt.
Instead, Troy made periodic speeches about how you had to plant your own garden because no one else was going to bring you flowers. Brad would never hear from him the words "I can't live without you."
If Brad harbored any romantic ideas that Troy was his true love and destiny, and vice versa, he had to keep them on the back burner. He had to acknowledge that Troy might already have had the love of his life.
Or maybe work was the love of his life. Maybe Brad was only third. However much it hurt to comprehend this, it was a concept he had to face if he wanted to stay with Troy. Troy might not want anything deeper than an amiable companionship, a deep friendship with benefits. It remained to be seen.
But that was too much serious thought this early in Brad's morning, and he knew Turner was only busting his balls.
"When I bitch about my boyfriend, Turner, it's just to make you feel needed. I know you straight people. You always need to live vicariously through us gays, because our lives are much more fabulous. Now, what about that order of new stemware you said was coming in from Ireland?"
"You changing the subject on me?"
"I'm just saying—"
"You trying to hide something from me, Brad?"
"I think you are," Turner accused playfully. "It's that you didn't invite Jacqueline and me to your anniversary party, isn't it? We aren't good enough to get an invite now that you are hangin' with all the rich white folks your boyfriend does love? I'll remember that."
"There was no anniversary party," Brad retorted. "It's next month, Mr. Know-it-all."
"Next month? I thought you said last month was your anniversary. What's up with that?"
Brad sighed. "Yeah, well, that was my reaction. But Caroline was busy then. She operates on her own schedule. So if Caroline wants to change the date of our anniversary, it gets changed."
Caroline Treadwell was Troy's mother. She had long since accepted—even prided herself on—the fact that her son was gay. Her problem was that she had never met a man who was good enough for Troy—except for Kurt Tamweiler. And Caroline was not shy about showing it. In fact, there would have been no celebration of their anniversary at all—by Troy or his mother—if Caroline didn't pounce on any excuse to throw a party.
Turner grunted. "You sound whipped, son. By your mother-in-law of all people."
"Yeah, well, maybe. But I figure, when you're gay, how do you measure an anniversary anyway, right, Turner? I mean, is it the first time you met? When you fucked? It's all arbitrary anyway, since we couldn't even get married until recently. Personally, I mark the anniversary as the time when you moved in together."
"Well, that explains it," Turner crowed triumphantly. His voice was filled with satisfaction at having solved some mystery.
"Explains what? Why is it every time you sound pleased with yourself, I feel like I've got to start worrying?"
"It explains the rumors."
"Rumor has it," Turner insinuated slowly, "that you and Mr. Big Shot are going to be moving in together any day now."
Brad panicked and bluffed. "No. No. Nothing to that rumor. I don't know where you get your info, Turner."
"So, it's not true?"
"Hey, don't worry, Turner. I'll keep you posted if something like that ever happens. You know how Troy is."
"I know how you are, too, mister. You don't quit until you get what you want."
Brad sighed. "I might have to accept second best on this one, Turner."
"Bullshit!" Turner bullied. "You haven't accepted squat. I heard you were up in the South End looking at penthouse condos like you were already hitched! You're still going for the whole nine yards."
Damn! Brad thought. He complained, "Stop throwing these football analogies at me, Turner. I'm gay. I don't understand them. You know that."
Brad was speechless at being found out so quickly. These excursions around the South End had been his own little secret fantasy. His planning ahead. Maybe wishful thinking.
He hadn't the courage yet to mention househunting to Troy. Or Turner. Or his faghag Chessie. Or a damn soul, except his real estate agent.
But it was impossible to keep anything from Turner. Turner had connections to everybody in Boston. No matter what the field or line of work was, Turner knew someone on the inside—including real estate agents, apparently.
But Brad was not going to admit a thing.
"Troy and I are hitched at the waist, Turner," he joked. "That's about it. Trust me, I know how these things go." Brad had to pretend everything was cool, so as not to jinx it. The last thing he needed was to do the Troy-go-round again, which had kept him up enough nights.
"Man! I thought we had an agreement that I didn't need to be hearing about anything below the waist?"
"It must be your lucky day."
"So, seriously, man, you sure we should not be expecting any wedding bells soon?"
"Turner, drop it. Please. I promise—you'll be the first to know."
"Fair enough. Good things come to those who wait. So, when's the party? Are me and Jacqueline going to get an invitation to the big anniversary celebration?"
"Yeah, unless Caroline succeeds in the meantime in her longstanding plan to break up Troy and me."
"No way, man. I'm sure she's proud to have you in the family. You're a real catch."
"Trust me, Turner. Not in Caroline's eyes. No one's good enough for Troy."
"You're worth a hundred Troys," Turner said loyally.
- On Sale
- Jun 15, 2005
- Page Count
- 256 pages
- Grand Central Publishing