18-year-old Dylan’s talent for music almost equals his diva persona. Everyone knows Dylan enjoys pushing people around, but does he really? When Taj is charged with taking Dylan under his wing, he discovers the shy boy behind the diva mask.
When Dylan walks in on Taj kissing Ben, their budding feelings may not be able to withstand the blow. Stunned, Dylan runs from the room. Taj gives chase, trying to catch him to tell him the kiss he saw was the result of a game played in the dorm called Raspberries. Will their love blossom into kisses, drown in drunken chocolates, or erupt in raucous raspberries in Dark Chocolate and Raspberries?
Taj headed slowly down the hallway towards his room. Dylan had sparked his interest and fascinated him all day. Dylan had watched Taj’s every move, listening attentively to everything he’d said. Taj had found the intense observation unsettling at first; he hadn’t been scrutinized so closely in a long time. Every time he’d glanced at the young man, Dylan had been staring at him, watching, almost waiting for something.
The real Dylan, the shy, quiet, careful young man, was a surprise, and so unlike what Taj had expected. He’d spoken very little, seeming to prefer to listen and watch everything going on around him intently. Most performers Taj had known were outgoing and gregarious, striving for more attention and flourishing in the spotlight. Dylan’s diva pose screamed extrovert, but when pushed, the persona folded and the real Dylan appeared, so timid Taj wouldn’t have believed him to be the same person. He wondered which one would be coming to dinner, the diva or the speechless freshman.
College often changed people; they would grow and develop. Maybe away from those who expected him to behave like a spoiled brat, the façade would fade and Dylan’s real personality could mature and flourish. Taj found Dylan fascinating. His silent attentiveness made Taj wonder what went on beneath the surface, in the depths of those deep brown eyes, eyes the color of dark chocolate.
Taj felt a challenge in Dylan he found hard to define. The diva screamed catch me if you can, and something in Taj intensely hoped to see him cry, yet at the same time Taj wanted to protect the shy, attentive young man. He had no idea how to reconcile such conflicting feelings towards one person, but maybe if he got to know Dylan, he’d learn.
The door to his room hung open to the hall; as he approached, he could hear boisterous laughter and recognized the voices of his friends. They were scattered about the room, already engaged in their favorite pastime, Raspberries.
“Go…Go…Go!” they chanted.
Taj stood in the door and watched. Justin leaned over to Paul, lifted his shirt, and blew a raspberry against his bare stomach. A fresh bout of laughter broke loose and Taj joined them. Justin stood and gasped for air, Paul yanked his shirt back down over his bare stomach, squirming and shivering uncontrollably, shoving Justin away.
“God damn! That always gives me goose bumps.” Paul quivered all over. “Ehhh—” he shivered and rubbed his hands up and down, over his arms.
“I want to play!” Taj slapped Paul on the back in greeting.
“Okay, since you’re late, you spin.” Paul nodded towards the desk.
Taj dumped his bag on his bed and leaned over. There sat a game spinner, divided into nine sections decorated in three colors; red, brown, and purple. Grinning, Taj flicked the pointer, spinning it rapidly around to slow and finally stop on red.
A couple of the guys ooh’d, while Tom wolf- whistled. Taj abruptly grabbed Paul’s head and planted a kiss firmly on his lips while the rest of the guys hooted and hollered.
“Tom, you’re next since you’re making the most fuss.” Taj jeered and passed the spinner to Tom. Jests spread through the room when Taj sat down on his bed. Tom spun the pointer, which landed on brown.
“Okay, where’s the mystery chocolate bowl?” Taj watched the large black bowl filled with brightly wrapped chocolates get passed around to him. He had helped prepare them and knew some of them were gourmet, others the cheapest wax chocolates pennies could buy. They were all spiked with various hard liquors, but mostly Everclear. Too many chocolate spins and a lightweight player could become buzzed, but more often it sent them running for the bathroom. Still, they all played, daring each other to continue, pushing each other’s limits, and on rare occasions, leaving in pairs. A romance or two had sprouted from this game over the last couple of years.
Taj held the bowl above Tom’s head while he reached into the bowl and drew a chocolate wrapped in red and silver foil. He opened and popped it into his mouth while those around him watched his reaction.
“Bourbon…yum,” Tom chuckled, swallowed the candy and pointed to a redhead sitting in the corner. “You’re up, James!”
James crawled out of the corner, shaking his head, “Aw, man, I was trying to be inconspicuous.”
“Spin… Spin… Spin!” they chanted. James stood, covered his eyes, and flicked the pointer, which landed on purple. Cheering and hollering continued, while James looked down at the pointer and shook his head, moving over to Tom.
“Sorry, man.” James chortled and blew a nauseous raspberry, loud and long onto Tom’s cheek. The rest razzed them obnoxiously.
“Ben, your turn.” James pointed to a young man who seemed to have landed on brown one too many times already and placed the spinner on the desk. Ben stood, staggering a bit on his approach.
“How many spins has he had?” Taj frowned, concerned as Ben wobbled drunkenly on his feet, clearly already trashed.
“He was drunk before we started. Some chick dumped him today when he told her he loved her. Went down in flames so he’s drowning his sorrows.” Paul put a steadying hand on Ben, who leaned over the desk and almost fell forward when he reached for the pointer. He spun it wildly, almost knocking everything on the desk to the floor in the process.
“Easy there, big guy,” Paul teased as the pointer settled on Red. Everyone began cheering and hooting, egging Ben on.
Ben lurched upright, a grin on his face. He looked around at the guys, but instead of going towards James, who he was supposed to kiss, he lurched towards Taj. Ben stumbled forward, falling over his own feet. Taj caught him by the shoulders before he fell on his face, trying to steady Ben’s much more substantial weight. He remained upright only because Taj held him in his arms, knowing if he let go, Ben would be on the floor in a full body face plant.
“Thanks, Taj,” Ben mumbled drunkenly, patting Taj on the shoulder, then planting a huge open-mouthed kiss on him.
The mirth had barely started when the door was pushed open. Taj hadn’t closed it all the way, and Dylan stepped into the doorway just in time to see Taj get French- kissed by Ben. Taj glanced over to the doorway, seeing the stunned look on Dylan’s face. The young man turned red, his jaw dropped to the floor, and he ran from the room.
“Aw, hell! Dylan!” Taj shoved the drunken Ben into Paul, cursing and running after Dylan, who had taken off, back down the hallway towards his room.