Gavin and his best friend Paul have gone to beach together almost every year since they met in college. This year was no different, but this time something happens that puts some strain on their relationship: Gavin meets Tyler.
Paul won't admit it, but Gavin knows that he doesn't like Tyler. But why? As far as Gavin can see, there's nothing wrong with him. Hell, there's hardly anything that's not perfect about him.
When the guys are invited to a party at Tyler's home, Gavin jumps at the chance. Not just so he can spend some alone time with Tyler, but so he can get to the bottom of what's bugging Paul.
Rain splattered against the windshield, collecting in puddles and sliding downward, before the wipers cleared it away. Gavin Taylor stared blankly out the wet glass. The weathered road stretched out before him, enticing him to move forward. The radio blared some boring country song from the mixed CD that Paul, his friend, insisted they listen to.
“Cats and dogs,” Gavin muttered. “Why does it always have to rain when we go to the beach?”
Paul stopped singing along with the raspy-voiced woman on the stereo. “Relax, buddy. It’s not that bad. We’re still a few miles from the beach house. It could clear up by then.”
“I guess.” Gavin faked a smile. Paul was his best friend, but sometimes the endless optimism really got to him.
They met six years ago in college as members of the same fraternity, both terrified to admit they were gay. They’d bonded instantly. Over the years, they’d been through a lot together. Gavin often thought of all the things he wouldn’t have gotten over without Paul’s help. Things he would never have attempted to do on his own. Coming out to his parents; breaking up with his longtime girlfriend, Rebecca; getting out of that horrible relationship with Nathan, the compulsive cheater.
“Mr. Negative,” Paul said, laughing. “Sometimes you just have to sit back and let life happen, bud. You can’t be in control all the time.”
“A world where I am not in control is a scary one.” Gavin looked at his friend, smiled—a real one this time—and gave the wheel a quick jerk. “See? If I wasn’t driving the—”
“Gavin! Look out!”
“What?” Gavin turned his attention back to the road just in time to see an enormous dog wonder out onto the pavement before them. “Oh, shit!” He slammed the brakes. The car screeched to a stop less than a foot from the animal. The dog stared at them, curiously sniffing the air.
“Stupid dog!” Paul shouted. “Scared the hell out of me.”
Mr. Optimistic, Gavin thought, laughing. He rolled down his window. “Get off the road!”
The dog came over to his window, tilted its head, and stood there, tongue flopping in the wind.
“Real pedigree specimen,” Gavin whispered. “Go on, boy! Get off the road!”
The dog barked but didn’t move.
“Hey,” Paul said, putting his hand on Gavin’s shoulder. “Does he have a collar? I can’t see.”
Gavin sighed. “Yeah, he does.”
Paul shoved at Gavin’s back. “Well, then get out and see what it says.”
“Why do I have to get out?”
“Gavin, your head is shaven.” Paul ran his hand over his short, spiked brown hair. “I don’t want to get my hair wet. The gel I use turns to slop when it comes into contact with water.”
Gavin rolled his eyes. “You’re such a girl sometimes.”
Paul’s mouth dropped open. “I am not!” He grabbed at Gavin’s chest, connecting with a nipple and pinching tightly. “Take it back.”
“Ouch.” Gavin shoved Paul’s hand away, laughing. “Bitch.” He pressed his forehead against his friends. He was always jealous of Paul’s beautiful light blue eyes. He found them much more appealing than his own brown peepers. “I love you, you crazy fag.”
“I love you, too.” Paul pushed Gavin’s face away. “Now go help that idiotic dog.”
* * * * *
It turned out the dog’s name was Spencer, and he actually belonged to a family that lived in a house just a few miles from where they were going to be staying.
“God, he reeks,” Gavin said, pinching his nose with his free hand, which made his voice sound strange.
“Nice place,” Paul noted as they pulled into the drive. “Fantastic wraparound porch.”
Gavin parked beside the Hummer sitting in the driveway, instantly jealous. He’d wanted one as long as he could remember but, at least until he got a promotion at his current job, he was stuck with his little red Cavalier. “Says the realtor.” Gavin laughed. “I bet you know exactly how much you could get out of this place, huh?”
“Pretty much.” Paul nodded. “I could change all those old attic windows to stained glass and get another couple grand.”
“Of course you could.” Gavin rolled his eyes.
The place was actually very nice, in Gavin's opinion. It was small compared to the other houses that lined the beach. Huge compared to Gavin’s tiny apartment back home. The porch was lined with Chinese lanterns, alternating from blue to white. They gave the entire entryway an alluring atmosphere.
Gavin got out first, opened the back door, and pulled the dog by his collar.
“Easy,” Paul whispered from the front seat. “You don’t want them to think you… Well, never mind.”
“What? Tried to kidnap their dog but brought it back because it stunk like rotten cabbage?”
“Get out of the car. I’m not walking up to some strange house alone.”
Paul sighed. “It’s raining.”
“Fine!” Paul undid his seatbelt and got out. “God, I’m going to have snotty hair now.”
“Shut up.” Gavin slammed the back door and tugged the dog toward the porch.
Paul joined him as they walked up the steps.
“Ring the bell.”
“Okay.” Paul pressed the buzzer. From within the house the clatter of some song Gavin didn’t recognize echoed.
“Just a minute!”
“Take your time.” Gavin muttered. “God, people are so—”
He didn’t get to finish his statement. The door swung open.
Gavin’s mouth fell open as well. The man who opened the door was stunning. He was blond, with dazzling blue eyes. Totally had the whole surfer guy thing down. He wore a pair of yellow and brown swimming trunks. And nothing else. His chest was tan, muscular, tight, perfect. Gavin smiled, imagining his fingers moving over the man’s flesh, feeling him, taking him in. Damn…
The man stared at them for a moment, before glancing down and noticing the canine. Annoyance flashed across his face, but he quickly replaced his reaction with a warm smile.
"Is this your dog?" Gavin asked, completely aware of how weird his voice sounded. His mind still ran over the possibilities of spending some time alone with this man.
“Yes. Unfortunately. Damn it, Spencer, why do you keep running away?” He reached down and grabbed the dog’s collar. “Go on. Go inside.” The dog rushed past the guy, disappearing into the house.
“We found him on the road. Just thought we’d bring him home,” Paul said.
Gavin blinked. He had forgotten Paul was beside him. He was lost in his little fantasy. “Yeah. On the road.”
The guy smiled broadly, revealing gleaming white teeth. “Well, thank you.” He stepped forward, shutting the door behind him, apparently afraid the dog would make another run for it. “That was very nice of you guys.” He ran a hand through his hair, pulling a few strands out of his face. It was pointless; they fell right back into place.
“I’m Paul,” Paul announced and held out his hand.
“Tyler.” They shook hands. Tyler turned his attention to Gavin, extending his hand. “And you are?”
“Gavin,” he said, taking his hand and shaking firmly. “Gavin Taylor.”
“Nice to meet you, guys.” Tyler laughed. “Eh. You want a beer or something?”
“I don’t know.” Paul looked back toward the car. “We should be getting along.”
"Oh, come on, I owe you one!" Tyler smiled broadly.
“I could go for a beer,” Gavin said quickly.
“All right.” Tyler smiled again. “Paul?”
“Cool,” Tyler said. “I hope you don’t mind waiting here. I just moved in and the place is a mess. I'm a little embarrassed.”
“That’s awesome.” Gavin said. Awesome? You sound so stupid.
“Great.” Tyler opened the door. “Be back in a second.”
“Lord. Could you be more obvious?” Paul whispered once Tyler had closed the door. He walked over and sat down on the wooden swing suspended by chains to their left. “You’re like a schoolgirl that just fell in love with a football player. Why don’t you just jump right onto him?”
“Shut up.” Gavin joined him in the swing. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, right.” Paul frowned. “You are totally apparent. You don’t even know if he’s gay.”
“So?” Gavin shoved him. “He doesn’t have to be for me to think he’s cute.”
“Stop being like that.”
“You know exactly what I’m talking about. Just because you’re playing nun doesn’t mean the rest of the world has to follow your lead.”
Gavin sighed. “It’s just a beer. Then we’ll be on our way.”
“Great. I get to be driven around by a drunk queer.”
“Yeah, one beer and I’ll be wasted.” Gavin rolled his eyes.
“I remember when all it took was one at the bar and you’d end up going home with some nasty old guy.”
Their fight could have continued for hours; they often did. However, they both fell silent when the door reopened and Tyler appeared, carrying three cans of Miller. He handed one to each of them then took a seat in a metal lawn chair across from where they sat.
“So, you’re moving in?” Gavin asked after popping his beer and taking a quick swig. Obviously. Fuck, man, you're an idiot.
“Yeah,” Tyler said, nodding. “I guess it’s good that one of the first things I did was update the address on Spencer’s collar. Otherwise, who knows where he could have ended up?”
“That’s very true,” Paul said. “Some people are just…you know, cruel.”
“It’s a great house,” Gavin said, trying to push the conversation back toward Tyler and away from his smelly pet.
“Thank you. I figured it was time to get my own place. My ex and I were looking at a place on down the road, but after we split, I decided I still wanted to live down here.”
“Ex, huh?” Gavin frowned. “Long relationship?” He could see Paul’s frown out of the corner of his eye.
“Just over a year. He lives in Texas now. Farming or some crap.”
He! I knew it! “That sucks, man.”
“At least you weren’t stuck in a house with him after the breakup. I’ve had clients that that happened to. Really messy,” Paul said.
“You in realty?” Tyler asked.
“Yeah. Few years now.” Paul took a sip from his beer. “Love it.”
“Could have used you when I was closing the deal on this place. The woman I worked with was a real bitch.” Tyler took a long drink. “How about you, Gavin? What do you do?”
“I’m an accountant.”
“Well, you guys were made for each other,” Tyler said, laughing.
“Oh, no. We’re not together,” Gavin said, a little more forcefully than he had intended. “I’m single.”