Jojo Arias, a Spanish-Filipino mestizo, didn't expect to meet a U.S. Marine in a tony bar in the Philippines. But, Jojo can't deny the electricity they have once he meets Adam.
Although they come from different worlds, they struggle to keep their relationship private to protect Jojo's status and position as an heir to one of the wealthiest and powerful families in Filipino society. Billions of dollars could be easily lost if his family business is jeopardized by Jojo's secret love affair.
Because of his standing in society, Jojo is pressured to abandon Adam and live a life in the closet. But he doesn't want to leave the man he loves. As he struggles to maintain their secret romance, things begin to unravel and Jojo has to make a life-changing decision. Should he choose to stay with his family, or does he have the courage to pursue the love of his life?
Adam stopped to rest. He'd done twenty laps already in the Olympic-sized pool. Jojo had just flip-turned and continued on without missing a beat. Adam surveyed the pool. There were several men and women who rested in chairs, but they covered their upper bodies, and continued to spray their legs. Most of them wore large oversized hats, even the men, to cover their faces, save for one who had a medium brown skin tone. Adam recognized the irony of his situation. He planned on laying out and getting a tan once Jojo stopped doing these crazy laps. But, while a prized sun-kissed tan was admired in the U.S., here it signaled something different in the class structure. He wondered why he never noticed the social stratification of Filipino society before. Finally, when Jojo was finished, he slowed to where Adam stood.
"Done?" Jojo asked.
"Yes, I'm definitely out of shape."
"That's funny, because you're definitely not."
"So you were checking me out," Adam laughed softly. "I'm glad the hours in the barracks gym have started to pay off enough so you would complement me."
"I'm not the only one who's noticed. The hostess keeps eyeing you. If you play your cards right, you'd meet a nice Filipina." Jojo stood fully and then brought up himself out of the water. "I guess we should dry off and lie by the pool until Roger and Pete are done.
Adam nodded and followed Jojo, who headed to the open showers down the end. Adam had picked out some modest board shorts for himself from the pro and gift shop, but Jojo was wearing squared off trunks, slightly more modest than speedos, they still showcased Jojo's assets. Jojo had a lean, thin body, and muscular thighs, like a bicyclist would have. Adam tried not to be obvious, but he had to admit God broke the mold when He made Jojo. As soon as Adam hit the showers, he faced the wall, away from Jojo so he wouldn't be tempted at staring. His body had already involuntarily signaled its wanting for Jojo, and he needed the cold water from the shower to calm him down. If Jojo noticed that Adam was being intentionally quiet, he didn't say anything. Once Jojo's shower shut off, and he heard the light patter of his feet walking away, Adam breathed a sigh of relief that he'd been able to control himself from a full-on boner. He turned off the freezing cold water, happy that some of the chlorine had been rinsed off his face and hair, and then walked to where their lounge chairs were.
As he walked back, there was a very thin Filipina woman talking to Jojo. Even with her oversized sunglasses, Adam had no doubt she was very pretty. He had seen enough of Philippine TV commercials at the dorms to know that she had the prized ivory-white skin Filipino women desired. He doubted she'd ever had to resort to bleaching creams that he'd had heard about and seen advertised in local commercials.
He slowed his approach and then stopped as he neared. The woman who was talking to Jojo stopped speaking, and then handed him something. Jojo remained silent. The young woman eyed Adam, and didn't say anything as she walked away. Adam's gaze followed her, and he was about to ask who she was, when Roger and Pete appeared.
"Was that Lani? What did she want?" Roger asked.
"To return this," Jojo said, holding up a ring with a large green rock in the middle. "I wasn't sure if she was going to keep the engagement ring or not, but I guess she wanted to get rid of all memory of me pretty quickly."
"Nice rock," Pete said.
"Thanks," Jojo said, as he slid the ring into the pocket of a small backpack he had left on the lounge chair. "How was the golfing?"
"We actually did pretty well. I made par once, and so did Pete," Roger said. "Once you guys left, we actually played better." Roger remained silent for a moment. "If you guys are going to hang out here, I'm going to hit the showers, and just hang out at the sports pub."
Pete eyed the pool, and Adam knew Pete's body language enough to know that Pete was torn. Pete stared right into Adam, and smiled. "You know what, I'm done with the sun, if it's okay I'll join you, Roger."
"Sure," Roger said.
Pete passed by Adam and whispered in his ear, after nudging him in the shoulder. "You owe me one, buddy."
Adam lay on the lounge chair, face down, and Jojo followed suit.
"Sorry, man, about your ex," Adam said.
"Thanks. I met Lani three years ago. My parents set up the date. She was different from most Filipinas. She had lived in the states a little, went to Columbia actually, but came back after she got her degree." Jojo sighed and didn't say anything for a while, but he continued. "We liked the same things, like hiking, going to art shows, swimming, watching soccer games. My parents were happy, her parents were happy. But it didn't last long. After a while, I wasn't happy, and she wasn't happy. I think we kept pretending to everyone we were a couple for the sake of appearances. Apparently, she already has a new boyfriend, and she's been secretly dating him for a month. Tiny told me last night, after you guys left." Jojo sat up and stretched out. "I should be angry, but I'm actually happy for her."
Adam sat up too. A couple of the women across the pool smiled at him and he instinctively smiled back, then his face reddened, embarrassed at the attention. "When I saw you last night at the bar, after your co-workers left, I sensed you weren't happy," Adam said.
"Probably right. I had the look of melancholy. Not really about her or us, but maybe me. I was wondering if I'd ever meet the right person."
Adam wanted to say something, but he didn't have any words to comfort Jojo. Somehow the words, 'it'll be all right,' or 'you'll find someone' seemed empty and hollow to him, so he did something by instinct and grabbed Jojo's shoulder as Jojo laid flat on his stomach, and he squeezed it. Adam didn't want to withdraw his hand, but he did.
"I'm sorry," Adam said. "But if you believe that was the best thing for you to do, then you did the right thing."
"Thanks," Jojo whispered.
"You're welcome," Adam said. He hated that Jojo was down and racked his brain for other words to help Jojo. But he lay there in silence hoping Jojo sensed Adam was in his corner.