“You know what? I tried, Leo. I tried. I’m out of here.” Jazz turned and left the athletic field.
“Smart choice!” Reese yelled after him and then turned to face Leo.
Leo nearly collapsed into Reese’s arms and sobbed uncontrollably onto the taller boy’s shoulder. Reese hesitated at first but wrapped his arms around Leo and held him close. Finally, Leo regained control of his emotions and stepped back. Reese begrudgingly released Leo from the hug.
Leo wiped his eyes and looked at Reese. “I’m sorry. I tried to show up and watch you practice, but then….” He trailed off.
“I saw you heading this way. Then I saw that other dude, and the conversation looked pretty tense. Practice was almost over anyway, so Becca didn’t even care that I took off.”
“Did you hear any of that?”
“I heard enough to know that you were right not to forgive him. He’s toxic, Leo. Especially after what happened at lunch and now what happened here, you’re right to stay as far away from him as possible.”
Leo sighed. “Thank you again. You saved me twice today. Are we still on for later?”
“Of course. Just let me grab my backpack out of the locker room, and I’ll walk you home.” Reese blushed, and they crossed the street and went into the locker room.
“You don’t have to do that. I’ll meet you on the beach in like half an hour.” Leo said as they grabbed their backpacks and walked back to the street.
“It’s no problem, Leo. I go right past your house to get to mine. Come on.” Reese extended his hand to Leo without even realizing what he was doing. Leo took it, and their fingers entwined. Hand in hand, the two boys walked off school property and headed home.
Leo was nearly bouncing through the house as he rushed to get ready to go out. The only thing was that Leo wasn’t sure if he was more excited to meet up with Reese on the beach or for his date with Charlie later that evening. Combine that with the emotional confrontation with Jazz, and Leo was a big bundle of dizzying emotions. After a quick shower, Leo hurriedly dressed in tan board shorts and a sky-blue tank top. He was slipping into a pair of sneakers when his brother walked into the room.
“Hey, bro. What took you so long to get home? Gettin’ busy with the cheerleader behind the bleachers?” Kam waggled his eyebrows.
Leo rolled his eyes. “No. It’s not like that.” Leo sighed. “I had another confrontation with Jazz.”
“What?!” Kam nearly yelled. “Are you ok? Was it physical?”
“Calm down, Kameron. I’m fine. No, it wasn’t physical. He was looking for forgiveness like that’s ever gonna happen. It was verbal, but it did get a little heated. Then, for the second time today, Reese was there and scared Jazz away.” Leo grinned.
“I’m starting to like this guy. Why don’t you cancel on that tourist and make your hang-out time with Reese into an actual date?”
Leo sighed. “Why don’t you worry about your own love life or lack thereof, and I’ll worry about mine. I like Charlie. I know he’s a tourist, but I like him.”
“I’m just tryin’ to look out for you, big bro. You headin’ out now?”
“I’d already be out the door if you hadn’t stopped me.” Leo winked.
“Fine. Fine. Go. Just remember what I said. You should be dating Reese.”
Leo rolled his eyes and nearly ran out the door.
Leo hopped the fence and stepped out onto the sand. He stopped and looked around and immediately spotted Reese off to his left. Reese was sitting cross-legged on the grass between the parking lot and the beach. As soon as Reese spotted Leo walking toward him, he got up, stretched, and sat on a park bench. Leo sat down and smiled. “Fancy meeting you here. Do you come here often?”
“To be honest, I wouldn’t be here except this adorable, charming guy asked me to meet him here.” Reese shook his head and laughed. Leo’s heart skipped a beat as he watched the light brown curls fall perfectly back into place around a face that was even more handsome when Reese smiled. Reese noticed the intense look that Leo was giving him, and he blushed.
“Aw, come on. This is a beautiful spot to stare out at the ocean and think. I come here a lot, and this is the beach where my brother and I run almost every morning.”
“This will not be my place of Zen. I won’t be here at all unless I am here with you. I’m not a fan of the water.”
“Don’t you swim? You’re from D.C., right? Even if you don’t go to the beach, what about pools? I love the water. I swim almost as much as I run.”
Reese frowned. “This isn’t usually my ‘get to know me’ conversation starter, but I almost drowned when I was six years old. I haven’t been in the water since. I sometimes even have a little anxiety in the shower. I guess that’s why I knew how to help you calm down earlier. I’ve been there.”
Leo reached out and put a comforting hand on Reese’s shoulder. “Maybe we have a lot more in common than either of us realize.”
Reese looked questioningly at Leo, but he remained quiet.
Leo shrugged. “It’s a story for another day.” Then Leo smiled, his eyes twinkling. “Do you trust me, Reese?”
Reese cocked his head to the side. “I barely know you, but, yes, I think I do trust you.” Then he raised one eyebrow. “Why do you ask?”
Leo stood and turned to face Reese. “Take off your shoes and socks.” His eyes raked up and down Reese’s body. “And your shirt.”
Reese smirked. “Can I keep my shorts and undies on?”
Leo huffed out a laugh as he took his shoes and socks off. “What kind of undies are we talking about?”
Reese let out a loud laugh. “Boxer briefs if you must know.”
Leo stripped off his shirt and piled it on top of his shoes. “In that case, it should be safe to take off your shorts if you want.”
“I think I’ll keep them on… for now. What are we doing?”
“Going into the water.”
“What?! I just told you….”
Leo reached out and took Reese’s hand. “I will be right there the whole time. I will not let go. We don’t have to go in too far. And just like you told me this morning, you will always be safe with me around.”
Reese blushed. “You heard that?”
“I heard everything. I couldn’t answer at the time, but I heard everything.”
Reese sighed. “Ok. I’ll go.” He turned to look directly into Leo’s eyes. “Promise me that you won’t let go.”
Leo held tighter to Reese’s hand. “I promise that I will not let go.” Hand in hand, the two boys walked toward the water’s edge.
Reese felt the cold, wet sand squishing between his toes and felt the waves splashing against his legs. He looked down and saw that he was up to his knees in the ocean. He looked nervously over at Leo, his eyes pleading. “Can we go back now?”
Leo smiled. “Yeah. You went in further than I thought you would. Maybe next time, you’ll go even further!”
Reese’s eyes widened. “Next time?! I’m not sure about that!” He turned and started to walk out of the ocean, but his foot slipped, and he fell, dragging Leo down on top of him. Both boys tumbled and rolled around in the wet sand and shallow water. Reese let out a rather high-pitched scream, and Leo scrambled to his feet and pulled the other boy beyond the reach of the splashing waves.
Leo plopped back down on the sand and looked over at Reese. “Are you ok? I should have had a tighter hold on you. The wet sand can be slippery, especially if you’re not used to it.”
“Not your fault. I’m not usually that klutzy. I’m just glad that I didn’t hurt my ankle. That would have screwed up my chances at the cheer squad!”
“Maybe we better test out your ankle.” Leo got up and extended a hand to help Reese to his feet. He pulled Reese up and slipped an arm around the other boy’s waist to support him while he tested his ankle. With an arm still wrapped around the waist of the wet and shirtless Reese, Leo turned his head and found himself staring into Charlie’s dark brown eyes.
“Oh! Hey! Hi! Oh my, God, what time is it?” Leo sputtered.
Charlie’s face was expressionless. “Nearly six. I am a little early. Am I interrupting? Do you want to cancel our,” He glanced from Reese back to Leo. “date… or whatever it is. Should I leave?”
“No!” Leo nearly yelled. “I’m so sorry. You’re not so much early as I am late. This isn’t,” He motioned at Reese and himself. “what it looks like it is. Reese is a friend. I’m going to be teaching him how to swim. Today was the first lesson, and time got away from me. Please don’t leave.”
Reese raised his eyebrows. “Swimming lessons? You’d do that for me?”
Leo grinned. “Of course. I’ll see you back here tomorrow. Do you have cheer practice? I can be here at three instead of four tomorrow. No practice for me.”
“Three works for me, too. I’ll see you at school tomorrow anyway.” Reese turned his gaze onto Charlie. “It was nice to meet you. Have fun tonight.” Then Reese walked off the beach, through the parking lot, and out of sight.
Leo focused his attention entirely on Charlie. “I am sorry about that. Let me throw my shirt and shoes on, and we can start our date.”
“Do you need to get changed or anything?”
“I hadn’t planned on getting my hair wet, but it’ll dry in no time.” Leo waved at the cloudless sunny sky.
“Where are we off to then? Another carnival?” Charlie waggled his eyebrows.
Leo blushed. “I thought we could walk around the Village. It’s a bunch of shops and restaurants and decorations but set up to look like a colonial village. Then, later, maybe a moonlit walk along the beach. We’ll see what happens from there.” Leo was still blushing as he gave Charlie a shy smile.
“I am on board with that plan.” Charlie grinned and sat next to Leo while Leo put his shoes, socks, and shirt back on. Then they left the beach and walked toward Pebble Beach Village.
Leo and Charlie walked through the Village eating ice cream cones. “This is cool. It’s like an outdoor mall but themed to colonial America.” Charlie said.
“I’ve been here so often that I barely notice that anymore, but I suppose it’s cool if you’re an Aussie tourist,” Leo smirked.
Charlie grinned. “Exactly! I’m sure that I’d feel the same way showing you some of the places back home in Australia.”
Leo finished his ice cream cone, threw his napkin away, and took Charlie’s hand. He arched one eyebrow. “Are you ready for that moonlit stroll on the beach?”
“Absolutely.” Charlie grinned.
They got to the beach, and Leo asked. “Which way do you want to go? I can show you cool places and secluded areas in either direction.”
“Can we head to the lighthouse first so that I can get rid of these shopping bags?”
“Good idea. Let’s go.”
After Charlie dropped his bags off at the lighthouse, the two boys walked back up the beach toward Leo’s house. Leo took Charlie’s hand and pulled him toward a hidden trail halfway there. The steep path wound its way through a small grove of trees and ended at a cliff overlooking the ocean.
“Oh wow, this is beautiful, Leo. Is this where you bring all the boys?” Charlie winked.
Leo rolled his eyes and grinned. “There’s only ever been one other boy, and we did come up here, so, technically, the answer to your question is yes.”
“How can someone as beautiful as you not have dozens of guys fighting to be your boyfriend?”
“I’m picky.” Leo shrugged.
Leo leaned in and kissed Charlie. Charlie was still trying to talk, so Leo cupped the back of his neck and pulled him in closer. Leo traced the edges of Charlie’s lips with his tongue and then dove in, their tongues battling for dominance. Leo broke the kiss only long enough to pull Charlie’s shirt over his head.
Charlie still hesitated. “Are you sure you wanna do this? What about that guy….”
Leo pulled his shirt off and tossed it on the ground. “I am sure that I want to do this. I am single, and I like you, Charlie. I like you a lot. I know you won’t be here for long, and I accept that. I don’t know what will happen after you leave. Will we try to make it work? Will things between Reese and me change? I don’t know.” Leo shrugged. “But right now, I want to rock your world if you want me to.” Leo winked and started unbuttoning his jeans.
“That’s good enough for me,” Charlie said with a grin as he stripped out of the rest of his clothes.
Leo and Charlie sat naked, wrapped in each other’s arms, looking out at the ocean. Leo blushed and looked over at Charlie. “Are you disappointed that we didn’t do…. that?”
“What?! Disappointed?! No way! What we did was beyond amazing. I know that you know that that was the first time I ever even went that far, right? I told you that behind the carnival.”
Leo smiled. “Eighteen and never had a blowjob. I’m honored to be your first. You did awesome for a first-timer, by the way. You’ll make some Aussie boy incredibly happy someday.” Leo huffed out a laugh.
Charlie blushed and grinned. “I hope I made you happy today.”
“Oh, you did. You definitely did. I haven’t been with anyone other than myself in months. I really enjoyed that, especially since it was you.” Leo sighed. “Why can’t you just move here permanently!”
Charlie leaned in and kissed Leo softly. “I can’t. I told you all that. I have obligations back home.”
Leo snaked his fingers through Charlie’s hair and kissed him back. The kiss continued until both boys had to break apart, breathless.
Charlie’s face was flushed, and he was breathing heavily. “If you keep kissing me like that, I might need to go for round two.”
Leo smirked. “Oh, I fully intended for a round two.” He placed a hand flat against Charlie’s smooth, firm chest and pushed him down onto the grass.
The two boys walked off the trail and onto the beach, still buttoning buttons and tucking in shirts. They took a turn and headed toward Leo’s house. “Gonna be cutting it close to curfew, but I should make it. Tonight was a lot of fun, Charlie.” Leo grinned.
“A night that I will never forget,” Charlie said with a dreamy smile plastered on his face.
“Are you free tomorrow night? I don’t want to intrude on any plans you have with your mom.”
“I’ll work something out and text you the details.” Charlie motioned toward the fence bordering the beach. “I believe this is your stop, sir.” He grinned.
Leo walked up to the fence, then turned and leaned against it. He grabbed the front of Charlie’s shirt and pulled him in close. Leo looked up into the taller boy’s eyes. “What were we thinking? What have we done to ourselves?”
“Do you regret it?”
“No, I don’t regret it. I’d do it again, but that doesn’t mean we won’t get hurt.”
“I know. Let’s just keep taking this one day at a time. Tonight was amazing. You are beyond amazing.”
“So are you.” Leo kissed Charlie then pulled back. “All I’m trying to say is that I hope we don’t get our hearts broken by this. You’re leaving any day now, and you’re not moving a couple of towns away. You are going ten thousand miles away to the other side of the world. You’re going back home, and you have no intention of coming back anytime soon.”
“We both knew that going into this. Maybe this was a mistake, but I regret nothing. The entire purpose of this trip to America was to experience new things. To see and do things that I’ve never seen or done. I thought New York and Boston would be the highlights of my American adventure. I expected Pebble Cove to be just a blip on the map. Tall ships and sea museums sounded fun, but they didn’t sound life-altering. Then I met a boy on the beach who turned my time here into the best couple of days of my life.” Charlie leaned down for a kiss. “And we still have tomorrow to add to that. For now, let’s not think past tomorrow, ok?”
“I can do that. Nothing exists past tomorrow, but I have to get in the house in less than five minutes for us to get to tomorrow. Stupid curfew!” Leo laughed.
Charlie cupped the back of Leo’s neck and kissed him. He sucked on Leo’s bottom lip and gently bit it, then he pulled back and grinned. “Every bit of you tastes sweet enough to eat.”
Leo grinned. “Right back at ya, babe.” Then he turned, jumped the fence, and sprinted toward his house.
The sun barely peeked over the horizon as Kam turned his head to look at his brother. “Late nights are becoming a habit for you, big bro. I was awake before you again.”
“We got out here at the usual time, didn’t we?” Leo chuckled as they ran toward the lighthouse.
“Barely.” Kam laughed. “How was your date? And your pre-date date?”
“Don’t start with me, Kameron. Ugh! Six months… six months! I was miserably single and heartbroken. There were days when I even briefly… briefly I said… considered going back to Jazz. Now I find someone, yes he is a tourist, but still… I find someone I like, and then the perfect boy shows up in town!”
“Perfect boy? It kind of sounds like you’ve made your decision. I will agree that the tourist is a hottie, but so is Reese. And Reese lives here. No-brainer in my book.”
“Should we talk about the fact that that is the third time you’ve called a guy hot in the last couple of days? Do you have any news of your own to share, little brother?”
“I’m fourteen. I’m allowed to be curious, right?” Kam laughed. “But, lately, I’ve been admiring both guys and girls. Don’t even ask which I like better. I don’t even know. Both, I guess.” Kam shrugged as they continued running up the beach. “Back to you, bro. What’re you going to do with your two boys? I really can’t picture you juggling them both. You’re not the type.”
“You don’t even know how right you are. There’s no way I could ever juggle two relationships. I don’t even want to try. I took things to another level with Charlie last night, but now all I can think about is Reese. I have to figure out what I want before Charlie goes home, and I ruin my chances with Reese, and I end up alone again.”
“Wait. Hold up. Did you have sex with the tourist last night?”
“You know his name is Charlie, Kam. You can stop saying tourist, and yes, I guess? Oral sex, to be exact. Twice.”
Kam shook his head. “I think that was a mistake, but since you and Reese aren’t a thing yet, you didn’t cheat. I know you must like Charlie a lot to do that, but get your head out of your ass, bro. He’s flying halfway around the world in another day or two, and you’ll never see him again. A long-distance relationship from here to Boston wouldn’t work, never mind one from here to Australia.”
“You’re right. I just need to make sure that I’m not settling for Reese. I need to make sure that I’m choosing him because it’s him that I want.”
“Let me throw your own words back at you. You referred to Reese as ‘the perfect boy,’ and you can’t get him out of your head even though you just had sex with someone else. I think, subconsciously, you’ve already made your choice. You have to be completely honest with both of them before all three of you get hurt. Tell Reese what happened with Charlie and tell Charlie how you feel about Reese and see what happens.”
“That’s a pretty mature analysis. Are you sure that you’re not the older brother?”
“Haha! I’m sure. I’ve never even had a boyfriend or a girlfriend or any serious romantic relationship, for that matter, but I do watch a lot of tv.” Kam shrugged and laughed.
“I still have to get Brandon caught up on all my drama. I’m sure he’ll have some opinions to share, too.”
“Oh, I’m sure his advice will be way more colorful than mine,” Kam said as the two boys jumped the fence and crossed the street. As they ran into the house to get ready for school, Kam yelled out. “I’ll jump in the shower first. You fix breakfast for us.” Then he ran up the stairs.
Leo saw Reese waiting at the bus stop. With all the last day and a half’s events bouncing around inside of his head, he needed time before he faced Reese. So, he slowed down and hung back and waited until the other boy was on the bus before he got on. Reese waved to Leo. “Wanna sit here?” Reese motioned toward the empty seat next to him.
“Hey. Good morning. Sorry. Brandon is already saving me a seat in the back.” Leo said as he gave Reese a small smile and kept walking. He reached the back of the bus and sat next to Brandon, who looked at him suspiciously.
“That looked awkward,” Brandon said with one eyebrow raised.
Leo rolled his eyes. “It was. I have so much to tell you!”
“Who are you, and what have you done with my boring bestie?” Bran laughed. “You need to start talking, mister. You’ve had Jazz drama and encounters with not one but two boys. The texts have all been cryptically vague. Spill the tea and spill it now!”
“Ok! Chill!” Leo huffed out a laugh. “I told you about meeting Charlie on Sunday and how he saved me from Matt. Then I also told you that I was going out with him Monday night after school. That was the story I intended to tell you yesterday before all that drama in the cafeteria. Anyway, Monday night, I took Charlie to the carnival.” Leo continued to tell his story to Brandon. He told him about the carnival. He told him about after the carnival. He told him about everything that had happened the last two days. He finished just as the bus pulled into the school parking lot.
“Wow! You did that with the tourist? And now you can’t stop thinking about him?” As Brandon said ‘him,’ he pointed ahead of them at Reese.
“Pretty much, yeah. I mean, I don’t regret what I did. I like Charlie, but I think I could build something special with Reese. I have to tell them both today. I hope Reese understands.”
“He should. You guys did hang out, but he knew you were going on a date with Charlie. You didn’t do anything wrong, Leo.” Bran thought for a minute. “Let me be clear, though. Yesterday you didn’t do anything wrong. If you’re sure now that it’s Reese that you want to be with, you need to tell them both today. I know you well enough to know that you’d hate yourself if you did anything to hurt them. On the other hand, I might try to talk them both into a three-way before the Aussie goes home!” Brandon snickered.
Leo rolled his eyes. “Of course, you would.” Then he laughed. “You told me exactly what I needed to hear, Bran. I already feel nervous preparing to tell Reese about last night. That’s enough to tell me that it’s him that I want to be with. It wouldn’t bother me if I didn’t care about him.”
“Exactly. The bell is about to ring. Let’s go before we’re late for class. Good luck today, bestie.” Brandon said, and they hurried into the school building.