MINE TO KEEP
Boys of Sinn Island 5
LEAH BLAKE Copyright © 2014
Jeremy Cortez turned his face away from the warm wash of sunlight and smiled at Dylan. He grabbed up his bag from the dock, slung it over his shoulder, and winked at his friend from behind his dark lenses. He was ready. Hell, more than ready for many different reasons.
Who wouldn’t be when their weekend boy toy would be arriving shortly? Hopefully, if everything played out as planned, Jeremy would be taking one big step into a new dimension of relationship. The topic had been lingering in the air between them for the past few weeks. It flashed in his lover’s eyes, caressed their lips, but never manifested into audible words.
Tonight, Jeremy would put a stamp of authenticity on their relationship.
His gaze landed on Dylan. His stomach twisted.
Yeah, and possibly tell your best friend you’re moving out.
That was one confrontation he didn’t mind putting off until the last possible minute. He didn’t want to hurt Dylan, but surely he knew this day would come.
Dylan’s lips quirked and his forehead creased. Jeremy followed the man’s gaze to the line of employees hovering to get a seat on the waiting golf carts and dune buggies. Dylan rubbed a hand over spiked brown hair that glistened in the golden sunlight. Muscles beneath his tanned skin bunched as he switched his oversized duffle bag from one shoulder to the other.
“The equivalent of rush hour in a major metropolitan area.”
“Walk it?” Jeremy suggested. Dylan nodded, and Jeremy clapped his shoulder. “We’ll snag us some late lunch from Sunrise on the way.”
Good thing Sinn was narrow. It’d still take them a decent length of time to cut across the island and reach the employee complex. Walking would do him good. His anxiety was mounting as the time quickly approached the start of shift at Breakers. He had so much to do to get ready for his lover’s arrival.
“Plans for the weekend?” Dylan asked. Jeremy shrugged, keeping his ideas quiet. No need to bring up a sure-to-be-sore topic of conversation before their workweek started.
“The usual. Hey, you want me to get that bag for you?” Jeremy reached for the strap on his friend’s duffle. “Shoulder still bothering you?”
“Eh.” Dylan switched shoulders again. “I’ve got it. You can carry the food.”
Dylan snickered, giving Jeremy’s narrow hip a playful pinch. Warmth flowed up Jeremy’s cheeks, pooling under his eyes. His damn cock stirred awake, a reaction Dylan’s playfulness always evoked. The man was beautiful and good-natured. He went out of his way to help others, to help him, and he never asked for much in return, not that Jeremy could deny any request.
“Don’t eat it all before we get to the complex. I’m damn near starving,” Dylan said, giving Jeremy a once-over. “Fuck, man, where the hell do you put half of the stuff you eat?” His stunning smile grew, lighting up his handsome face. “I’d love to see.”
Jeremy laughed, lifting his shirt to show off his six-pack. He gave his abs a hearty pat. “Right here, hot stuff.”
“Don’t call me that.” Dylan adjusted the growing bulge in his cargo shorts. “Makes me hard.”
Ah yes. That playfulness was addicting, even to Jeremy until his thoughts reverted back to his lover. He couldn’t help but wonder about Dylan. He’d wondered about his friend for over a year now, ever since the man took him by the hand and showed him what he’d been missing all his life. Without Dylan’s support and confidence, Jeremy might have been stuck in his tormented self, wanting to give into the sexual desires he held toward men while saving face— especially to his parents—in the arms of women.
But Dylan knew. Dylan sensed his need. Dylan helped him break free of the shell that held him back for the majority of his twenties. His best friend had turned into his first male lover, and over a year later, Jeremy couldn’t erase how much stronger their friendship had become afterward. A bond had been forged, one that nagged at the edges of his conscience whenever he found pleasure in another’s arms. Dylan’s tenderness had touched a special place deep in his soul. His friend had spent hours, days, weeks listening to his concerns and standing beside him to fight his inner battles. He had branded himself into Jeremy’s memory, a brand he would bear with pride.
Now, at twenty-eight, Jeremy had no fear of enjoying pleasures of men.
You’re gonna make some bastard a really lucky man one day.
He’d be a fool to insist the idea didn’t leave his stomach slightly edgy, but that wasn’t his place. Dylan was his closest friend, and despite their week of shared intimacy, the bond they built, they were just friends.
Carl’s my lover. My future.
They reached Sunrise, ordered take-out, and continued on their way to the employee complex. Jeremy popped open his container, pulled out a fry, and held it at Dylan’s lips. His friend took it without hesitation. He worked it between his lips, the long end bobbing in succession with each step. Man, he’d have no problem teasing Dylan a little by biting off that lingering piece of potato.
“You went back to the doc about that shoulder, didn’t you?” Jeremy asked. He didn’t like the way Dylan struggled to hide the obvious discomfort his bag caused. Maybe they should’ve waited for a ride.
“All’s good. The tear is getting better. It wasn’t that bad. The guy who T-boned my car was worse off.”
Jeremy got the fright of his life when he received the call from the emergency department telling him Dylan was involved in a serious accident. When he arrived, relief flooded him to find his friend sitting up in bed, watching television and messing around with a crossword puzzle. He had been lucky to walk away with a few scrapes and bruises and an injured shoulder.
“He shouldn’t have been fucking with his phone,” Jeremy muttered as he shoved a fry into his mouth to muffle his venomous thoughts. “That guy could’ve killed my best friend, and for what? A text? An email?”
Dylan slid his fingers between Jeremy’s and gave his hand a light squeeze. The simple connection between them injected a stream of warmth and comfort along his arm to settle in his chest.
“He didn’t kill me. I’m still here, Jer,” Dylan said, his voice silky and soothing.
Jeremy shook the sudden heaviness from his shoulders and cast Dylan a sideward glance. Yes, Dylan was alive and quite well. He wasn’t going to dwell on the accident. He spent a good amount of time thinking about alternate outcomes and how devastated he would have been. Losing Dylan would have been like losing half of his soul. He’d be lost without his friend.
But Dylan was right. He had survived, and that’s all that mattered.
Jeremy groaned after Dylan switched shoulders again, this time taking the bag without asking. “Are you still working on Fantasy? Or did the big boys switch you out to some pitiful sector this weekend?”
“I’m on Temptation.” Dylan reluctantly slipped the bag off his shoulder and traded it out for the food containers. “Sorry, Jer. I’m still sore from the impact.”
“You probably should’ve taken another weekend off. I’m sure management would’ve understood.”
Dylan shrugged. “Two weeks off would’ve been too much. Rent to pay, remember?”
“Damn it, Dylan. I would’ve covered you this month.” Jeremy rolled his eyes to the tree-shaded sky. “Really. How many times have you bailed me out before we landed this job? I’d rather see you well.”
Dylan’s lips curled, but his smile didn’t stretch as far as Jeremy would’ve liked to see. Despite the slight crinkling at the corner of his eye behind the sunglasses, the air around him felt…unsettled. It reminded Jeremy of a humid day in the dead of summer. Despite the sun shining and the cloudless and bright blue skies, breathing was a battle.
Right now, a similar heaviness lingered, and it scraped at Jeremy’s conscience.
The employee complex was alive with Sinn’s workers filing in and out of the employee lounge to check their schedules when they finally arrived. The security guards who floated floors at the club headed up to Breakers to get their weekend schedule. A few employees already hit the enormous pool, kicking back a few beers and catching a few rays before the fun had to be set aside to earn their generous paychecks.
Jeremy headed toward the unit he shared with Dylan. Once they were inside the quiet room, he pulled back the curtains and opened the balcony door to let fresh air circulate the closed in space.
Dylan set up the containers on the small dining table and took a seat. Jeremy joined him, his stomach growling at the succulent aroma of food after the hours of travel. The travel time was the only downfall to working on this remote island paradise, especially coming in from Pennsylvania. The first night of work was brutal after getting on a plane at six in the morning to get to Miami for the flight to the main island by ten-thirty and the additional forty-five minute charter to Sinn. Grueling, but well worth it.
One of these weeks, he’d take advantage of the small hotel Sinn owned on the outskirts of Miami for those employees wanting to get some rest before work. Maybe he would slip Carl in for a little pre- weekend fun. Or hell, he might as well move to the Panhandle to be closer to his lover, who resided in Alabama.
Jeremy watched Dylan take a bite from his burger. With his dark sunglasses pushed onto his gelled hair, he could better gauge his friend’s expressions. The man had some gorgeous blue-gray eyes that couldn’t forge a lie if his life depended on it. He often speculated whether Dylan was aware how readable he was. He donned his sunglasses most of the time, even at night.
“You on bar tonight? Or are you on strict island detail?” Jeremy asked, clearing his throat from the sudden swell Dylan was so good at manifesting and turning his attention to the juicy burger caught between his fingers. His mouth watered, his jaw tightened, and his dick hardened. The first two due to the food. The last due to the man sitting across the table.
Carl. Carl. Carl.
Damn, this was nothing new. Dylan was downright hot as hell. Even before Jeremy gave into his desires toward men, his friend could put him in a cock stand with a simple smile.
“I spoke with one of the managers, and he felt it’s best if I team up with one of the security guards for the weekend so I don’t strain my shoulder.” Dylan tore off a piece of the juicy meat and sucked it between his lips. “I’ll be back on bar next weekend.”
Jeremy sat back and raised his brows. “A security guard, ehh?”
Dylan snickered and shook his head. “A weekend, sweetheart. That’s all. It’s nothing permanent. I’m better with bottles.”
That was a truth Jeremy agreed with. Dylan didn’t have it in him to be cool and disassociated, like most of the security guards. Those men were a different breed. Jeremy pictured Rogue, one of Sinn’s notorious employees, and tried to fit Dylan in with Rogue’s demeanor. He almost laughed aloud at the image.
No, his dear friend was too honest, too caring, to put on an intimidating front. He liked to please people, not scare them away.
“You’re better wearing that wicked smile and your tease of a uniform.” Jeremy agreed with a wink. Dylan chuckled, but turned his gaze back to his food. The heaviness that’d been hovering turned a thick degree of suffocating. Jeremy sighed. “Hey, is everything okay? You’ve been a little, um, reserved.”
“Yeah.” Dylan lifted a fry to his mouth, hesitated, and lowered it back to the container. “No. Actually, Jer, I probably should tell you that when I spoke with the manager about working this weekend, I also requested a separate room.”
Jeremy stared at Dylan. His stomach revolted the burger sitting in his gut.
I didn’t just hear that right.
“I don’t want to be an inconvenience for you. You’re my closest friend, Jer. I’ve taken notice a few weeks prior to my accident that you weren’t coming back here some nights.” Dylan dabbed the paper napkin at the corners of his mouth and closed the container. “I don’t want to cause any discomfort for you.”
“Wait, you’re moving out?” Jeremy asked, leaning his elbows on the table. Dylan couldn’t go. He shouldn’t have to leave their room because of Jeremy’s relationship. He never brought Carl back here. Carl always brought him to his rented cottage. “No. No, don’t do that.”
Dylan offered a half-grin and stood. At last, his eyes lifted to Jeremy’s, and he was stunned by the degree of uncertainty laced in the story of his blues.
“I think it’s best. I’ve got a third-floor room across the way. It’s only for three nights a week. You’re still stuck with me four nights back home.”
Jeremy stared, aghast, as Dylan hoisted up his bag and food and headed for the door. Dylan was leaving. Since they started this job, they’d roomed together. Fuck, they’d roomed together for six years! Sure, Jeremy was planning to go the next step with Carl, but he didn’t want Dylan to leave.
“I think I open, so I want to get settled in and try and nap for an hour before getting ready.” He paused as he opened the door, glancing back at Jeremy. He couldn’t brush off the sudden clenching of his stomach or the offset beat of his heart. Everything in Dylan’s expression drew sincerity, but his eyes told a different, dreary story. “Hey, enjoy your time with him, okay?”
The click of the door closing snapped Jeremy out of his trance. He knew. He knew about Carl.
Jeremy groaned, shoving the container of food away and rubbing his chin. His eyes moved between the door and the abandoned seat across the table. He should be the one to ask for a different room. He should be the one to accommodate Dylan’s needs. After all, when he moves out of their apartment…
His chest ached, his head spun, and he couldn’t get the image of that swirl of unknown emotions in Dylan’s eyes out of his head.
He could only hope that Carl would make everything right.