I already had six bouquets of stargazer lilies in my shopping cart and was examining the seventh when I realized that this sexy Latin guy was cruising me. Though I am undeniably cute -- my friends kid me that I look like I just stepped out of an Abercrombie and Fitch ad -- it’s not me; it’s the Publix. When they built this new grocery in a funny corner of South Beach, it became cruise central. And no, I don’t mean those big ocean liners -- though you can see them a few blocks away.
I looked up, and he was standing right by my wagon, sniffing. When he saw me looking at him, he got all embarrassed and said, “Sorry, they just smell so great.” He had the slightest Spanish accent and a baritone voice that made me go all mushy inside.
He wore a dark green Ralph Lauren polo shirt that showed off his deep tan, faded, butt-molded jeans, and scuffed cowboy boots. Even though I was in the middle of a crisis -- finding bunches of lilies for a party my client was holding in less than two hours -- I had to stop and flirt. A boy’s got to do what a boy’s got to do. “And they’re gorgeous,” I said. We made direct eye contact, and I smiled.
I have a killer smile. I suffered through two years of orthodontia for it, and since I kissed my first boy at fourteen, I’ve been unleashing it on sexy guys.
From smiling, these guys and I proceed to flirting. And then to bed. That’s the way I liked my relationships: quick, dirty, and fun. I was twenty-six years old, and I lived in the biggest gay candy store in the world. Why tie myself down with jelly beans when there were licorice, gumballs, and chocolate drops out there?
I was moving toward sealing the deal with my Latin lover when Jean-Jacques Valentin roared up. He may be my best friend in all the world, and I appreciate the way he pitches in to help me out when I’m on the brink of disaster, but his timing sucks. He’s a six-two flaming Haitian queen, and sometimes he comes on too strong.
“I found these darling dishes in the kitchenware aisle,” Jean-Jacques said, holding up six pottery bowls in a celadon green. “If you’ve got some Styrofoam and some wire, problem solved!”
He skidded to a stop next to my cart and looked from me to the sexy cowboy, who said, “Well, see you around,” and pushed off.
I elbowed Jean-Jacques and whispered fiercely, “That was my after-dinner treat you just chased away!”
“Oh, honey, there’ll be six more treats for you at the party tonight. Get over your gorgeous blond self.”
At the mention of the word party, I zapped back to earth. After four years of organizing events at trendy South Beach clubs, working my way up from passing out flyers on the beach to hosting every rap star, B-list actress, hunk of the moment, and fashion-victim heiress, I’d begun organizing private events outside the club circuit.
This party was the launch for a new condo on West Avenue -- on one of the few tiny pieces of land that doesn’t already have a high-rise on it. I’d been introduced to the owners by my old friend, Vladislav Solonenko, or Vlad the Impaler as I started to call him the first time he butt-fucked me with his monster dick. Vlad’s an investor, with his hands in many different South Beach ventures. Some are frightened that he’s part of the Russian mafia, but I’ve seen him cry over TV commercials.
My job: take an empty lot littered with trash and surrounded by a chain-link fence, and create a South Seas fantasy that embodied the developer’s concept: the Balinese, a teak-and-tapa-cloth condo-hotel for the ultrarich. And I’d been doing a damn good job until my flower delivery arrived, and I discovered that someone had forgotten to include water with the floral centerpieces. The result? You don’t want to know. Hence the quick dash to Publix.
We grabbed the flowers and those darling little bowls, and as we hurried to finish every last detail, I forgot all about my Latin lover. That is, until later that night, when we stood eye to eye on opposite sides of a scale model of the hotel, two low-rise towers surrounded by lush landscaping -- all in papier-mâché, of course. For once, I was speechless. Fortunately, he wasn’t.
“Looks like the lilies did solve your problem,” he said.
He cleaned up nicely. In place of his work clothes, he wore a beautifully fitted tuxedo with narrow lapels that accentuated his broad shoulders and his narrow waist. His white tux shirt was immaculately pressed and shone like a spotlight. Most men can’t carry off a bow tie, but he could -- in black silk, and hand-tied to boot. “I’m Javier Marisco,” he said, sticking out his hand.
So much for the idea that he was an ordinary workman. I knew from Vlad that Javier was one of the most successful small developers on the beach, and that Vlad had invested in one of his condo conversions. “Adam Beller,” I said, reaching toward him. Our hands met over a papier-mâché palm tree. His was rough, sun-burned, and calloused, but his grip was strong. I felt like someone had just plugged me into an electric socket.
“Party planner to the stars,” Javier said. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“All of it true. Except for that story about the men’s room at Club Deco. That’s a total fabrication.”
“Ah, and that’s my favorite story,” Javier said. “I’m disappointed.”
“You’re a flirt, is what you are.”
“And you’re not?”
We were still holding hands, and our gazes were locked on each other. “Perhaps,” I said. “I’ve been called worse.”
He released his grip. “You’ll have to tell me all your secrets.”
“Please. At least buy me dinner first.”
“I’ll do that. How about after the party?”
I ran through a mental checklist at hyperspeed. The developer had already given his welcome speech, and we’d finished all the black bowfin caviar, the champagne, and almost all the divine pastries baked specially for me by an elderly French woman whose name I guard more fiercely than the list of men I’ve slept with.
At least half the guests had left, and the rest would probably filter away within the next half hour, depending on how fast the Guatemalan valets could bring their luxury vehicles around from the empty lot down the street. I could trust Jean-Jacques with the cleanup. Vlad was hosting an after-party at Privé, but I knew he’d never miss me. “Sure,” I said. “Give me about an hour?”
“I’ll be waiting.” He smiled and turned as one of the bitchiest female real estate brokers on the beach grabbed him by the arm and dragged him away to someone he just had to meet.
After saying good-bye to Vlad and the developer, giving Jean-Jacques directions, and air-kissing a dozen women with big boobs, puffy lips, and flat skin --none of it part of the original package -- I slipped off to the men’s room in the sales trailer for a quick evaluation.
I’d been on the go since noon, with only a mad dash home between Publix and the party for a quick change into tuxedo and patent leather loafers. Fortunately, my industrial-strength hair gel had kept every delicate blond lock in place, though I was starting to get some nine-o’clock shadow. I was just peering in the mirror trying to assess the situation when the door swung open, and Javier Marisco walked in.
“Don’t change a thing for me,” he said.
I spun around, embarrassed to be caught at my toilette, and he stepped right up and kissed me.
Such a simple word, kissed. It doesn’t do justice to what happened between Javier and me. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled my body close to his. His cologne smelled of citrus and salt water, and his recently shaved face was smooth against my own light stubble.
I wrapped my hands around his head as our lips met. Just the lightest pressure at first, and then both of us parted our lips and pressed harder. I felt every point at which our tuxedo-clad bodies touched, through all those layers of cotton, silk, and tropical-weight wool, and it was like dozens of tiny fireworks explosions going off in my head. Our tongues danced, our noses brushed, my heart started skipping beats, and my dick jumped to attention. It was way more than just a kiss.
I pulled back. “I believe you promised me dinner.”
“Absolutely.” He took my hand, and I followed him out into the deserted sales office. I waved to Jean-Jacques as we passed the Polynesian fantasy tent -- now being broken down into its component parts for return to the rental company -- and Javier and I walked out to West Avenue.
He led me a few blocks away to Barton G’s, where he commandeered us a private table in an alcove of brown and bronze suede. He ordered an array of elegant, delectable food that I hardly tasted, because I was so busy drinking him in. Under the table, our feet rested against each other.
“I started working as a carpenter on the beach when I was seventeen,” he said, between appetizer and entrée. “I lived with my parents in Hialeah and took two buses every day to get to work. I saved every penny I could, and I closed on my first building the day after I got my construction management degree from FIU.”
I loved the way he talked, the occasional rolled r
, the way every Spanish word -- even street names -- got the perfect Castilian pronunciation. He was almost unbelievably handsome: dark curly hair, with one stray lock that dropped over his forehead; cinnamon skin, deep green eyes, and lips that were so full and luscious I longed to kiss them again. “And when did you know you were gay?” I took a sip from my glass of Chilean chardonnay.
He laughed. “You get to the point, don’t you?”
“Teenaged boy taking two buses every day to hang out on South Beach. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure it out.”
“Took me a while. Being Cuban, I didn’t want to think about the possibility that I could be a maricón
, as my father would say. That is, until I kissed a guy for the first time, when I was about nineteen. Then I knew.”
“I knew in boarding school. Deerfield. I was fourteen. Heaven is being a gay boy at an all-boys’ school.”
“I had my protectors.”
The waiter brought our entrées. I tried to eat slowly, to savor the delicious food, but as Javier rubbed the side of my leg with his foot, I wanted to scramble under the table and suck his dick, or drag him into the men’s room and make out. I ached to do something -- anything -- to stop the exquisite torture of longing to kiss those lips again, to see what that body looked like when it was stripped of its tuxedo, to feel him pressing up against me one more time.
“Coffee? Dessert?” the waiter asked as he cleared away our plates. My eyes locked on Javier’s, and I knew that he felt the same fire I did.
“Just the check, please,” Javier said. Those four words have never sounded so beautiful. He turned to me after the waiter left and said, “I have an apartment in the Madrigal, a building I renovated across from the marina. We could take our time and walk over there -- or grab a cab.”
“Javier, sometime soon I’d love to take a nice, long moonlit walk with you around South Beach. But right now, I’d rather fall into the backseat of a cab with you and start making out.”