Excerpt #2 from Awakenings, by Tara Larson

January 6, 2012

SOON Adam’s shift was over. Sean, still a little buzzed but functional, followed Adam through the lobby of the hotel and out of the door that led to the pool and the beach, carrying a to-go cup of water with him.

The hotel grounds were amazing. The sprawling lawn, which the Delano formally called the “Orchard,” was ornately lit up and decorated as a tropical, Alice in Wonderland fairy tale, with odd tables here and there surrounded by mismatched chairs and laden with dripping candelabras and odd lamps, a giant chessboard, and an oversized bed in the middle of the perfectly manicured grass. The sound of rustling palm branches murmured overhead and the pool twinkled in the distance. There were people milling about, drinking exotic-looking cocktails and martinis. The warm night air was thick with the salty scent of the ocean and carried the unmistakable aroma of Cuban cigars on the breeze. People giggled and chatted by the pool, some sitting on half-submerged chairs in the shallow end of the sloping, beach entry-style pool with their feet dangling in the shimmering water. On the distant horizon, heat lightning flashed like a disco strobe light, just like Adam promised. It was an outdoor party and everyone was invited.

A group of gorgeous, bikinied ladies in a pool-side cabana caught sight of Adam and Sean as they strolled by and purred a collective, “Ooooh, look at that!” toward the two hunky men. Sean felt a blush of embarrassment, but Adam, in his calm self-awareness, turned toward the ladies in the cabana and gave them a smooth half smile and cocked his eyebrows in their direction in mutual appreciation.

Sean smiled at Adam’s confidence, admiring him. Here was a guy completely sure of himself, completely comfortable in his own skin. Sean was always much more modest than that. And yet, Adam wasn’t cocky at all. He was a perfectly balanced creature, it seemed: half masculine, half feminine qualities, and immensely appealing to all who came in contact with him, apparently.

Sean felt himself letting go. It was an exhilarating feeling. He wanted more. In fact, he never wanted to stop feeling this way. He followed Adam to a set of beach chaises.

Adam said, while removing his shoes, “Let’s leave these here.” The sand felt remarkably soft under Sean’s feet, and he allowed his toes to dig into the sand as he walked. The moon sparkled on the ocean in a white, reflective pool. “So what do you think?” Adam said curiously.

“It’s amazing,” replied Sean. “I never want to leave. I love the ocean. I’ve been landlocked, in every way possible, it seems, for way too long….”

The soft ocean breeze whipped Adam’s hair, and Sean could smell his scent as their steps in the uneven sand brought them closer together. It was an alluring, sweet, woodsy smell, like sandalwood or amber.

Suddenly something in the scent jolted Sean’s memory. He remembered his recurring dream about the glowing angel guiding him to a safe escape behind the musky, glowing wooden doorway. He gasped a little and turned to look at Adam’s face, trying through the darkness to recognize his features from the dream. There was a resemblance, but Sean wasn’t sure it was, or could be, the same man. Not that he believed in fairy tales or anything, but still. It was just too strange a feeling, too strange a coincidence. Adam didn’t notice Sean’s discerning gaze in the dark.

“You should live here, then,” replied Adam, looking ahead of them down the beach, “Seriously. I mean, if you’re so unhappy where you are. Why stay unhappy?”

Sean reflected on his words for a moment and said, “You know, I would give almost anything to be able to do that—move here and start over.”

Adam smiled and looked down at his feet and then out to the horizon over the ocean. “You only live once. Why wait? I don’t believe in regrets. You should go for it.”

It’s got to be him, Sean thought, slightly bewildered. His heart swelled with this new awareness. It feels the same. But what can that mean?

Heat lightning exploded in a spider-web pattern across the far horizon.

AS THEY passed around a seawall they realized they were alone together in the darkness, shrouded by the high wall. They stopped walking, and Adam turned to face Sean; Sean leaned his back against the seawall and turned his head to face the moon. A current of chemistry was building between them; Sean’s heart pounded with nervous anticipation.

Adam took a small step toward Sean and stopped.

They stood silently together for just a moment, Sean looking out over the ocean and the night sky and Adam looking intently at Sean. Adam was a few years older and just an inch or two taller than Sean, but barefoot in the sand, they seemed equally matched.

“I, ah,” Adam began, and he briefly looked out to the ocean to gather his thoughts for a moment before turning back to Sean. “I… like you, Sean Morgan. You seem really frustrated, though, and I hate to see that. I hope you can get to a place where you’re on better footing. It’s just a shame to see such a promising guy feeling so lost in the world.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s true,” Sean said as he turned back to face Adam. He was a little startled by the intensity in Adam’s face. Sean wasn’t afraid of him, he was just surprised. Adam looked seriously hot.

I promised myself I would go with the flow….

“You know,” Sean continued, “I know, I, ah, just met you and all, but… there’s something intriguing and, if you don’t mind me saying so, very magnetic about you. I’ve never, um, well, it’s a little weird for me to say this, but… you make me feel like there’s hope for me, you know?”

Adam smiled in return. “Of course there’s hope for you. Don’t let anyone tell you who you should be or what you should do with your life—no one. That includes me, of course,” he said, chuckling.

Normally Sean would have felt uncomfortable with the closeness between them and would have shifted his weight or stepped away from Adam, signaling his spatial boundary. But he stayed put and just gazed at Adam. He knew this was a silent invitation for something heavier, and he kind of liked it, although he was extremely nervous as well. His heart pounded faster and he held his breath as he waited for Adam to move in. He had no idea what to expect; he had never been like this with a guy before. He was resolved to see where it would lead.

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