Thursday, May 31, 2012

Beach Balls by Tara Lain

Adam James is so far in the closet he could find Narnia. But coming out would threaten all he's built as the attorney for the homophobic WMA Development, and the million-dollar paycheck waiting for him once they push their big land development deal through the city council. Then, on an early morning scuba dive, Adam meets a tall, lean rebreather diver named Sky who makes him want to live a different life.

Sky Sea Mickeljohn doesn't compromise. He knows what he stands for and stands for it openly: the environment, world peace, and being gay. So how could he find himself lusting after a damned developer? Especially the one working on the WMA land development deal, which would put thousands of people at risk by developing a toxic waste site they have neither the capital nor the know-how to clean up? And worse, what's going to happen when someone opens Adam's closet door?

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Movement. Was that a diver? Adam swam toward the wavering outline. No bubbles. Couldn’t be a diver. A shark? Excited, he swam closer. It was a person. The diver’s wetsuited back was to Adam. The tall, lanky guy seemed to be studying something closely.
How the hell did he get around so freely? His tanks were small, light. Rebreather tanks probably. That system reused the exhaled oxygen and scrubbed the carbon dioxide. Rebreathers didn’t need such big tanks because nothing was wasted. And no bubbles. Adam had never seen a rebreather rig up close. Not a lot of sports divers used them.
Who was this guy? He might as well be standing in his backyard he looked so at home. And what was he doing?
Adam floated a little closer. He caught his breath. Ah, an octopus. The guy was looking at an octopus. Maybe better to say he was kind of dancing with it. The octopus still had a few of its arms inside a hole in some coral but the rest were waving from side to side. Kind of like it appreciated the guy but was telling him not to come too close.
OK, Adam was losing it. Anthropomorphizing an octopus.
He wanted to see better. His bubbles flowed upward as he swam closer. The other diver turned,  his movements languid. His hand rose up toward Adam, warning him off.
Well hell, it wasn’t his octopus. Adam swam to the right, and the guy blocked him. Asshole. Adam rushed to the right again and got around him just in time to see…the octopus pull back into its hole and disappear. Shit!
He turned toward the guy. Hell, all he’d wanted to do was see the fucking octopus. He put his hands on his hips trying to show his pissoffness. The guy shook his head and waved his arms at Adam. Double asshole. Adam turned back toward the hole where the creature had vanished. Maybe he could get the critter to come back out. He swam forward.
A hard hand grabbed his arm. Damn.Who did this guy think he was? Adam whirled as ferociously as the ocean, a mask, regulator, and two huge tanks would allow, and the other diver backed off with his hands up. Adam frowned and then realized how stupid that was. The man couldn’t see his expression. The octopus was completely invisible, so there wasn’t much going on. Adam wouldn’t get in an underwater fist-fight over a vanished cephalopod.
The other diver was still watching Adam closely.
Shit, he was done. No octopus. No peace. He might as well go back to Carly’s and have sex. With a push of his foot, he swam toward the surface.
A half hour later, he lay on the sand still annoyed about the asshole and the octopus. Why had the guy been like that? They could have shared the creature.
Oh, well. He should go back inside and get another hit of Gary, but it felt good just lying on the sand. He’d purposefully chosen a stretch of beach without many kids. Less noise, but still close to Carly’s.
He raised himself onto an elbow. Everyone else would be up by now. Way up. Maybe he’d see who he could find. If he was honest, Gary was almost too much of a good thing. The guy swore he wouldn’t care or be jealous. Of course, Adam had heard that before. He glanced over at the kayak full of Carly’s scuba gear. Might as well get to it…
And there he was. Rising from the sea like some merman. Not a bubble. Not a ripple. The diver just appeared, manifested by Neptune. Was he the octopus guy? He had to be. A tall, slim figure strode through the shallow water navigating the surf like it wasn’t there. Like it couldn’t drag him down and out to sea.
He stopped at the waterline and pulled off the tanks, unfastened the hood of his wetsuit and shoved it back, then shook his head like a dog and fluffed out light brown curls that surrounded his head like a halo.
Perfect, because from this distance the guy’s face looked totally like an angel. Wide eyes, full lips, and high cheekbones that gave him a slightly hollow-cheeked look.
He walked a few more steps and dropped the rig then dragged down the wetsuit, revealing a long, lean body, thin but well-muscled like a long-distance runner. He must spend a lot of time in the sun if he was a diver, but his skin was only a pale tan. Man, under his bathing suit he would be alabaster. What else was under that bathing suit?
The diver was so mesmerizing Adam forgot to be pissed. The guy started to gather up his stuff. Adam jumped up. “Excuse me.”
The angel face turned toward him. Neutral. Maybe he didn’t recognize him from the underwater encounter.
Adam took a couple steps toward him. “Hey, I’m the guy you chased off the octopus down there. I know you got there first and all, but hell, all I wanted to do was see the thing. You didn’t have to make a huge deal out of it.”
A crease appeared between the arched eyebrows. “Your bubbles. They were bothering her. I had been coaxing her out for over an hour and then you came barging in like some hippopotamus.” The guy picked up his tanks and started walking.
Angelface stopped and looked back.
OK, why had Adam stopped him? What did he want? “I’m, uh, sorry. I didn’t realize. I just saw the thing and really wanted a better look.”
“There’s a nice aquarium in Long Beach.”

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