Someone twisted my arm and encouraged me to participate in the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s HUGE event. Here’s a teaser to my story, which will be posted at some point in the future. Extra special thanks to Janalyn Barton, who came up with the resort name and makes a cameo appearance as Burke’s sister.
Sands of Thyme Excerpt
(M/M Contemporary, R)
By EM Lynley
Photo #2 Beach Feet
This vacation was not his idea, but when his sister bought him a vacation at a gay resort, he had no choice. All the men on lounges seemed so similar to a gay bar. How could he choose a man based on appearance alone? Them he saw a man looking at the water and sky through binoculars, sometimes writing in a notebook. Now our hero was intrigued.
Burke Williams squinted in the bright sun as he walked out of his hotel room and toward the beach. He had a bottle of sunscreen, a fat potboiler mystery novel and a brand-new pair of bright green swim trunks on. So new they sort of chafed in all the wrong spots. He ducked back into his room and grabbed a wide-brimmed straw hat off the hook near the door, made sure his plastic key card was in his pocket, and shuffled in the direction of the waves.
He sniffed. Top notes of salt, with a sort of fishy second note, and a coconut-suntan-lotion finish. Smells that caused images of long-past family beach vacations to bubble toward the surface of his consciousness. Family vacations. Family.
At the moment, Burke could do without family. He inhaled and let out a long sigh as he approached a row of lounge chairs on the beach, about twenty feet from the highest point the waves kissed the beach. He wandered down the line glancing at each of the figures reclining. Rows of men. Rows of men in various shades from pale to overcooked. All lined up like a buffet.
What else did he expect at a gay beach resort?
He nodded as he made eye contact with one man after another. Not a glimmer of interest in any of them. Burke let his gaze roam up one body and down another, shocked and in some cases appalled by the array of swim wear (and lack thereof). Suddenly his bright green trunks seemed so… inadequate. He couldn’t help looking towards the crotches, assessing the size and shape of the various lumps and outlines. One guy looked like he had a whole trout stuffed in there.
Burke shuddered. He didn’t want to go near any part of Trout-crotch’s body, nor have any of it touch him. He asked himself for the zillionth time why on earth he’d come.
Family, that’s why. Burke’s well-meaning sister, Janalyn, had bought this trip for him and staged an intervention to get him to the airport. She’d lured him with an invitation to his favorite restaurant and driven him to the airport instead.
But she had his best interests at heart, even if she had a sucky way of showing it.
“Burke, you’ve been working too hard. You need to take a break, ” she said the day before when she picked him up, ostensibly for a dim sum at a popular place south of San Francisco. He had a week off between consulting projects and she wanted him to relax and enjoy himself.
“This last project was huge. I couldn’t take any time off. The client was on our asses the whole time.”
“I don’t just mean time off. I mean ‘time off.’” Janalyn made some gesture which was probably supposed to be sexual but she didn’t do it correctly and it just made Burke laugh. He didn’t even realize she’d missed the restaurant exit and had taken the one for San Francisco International Airport until it was too late.
“Oh, you’ll have to drive through the whole airport to turn around here.”
“Not turning around,” Janalyn said cryptically as she pulled through to the Departures lane at SFO, put the car in park in front of the United Airlines terminal and set the emergency blinkers before forcing him out of the car. “Time for a real vacation. You’ll thank me for this!” she shouted.
He did not want to go on a vacation. He wanted to eat dim sum and go home and watch some movies on Netflix. “Ha. I can’t go anywhere. I don’t even have a suitcase.” He thought he might have won on this account, even if he had to take BART home.
She popped the trunk, got out of the car and hefted out a pink-and-blue flower-print rolling suitcase. “Sure you do. Bon voyage, mon frere.” She flashed an “I already thought of everything” grin at him and folded her arms across her chest. “Go on.” She waved him away like she was shooing a pesky dog.
Burke glanced at the suitcase, then back at Janalyn. He shook his head.
“Oh yeah, the most important thing!” She thrust an envelope at him.
He noticed the stylized outline of a white bird and groaned before he even opened it up. A printed itinerary showed a flight to St Croix via Miami and courtesy van transfers to and from the resort.
“Cockatoo resort?” Burke didn’t even like the name of it. “Cockatoo?”
“It’s a gay beach resort. You’ll love it. Plenty of opportunities for ‘time off.’” She made the crude gesture again and Burke burst into laughter. It tapered off to a near whimper. He’d heard about the place. Nothing good. Him at a gay beach resort? He was a computer engineer, not a beach stud. Who was going to notice him there?
“No. No way. No fucking way.”
She stood in front of the car door as he lunged for it. Blue flashing lights crept up behind them and an airport security patrol shouted out the window “Move this car or I’ll ticket you.”
“Sorry, Officer!” Janalyn shouted.
She made a mock salute and zipped behind the wheel while Burke’s attention was focused on the security guy. He looked pretty handsome in his guard uniform, even in the dim artificial light of the airport driveway.
Maybe Burke really did need some “time off.” There would be plenty of guys to choose from at Cockatoo, all-male, clothing optional resort. He hoped like hell his sister hadn’t taken the “optional” too literally and sent him away with an empty suitcase.
He watched Janalyn speed away, shrugged and wheeled the pansy-covered suitcase inside.
The flight to Miami was uneventful. No one talked to him. He got the window seat and stared out as the ascended through fluffy white clouds until the sun blinded him and he had to shut his eyes, bright orange circles dancing painfully on his inner eyelids. He had been inside too much lately. Maybe this little vacation wasn’t such a bad idea.
Then he remembered the name of the resort: Cockatoo. Very bad idea.
When he got off the plane he considered just staying in Miami, though he had no clue where and he didn’t feel particularly adventurous. He pulled the now oft-folded itinerary and e-ticket out of his back pocket and figured out which flight would take him to the island. A glance at the Departures board said it was Gate E17, and he rolled the floral monstrosity of a suitcase behind him as he made his way to the next terminal.
When he got to the gate a “CHARTERED” sign was posted next to the destination. Everyone on the flight must be heading to Cockatoo, he figured. He’d expected the passengers waiting at Gate E17 would be all men but he discovered it was a mix of men and women. The brochure said “Men Only,” so this confused Burke. He hoped they weren’t resort staff. He didn’t have anything against women, but he was going to feel self-conscious enough without the potential embarrassment of female staff at the clothing-optional resort.
He realized the women were part of a group wearing T-shirts that said “Cook This!” Some guys wore the same shirt, so they couldn’t be heading for Cockatoo.
He dragged the suitcase to a seat and settled in to wait for the call to board. Some of the men gave him the once over and then turned their gazes to others waiting for the same flight.
Not an auspicious start to the trip, he thought, glancing down at his attire: baggy jeans and a blue-and-white striped button-down shirt. Untucked. Nothing wrong with his clothes. That’s what he wore to work and sometimes he was the best-dressed guy there. He was a software engineer, one of the few who didn’t wear t-shirts almost exclusively. But he realized the other men were wearing what was probably called “resort wear.” Matching shirts and pants or light suits. Their clothes looked expensive. The resort was expensive, he knew that much, and he could afford it. He just didn’t judge people on the clothes or looks very much.
On the beach at Cockatoo, Burke sat blinking in the sun’s overpowering brightness for a moment until movement to his far left caught his attention. A flash, the sun reflecting off metal. He turned his head and saw another row of lounge chairs, all full.
Another flash from much farther up the beach.
This time Burke’s gaze zeroed in on the source. The guy in the very last lounger wore Hawaiian print board shorts and a blue baseball cap and had a pair of binoculars to his face. He peered through them, his entire body tense as he sat on the edge of his lounger. He was wearing a short-sleeved pale blue cotton shirt, unbuttoned. He was close enough for Burke to see his chest was covered with a pale blonde fuzz, just like his legs. While the arms and legs were toasty tan, Binoc-guy’s chest was pale. Burke couldn’t get a good look at his face, given the cap and the binoculars. Too bad. At least the chest looked in good shape, the legs looked toned and the guy wasn’t wearing one of those ridiculous tiny Speedos that left too little to the imagination and too much revealed.
Burke watched as the guy put the binocs down and picked up a notepad from his lap and scribbled something then grabbed the glasses again. He repeated the sequence several times to himself, nodding and grinning.
What was he watching? Ever more intriguing, Burke wanted to know what he’d been writing down. He glanced in the direction the guy was watching but he could see anything in particular. It was in the direction of the edge of this resort. Another private beach was located on the other side of a high wooden fence. Probably the destination for the women passengers. Something co-ed, or whatever the word was.
Why would Binoc-guy be watching someone over at the girls’ camp? This started to feel like one of those lose-your-virginity films aimed at high-school aged guys. Burke glanced back at Binoc-guy but the lounger was empty. He wasn’t anywhere in sight.
Burke shrugged and returned to putting sunscreen on his arms and legs.
“Need some help with that?”
The deep voice startled Burke and he looked to see who had spoken. Two sandaled feet stood next to his lounger and he followed them up, nearly blinded by the sun as he peered at the face of an attractive man in his 40s. He was a bit older than the guys Burke usually spent time with, but he was in great shape and didn’t have a trout-dick, as far as Burke could tell. So far so good!
The guy sat next to Burke on the lounger and took the bottle of SPF 100 from him, letting his fingers brush provocatively against Burke’s in the process.
Rick squeezed a pool of sunscreen into one palm and rubbed them together vigorously like he was trying to light a fire. He started smoothing the lotion on Burke’s shoulders.
“Mmm.” Burke let out a tiny moan. It felt good. The guy’s hands were strong.
“First day here, huh, Burke?” Rick didn’t give Burke a chance to answer before he continued. “You know I bet you’d glow in the dark, you’re so pale.”
“Well, I just finished this big database project. We worked pretty long hours and …” Burke had to catch his breath as Rick’s hand slipped around to play with a nipple. It felt good. Then just as quickly, the hand returned to Burke’s back. “Well we had like a million lines of code to debug for the client and the guys who wrote it…” The hand tweaked the nipple again. “…were terrible. No comments. It took ages…”
The hand removed itself from the nipple and Rick stood up and left without saying a word.
“Uh, Rick?” Burke said toward the receding back, but Rick didn’t even turn around.
“That’s gotta be a record.” The voice came from the next lounger. The guy sprawled there had a dark handle bar mustache and looked like the “Before” picture for a hair-removal product. Not Burke’s type.
“It took you about twenty seconds to scare off a guy. You might want to come up with another topic of conversation than databases…. Just sayin.’” He got up and walked away in the direction Rick had gone.
“I’m gonna kill Janalyn!” Burke said to no one in particular. He finished applying sunscreen himself, picked up his trashy novel and concentrated on relaxing.
———[end of excerpt]———-
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