The Raymond Rodriguez from a few years ago wouldn’t recognize the guy he is today. He’s left his slacker ways far behind him and is now juggling two jobs and school. But the balancing act doesn’t allow much time for the man he loves.
David is doing his best to be supportive, but problems at work and his own insecurity leave him frustrated—in more ways than the obvious—whenever he goes to bed before Raymond gets home. The heat and affection between them is still there, but they barely have the time or energy to enjoy it. And it doesn’t help that Raymond is still hiding David from his colleagues.
The stress mounts so high that a vacation in paradise is filled with turmoil instead of harmony, and culminates on their return to the five boroughs with broken promises and heartache. They have to figure out how to stop allowing their differences to overshadow their love. It’s the only way they’ll make it to forever.
Interborough is available from Riptide Publishing. http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/interborough
If anyone had told me a year ago that I’d be busting my ass at a job I genuinely loved at night and toiling away at a company I loathed during the day, I’d have laughed them out of my apartment and onto the subway. But here I was at Lexus Language Services. Same dented metal desk by the window and same view of One World Trade Center. I was still creeped out by the sight of it. It would never stop being weird that an enormous grave site had been transformed into yet another corporate park that doubled as a macabre tourist attraction.
“Rodriguez, did you call FedEx about them not picking up our packages?”
I flicked a glance at Marcus, my second-in-command. That was another funny thing about LLS. All the people who’d trained me had run for the hills or been fired for some petty infraction, so now I was the one in charge of facilities (not that the upgrade in title had come with a raise). The only people who’d stayed were the fuckers in the Individuals Department who’d finally ceased trying to convince me to go to their wack mixers and happy hours. At least I had school as a good excuse these days.
“I’m on it.”
“You’ve been on it for a week now.”
This dude was phenomenally bad at reading my moods. It was like he wanted me to throw him through the window.
“They won’t come out because accounting hasn’t pushed through the payment on our account. Is there something wrong with your feet that you can’t walk your ass a block or two to the FedEx office and ship them yourself?”
Marcus stared at me. “They’re supposed to come pick it up. I don’t see why I should go after work.”
“So don’t go after work.” I jerked open the drawer in my desk and pulled out a pack of Sour Punch straws. “Go now.”
“Will you melt?” I stuck a straw in my mouth. “Or you can be really gentlemanly and ask our elderly receptionist to do it. She’s already offered, but I figured that would basically make me a lowlife.”
“Jesus Christ.” Marcus spun his chair to turn back to his computer. “Forget it.”
“Forgotten. Thanks for the chat.”
As mind-sucking as the job was, getting to boss people around was pretty sweet.
Flipping around my phone, I took a shitty selfie and uploaded it to Instagram without bothering to get a better shot. If people didn’t like my messy hair and candy straw, they could save themselves the effort of clicking on the little heart button.
As Marcus typed loudly and pointedly to my left, I added a quick caption: Feelin like a boss today. Do i look like one?
With nothing better to do than antagonize my coworkers, I scrolled through my phone and watched as comments populated. My brother made a scathing comment about professionalism, and one of the guys from the docks, Trey, said I was always a boss.
I was really waiting to see if David would get a kick out of my rumpled appearance and text me about why I’d gone to work looking so raggedy, but there was no feedback from the boyfriend. No texts today either. The break in routine caught my attention, and I immediately opened a message.
Raymond: I miss your face
David: I love your face.
Raymond: I love your errythang
David: Sweet talker.
Raymond: Only for you
God, we were disgusting. Too bad the tension caused by my schedule kept leading to fights. Maybe the QFindr cruise would drag us out of the rut. If a jaunt down to the Virgin Islands couldn’t shake things up a bit, I didn’t know what would.
Initially, the idea of spending a week on a boat with David’s ex had seemed like a bad idea, but apparently Caleb had moved on and all was right in the world. It seemed like a safe drama-free event, and I hoped it stayed that way.
The invitation to the launch had come via email a couple of months ago. They had celebrity guests and corny Top 40 singers performing at a couple of the parties. Their queer dating app seemed to be taking off with Superman speed, and it was hard not to be impressed. Caleb had even offered to comp our ticket prices if we paid for airfare, but I’d shot that down in a hot minute. At the time, I’d been pretty insulted that he thought I needed his charity.
Then again, if I was really going to quit LLS, shelling out a ton of money on a cruise wasn’t the best plan in case anything came up down the road. But whatever. Maybe it would be fine. Maybe we’d get lucky, and there would be open bars to go along with the free food. Apparently, QFindr was making them major bucks.
Out of boredom more than curiosity, I searched for the app on Google Play. QFindr had nearly two million downloads already.
I hit the purple and black QF symbol, watched it download, and spent several minutes examining the interface. It was a lot more user friendly than the version I’d beta tested months ago, and I could already see why it had become popular. If I searched the tags Puerto Rican, bisexual, and male, it generated profile snapshots from a bunch of different dating websites where those words had been mentioned in the users’ profiles, then prompted me to go to those sites and sign up. It was the simplest access to online dating that I’d ever seen. If they broadened it to include heterosexual profiles, they’d probably be making trillions. Or they should let me market that idea and I’d be the one making the trillions.
In reality, I’d just be sitting here with Marcus until I busted him upside the head one of these days.
“If you ask me about FedEx again—”
“It’s not about FedEx.” Marcus swiveled in his chair. “We’re also getting cut off notices from other companies that supply our office products. What do we do?”
I sighed and tossed my phone on the desk. “I go fight with accounting.”
My fight with accounting consisted of me leaning over the sandpaper wall of their cubicle, staring at the squirrelly dude with the curly mustache, and asking why he thought we didn’t need to pay for copy paper or staples. He was new, so I felt bad for getting on his case, but on the other hand, it wasn’t like this was his first job. Or his most challenging. Unless it was. I had no idea. I never spoke to any of these people. I’d just warmed up to the last batch of drudges before there had been a mass exodus that only my simple ass had failed to get in on.
Five o’clock rolled in with a bunch of payments pending, and my irritation transitioned to the anxiety that always preceded getting on the subway during rush hour. But I had a six o’clock class at Kingsborough, so there was no way around it. Even if I decided to spring for a cab, getting one would be impossible. It would also be like forty bucks.
Before descending into the hell of Wall Street Station, I checked my phone one last time and saw no new messages from David. I did, however, have a couple from Trey, which . . . I hesitated to answer. David swore the guy was flirtatious, but I didn’t read him as anything but straight. And out of everyone I’d met in the past year on the docks, Trey was the most helpful. He knew the ropes in the union; had the right connections aside from just my friendship with our boss, Rolly; and Trey had actually gone through the program at Kingsborough.
Most longshoremen were real roughneck types—tatted up and bearded and would send a fleet of sailors running out of a bar after getting a load of their mouths—not exactly college boy material. But Trey had done it, and he had risen in the murky nepotism-riddled and corrupted ranks of the ILA—International Longshoreman Association. I didn’t know how it worked in other parts of the country, but the ports in New York and New Jersey seemed pretty shady. The longer I worked there, the more I caught wind of how many cushy jobs and six-figure salaries were handed out to guys with mafia ties or connections to city officials.
Even so, I liked the money, and Trey knew strategies to get me higher up the food chain.
Being an alleged supervisor at LLS was nice for a power trip every now and again, but I knew I’d been given the role because no one else was there to do it. If I became an inspector or supervisor on the docks, it’d be because I’d busted my ass trying, with the added bonus of knowing I’d worked hard to get it without crooked familial connection like the other guys.
The 2 Train took an eternity to come, and I cursed myself for not springing for a cab after all. I was almost always late to my crappy public speaking class. I didn’t even see why I had to take it, but apparently it was a requirement for the maritime technology program. Even if the professor made me want to slam my head into a wall because he required participation and group assignments.
The train screeched through the tunnel while I pressed my head against the door and tried not to make eye contact with the guy who’d noticed the blue, purple, and pink pin David had affixed to my jacket after I’d come out on Valentine’s Day. I’d never seen the bisexual flag before and had assumed it would be a pretty low-key way to show my pride, but the businessman with horn-rimmed glasses had obviously recognized my tiny queer symbol. When I finally met his gaze, he arched a brow, and I fought a smirk.
Dudes hitting on me in public was such a new thing.
I wasn’t out to anyone on the docks, but I’d told Trey about it because he was the only one I spent enough time around for it to become an issue with me having to constantly omit David in conversation.
When the train pulled to a noisy stop at Atlantic Avenue, I slipped out of the car with a few other people. Looking back just before the doors closed, I saw the guy frown at me with disappointment. I shot him a smile. To be courteous. And I instantly texted David once I’d jogged up the stairs to the platform for the B Train—two more modes of transportation to get to my destination.
Raymond: A dude eyefucked the hell out of me in the subway. You see what your damn pin is causing?
David: Er, sorry to inform, but they do that all the time, babe. Even before the pin. You’re eye fuckable.
Raymond: No way
Raymond: Why dont you come finger fuck me in an empty classroom
David: That escalated quickly.
Raymond: I had a bad day and could use a good dicking out right about now
David: . . . Really? Because . . .
David: You could totally skip class and I’ll fuck the hell out of you.
My dick liked the sound of that, but my one-day-a-week night class with the one-absence policy didn’t.
Raymond: You know i cant. My prof sucks. And I work the docks tonight.
David: Sigh. I know. Sorry. I just miss you.
He’d said that so much lately that it’d started putting me on edge every time. Most likely because it tended to precede an argument. Or be the end of one.
My time was short, but I didn’t have a choice. I’d initially taken on so much in part because I wanted to make something of myself for him. Even though the schedule sucked, and I knew I no longer had to prove myself to him or my brother, part of me still wanted to prove to myself that I could maintain this steady pace. I could work hard and make money and take care of things that I’d previously avoided during the twenty-five years of me doing nothing but smoking pot and playing video games.
I wasn’t about to give up now that I’d stepped up. So I said what I always said, and hoped things would get better after spring break.
Raymond: Me too. But things will be better soon. I promise.
CHECK OUT THE FIRST 3 BOOKS IN THE SERIES …..
Santino was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into a guy who spends his days and nights writing romance with an edge.
Santino is a dedicated gamer, a former fanfic writer, an ASoIaF mega nerd, a Grindr enthusiast, but most of all he is a writer of LGBT fiction that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.
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