Excerpt for Say A Little Prayer by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

SAY A LITTLE PRAYER

Copyright ©2018 Clare London

Published by Jocular Press

Smashwords edition

Previously published 2013 by Less Than Three Press
This version has been re-edited
and reformatted




All Rights Reserved

This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission. This book cannot be copied in any format, sold, or otherwise transferred from your computer to another through upload to a file sharing peer to peer program, for free or for a fee. Such action is illegal and in violation of Copyright Law.


All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

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Dedication

To all readers of happy romance, fantastic or not.



SAY A LITTLE PRAYER

It was too late for tourists to have strayed on to the beach by accident; too early for midnight lovers to be trespassing. This part of the beach was privately owned by the nearby hotel, which was why I was there. My second week at my summer job and I’d had enough of it already. I needed just a few moments of peace after a long and hot day’s work. Just one blissful, quiet half-hour away from the frenzied shrieks of holidaymakers and beach balls bouncing sand in my face, and my tight white catering cap causing rivulets of sweat to run down behind my ears.

I mean, my ambitions in life were modest enough—I didn’t want to be a rock star or a nuclear scientist. I was determined to make my own way and I wasn’t afraid of hard work. But the summer was proving to be more of a struggle than I’d hoped. Here I was, a young man trying to earn extra money wheeling ice creams around in a cart along the promenade, from morning until late afternoon, advertising the local hotel chain. I would have finished earlier if I hadn’t offered to take Mandy’s shift as well, but she was excited at the offer of a last-minute interview for a TV soap. And I’d lent Paul my travel pass so he could visit his sister after her operation, so I needed the money to cover extra fares this week. And… well, Mum needed as much help as possible from me. Even though she hoped this job was going to be fun for me, soaking up the holiday spirit.

I smiled to myself. Soaking up sweat, more like. I wasn’t even going to get a tan because of the smart polo shirt and trousers and long apron the hotel manager wanted me to wear. Obviously I wasn’t meant to be a sexy beach god, either.

Then I saw the man.

I walked towards him because that was the direction I was going anyway. Plus, he needed to know this beach was closed to the general public, and the hotel security could get a little heavy-handed. He was sitting on the sand, his back to me. The late afternoon light lit him from behind, setting a golden glow around his dark curls.

He was…

No.

Surely not.

I came to a sudden halt as he turned his head to face me. He probably heard the squeaky wheels of my cart, even on the sand.

I stared back, temporarily speechless.

“Hello,” he said, and smiled broadly. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

“I’m sorry?” It was the nakedness that startled me. His smooth skin was dappled with the shadows of a sinking sun, the hollow of his throat glistening with the sweat of a hot afternoon. His shoulders were broad, displaying tight muscles across his back and arms. The lines of his body narrowed at the waist, then eased back out into the plump, fleshy mounds of his buttocks. He was sitting comfortably cross-legged, gazing out over the sea, as the day wore on and the vigorous ebb and flow of the water eased to something more sensual. He showed no sign of any inhibition or embarrassment that I could see.

I must have missed the memo declaring this a nudist beach.

He yawned gently and raised his arms into a stretch. The muscles at his sides clenched into a tight formation. There was no blemish to his skin that I could see, no T-shirt tan marks, no odd freckles on his shoulders, no dimpling on his thighs from growth spurts, a problem I seemed to be getting sadly obsessed with every time I took a shower.

“It’s getting late,” he said, though without any trace of complaint. “But now you’ve arrived.”

I stared. “You shouldn’t be here.” I sounded like some kind of officious traffic warden. “This stretch of beach belongs to the Royal Hotel, it’s not open to tourists. And you really shouldn’t be…” I swallowed. “You know. Like that. Not here.”

He smiled straight at me, his eyes catching the orange flickers of the sun, his mouth wide and welcoming. “Where are we going, then?”

“We?”

He stretched out his long, lean legs and began to stand up. It was like one of those tense movie moments, when you can see what’s going to happen and you know you need to stop it, but your limbs move in agonizing slow motion. I raised a hand, preparing to call out, to warn him, to… what? Protect my modesty? He stood, his back straightening, his shoulders fully extended, his skin flushed and dusted with sand. Then he turned to face me. Full on.

My hand fell back down to my side.

Oh God.

A full body flush hadn’t happened to me since the school production of “Macbeth” when I understudied for the head boy who was vomiting in the toilets from stagefright, and I realised in the middle of the murder scene I’d left my fly unzipped. But it was repeating with a vengeance right now. The naked man’s six-pack was just defined enough to fit my dream-man checklist, his lithe movement enough to fascinate me like a rabbit caught in shining headlights. A small trail of sweat trickled down his chest, glinting in the sun between his nipples. It slid down his torso, glimmering on the gentle swell of his muscles. It followed the thin, dark trail of hairs that ran down from his navel into a small, curly bush of pubic hair.

He was really beautiful.

And oh…

God.

Erect.

The man smiled at me and held his hands out to the side as if in offering. “This is good?”

“This…?”

I couldn’t seem to manage more than one word at a time. He laughed, much too loudly for my liking. What would happen if someone heard him and found us here together, like this? Someone with preschool kids, or someone working for the council decency committee, or—God forbid—someone who knew my Gran?

“You’re very red,” he said, concern in his voice. He took several slow, graceful steps towards me. The muscles in his calves tightened, and his… everything bobbed about between his thighs. “The sun isn’t good on your skin. Take me somewhere you can be in the shade. You’ve finished…” He waved his hand in the direction of my empty cart, as if searching for the description, “… this exercise, haven’t you?”

I nodded. My tongue felt very thick, and I struggled to speak. “I have to put the cart away. In the shed at the back of the beach.”

He shrugged, smiling. “That’s good, whatever it is. I’ll help you.”

“No!”

His eyebrows raised and he paused in his walking. “You’re upset, Jonathan.”

I blinked harder. “How do you know my name?” Not that anyone called me the full Jonathan except for Gran.

He ignored the question. “You like this, don’t you?” He glanced down his body and back up to me. A brief frown passed over his brow. “You like men?”

I swallowed past the lump of shock in my throat. “Of course I do. Some of my best friends…” I stopped. From the puzzled look in his eyes, he wasn’t getting the joke. “I mean, I have lots of male friends. A couple of cousins. Workmates at the hotel.”

He frowned even more but his reproach was playful now. “Yes, but I mean sex. You like to have sex with men.”

I felt very, very hot and it was nothing to do with the lowering sun. “What did you say?”

He smiled. “You’re charming. You can be passionate, I know. And I’m the kind of man you like. So we’ll have sex.”

There was a small, shocked silence.

I cleared my painful throat. “Is this your attempt at a joke?”

He tilted his head to the side, still looking puzzled and maybe a little offended. He flexed his back as he moved. Something rustled behind him. “Don’t you agree?”

“I can’t…”

“Can’t?” He looked as if the word was something new and astounding to him.

I can’t… I don’t talk about those things.” With strangers. With forward strangers. With anyone, really, except for Gran—and that was only because she always bloody talked to me first.

He smiled. “I know.”

How could he? Plenty of the staff at the hotel were out and proud, and good luck to them. But me? I just didn’t feel comfortable with everyone knowing my business. Mum said I was shy; Gran accused me of being in denial.

“Please don’t,” I said.

“You’re upset because of me.” He looked stricken.

No. It’s okay.” Maybe I broadcast more about myself than I thought. I flushed even more, wondering how many of my workmates knew. Coward, I told myself. What was the point of denying it? I did like men. Very much. And I’d definitely like more sex with them, too. If I ever got the chance, that was. I told myself there wasn’t much time for socialising, studying at college during term time, then working every evening and holiday at various casual jobs. There’d never been enough money to go around, not from our small, off-beachfront B&B.

You need to get a life,” Gran had said, the previous evening. She said it very carefully, obviously mimicking whatever she’d been watching on YouTube during the day. “Find another nice gay boy and go dancing. After all, this place is full of them, the little darlings, there’s plenty of choice. You’re already twenty, and who knows when your hair might start going?” Her eyes filmed with the beginning of tears. “I pray hard for you to find someone who’ll be good to you. You deserve it, Jonathan, putting up with us old folks. And I know what men like, believe me…”

So you’ve told me, Gran.” Unfortunately.

“… and they’ll snap up a cute thing like you, like a double scoop of strawberry ice cream with a chocolate flake.” She jabbed me in the ribs and wheezed with a hearty laugh, the tears gone as quickly as they arrived. “You just need to get out there and go for it. I have to assume you know the facts of life: tab A, slot B—?”

I coughed loudly as Mum came in with a tray of tea. She glanced at Gran, assumed—rightly—the worst, and blushed scarlet.

“Jonny’s shy,” she said, weakly.

Gran snorted. “Shy rumples no sheets, Gill. He needs to get out to that beach and get hold of some nice, firm ars—”

And that’s when the conversation ended as abruptly as it usually did, with me being sent out of the room to finish the washing up while Gran cackled with crude laughter and Mum tried to make her own mother appreciate the difficulty of raising a young man on her own.

But they both always agreed I should get out more, so that was why I was here on the beach, sweating away at my new job. It would help pay the way at home, especially now that Gran had come to live with us and ate as much as I did, but it was apparently also going to help me meet people and make friends. Well, that’s what Mum reminded me when she waved me off on the first morning, telling me to bring home chips for supper. Gran just grinned and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like “get shagging.”

And guess what? I was certainly meeting someone today.

“Jonathan?” The man on the beach smiled encouragingly at me.

I couldn’t tear my gaze away from his naked body. The heat of my blush was turning into some other kind of flush. Warmth ran through me like drinking in sunlight, my senses wallowing in the golden colour of his skin, the glow of his flesh. It felt incredibly good—the best I’d felt for a very long time. And stupidly, that scared me. “What’s going on here?”

He shrugged again. “Things like this happen.”

“Not on Swanage beach, they don’t.” My voice was a bit of a squeak.

He smiled, more slyly. “Is that a joke?” He used the same tone my little cousins used when they saw a small, fluffy kitten on the TV. But he used it towards me.

I rolled my eyes. “I’m going to put the cart away and then I’m going home.” I pushed at the damned thing, trying to get the momentum going again. I could feel the sweat dribbling down under my hairline.

“I’ll follow,” he said.

“You can’t,” I snapped, striding on as best I could.

He shook his head tolerantly. I could smell the sea air on his skin as I passed him. I could feel the air shifting with his stride as he fell into step behind me. Something rather shockingly primal stirred deep in my gut. What was I doing even talking to him? I reached the small maintenance hut at the perimeter of the hotel grounds, wrenched open the door and shoved the cart inside. Not my most careful work, but I was under pressure, right? I locked it quickly behind me. I was on duty the next day as well, so I’d just take the key home with me tonight.

I turned around and he was right there, at my shoulder. “Let me help, Jonathan.”

No. Please. Just… go away.” You’re not real. This isn’t happening. Maybe he was right, and I had had too much sun. But no way was I telling Mum; no way was she making me wear her cheesy purple straw sunhat to and from work.

“Jonathan, please.” He didn’t even look out of breath, having kept up with my indecent rush up the beach as I tried to escape my hallucination. “I understand.”


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