Love on the Boil by Neil Plakcy
Chapter 1: Screwed the Pooch
The last time I saw Darren Carter, we had just finished a marathon fuck session to celebrate our college graduation. We’d been boyfriends for most of senior year, after meeting at a GLBT dance party, but we had both been avoiding the conversation about what would happen after commencement. I had already accepted a job on Wall Street, but I hadn’t told Darren I’d be moving to New York.
I knew that he’d been interviewing for jobs and internships in his field, East Asian Studies, but he hadn’t shared any results with me.
* * * *
“I’m leaving for Japan tomorrow,” he said, as I pulled out of his ass.
“That’s what you were thinking about while we were fucking?” I asked. I peeled the condom off my dick and tossed it toward the trash can beside the bed. I missed, but I was too irritated to care. “The whole time we’re doing it you’re thinking about leaving me?”
“I wanted to tell you,” he protested, as I stood up. He looked so sexy there, his skinny, hairless body covered with a sheen of sweat, a flop of brown hair over his forehead. “I could never figure out the right time.”
“And this is the right time? While I’ve got your jizz all over my chest?”
Darren had come on me while I was making my final thrusts up his ass, and I could already feel a cold, clammy mess congealing among my chest hairs.
“Don’t be such a drama queen,” Darren said.
“Me!” I heard myself screech and made a conscious effort to dial it back. I was the stud, after all. The butch one nobody suspected was gay. I worked out and tended bar in the evenings. Darren was the queen who made a big deal out of everything.
“You’re moving to New York anyway,” Darren said. “Did you think I wouldn’t find out?”
“Have you been reading my e-mails?”
“When you accessed your mail on my laptop the other day, you never logged out of your Gmail account. It popped up without my doing anything.”
I pulled on my shorts and T-shirt without bothering to clean myself up. “So this is it? Thanks for the fuck; see you around?”
“You’re the one who’s always saying you don’t want to get wrapped up in some heteronormative relationship,” Darren said, sitting up against the pillows. “That we’re just having fun together. What, did you think I was going to come to New York with you? We’d get an apartment in Brooklyn together? That I’d be your little woman, make you dinner every night?”
His words stung because I had been thinking that. Yeah, I didn’t want to get wrapped up in anything too serious with Darren, wanted a chance to sow some wild oats and all that crap. God knew I’d fucked a lot of guys before him and figured there would be a lot more after him. But I always thought I’d be the one to end things, not Darren.
I stuck my feet into my deck shoes. “Have a good life,” I said and I walked out the door.
* * * *
I admit I’d stalked him once or twice on social media over the last five years. Saw that he’d loved his postgrad year in Japan, how he’d moved to Portland for a job at a museum of Asian history. I’d gotten busy with my startup and had no time for anything that wasn’t work related or didn’t lead to a quick fuck.
So I was stunned to see him in the reception area of Phil Sweet’s office. Sweet was a venture capitalist I’d been courting for months, trying to get him to invest in my business. He’d asked me here for a face-to-face that I was sure was going to lead to a much-needed cash infusion.
A year before, I’d cashed out all my retirement savings and moved to Miami to start Cockteals, a business selling tea-based cocktail mixers to bars and restaurants. I wanted to start selling to the public too, but for that I needed cash to ramp up production and make distribution and advertising deals. I’d met Sweet at a venture hive event and intrigued him enough that we’d come this far together.
Seeing Darren in Sweet’s lobby threw me for a loop. “Darren. What are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same question.”
He looked good. In the five years since graduation, he’d filled out a bit. His normally pale skin was tan, and I liked the way he’d cut his hair—very short on the sides, high and puffy on the top.
I noticed a tattoo on his right wrist—a teacup. And then it clicked. “You have a tea business too?” I asked.
“What do you mean, too?”
Sweet’s secretary opened the door behind the receptionist. “Mr. Sweet will see you both now.”
Darren stood, and we followed the secretary to a conference room overlooking Lincoln Road, the pedestrian thoroughfare in the heart of Miami Beach. I’d spent a lot of time on that street over the past six months, talking to every restaurant and bar manager who’d meet with me. I was proud of the connections I’d made. I hoped Sweet was too.
Phil Sweet had been born under a lucky star. He’d majored in physics in college and moved to Silicon Valley as the tech boom was beginning. He’d founded an Internet startup, which had eventually been acquired by one of the big players in online marketing. At that point, he’d cashed out and become a venture capitalist.
He was a tall, rangy guy with a perpetual tan that came from spending a lot of time on his hundred-foot yacht. He’d invested in a Miami company that taught coding to inner-city kids, and fallen in love with the weather and a gorgeous Cuban woman, so he’d relocated his business to Lincoln Road a year before.
He shook my hand and Darren’s. “Darren Carter, meet Eddie Gonzalez,” Sweet said.
“We’ve met,” Darren said. “We went to college together.”
“Oh yeah,” Sweet said. “I knew that. But yours was a big class, wasn’t it?”
“Two thousand. But Darren and I had some interests in common.” I was feeling generous, so I added, “Darren’s the one who introduced me to tea in the first place.”
“Great. So you know about each other’s businesses?”
“Nothing at all. We haven’t been in touch since graduation,” I said.
“Let’s get reacquainted. Darren, you want to give your elevator pitch?”
I saw Darren gulp. He was an effusive guy, or at least he had been when I’d known him, but he was never comfortable giving presentations.
“Tea is one of the oldest beverages known to man, and one of the most versatile,” he said. “But Americans have been slow to realize that. My company, DiversiTea, provides custom blends for upscale restaurants that complement the entrées and the desserts, as well as training wait staff on what to recommend.”
Interesting. Darren and I were in the same market, though coming at it from different angles.
“Eddie?” Sweet asked.
“Like Darren, my company, Cockteals, aims at the higher-end restaurant market with custom tea blends used as the basis for high-end cocktails. I want to take my product line and introduce it to the consumer market.”
“I want to do that too,” Darren added.
“And that’s why you’re both here,” Sweet said. “I’ll be honest with you. There isn’t room in my portfolio for two companies based in the same product. I love both your ideas and your enthusiasm, but I can’t invest in both of you. And honestly, on your own, neither of you is strong enough. But if you work together—”
“No,” Darren said.
“Absolutely not,” I said, before I had the chance to think it through. There was no way I was going to be able to work with Darren.
Sweet shrugged. “Then our time here is done. I wish you both good luck.”
And that was it. All that time struggling to make a connection with him, and Darren Carter had screwed the pooch in less than a minute.