Exclusive Excerpt from Irresistible
by Andrew J. Peters
They made plans to go to Coney Island with Derek the following Monday when Cal’s shop was closed and Derek had the day off from work. Brendan could have gotten a car and a driver to take them there, but out of respect for Cal and Derek’s friendship, he suggested they take the subway together as they’d planned, and he would meet them on the boardwalk.
He took a company car with a driver as he always did though it made him self-conscious about flaunting his money. His grandmother had insisted on it ever since he’d been old enough to travel by himself. Desperate people kidnapped children from wealthy families. It was an ugly fact of life. He had the driver drop him off and wait in the parking lot of the Coney Island Aquarium. From there, he walked the short distance up the boardwalk to their meeting place.
He wasn’t nervous about meeting Derek. In a strange way, he felt sympathetic toward him. He knew what it was to feel like a third wheel. When his pal from college, Betsy Schoonover, had gotten married, it had ended an era of meeting up on the spur of the moment for lunch and drinks, texting throughout the day, and being each other’s date to dinner parties and charity events. Even though they tried to stay in touch, spending time together with Betsy’s husband and two little kids around wasn’t the same. Change was inevitable, and Brendan knew it also hurt something wicked.
Generalized anxiety gripped him, however, as he waited on the boardwalk, up the ramp from the subway station concourse. Vaguely ill at ease was his default setting, though he’d been much better since meeting Cal. As usual, he had somehow conspired against himself to arrive at their meeting place ahead of schedule, even though he hated waiting. He worried a little that the day would turn out with him feeling like the third wheel. Cal and Derek had been best friends for five years, after all.
A herd of people trundled down the subway concourse toward the boardwalk. A train must have just gotten in. Through a dizzying scan of the approaching mob of beachgoers—all breeds of New Yorkers, from baby-carriage pushing parents to swaggering bros, to urban hipsters, aging hippies, chattering teenage girls, and every type in between—he finally spotted Cal. He shone like a diamond in his tank top and his thigh-length swim shorts and his bronze-tinted aviator sunglasses, which he’d picked out at a street fair with Brendan over the weekend.
Naturally, a group of guys surrounded Cal on the concourse. They were a groomed and shirtless tattooed tribe who looked like they went from posing at the gym to posing at the beach, and to posing at whatever gay nightclubs were trendy these days. The guys had probably started chatting Cal up on the train in from Manhattan, hoping to coax him to spend the day with them, or at least to get his phone number. That didn’t bother Brendan. Cal couldn’t help that he was irresistible. He didn’t even notice the attention he stirred up.
Cal saw Brendan standing by the boardwalk railing, and he lit up with a smile and waved. The muscle queens said their goodbyes, apparently adding things up. Now Brendan put together who Derek was in the crowd. A skinny kid with dark hair, dark shades, and a black T-shirt emblazoned with a skull and crossbones skulked behind Cal. His face was bland, giving off the unmistakable vibe of “I’m being dragged along for this?”
It was going to be an interesting day.
Cal climbed up the ramp and gave Brendan a great big hug, which Brendan tried not to return too enthusiastically so Derek wouldn’t be uncomfortable. Cal stepped aside and made introductions. When Brendan held out his hand, Derek shook it weakly and peered around the boardwalk as though he was looking for something more interesting.
Brendan let the two decide on a spot to claim on the crowded, littered beach below them. Cal suggested a prime location near the surf. Derek sneered and said there were too many people in that area. Cal pointed out another option farther down the beach. But Derek gazed off in the opposite direction and said they should try that side. Never one to put up a fuss, Cal shrugged, and they followed Derek down the ramp to the beach and onward for a long hike through the hot sand to a sparsely populated area.
It was a hot and brilliant day, perfect for the beach despite Derek, the storm cloud who had come along. Brendan laid down a blanket he’d brought for the three of them. Derek sat at a far corner of it, pulled off his T-shirt, and dug out suntan lotion from his faded canvas backpack.
Derek called out to Cal, “Are you going to do my back?”
“Sure.” Cal scooted up behind him and rubbed suntan lotion into his fair-skinned, freckled back and shoulders. Brendan brought out a beach towel and three frozen bottles of water from his suede tote. He handed one bottle to Derek.
“This is your first time at an ocean beach?” Brendan asked.
“There’s a beach on Onondaga Lake in Syracuse, but it’s nothing like this,” Cal said. “Derek and I were at the lake just about every weekend last summer.”
Derek said nothing.
“This is my first time at Coney Island as well,” Brendan said.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Cal said to Derek. “He grew up right here in New York City.”
“I believe it,” Derek said. “You’re more of a Hamptons kind of guy, huh?”
That was true to an extent. Brendan’s family never went to city beaches, and his mother had a house on the water in Southampton. Though Brendan didn’t spend a lot of time there. His mother had bought the house with his stepfather, and over the summer, it was a compound for his teenage half sisters and their friends. That story didn’t seem worth mentioning. By his flat tone, Derek’s insinuation was pretty obvious. He thought Brendan was a snob.
“I’m happy in most places,” Brendan said. “It’s good enough for me to just be invited.” He hiked up some more friendliness. “Cal told me you guys Jet Ski. There’s a place you can rent them in New Jersey. You can ride all around New York Harbor and see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We should all do it sometime.”
Cal smiled at him favorably.
“How old are you?” Derek asked Brendan.
“Huh. I thought older. That’s a swell suggestion, Daddy. But unless you’re paying, it sounds like it’s out of our price range.”