Raymond Rodriguez’s days of shoving responsibility to the wayside are over. His older brother wants to live with his boyfriend, so Raymond has to get his act together and find a place of his own. But when out-and-proud David Butler offers to be his roommate, Raymond agrees for reasons other than needing a place to crash.
David is Raymond’s opposite in almost every way—he’s Connecticut prim and proper while Raymond is a sarcastic longshoreman from Queens—but their friendship is solid. Their closeness surprises everyone as does their not-so-playful flirtation, since Raymond has always kept his bicurious side a secret.
Once they’re under the same roof, flirting turns physical, and soon their easy camaraderie is in danger of being lost to frustrating sexual tension and the stark cultural differences that set them apart. Now Raymond not only has to commit to his new independence—he has to commit to his feelings for David or risk losing him for good.
In the middle of the afternoon on a summer day, the handball court was crowded with sweaty bodies, but I easily picked out Raymond from the cluster of people within the gated area. He wasn’t the only good-looking guy playing, but he immediately drew my attention. He was the tallest of the players, his body lean and defined with his sandy skin glowing in the hot afternoon sun. Corded muscles rippled up his arms and down his abs as he brushed back strands of dark hair escaping a rapidly loosening knot.
Determined to not drool over Raymond any more than I did on a regular day, I paused several feet away from the entrance and looked around. The perimeter of the court was lined with people just standing and watching. A few might have been waiting their turn to play, but a group of teenage girls were blatantly ogling the guys. Considering the top-notch eye candy prancing around, I didn’t blame them.
With his damned tattoos and gorgeous hair, Raymond had to be a prime target for scoping. And if I went over there to wait for him, I’d look like I was doing the same.
My unscheduled visit now seemed like a stupid idea.
Suddenly apprehensive of my appearance, I snagged a spot on a nearby bench and tried not to pay too much attention to the courts. It was nigh impossible. Every time I heard the stupid thunk of the ball, my eyes drew back to Raymond. As much as he and Michael resembled each other, there were significant differences I had obsessively catalogued since first meeting Raymond. While both brothers were in amazing shape, Raymond was leaner, his hair was a little lighter— I liked to imagine it was because he spent so much time in the sun— and his features a little more delicate, even if he spent a large percentage of his life trying to look as mean as possible.
And then there were the tattoos. I had spent an entire happy hour describing each one to Karen— the yo soy boricua tattoo with the Puerto Rican flag draped over the figure of a Taino warrior, the word fearless on the inside of his bicep, a memorial tattoo for his mother, an intricately drawn skull with the words memento mori etched into it, and Spanish words written along his side that translated to exhale the past.
I could probably draw those tattoos from memory alone. I brought the jokes on myself. I really did.
After nearly twenty minutes of rethinking my life choices, the jingle of a Mister Softee ice cream truck sounded, and a good chunk of the crowd scampered to the opposite end of the park. Including some of the adults.
I finally made my way to the gate.
Raymond’s back was to me as he stood in the middle of the court gathering the straying strands of his hair, but the guy next to him noticed me right away. He was a little taller than me, stocky but solid-looking, and had a baby face that was ruined by the cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth.
“You, uh… wanna play a game?” He grinned, flashing dimples.
“Nope. Handball isn’t my area of expertise.”
For a second, Raymond went still, but then he finished tying back his hair as if he hadn’t recognized my voice. I scowled.
“So… do you want a cigarette or something?”
“I’m friends with your friend.”
It was a stupid thing to say. But how was I supposed to explain myself? I didn’t even know if Raymond had told any of his friends that I existed, let alone that we would be living together for the foreseeable future. The guy glanced at Raymond, returned his gaze to me, then shot Raymond a slick smile.
“Hey, Ray, I didn’t know you liked that sweet stuff.”
So. Original. I opened my mouth to say something bitchy, but the words died in my throat before I could unleash the full extent of my vitriol. Raymond was giving his buddy such a malignant stare that I was sure he was about to cock back his fist and break the guy’s jaw.
Here’s the info on the giveaway!
Prize: $10 Amazon Gift Card
How to enter: Readers must answer the following question: In SUNSET PARK, Raymond and David are total opposites, and yet they can’t stay away from each others. What are your favorite opposites attract romances?
Deadline: Friday, December 25, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. EST.
Note: By participating in this contest, the winner has given permission to RNIC to share his/her name and email address with the person conducting the contest so they can forward the prize(s). Prizes open to U.S. and International entrants.
Santino is a writer of queer romance 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.