Here we meet our leading man, Rylan Marlowe, and his two best friends. To read more, check out the other chapters available here and buy the full story as an ebook from all major retailers (Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc.) to see how the story ends.
A little silver bell jingled as the door swung open and two boys entered the diner. Their feet glided across the black and white checkered tile, their immaculately polished designer shoes a stark contrast to the scuffed, dated floor. Maverick drummed his hands against his pockets. Blaise followed silently at his side.
A boy was sitting at a booth in the back of the diner. His shoulders slumped as he glanced from the two boys approaching to the empty seat across from him. He tapped a finger repeatedly on the table as he waited for them to close in on him. For every one step they took, his finger tapped five times.
As they strode deeper into the restaurant, the two boys gazed at their surroundings. Through eyes half closed they saw just what they expected to see- nothing. The jukebox was collecting dust in the corner. The staff was hidden from view preparing food in the kitchen. All of the booths were empty except for the one in the back.
The boy sitting in the booth shifted his gaze around the entire diner and out the window twice while he waited for them to come over. His finger never stopped tapping, and now the tip was beginning to get red.
Maverick and Blaise reached the back of the diner and stood in front of the boy sitting in the booth. Maverick reached into his pocket and pulled out a small piece of paper. He unfolded it and smoothed it out with his finger. “Tobey Chen?” he asked, looking directly at the boy sitting in front of him.
“That’s me,” the boy in the booth nodded. The tapping stopped when he lifted his hand, shaky in the air, to invite them to sit across the table. The two boys remained standing. Tobey put his hand down and folded his arms across his chest. He began to tap his elbow. “So, uh, which one of you is Rylan?”
“Neither,” Maverick said, “we’re here on his behalf.”
“Oh,” Tobey shifted uncomfortably in his seat, “So, what are your names then?”
“Irrelevant.” He answered just as Tobey finished the question.
The chorus of a doo-wop song started and ended before anyone spoke again.
“Whenever I do deals with Tai, I always work with him personally.” Tobey said, his eyes leaving the boys in front of him as he spoke.
“Well, we do things differently than Tai,” Maverick sharply pronounced each word. “Rylan’s a busy guy.”
“So, um, how do I know you’re not trying to scam me?”
“How do you know we’re not trying to scam you? How do you know Tai doesn’t scam you?” Maverick’s face started turning red and just as he began leaning forward, Blaise held out his hand to push him back. With narrowed eyes, the other boy glared at Tobey and broke his silence. “Are we doing this or not?”
Tobey swallowed hard, reluctantly shoving his hand in his pocket, and he held out a wad of hundreds to the boys. Maverick snatched the money and counted the bills under his breath before nodding to his friend. As he pocketed the cash, Blaise brought out a wrinkled brown bag and tossed it onto the table. Tobey grabbed the bag as soon as it landed and unfolded it. He brought it up close to his face as he reached in the bag to touch everything inside.
“It’s all there.” Maverick said, his jaw clenching. Blaise nudged him and nodded in the direction of the door.
“We’re heading out,” Blaise said to Tobey, “hang around for five minutes before you leave.”
“I know- this isn’t the first time I’ve done this.” Tobey said, his words sharp.
Blaise shrugged off Tobey’s comment and pushed Maverick toward the door again. They both left the diner, and the little silver bell jingled again before the heat and humidity hit the boys like they stepped into an oven.
“That ungrateful bastard! Can you believe he actually thought we would scam him?” Maverick kicked a pebble at a palm tree, scuffing his shoes.
Blaise shook his head. “Chill out, he was just nervous.”
“Oh, I forgot. You never talk and you spend all your time observing people so you’re such a good judge of character,” he rolled his eyes.
Blaise shook his head again, this time cracking a smile. “Sarcasm doesn’t become you, Maverick.”
Maverick mocked his friend in a squeaky voice, “Sarcasm doesn’t become you.”
“I hate to interrupt this little date, but if you two could not sell to my customers, that’d be great.”
Blaise and Maverick spun around to see another boy leaned against the side of the diner. He swiped his feathered hair off of his delicate face before crossing his arms over his chest.
“Great. Tai. My favorite person to run in to,” Maverick exaggerated enthusiasm.
“The love is mutual, Maverick.” Tai winced and stepped closer to the boys, clasping his hands behind his back. Sequins on his shirt shimmered in the sunlight as he moved, and he nodded to the one he had yet to address. “Blaise.”
“Tai,” Blaise nodded back.
“You see, boys,” Tai paused, stroking the side of his face as he circled around them, “I have a problem.”
“No one cares.” Maverick stepped away from Tai, putting some distance between them.
With one long stride, Tai closed the gap and looked at each of the boys before continuing. “Tobey is one of my regulars. He comes to me every Friday for… supplies… for some weekend fun. Only, today, can you guess what happened?”
Maverick and Blaise stared at Tai, their blues eyes squinting in the sun.
“It wasn’t a rhetorical question, I really want you to guess what happened,” said Tai, placing his hands on his hips.
“We’re not playing your stupid little games, Tai.” Blaise narrowed his eyes.
Tai shot them a wicked smile. “I think you already know what happened.”
“Shove it up your ass, Tai.” Maverick said.
Tai continued, ignoring his comment. “Well, since you couldn’t quite figure it out, I guess I’ll have to tell you. Tobey didn’t come for his usual this morning. And I thought to myself, ‘maybe Tobey got clean. Maybe he’s being a good little boy and he doesn’t need me anymore…’ But then I thought that’s a silly idea. After all, once you start partying with the Big H, it’s not like you stop. If Tobey isn’t buying from me, surely he’s buying from someone else. But that’s just another silly idea too, isn’t it? He can’t buy from anyone else. Because we have a treaty.” Hands crossed over his chest, Tai glared at the boys, his dark brown eyes absorbing the light like sunglasses.
“Look, Tai,” Blaise took in a deep breath, “Tobey contacted Rylan directly, and he was on our side of the island. Technically, we didn’t break any rules.”
Maverick’s eyebrow arched high on his forehead and his lip curled up in a snarl. “We can’t help it if you don’t know how to keep your customers satisfied.”
Tai’s tanned cheeks turned a bright red and his jaw clenched. “You go remind Rylan he can only sell to the vacationers. I have the rights to natives. Tobey is native and therefore he is my customer. You can’t sell him anything.”
“Well, it’s done now, isn’t it?” Blaise asked. “What do you expect us to do about it at this point?”
Tai clenched his jaw and pointed his finger at the boys. “If it happens one more time, I-”
“You’ll what?” Maverick asked, stepping closer to Tai so the finger he was pointing touched his chest. “If it happens again, you’ll do what, Tai?”
Blaise wedged his arm in between Maverick and Tai and pushed his friend back. “Don’t shoot the messengers, Tai, if you have a problem, take it up with Rylan.”
Tai and Maverick remained standing close together, eyes locked on one another, hands clenched into fists. Blaise pushed Maverick away from Tai with more force. He stumbled back a couple steps. The eye contact between them broke. Tai smirked. “Blaise, keep a tighter leash on your dog.”
Maverick’s face turned red. “You didn’t just say that.” He leapt on top of Tai, sending them both crashing to the ground. They rolled around among the pebbles, and dust flew into the air. Blaise grabbed Maverick around the chest and pulled. He lost his grip and stumbled, almost landing on top of the two boys fighting. Blaise pulled at his friend again, and Maverick was hoisted off of Tai and on to the ground next to him. His feet scrambled until they were under him and he lunged at Tai again. Blaise stepped in front of his friend and pushed him backwards, and he grabbed his shirt at the shoulder, spinning him around so his back was to Tai.
“He’s not worth it, Mav, let it go.” The boys stepped away from Tai and the diner.
Tai found his feet and stood. He wiped his nose and found blood on the back of his hand. When he looked down, he also noticed a rip in his shirt and sequins on the ground. Anger bubbled inside of him, and a growl from his throat escaped as a yell. “Tell Rylan this is the last time he sells to one of my customers.”
Maverick turned to look behind him, but Blaise shoved his shoulder and he kept walking forward. “Get ahold of yourself.”
Maverick touched the corner of his mouth and when he pulled his hand back, he saw blood on his finger. Cursing under his breath, he pulled his Calvin Klein shirt over his head and used it to clean his lip. The cut stopped bleeding but not before ruining the white shirt. He tossed it into a nearby trashcan and the boys continued onward.
They walked along the edge of a wooded area, the grassy gravel path uneven under their feet. Maverick threw pebbles at the trees they passed and watched as the small rocks ricocheted off one tree and hit another. The sun turned his bare shoulders pink. Blaise kept a steady pace. He felt for the hundreds in his pocket and ran his fingers across the edge of the bills before letting his arms hang freely at his sides.
The boys passed by hotels with cars crowding their parking lots. A man in a Hawaiian shirt took pictures of the palm trees with a camera that was strapped around his neck. A woman was lathering a child with sunblock, who was jumping around and talking about the beach. A group of young adults in bathing suits and hats with college logos were drinking beer at the back of a pick up truck. The white seashells pressed in the concrete made the sidewalk almost as uneven as the gravel path they just came from.
A sharp right and ten more minutes of walking led the boys to a single house that rivaled the hotels in size. They passed through the open gates at the edge of the driveway. Past stone cherubs spitting water into a fountain and up marble stairs, Blaise turned the iron doorknob and they both walked through ten-foot wooden doors. They passed through rooms with white marble floors and untouched velvet furniture. Maverick ducked down a hallway and emerged wearing a new shirt.
“Maverick, Blaise, how nice to see you.”
The boys turned to see a lady sitting in a chair sipping coffee, facing eight-foot windows that flaunted a beach view.
“Hello, Mrs. Marlowe,” they both said.
“How are you today?” Blaise glared at Maverick for asking the question.
“Oh, boys, to be honest, I am a little troubled.” Mrs. Marlowe emphasized every syllable and took another sip of her coffee while continuing to gaze out the window.
The boys both stifled a chuckle before Maverick asked, “What’s wrong, Mrs. Marlowe?”
She took another sip of her coffee. “I’m worried about Rylan. He’s been awful mopey lately.” Removing one hand from the mug, she clutched her chest. “It just breaks a mother’s heart to see her baby so sad.”
“We can talk to him, Mrs. Marlowe.” Maverick said.
“Oh, would you do that for me?” She smiled and took another sip of her coffee. “That’s so kind, boys. He would probably open up to you more than me. I know talking to your parents is so lame when you’re young.”
Maverick forced a smile. “It’s no problem.”
“You boys can go find him, I think he’s in his room upstairs. He’s probably playing that guitar of his again. He just has not put that thing down lately.” Mrs. Marlowe tipped her head back and lifted the mug high above her face, and once it was empty she put it on the table next to her.
“What’s wrong with Rylan?” Blaise asked.
Mrs. Marlowe looked out the window again. “Well, he hasn’t said anything specifically, of course, but I think he’s just upset with his father and me because we said we’d make him a partner at the company when he turned eighteen, and that was two years ago but we haven’t done it yet. We’ve just been so busy and-” She stopped talking and pulled a vibrating phone out of her pocket. She looked down at it and stood. “I’m sorry, boys, but I’ve been waiting for this call all morning.”
She walked away briskly, holding the phone to her ear. The faint sound of a door closing came from down the hall.
Maverick and Blaise looked at each other and shook their heads. Blaise opened a sliding glass door and walked out of the house, and Maverick followed. They went down the steps of the concrete deck and kicked off their shoes before heading through the sand. Seagulls circled above as they followed the faint sound of an acoustic guitar. As the house got smaller behind them, the guitar sounded louder.
They stopped in front of a boy sitting in the sand. His tanned skin almost matched the brown guitar he was strumming. The wind blew sun-bleached hair over his closed eyes as he sang an oldie about being a teenager in love.
“Hello, earth to Rylan,” Maverick nudged the boy playing the guitar with his foot.
Rylan’s eyes flew open. The singing stopped. The guitar playing stopped. Rylan pushed his hair back to get it out of his eyes and laid the guitar next to him. With the wave of his hand, he gestured for the boys to sit with him, and they crouched down in the sand.
“What’s up?” Rylan asked.
“Your mom is worried about you.” Blaise said.
“Oh yeah?” Rylan chuckled. “What does she think is wrong now?”
“She thinks you’re pissed because you’re not a part of the company yet.” Maverick said, concentrating on keeping a straight face.
Rylan looked at his friends. The side of his mouth lifted into a smirk and all the boys broke out in a fit of laughter.
When they calmed down, Rylan caught his breath and rolled his eyes. “Yeah right, like I need their money. I’ve got my own business.”
“Damn straight.” Maverick nodded.
“Speaking of which…” Rylan held out his hand, rubbing his thumb across the other fingers.
Blaise took the wad of hundreds out of his pocket. Rylan took it and counted the bills. He handed each of the boys two hundreds and pocketed the rest.
“We ran into Tai after we closed,” Blaise said.
“Yeah? What did he want?” Rylan asked, his tone flat.
“He said you broke the treaty,” Blaise started and Maverick finished, “because you sold to his customer.”
Rylan shrugged. “Oops.”
“Oops?” Maverick leaned forward. “You made me deal with that prick and all you can say is ‘oops’?”
Rylan glanced at him from under heavy eyelids. “I’m sorry, Mav, what else do you want me to say?”
Blaise raised an eyebrow and glared at Maverick. “You’re the one who chose to fight him. Don’t blame Rylan for your temper.”
“He was provoking me, I had to put him in his place.”
Rylan sighed. “Whatever.”
Blaise and Maverick fell silent and stared wide-eyed at their friend.
“‘Whatever?’ ‘Whatever?’ Who are you and what have you done with Rylan?” Maverick asked.
“Seriously, dude, what’s going on? This isn’t you.” Blaise said.
“This is me,” Rylan said, “the me that is in love- cruel, beautiful love.”
“Not this again,” Maverick let out a groan.
“Still hung up on Rui?” Blaise asked.
Rylan sighed, fixing his eyes on the ocean in front of him. “When you meet a girl who’s so sweet and smart and beautiful like Rui, you just can’t let her go so easily.”
“That would imply that she’s yours to hold on to, which she’s not.” Maverick said.
Blaise narrowed his eyes and shot a glance at Maverick. “What I think our sympathetic friend is trying to say is that it doesn’t really seem like the two of you are, you know, together. Since she doesn’t really answer your calls or texts or anything.”
“She needs her space to concentrate on school right now.”
“But it’s summer,” Maverick’s voice grew louder and his hands started shaking at his sides, “how stupid are you?”
“How many times do I have to tell you? She’s taking summer classes so she can graduate early.” Rylan said, his tone edgy.
Maverick snorted. “Yeah, if by ‘taking summer classes’ she means getting on another guy and by ‘graduate early’ she means getting on another guy.”
Rylan shot him a glare. “I trust her.”
“How would you know? You’re not close to her.” Rylan shifted his weight uncomfortably.
“Neither are you,” Maverick said each word slow and over-pronounced.
“Yes I am.”
Maverick shook his head. “I bet you never even slept with her.”
Rylan hesitated. “She’s been-”
“If you say ‘busy with school’ one more time...” Maverick’s face was red.
“Rylan, since you met Rui, you’ve been sadder than usual- a lot sadder than usual. She’s changing you, man, and not for the better. That’s messed up, don’t you think?” Blaise asked.
Rylan let out a sigh and flopped backward into the sand, stretching his arms out at his sides. “When you’ve met someone so special, you don’t feel complete unless you’re with them. It would be understandable to be a little… sad… when they’re away.”
Maverick grunted, and the sound grew into a yell. “No. You aren’t getting it. Rui does not like you. Get over her already. You don’t even talk anymore.”
“Well that’s your opinion.” Rylan sighed.
“No. It’s a fact.” Maverick narrowed his eyes and clenched his jaw. “If you’re too blind to see it, then I’ll have to just show you.”
Rylan sat up. “How do you think you’re going to do that?”
“You need to get over Rui, and the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else.” Maverick pointed his finger at Rylan. “If you won’t find a new flame by yourself, I’ll find someone for you.”
Rylan shook his head. “That’s not going to happen.”
“Oh, it is. Don’t try to stop me. My new goal in life is to find you a different girl.” Maverick rubbed his hands together and wiggled his eyebrows. “You better warm up to the idea fast, pal, because you’re going to have a new girlfriend before you know it.”
Rylan smirked. “Don’t plan on it.”
“Get ready to kiss Rui goodbye.”
“Stop teasing him, Mav,” Blaise said.
“No, it’s alright.” Rylan said to Blaise and he turned to Maverick, “I dare you to find a girl on this island who is better than Rui- it’s not possible.”