Playing the Field: Served!

Colby Johnson and his cousin Megan have been practicing all summer for Wildwood's annual Beach Volleyball Tournament. The evening before, Colby drops by the bar where Megan works for a quick drink before heading home and meets sexy Vander "Van" Byron. The instant attraction is mutual, but they only share a few brief hours before Colby has to call it a night.

The next day, Colby and Megan are on a winning streak, advancing through the tournament ranks with ease. When Colby runs into Van and his twin sister Vallery at the tournament, he isn't surprised -- more than half of Wildwood's population, tourist and local alike, are crowded on the beach for the event. But he is shocked to see the numbered vest Van wears, marking him as a competitor.

A quick look at the schedule shows that if both teams continue their winning streaks, the day will end with Colby and Van facing off through the volleyball net. To up the ante, Van proposes a little wager. Whoever wins their game advances in the tournament, of course, and continues on for a chance to win one of the grand prizes the next day. But whoever loses gets whatever he wants from the winner.



"You want to go someplace a little more ... I don't know, private?"

Van's eyes widen, as does his smile. "Where do you have in mind?"

"The beach." Colby nods past the bar at the exit gate, which leads down a short flight of wooden steps to the shore. One of the O's employees stands guard, a tough-looking guy with a buzz cut whose tattooed arms are crossed before a barrel chest as he stands beside a sign that reads No Alcohol Beyond This Point. Van glances at the guy, then back at Colby, his eyes alight. Colby prompts, "You want?"

Throwing back the rest of his beer, Van purrs, "Lead the way."

Colby leaves a twenty on the bar for the drinks, then takes Van's hand in his to pull him off the bar stool and into the crowd. Together they bump through the bodies blocking their way to the exit, Colby in front, Van's fingers curled warmly around his. At the gate Colby flashes the O guy a grin which isn't returned, but since they left their beers at the bar, they're waved through.

The moment Colby steps out, he feels a cool breeze across his face, lifting the sandy hair from his brow. Though the O's patio is open to the elements, the press of the crowd had kept him from feeling the wind before, or hearing the soft surf crash against the shore. The sound soothes him now, calming his racing heart, and the alcohol in his veins seems to ebb and flow with the tide. At this late hour, the moon shines like a bright sliver high above them, a scuttle of gray clouds scurrying across its face. The beach is dark, illuminated only by the scant moon above and its ephemeral reflection on the churning waves in the distance. The tide line is a good mile from the O's pier, the sand heavy and thick to walk through, and still hot from the heat of the day. It slips between Colby's toes, the bottoms of his feet and the sole of his sandals, fine grit he has to shake off every few steps to keep it from chafing.

He doesn't get far before Van stops behind him. Their interlaced hands stretch taut between them, then Colby stumbles back, turning to laugh at his new friend. Van's arms come up around him, hemming him in; Colby finds himself in a tight embrace, one he's imagined all evening. With his forehead pressed against Van's, he stands a few inches taller than Van and has to look down into those mercurial eyes. "Hey," he whispers.

"Hey yourself." Van's eyes slip closed and Colby's heart hammers in his chest, his ears. He waits, not daring to shut his own eyes and miss the moment. Van angles his chin up until it brushes alongside Colby's cheek, then he turns ever so slightly and his lips touch Colby's in a barely-there kiss.

The faint press of Van's mouth on his nearly takes Colby's breath away.

So soft, those lips. After their first taste, they part to take Colby's lower lip between them and he feels Van's teeth nibble gently. He tastes the beer and salt from the pretzels they had at the bar. Van's arms tighten around Colby, hips jutting out to thrust the front of his cut-off jeans against Colby's shorts. There's no mistaking the hardness at Van's crotch -- it rubs against Colby's own erection, warming the cloth that separates them. His lips open, forcing Colby to do the same, and Van's tongue licks into him, hungry. "Please," Van sighs before Colby kisses the word from him.