Lust in London

an excerpt



Chapter One

"You sure this is you?"

What kind of question was that? Of course he was the guy pictured in the photo. He remembered standing up against a bare white wall at the lotto/deli/photo store for it, like they were taking his mug shot, he trying to affect when a smile when it was the last thing he felt like doing. A recent ugly break-up with a guy who turned into a big jerk had killed his mood, leaving Jake Westbury to pose like a rock star with an attitude. But then he realized what the security agent was questioning: the photo displayed a clean-shaven Jake, and of recent weeks he'd been sporting a freshly grown goatee. He supposed the circle of hair on his face altered his appearance enough to warrant a second look.

Jake rubbed his chin. "Oh yeah, going for a new look."

"Sure thing, kid," the guy said dismissively. "Makes you look...devious. I'm supposed to take note of devious."

Kid Jake liked, devious not so much. He was thirty-eight, probably not much younger than the man behind the security desk, but he wasn't as...weathered looking as this guy. Maybe the civil servant life took it toll. Jake was a freelance writer/frustrated novelist by design, could shave his face or not. Didn't matter, he hated being tied down to one company, four walls, a single cubicle, one boring, same look. The world was his office, and on this day said world was opening wide its embrace. Tomorrow morning, he'd be on British soil, a summer of writing and adventure awaiting him.

"Have a good flight," the guard said, handing back the passport.

As Jake made his way toward the scanners, his mind was distracted by the word devious. It conjured bad things, like he was a crook...or considering he was at an airport, a terrorist. A silly thought. Jake was as all-American as they came, thick brown hair, brown eyes, pale skin; he was no threat to anyone, except maybe his own self doubts.

At the security checkpoint, he dropped his shoulder bag into the gray pin, taking out his laptop. Then he removed his blazer, his belt, his shoes and made his way through the scanner without setting off any beeps or warnings. The body scanners were not as judgmental, you want to change your facial appearance, fine; just don't do it with metal. Jake retrieved his belongings, heading through the terminal toward his gate.

Just then panic washed over him. Nervously patting the pockets of his blazer, his pants, he realized he didn't know where he'd placed his passport. A mild sweat broke out across his forehead. Where the hell was it? Jake had stuffed it back inside...wait, had he put it inside his carry-on luggage? You know, this was the worst part about flying, the mess they made of your head, putting all sorts of thoughts inside it about terrorists, criminals, the underbelly of the human condition, so much so they had you forgetting who you were, screwing with your prized, organizational skills. Jake was the kind of person who placed his wallet in the same location every day, the back left pocket of his jeans, and yup, after a quick pat, the wallet was there. Thank God. But his passport, that was entirely another matter. And without it, there was no way the airline personnel would let him board the aircraft, no way the stern officers at passport control on the other end would allow him entry into the country.

A summer-long trip to London, England off to a banner start, ended before he'd even had a chance to get out of the terminal. For Jake Westbury, who planned his life to within an inch of perfection, for such an important detail to go awry, well, that just wasn't acceptable, was it?

He stopped in his tracks to review his most recent steps. He had only gotten about one hundred feet beyond the body scanners, and he knew he had his passport in his hand as he tossed his belongings into the gray bins at the checkpoint. He reviewed. Shoulder bag open, laptop out, shoes off, boarding pass...wait, where the hell was his boarding pass? With his passport, of course, stuffed in the middle of the booklet. Bending down, he opened his bag, searching past his book and his iPod, the two items which would occupy his time on the six hour overnight flight, taking out his laptop once more. Essentially, he emptied the small bag's contents onto the floor, shook the bag while oblivious to the strange looks he was receiving from passersby. Not one person stopped to ask if he needed help, not that he expected assistance. In this selfish world, people looked after themselves first and themselves second. Shit, shit, shit, it's not here, no passport, he thought, no boarding pass, his excessive swearing making him think he sounded a lot like his mouthy friend Freddie, though his increasing panic was more reminiscent of how the panicky Matt would react.

Jake Westbury had always been the monkey in the middle when it came to his two best friends. The oldest of their platonic threesome, the most practical, level-headed of them, he always felt torn between Freddie's slutty, fun-loving lifestyle and Matt's close-mouthed, heart-on-his-sleeve personality. Like Freddie, too often Jake indulged his desires with little thought to the consequences, but usually the next morning he was jealous of Matt's ability to not give in to such primal urges. He was the typical horny gay after a few drinks--love the climax, regret the guy. Such was the confounding nature that was Jake Westbury. And now, with Freddie having already left for Rome, Matt in Paris nearly two weeks now, it was Jake's turn to head off on his summer adventure in London.

That is, if he ever found his passport.

He knew his flight number, he remembered his gate. The plane didn't depart for a good ninety minutes, assuming it was still listed for an on-time departure. Best thing for him to do was to head over to the gate, check in with the airline personnel to see if anyone had turned in his passport. Terminal Four at JFK, Jake was flying out on Virgin Atlantic, and at this later hour-- nearly nine thirty at night--it was not the usual swarm of people at the gates, shops, bar. With most flights having already departed, the terminal had an echoing quiet to it. Passing one gate with an overnight flight to Dubai, Jake was struck by how vast was the world, the countless places you could fly to. He was also struck by these many strangers, any of whom might have stumbled upon his passport. Swiped his passport?

His earlier paranoia about terrorists and criminals came rushing back to him. What if his passport had fallen into nefarious hands? His identity could be easily stolen, causing all sorts of headaches with his bank accounts, his credit cards, you name it...hell, his gym membership. (The crook could have that...) Yet, he had his wallet, patting his back pocket again to double, triple check, so at least he could prove who he was if needed.

Jake ventured down the terminal corridor, making his way toward Gate 4. Dozens of people where waiting in the provided for chairs, some lost in their headphones, their computers, books, others just staring out into nothingness. Jake never understood those people, a six hour flight ahead of them, already bored. What would they do on the plane? Probably these were the people who could sleep through the heaviest turbulence, bastards; but then again, they were no doubt bored, their own lives automatically put them to sleep. Jake always awoke with enthusiasm, never knowing what the day would bring. Take today--since the morning he'd been planning for a smooth flight London, and look at him now? Drama surrounding his passport.

He approached the desk at the gate, where a man and female attendant were busy talking, dressed in their distinctive Virgin suits of red and purple. They curtly dispensed with a customer who had far too many questions--what time would they begin boarding, did they board from the back or the front, what time would they be landing--and then it was Jake's turn.

"May I help you, sir?" the woman asked.

"I sure hope so. I've lost my passport," he said. "My boarding pass, too, that was inside the passport."

"Oh, dear, that's unfortunate," she said with a sympathetic, trained frown.

The man--young, cute, dark-haired, the kind Jake would take notice of at a bar, give him a smile across the crowded room--looked up at him. Scrutinizing him. Inwardly criticizing him? Fine, treat me that way, I won't be buying you a drink, taking you home and...

Focus, Jake.

"Most unfortunate," the man added, unnecessarily.

Unfortunate. Jake loved British understatement.

"I was wondering...hoping, perhaps someone had turned it in? I had it earlier, obviously, otherwise I would not have gotten through security. Probably dropped out of my blazer pocket when I removed it to put my stuff in those gray bins. They make you practically undress over there, it's a wonder people don't lose more of their belongings."

"Sorry, sir, no one has turned in a passport," she said.

"You're on this flight, sir? VS 09?" the male gate attendant asked.

"Yes."

"Hmm. We'll put out a search, hopefully someone will find it, turn it in. Otherwise..."

Yeah, Jake knew what otherwise meant. No passport, no fly.

Regardless, they asked for his name, checking it against the manifest, nodding when they had confirmation that he'd cleared check-in. Jake Westbury, seat 44D.

"Mr. Westbury, if someone turns it in we'll make an announcement over the terminal's intercom. I'm sure it will turn up, can't have gone far now, can it? Did you check back at the security checkpoint?"

Jake nodded, said he had.

"Okay, I suggest you have a seat, relax."

Great, sit still and stay calm. Sure, that was easy.

"I'll be at the bar," Jake said.

The woman said nothing, but the man looked up with obivious envy. Guess it had been a long day. Too bad, I've already decided not to buy you a drink, Jake thought. Cute only gets you so far, and besides...dammit, focus on what's important...his passport, getting on the plane, landing in London, a summer searching for the ideal love. Put aside all thoughts of cute guys, drinks, picking someone up, sex...one nighters that meant nothing. Isn't that how this whole European venture had started, a tryst that, as amazing as it had been, had left Jake feeling empty? Where was the consuming love that went with such pleasuring climaxes? Jake pushed those thoughts aside, heading for the bar and a much-needed drink.

Setting down his shoulder bag, glad to have the weight off, he checked out the selection of beers on tap. The bartender asked for his order, he opted for a Bass. Might as well get in the spirit of the U.K., even if he actually never made it over there. No, stop with the negative thoughts, it would all work out, someone would find the passport, return it, he'd get on that plane and take to sky with his fellow travelers. Beer in front of him, Jake drank down a healthy gulp. Staring at the television, the channel was turned to baseball. The Mets were losing. Like that was something new.

"Uh, excuse me...?"

Jake heard the voice, turned to find a young man standing behind him.

"You're Jake Westbury, right?"

"Yeah...I mean, do I know you?"

The man held up a small green booklet, a rectangular piece of paper sticking out of it. Jake practically lunged for it.

"Oh my God, you found it..."

"Yeah, it was stuck against the side of one of those bins...I was going to turn it in at the gate but then I saw you heading for the bar," the man said, his voice heavily accented. Jake wasn't sure from where, but foreign definitely. Had to double-check, though, you know...you look a little different from the photo. The facial hair. So, I guess you're gonna need this."

Jake could barely focus on what the man was saying, what the man even looked like. All he could see was the runaway passport, still being waved about in the air between them. Finally, Jake took hold of the passport, flipping it open to ensure that it was indeed his. But of course it was, the missing goatee in his picture notwithstanding. Did the addition of the facial hair really change his appearance that much? Whatever, at least he had his passport back, along with his boarding pass. Thank God.

"Hey, thanks so much. You have no idea how much I appreciate it. Look, uh..."

"Erich. Erich Sommer."

"Erich, right. Thanks, again. Can I buy you a drink? Least I can do."

"Uh, sure. Why not? I'll take what you're having."

"Bass."

"Sure, that's fine," Erich said, settling into the bar stool next to Jake. "Not exactly hearty German beer, but in the States, what can you expect?"

"You're from Germany?" Aha, that was the accent.

"Munich. Born and bred."

"Then you know from beer. Headed home?"

"A brief stop in London, but yeah, then home."

Erich's beer quickly arrived, as did a refill of Jake's. He'd barely eaten, the first drink was already swimming inside his addled brain. The two men raised glasses and cheered. "Really, Erich, you have no idea how much you've helped me."

"I'm glad to. Traveling, it's not easy these days."

Jake nodded, agreeing with his new friend. And speaking of, as they drank from their glasses, Jake finally had a moment to assess the man in front of him. Thick bodied, white blonde hair, crystal blue eyes, a ruddy complexion, he looked barely old enough to shave, but yet held a world weary look to him. Good genes, hard life, that's what Jake decided. He also decided Erich was kind of attractive, not exactly his type but pleasing nonetheless. The way he looked up at the television screen, curious about the game playing out in front of them, Erich was undoubtedly straight--no sense over-thinking this one.

"So, you're on this flight? Virgin, departing at ten fifty?" Jake asked.

"Yeah, not many other flights leaving at this time. Besides, I love this airline, the private screen at your seat, you can watch pretty much anything. Which is important, since I can't sleep on planes. The slightest bump in the air, my eyes open and my hearts pumps. Like we're gonna crash. Even though we never do. Well, so far, anyway, I'm still here, right?"

Jake smiled. "Good point. I'm not much of a sleeper either on flights."

A sudden, uncomfortable silence fell between the two men, bodies shifting awkwardly in their bar stools. "Well, Jake, perhaps we can entertain each other on board," Erich ventured, his hand sliding over the bar to touch Jake's arm Jake pulled back, not even sure why, but it caused a dark tint to cloud Erich's eyes. "I'm sorry if I was too forward."

"No, no," Jake said, trying to recover from the unexpected advance. "It's just...you took me by surprise. But, no, your offer, it's very nice...I like your eyes--they're so piercing. Even if you hadn't been kind enough to return my passport, I can tell you're a nice guy."

"I am very nice, unassuming," Erich said.

"Except you assumed I was gay."

"Not assumed, hoped," he said with a smile. "So, Jake, I like the top of your shirt."

His words initially confused Jake. The top of his...oh, oh. So, Erich liked what Jake's open-necked shirt had on offer, a triangle of exposed chest hair. How did you respond to that? Between his facial hair, his open shirt, guess Jake was looking a bit hairy. Which was odd, since it he who usually sought out the masculine, furry type. It's not like this was his favorite pick-up joint, Gaslight Tavern, not like he was going home with him. Still, did you say thanks?

"Uh, thanks, there's plenty more," Jake found himself saying, surprising himself with his bold overture. What, was he going to pick this hot guy up at the airport, take him into a bathroom stall and fuck him while they waited out the hour that remained before boarding? Or better yet, wait until they had taken to the sky, follow the sexy blonde toward permanent membership in the mile-high club, right there inside the tight confines of the bathroom?

"Hmm, I would like to find out just how much more," Erich said with a knowing smile, his fingers snaking inside Jake's shirt. He stroked Jake's hair, apparently unfazed by the fact they were surrounded by fellow travelers, breeders unaccustomed to the mating dance between gay men. Hell, Jake wasn't even sure he felt comfortable with this scenario, except for the fact that Erich's grazing made his cock thicken inside his jeans.

Truthfully, Jake wasn't used to being pursued. At Gaslight, at other gay bars, at parties, he tended to be the one to scope out someone he found appealing, exchange knowing looks, smiles, raise a glass in a toast to an uncertain, but promising night. But Erich was taking the lead here, and as much as Jake wanted to resist his allure there was something totally hot about an impromptu hook-up. The reason behind his trip to London was a supposed cure for these casual sexual encounters, an effort to put behind his anything goes past and find true, lasting love.

But he wasn't in London yet, was he?

"So," Jake said, signaling the bartender for another round. "It should be a fun flight."

"Yes," Erich said, "very bumpy."

A suggestive comment like that, Jake nearly shot his load right there and then.

Nearly.

***