Rapture in Rome

an excerpt

Chapter One

"Son of a bitch."

That was Freddie Markson's reaction to the delay flashing on the monitor. In his mind the word fuck echoed like twelve times, that's how pissed off he was. He wasn't alone in his grumbling, seemed half of his fellow travelers were watching the changing screen like it was a porn movie, unable to look away but knowing what they were seeing what all a big lie. There was no passion, no truth, and certainly no fun. The Alitalia flight had already been delayed two hours, and now it looked like they'd be hanging around Terminal One at JFK another hour.

The airline was blaming the weather, but didn't they always point the blame somewhere else? Sure, it was raining outside, big deal. Freddie could see beads of water dripping down the plate glass windows of the terminal, as though the airport was shedding tears for them. Yeah yeah, screw your sympathy. Get us our plane and get us out here. Didn't planes fly through thunder storms all the time, what was a little drizzle? He'd had enough of New York and its summer humidity already, if he was going to sweat through his clothes every day he may as well do it in some place far more exotic. Like, well...Rome, Italy would do. If they ever fricking boarded the plane.

Frederick Richard Markson was a man not known for his patience. At thirty-six, he was a tight coil of a man, his lithe body ready to spring into action the moment the gun went off. He was of average build, he had brown hair so thick people called it his thatch, worn in a modern, tousled style. His trim self was achieved by constantly staying in motion, which usually drew guys to him like a magnet. That, and his inviting, toothy smile. One of his former boyfriends had claimed Freddie never stopped moving, even when he was asleep. Can't fault him there, sleep annoyed him. He loved the race and the challenge of life, and if he didn't win at anything, well, at least he had fun along the way. You can't have much fun sleeping, can you?

Which is why he was so anxious to take to the skies, sitting around had never been high on his list of activities. He'd done enough of that already while waiting at the gate for this flight, and the fact he would have to wait out another hour or so in addition to the nine hour flight to Rome's Fiumicino Airport made for a case of antsy-pants. As he retook his chair at the crowded gate, just another dissatisfied flyer, his knees bounced with frustration. This was not how his trip was supposed to start, and it had better not be an indication of how things were going to go once he got there. Fall in love, my ass, Freddie thought. That was the supposed mission, wasn't it? While his friends Jake and Matt--Matt especially, hopeless romantic that he was--might think they were going to find their one true love during their fanciful summer sojourns, Freddie knew differently. He hadn't pretended with them, he certainly wasn't fooling himself. His plan was to happily, lustily screw his way through Rome, and when he ran out of the Romans, maybe he'd conquer men in other cities. Isn't that what those feisty Romans did, they conquered? And as the old saying goes...when in Rome. He thrilled at the idea of lots of bone-rattling sex.

"Easy tiger."

He turned skeptically to his immediate left. A striking woman about his own age was sitting beside him. She was tastefully dressed in expensive clothes, blonde hair done all proper in a tight, constricting bun. She was pretty, ruby red lips highlighting her aquiline features. Not bad, but she wasn't his type. Main problem? She was a she.

"Excuse me?"

"You look like you're about to leap out of your skin."

"Yeah, well, waiting sucks."

She nodded demurely. "That is does. I'm Patricia Abbott. Patsy to my friends."

"Oh, uh, hi. Freddie Markson."

"Freddie, hmm. Not Fred? Not Frederick."

He shook his head emphatically. "No way. Fred just sounds nerdy. Frederick like I have a stick permanently shoved up my butt. Freddie...he's more fun. Freddie's your pal. He's the kind of guy you invite for one drink but end up doing shots with. That's me, that's who I like to be."

"Sounds ideal. I'll buy the first."

"Excuse me?"

"Well, you're awfully polite, you get credit there, Freddie. You mother must have raised you right. Look, we've got an hour--or so that's what the airlines folks are telling us. So why not join me over at the terminal bar, maybe you can convince me of the merits of doing shots. I prefer wine, red mostly, but on a hot summer day I'll settle for a crisp white. What do you say?"


"Really, it's just a harmless drink," she said, patting his knee into submission. "Trust me, Freddie, I'm not interested in anything romantic, and I know you're not."

Freddie crossed his arms, the coil tightening. Feeling a bit defensive about that remark, Freddie wondered if she'd just admitted to seeing through his macho fa├žade and into the window of his well-appointed gay interior? "Come on, let's get that drink and then we can survey the rest of our fellow passengers, maybe pick out a cute boy for you to boink on the plane. From what I've seen, there's a couple of good candidates...oh don't act so surprised, Freddie. Have I shocked you?"

"Yeah, but in a good way. First drink is on you, huh?"

Both fliers had checked their larger suitcases, so with only shoulder bags to trudge around, they wound their way down the corridor, taking up seats directly at the Terminal One's bar. Two napkins were slapped down in front of them, the server asking what it'll be.

"Heineken," Freddie said. "Jack chaser."

"Merlot, please," Patsy said, and then with a conniving smile, said, "Jack chaser."

The bartender was obviously amused at the unusual order, and he went about his business preparing drinks. Once they were set before them, Freddie lifted his amber-colored shot, Patsy following suit. The clinked, they drank, one quick gulp of the fiery amber. Freddie smacked the glass down and said, "Now that takes the edge off." Patsy's face hadn't yet recovered from her squashed look. A few of the men around her applauded her efforts. She merely nodded in their direction.

Matt and Patsy moved to a high table near the edge of the bar, giving them a decent view of the activity happening inside the quiet terminal. It was past ten o'clock at night, most of the overnight flights had already departed. A few still remained, theirs obviously included. Still delayed that additional hour. No other updates available.

"So, tell me Freddie, what's your type? Flamboyant or masculine?"

"I guess somewhere in between. He doesn't have to be draped in the gay flag, per se, but he should be comfortable in his own skin. Some of the straight-acting ones, sometimes I think they believe they are straight...or that they want to be for socially acceptable reasons. They're only gay when in a darkened bedroom. But the swishy ones...you can keep those as for as I'm concerned. Some of them think they're women, and if I wanted a woman..."

"You'd be straight."

"Right. So...yeah, a guy who knows who is he but doesn't have to show it all the time. But he's got to be hot. Call me shallow, but I work out and keep my body in great shape and I want to be with someone who shares the same healthy attitude. You're gonna indulge in energetic, mind-blowing sex, you want someone who can keep up, right?" Freddie paused, taking a large gulp of his beer. "Sorry, TMI?"

"Oh, no. It's fascinating. So let me guess, you're not the relationship type."

"Uh, no."

"So, you're not looking for love? For the ideal companion to share your life?"

"Nope. Not now, not for quite awhile," Freddie said. "Though actually, that's what this trip is supposed to be about."

"How intriguing. Do tell."

So he did. He told this perfect stranger all about his friends Jake Westbury and Matthew Donovan, both of whom had already left for their trips to London and Paris respectively, and while he was sure Jake was acting like the dog he was, Matt "is probably already married and has his second child on the way. And he's only been there two weeks."

"Sounds like you don't think much of your friend, Matt."

"Oh, quite the opposite. I admire the fact he knows what he wants. He's the sensitive one. Me, I'm just not wired that way."

"Now you sound like my brother. Bigshot, international lawyer, he's gay and he loves sex--I've heard more about his antics than I ever wanted to, which is probably why I'm the fag hag he insists I am, and hey, if I am it's because he made me that way, you know, nurture versus nature...haha--but he's afraid of commitment, or so he thinks he is. Anyway, we have this ongoing game. Since we both travel a lot, we meet a lot of people. How many men Colton has bought membership into the mile-high club I don't know--but it's a lot. Me, that sort of sordid sex doesn't interest me. That doesn't mean I can't help further the cause. So, Freddie, have you found any boys here to your liking? I saw some queen walk by with a pink carry-all and quickly dismissed him. Another guy had his baseball cap worn backwards, another no-no I'm guessing. Hey, what about that one?"

Freddie looked to where she was pointing, his eyes zeroing in a guy flipping through cyber pages on his iPad. He was blonde, trim, tall, could have been straight except for the limp-wristed motion he used on his tech device. Patsy had picked up on it, raising an eyebrow as she sipped at her red wine.

"He's not even sitting near our gate."

"Doesn't matter. Few other flights remain tonight, could just be stretching out. Look at his legs, nice and long. Damn iPad is blocking his package. Still, he's got potential. Cute in a preppy way, but I don't think that's much of a problem for you. Once the Tommy Hilfiger clothes are off, men are men. Bodies are bodies, skin is skin."

"Yeah, okay. I'll keep him in mind. Hey, what about that guy?"

"That guy" proved to be one of their flight attendants, a dark-haired, dark-skinned man of thirty-something years waiting around for the arrival of their plane with a gaggle of coworkers. He was nattily dressed in tight dark-green slacks, a white shirt that hugged a fit, if short-ish, body. His blazer was draped over nearby luggage. He spoke excitedly witth his fellow co-workers, arms flailing with passion. Ooh, a fiery personality, no doubt annoyed as well at the delay. Probably had that much energy in bed, too, Freddie thought.

"Okay, I'll give you him."

"Please," Freddie pleaded.

"So, we've got our choices narrowed down. The tall blonde tech guy, or the short, hunky African-American fly boy," Patsy said. "Let's see what happens when we board. Come on, kid, put on your best gay, let them know you're here. Freddie Markson is on board, and he wants to play."

"Damn, girl, you've known me thirty minutes, already you're a better wing man than either Jake or Matt. Plus, you don't represent any kind of competition, in case the guy likes star-crossed lovers like Matt, or sneaky whores like Jake. With me, it's fun in the sun, on your back in the sack, a cock and a suck, a lock and a fuck."

"My, my, dirty poetry. Freddie, I think you're going places."

He grimaced. "Not really. Look at the monitor."

Another delay. One more hour. Shit. The time was flashing at them, a tease, just like a stripper who never delivered on his promise of showing all his God-given goodies. They ordered another drink and waited out the latest delay. Freddie announced the second shot was on him, and when Patsy tried to protest he said he'd hear nothing of it.

"Let your hair down, hon," Freddie said. "There's no fun when you wear that bun."

She rolled her eyes. "More poetry, huh?"