Tenth Secret

Their first stop was the hotel to check in and deposit their luggage. Zach wasn’t too surprised to find that Darien had booked at the most expensive hotel in town. He could tell just from the exterior that it was a five star hotel.

“I booked the room in your name,” Darien said as they walked through the plushly carpeted entrance. “I’m paying though.”

Zach opened his mouth to complain about his name being used without permission and closed it again. It was for the best that Darien didn’t use his own name. He was a well known person after all.

Something very important came to his mind suddenly.

“Are we sharing a room?” he asked suspiciously.

“No,” Darien said shortly. “We have rooms next to each other. I’m a private person and the thought of sharing a room makes me feel ill.”

Zach didn’t mind that. The thought of sharing a room with Darien was weird. They weren’t close enough to be comfortable sleeping in beds next to each other or using the same bathroom.

Darien led the way to the front desk and Zach hung back awkwardly whilst Darien booked them in. The lobby was large and felt expensive with all the fancy lighting and wallpaper.

“Do I want to know what it costs to stay one night?” Zach asked when Darien handed over his room key.

Darien put his finger to his lips.

“It’s a secret, you’ll faint if I tell you.”

***

After dumping his bags in his room and investigating it thoroughly, Zach was ready to go out. He wanted to feel the familiar feeling of the sea breeze on his face and eat ice cream. This town wasn’t where he had grown up, that one was half an hour away.

He toyed with the idea of getting a local train to his hometown and visiting his parents for a few hours, but he knew it wasn’t wise. They would ask too many questions about his random visit and like with Emilia, he wouldn’t be able to answer their well meant questions truthfully.

It would just be something to consider in the future.

He stepped out into the hallway and found Darien leaving his own room.

“Are we going to the beach now?” the billionaire asked.

“I’m ready to,” Zach said and took out his phone. “I just need to look up the route to the beach.”

Darien walked on ahead and turned back to look at him.

“This hotel is expensive because it’s a very short walk to the beach,” he informed him with a smirk.

Five minutes later Zach found that Darien had been completely correct. The beach really was that close to the hotel.

He stood on the sand and felt the sun and sea air on his face. It was bliss after two weeks of living in London.

“Is this part of the ‘enjoying the seaside’ routine?” Darien asked, amusement evident in his voice.

Zach didn’t let Darien dampen his mood.

“The sea air is so much better than smoggy city air. You’re just not letting yourself enjoy it.”

Darien came to stand next to him and breathed in deeply.

“I guess you’re right,” he commented a moment later. “The air does feel different. This must be why people pay so much to live near the beach. There’s something in it.”

The tide was currently in and the waves weren’t high due to the light wind. It was a perfect day for going to the beach. As it was the very end of the tourist season and children were back at school, there was only a smattering of people on the beach.

The less people there were, the better. He didn’t want Darien to be recognised. He glanced at Darien. His sunglasses hid his eyes and his wavy hair made him harder to recognise. He should remain unnoticed.

“What’s next?” Darien asked. “Are we going to make sandcastles?”

Zach’s mind immediately conjured up an image of Darien on his knees with his sleeves rolled up trying to make a sandcastle. It didn’t feel right.

“I didn’t pack a bucket and spade,” he replied. “Let’s skim stones instead. The loser has to pay for ice cream.”

Darien followed him to the shoreline willingly enough. Zach picked out the flattest stone he could find and tossed it across the water. It managed a paltry two bounces before sinking. Darien sniggered and picked up a stone for his own attempt. He also ended up with two bounces.

They exchanged looks and Darien responded by rolling up his sleeves.

“This is actually fun. Best of three?” he enquired.

“You’re on,” Zach agreed.

Zach carefully lined up his first official shot and succeeded with four bounces. He had been good enough in his childhood to get six bounces regularly, he was very out of practise now. Darien’s attempt was three and Zach allowed himself to feel like he could win. Then Darien managed five bounces to his four on their second attempts.

On his final attempt he completed five bounces whereas Darien managed seven. The winner was clear and Zach didn’t have any hard feelings.

Zach looked around for a place to get ice cream. Any beach popular with tourists had at least one ice cream stand. He spotted one up on the walkway at the other end of the beach and nudged Darien.

“I’ll get the ice cream then. What flavour do you prefer?”

He remembered Darien’s enjoyment of the lemon meringue ice cream a few nights before. He wasn’t sure if something like that would be available.

“I’ll trust your judgement,” the billionaire replied. “I’ll wait here.”

The intern walked across the beach with quick strides towards the ice cream hut. A very wide choice of ice cream awaited him. Zach eyed up the picture selection with a critical eye. There wasn’t anything like lemon meringue available.

“Do you need more time to decide?” the woman at the window asked.

Zach smiled politely at her. She might be able to recommend the perfect ice cream for someone like Darien. He could see a very appetising looking ice cream for himself, but it was clearly too sugary for Darien.

“What would you recommend for someone who doesn’t really like sweet things?”

The woman leaned out and pointed to an item on the ice cream menu.

“This one is still a little sweet, but it hits the right savoury notes,” she explained.

The ice cream in question was seasalt and honey. Zach was highly intrigued by that combination and ordered it immediately. For himself he selected the mint ice cream with chunks of homemade brownie.

He carried the two ice cream cones carefully back across the beach and glared at any approaching seagulls. Darien was still skimming stones where he had left him.

“You have to guess what flavour I got for you,” Zach announced when he handed over the ice cream.

Darien raised his eyebrows, but he licked the ice cream nevertheless. Due to the sunglasses, it was hard to read his face. Zach could see a frown though. He licked his own ice cream and smiled in satisfaction as the combination of creamy mint ice cream and gooey brownies hit his tongue.

He found a trail of melting ice cream and hurriedly licked up the ice cream cone to prevent it from dripping on his hand. He glanced over at Darien to see if he had made any progress in guessing his own ice cream flavour. Darien appeared to be staring at him instead.

“What flavour do you think it is?” Zach asked to prompt a response.

“...It’s salty,” Darien answered distantly. “Do you eat ice cream like that in front of anyone?”

Zach took a moment to realise he was referring to his hasty long lick up the ice cream. It probably did look a little sexual. He felt his face grow hot as he remembered that he was in front of a very attractive gay billionaire who also wrote gay erotica.

“I don’t usually,” he said in the calmest tone he could muster. “It just didn’t want it dripping on my hand.”

With the awkward tone, even that innocent reply sounded dirty.

“Of course,” Darian said with a tinge of awkwardness. “I can’t work out the flavour.”

“It’s seasalt and honey,” Zach replied and turned away so he could eat his very delicious ice cream without feeling self conscious.

“I can taste it now,” the billionaire said. “You can face me, I won’t say anything else about your eating habits.”

Zach turned back and sat down on the sand. Darien sat down next to him and they ate their ice creams watching the sea. Zach finished the last bite of the cone with a sigh of satisfaction. He would have to find a similar ice cream somewhere in London. It was too good to only have once.

Darien finished his own a few seconds later.

“I think it was a good choice, I liked it,” he commented. “Should I buy the place so I can get a franchise in London for both of us?”

That comment was a sharp reminder that they both lived in very different worlds. He was a very average person with a heavy student debt and Darien was a billionaire. Darien could buy up a lot of things with a snap of his wrist.

“I think that’s a little excessive,” he said guardedly. “We can come here again instead.”

“That’s true,” Darien acknowledged. “I wasn’t being serious. My only business interest is publishing. I don’t want to buy up random things to become even richer. My only side hustle is writing.”

Zach considered how the editors in the erotica department would take the news that Damien Black was really their intimidating boss. Meghan would be on the floor, Becca and Rose wouldn’t be surprised knowing them and Robert would be in some state of shock.

“Why did you start writing?” he asked.

He had tried to write properly for himself a few times outside of university assignments, but it never felt like it was something he had talent with. He was much better at improving other people’s work and picking up mistakes. That had led him to decide on becoming an editor at a publishing company. That in turn had led to him sitting on the beach with a billionaire who had been voted the UK’s sexiest man at some point.

“I felt… closed in. I wanted to express myself so I wrote my first book. I sent it to my own company under an assumed name on a whim and it passed through immediately. It felt good to have people like it and give it glowing reviews so I’ve continued. That’s all I will say for now.”

Zach appreciated his honesty. They hadn’t known each other for very long. It would be strange if Darien opened up completely on their fourth encounter.

“That’s fine, I understand,” he replied softly.

“What’s next on our itinerary?” Darien questioned in an obvious attempt to change the subject. “We’ve skimmed stones and eaten ice cream, is that all?”

The intern shook his head and pouted in mock offense. As someone who had grown up going to the beach practically every day in the summer, he had an almost endless list of beach activities.

“We need to work up our appetite for lunch,” he said and pulled out a frisbee from his backpack.

***

They spent most of the day at the beach. By the time the sun began its descent across the orange flecked sky, Darien had eaten ice cream again, played lots of games, eaten fish and chips and even gone paddling.

The beach was now empty apart from them and one couple at the other end of the beach. The tide had gone back out and they were walking across smooth sand. Darien looked out at the calm sea which was reflecting the setting sun and analysed how the day had gone.

To say it was the most fun he had experienced in years was an understatement. He was relaxed and had laughed a lot. Zach had been kind enough not to comment on his personality changes.

He glanced down at Zach who was looking straight ahead. The intern had been the right decision, he felt much happier in his presence. Everything today had been a new experience.

Darien noticed how attractive Zach’s round face looked in the sunlight and his lips were appearing quite delectable. Then Darien realised his heart had started to beat weirdly and his face was heating up.

Had he just fallen in love?

Comments (6)
goodnovel comment avatar
Janice Belle
cant afford this book. between this and charlie will need to get a bank loan
goodnovel comment avatar
Janice Belle
he fell in love with
goodnovel comment avatar
Myra Baclea-an Berongoy
wow feel in love with the intern..nice..
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