Interborough (Five Boroughs Book 4)

By: Santino Hassell

I’d been waiting to watch the UFC featherweight championship for weeks, but now my attention was fixed only on David instead of the fight. His hair shone gold in the sunshine streaming through the window, a halo above his big round eyes, upturned nose, and intensely fuckable mouth.

Who had given him a popsicle? What were these people trying to do to me?

I blamed Stephanie. My Queens crew of longtime friends had finally managed to shit-talk me into driving over from Brooklyn for their Saturday night UFC ritual. In the past, we’d done it at the old Rodriguez house, but after the death of my mom, and after Michael and I had opted to rent it rather than live in it, they’d changed the location to Stephanie’s apartment, the next largest space.

Which meant she was definitely the popsicle culprit. As if I needed another reason to perv on my boyfriend’s full pouty lips. Even after dating for almost a year and a half, I was still caught on a regular basis by how gorgeous he was.

“How long are the preliminary fights?” David asked. “I’m only here to see Nate Diaz.”

“Prelims are like two hours,” Sharky said, nodding at the huge television screen. “But the fights have been good so far.”

“It’s hard to care when I don’t know any of these guys.” David licked the tip of the popsicle. “I’m terrible about sports stuff.”

“Don’t you watch with Ray?”

“Um. We used to sometimes, but now he’s never home.” David’s eyes flicked to me guiltily, as if he was admitting a dark secret instead of making a factual statement. One of his eyebrows rose, and I knew he had realized I was in lust mode—staring him down and biting my lower lip. Mad obvious.

“Oh ho!” Chris appeared in the archway leading from the kitchen with a spatula in his hand. “So, Ray hasn’t just been too busy for his old friends? I figured he thought he was too good for us now that he’s Mr. Joe College with two jobs!”

“I am,” I said without looking away from David’s growing smirk. “I’m so good that I’m working a dead-end office job, right before jetting off to my community college evening classes with a bunch of eighteen-year-olds, before going to sweat it out on the docks all night.”

“Ain’t nothing wrong with community college, bruh.” Chris swung the spatula and sent droplets of grease flying. “I did it.”

Stephanie sat up from where she was curled on the couch next to Sharky. “Ay, puñeta! If you got oil on my couch, I swear—”

“Then make your own pastelillos, asshole!” Despite the defiant words, Chris ducked back into the kitchen. Tonya’s laugh rang out even though I couldn’t see her. They’d taken over dinner duty since Sharky and I would just order a billion wings and pizza if it were up to us. They’d all mutually refused to allow David to help since he was a guest.

“You guys are all so cute.” David resumed licking his popsicle without looking away from me. “It’s obvious you’ve been friends forever.”

“Mm-hmm.” Stephanie curled into Sharky’s side again. He seemed to be pretending she wasn’t cuddling him, and was staring intently at the TV. “Aren’t you glad you used Raymond to get in with us?”

“So glad. That plan was genius.”

“I know, right?” She grinned at him. “Maybe if you guys come over more, we’ll make you a probationary member of our squad. I’ll have to think of some hazing rituals first. Handball tournaments until dawn and chancletas with socks in public.”

Sharky scoffed, and David burst out laughing.

With them joking, it was easy to tell myself that I should refocus on the fight and stop fantasizing about what I’d do to David later, but it was hard. He was right. I was barely around these days, which meant our quality time was down to a minimum. Part of the reason why I said no to constant invitations to see my Queens crew was because I tried to savor every moment I had with David, especially because those moments were few and far between.

It sucked just as hard as David as he worked that popsicle. Due to the triple whammy of my office job at Lexus Language Services, evening classes in the maritime technology program at Kingsborough, and my longshoreman gig on the docks in Red Hook (my one true love), I was working almost eighteen hours a day most days, and running between multiple boroughs on others. In a perfect world, I’d bump LLS off my schedule and work the docks in the mornings so I could go to school in the afternoon and spend every evening with David, but it wasn’t working out that way. It always seemed like something came up.