“A charming, heartwarming breath of fresh air, Beyond the Sea allows us to imagine we too can sail past our boundaries and into the ocean of our own happily ever after.”
~ Heidi Cullinan, award-winning author of Dance With Me
“Keira Andrews has a bright, deft hand that pulls characters into unexpected tenderness.”
~ Damon Suede, award-winning author of Hot Head
Two straight guys. One desert island.
Even if it means quitting their boy band mid-tour, Troy Tanner isn’t going to watch his little brother snort his future away after addiction destroyed their father. On a private jet taking him home from Australia, he and pilot Brian Sinclair soar above the vast South Pacific. Brian lost his passion for flying—and joy in life—after a traumatic crash, but now he and Troy must fight to survive when a cyclone strikes without warning.
Marooned a thousand miles from civilization, the turquoise water and white sand beach look like paradise. But although they can fish and make fire, the smallest infection or bacteria could be deadly. When the days turn into weeks with no sign of rescue, Troy and Brian grow closer, and friendship deepens into desire.
As they learn sexuality is about more than straight or gay and discover their true selves, the world they’ve built together is thrown into chaos. If Troy and Brian make it off the island, can their love endure?
This is an LGBT romance about discovering yourself, finding love, and eating way too many coconuts. 85,000 words.
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“I think ‘SO’ will have to do for now.” Plopping down on the sand, Troy pulled off his sweat-soaked orange bandanna and gulped from one of the plastic water bottles. He grimaced at the taste of the warm water, swatting at a fly. The flies left itchy bites he tried not to scratch.
Brian sat beside him with a soft groan and drank as well. He closed his eyes. “It’ll be a philosophical statement.”
Troy wanted to ask Brian if he was okay, because he clearly had a killer headache, but he knew by now Brian would insist he was fine. The vivid bruise on his forehead was stark against his skin. “Like, ‘So what?’ Maybe we should do a dot-dot-dot instead of the second S tomorrow.”
A faint smile lifted Brian’s lips as he rubbed his temples. “Sounds like a plan.” He opened his eyes. “Oh, the mirror.”
“I can do it.”
“It’s all right. You did all the hauling.” Brian took the mirror from one of the big pockets in his cargo shorts and aimed the reflection before sweeping it side to side in a slow pan. He’d been doing it regularly, and now the sun was getting low in the sky, faint pink streaks beginning to appear.
“They really didn’t come,” Troy said before he could bite his tongue. He shook his head. “I know it was stupid to think they’d find us the first day.” But in the back of his mind, he’d been hoping.
“Not stupid. Optimistic. Nothing wrong with that.”
As he’d hauled the rocks across the sand, deep down he’d expected to hear the drone of an engine. But there were no planes or ships or anything but chirping birds and the gentle lap of the returning tide. It was beautiful, but God, when he looked out, there was just nothing.
Troy tried to ignore his thumping heart and push away the panic. “I’m a mess. Want to rinse off? I’ll take my chances with the possibly deadly creatures of the deep.”
“Water’s so clear, we’ll see them coming.” Brian returned the mirror to his pocket, buttoning it closed carefully.
Troy glanced down at the board shorts and tank top he’d borrowed. “Do you usually swim in these shorts?” His sweaty junk had been rubbing against them since he didn’t have underwear.
“I do, but don’t worry about it.” Brian got to his feet, and Troy tensed, waiting for him to sway or stumble. But he seemed secure as he unzipped his shorts. “We have so few clothes that we should save them for land.”
“Okay, cool. But first…” He felt his cheeks get hot. “I need to go to the bathroom. Um, number two.”
“Right, right.” Brian turned to the jungle. “I believe the standard outdoor method is to dig a little hole, do your business, and cover it up again.”
With a shudder, Troy looked at the trees. “In there?”
“I know, it’s not an appealing thought.”
“What if…” It was so stupid, but he had to say it. “What if something bites my butt?”
Brian kept a straight face for a few seconds before shaking. Then he winced. “Ow. It hurts to laugh.”
Troy couldn’t help but smile too, wanting to hear more of Brian’s rumbly, reassuring laughter. “That’s what you get for mocking my extremely valid concern.”
“My apologies. I’m sure it’ll be fine. Just…”
“Indeed.” Brian smiled again, a dimple creasing his cheek. “At least we can piss by the trees or in the ocean. But shit floats, and…ugh.”
Troy grimaced. “Yeah, that’s super gross. Dig a hole it is. Even though I really don’t want to.” He poked through the storm debris by the tree line and found a big stick. “Three days ago, I was at the Hilton.”
“‘First Up singing sensation shits in the woods, inspires back-to-nature craze.’”
Troy bit back a laugh. “It’s Next Up, thank you very much. Also—” He cut off as a thought occurred. “Oh God, what do we use for toilet paper?”
“Well…” Brian shrugged and nodded toward the trees
“What if the leaves are poison or something?”
“Hmm. Good point.” Brian joined him at the jungle entrance and examined the wide leaves of a plant. He tore one off and rubbed it over the back of his hand. “See if I get a rash. Better here than…there.”
After they both tested a patch of skin on their hands and waited ten minutes with no ill effects, Troy headed about ten feet in with a fistful of leaves, wearing Brian’s flip-flops. He beat the bushes with his stick, then dug out a little hole. Feeling extremely awkward and exposed, he squatted.
“Come on, come on,” he mumbled. “You know it’s time. Let’s just get on with it!”
He finally willed himself to relax enough, and when he was finished, he covered up the hole with a grimace and practically ran back to the beach. Troy really hoped he wouldn’t have to get used to that.
Brian had taken off his clothes and waded in the sea. He was in good shape, tall and lean, and Troy idly wondered if pilots were required to work out. Boy banders sure as hell were. He could imagine their trainer now, glaring that he wasn’t doing his push-ups and planks.
Troy stripped and walked into the calm water, inhaling the briny air deeply. The bottom was perfectly soft and sandy, the startling clear turquoise water just cool enough to be refreshing. He sighed as he dunked his head, the ocean floor just out of reach of his toes. “Oh yeah. This was a good idea.”
“Amen.” Brian ducked under and came back up, slicking his thick, short hair.
Troy took a few deep breaths, hearing the mantra his annoyingly zen yoga instructor constantly repeated. Be present. Be in the now. There is only now. They floated lazily, the sun arcing closer and closer to the horizon, pink-rose light washing over them.
“Is that one of the band’s songs?”
Troy realized he was humming softly. His cheeks went hot. “Oh, no. Just a little melody I wrote. It’s nothing.”
“Sounded good to me.”
“Well…thanks.” He thought of his old guitar and the day he’d come home from dance rehearsal to find it gone and his father utterly unrepentant.
“No time to waste on that kind of music. Folk doesn’t sell.”
“You know, I thought rock stars were supposed to be arrogant assholes.”
Shoving away useless memories, Troy paddled his feet, rolling onto his belly. “Sorry to disappoint. I can throw a hissy later if you want.”
“I’d appreciate it. If you don’t pull a diva routine daily, my tell-all exposé won’t sell. Although I suppose I could make it all up.”
Troy smiled. “As long as we split the profits. Not that I need the money. You know, it’s ironic. People would pay a fortune for this. White sand beach, crystal clear water. Complete privacy.”
Brian chuckled. “I guess they would.”
“I haven’t skinny dipped since I was a little kid. Always have to be careful. Never know where the paparazzi are hiding and how long their lenses are.” The water washed over him, caressing his skin. He could feel it between his ass cheeks and around his balls. There was something strangely freeing and sexy about it.
“I’d go crazy never being alone.”
“Yeah. Sometimes it’s the worst.” His mother’s voice echoed in his head. “Don’t complain about the American dream, Bongbong. People would murder for this!” Closing his eyes, he gulped down a swell of longing. He needed to see her again. Stoop down and feel her little arms around him, hear his silly Filipino nickname on her tongue.
“So being a rock star isn’t all hot chicks and limousines? Free stuff and adoring fans?”
“Well, it is those things too, which is why I sound like a total douche if I complain. Wah, wah, my life is so hard. My father forced me into this mega-successful band and I have a stupid amount of money and millions of people love me. Also, my diamond shoes are too tight.”
Brian laughed softly. “Too bad we couldn’t grab those shoes. They’d be great for crushing spiders.” He was quiet a moment. “So your father forced you into it?”
Troy hadn’t talked about his father since he’d first started dating Savannah and she’d asked and asked until he gave in. But in this beautiful purgatory with someone he’d just met, floating in the sea as pink and red streaked over the cloudless blue sky, what had happened seemed like a different life on another planet.
“It sounds worse than it was. My father was…” Troy hesitated, searching for the right words. “He was a cowboy. Not literally, but he had that kind of personality. Big and broad, filling the room. Six-two, blond hair and blue eyes. Square jaw. Ty and I got the cleft in our chins from him. He grew up a foster kid in Texas. No family. Came to LA and married my mom. She’s Filipina. Barely over five feet. Immigrated in her twenties and worked her ass off. Dad was this American hero to her.”
Troy drew circles in the water with his fingers, his chest tight as he thought about his parents. He continued, “Dad loved showbiz. He could sing and act, but his real talent was in management. Promotion. So my brother and I became his business. He pitched the idea of the TV show to all the networks. Was an exec producer. When it went off the air, I thought maybe I’d go to college, but he’d already dreamed up the boy band idea. Ty was clearly the star out of the two of us, but Dad convinced me the older brother figure was important. Not that I really argued. What Dad said went.”
“And the rest is history?”
“Yep. Like I said, I shouldn’t complain. I have a good life. Had one, anyway. I guess we’ll see what happens.” His pulse kicked up, a tangle of questions snagging his mind and dissipating his calm.
“You talk about your father in the past tense. He’s not alive?”
“No. Died just after I turned twenty.”
“Yeah, it’s… It sucked.” And now he was leaving Tyson and his mom and the rest of the family. Why had he thought it was a good idea to rent a plane? He should have slept on it. Come up with a better plan. Who would look after Ty now? His heart hammered.
Be present. Be in the now. There is only now.
Troy put his face close to the water, peering down at the sandy bottom. “It’s so clear.” Although with the sun setting, it was becoming hard to see. “What was that you were saying about sea snakes?”
“Don’t worry. We’re still close to land. I was told they stay farther out, near the reef. We should be careful around the reef. Make sure we don’t touch it and cut ourselves. Reef cuts are nasty.”
“Good to know.” Troy ran his hand through his cropped hair. “Don’t suppose you had any shampoo in your suitcase?”
“Sadly, no. I usually use whatever the hotel stocks. Didn’t pack any soap either. I heard once that sand works.” Brian swam in closer to shore, and Troy followed.
When they were in waist-deep water, they bent and picked up handfuls of sand. Troy scrubbed it over his body. “People would probably pay a fortune for this too. Exfoliator straight from the pristine beaches of the South Pacific.”
“Maybe we should bottle it.” Brian scrubbed his chest, working the wet sand through the dark hair there.
“God, it feels good to get clean.” Ducking his head, Troy worked it through his hair and rinsed. His stomach rumbled. “But I really need to eat.”
Brian gazed around. “Maybe we should try fishing.”
The idea of fish to eat made his stomach growl louder, but the thought of sea snakes or eels or jellyfish or whatever sent a chill down his spine. “In the dark? No, we can have protein bars and cook some coconut. We could use the shell. Like, just crack it in half and cook it like that?”
“Worth a try. There are dozens of coconuts on the beach and more in the trees, so if we ruin them we can just do more.”
As the moon rose over the trees and the stars blinked into sight in the darkening sky, they walked ashore, sand sticking to their feet. Troy contemplated it. “We should have a bigger signal fire by the SOS, and a campfire here.”
“Good idea. We can do that in the morning. Should keep them both burning all the time if we can. Helps keep the bugs away.”
Still naked, Troy went to work on cracking open a coconut, waiting until he was dry to get dressed. Fortunately, the water evaporated quickly. It probably should have been weird to be naked around someone he barely knew, but unlike in the gym, here he didn’t have to be afraid Brian was trying to take sneaky pictures of his junk.
“I did pack some extra boxers. Never know when flights might get delayed. They’re clean.” Brian had changed into a red plaid pair and held out others.
“Cool, thanks.” Troy took ones with green and purple checks and stepped into them. “Haven’t worn boxers in years. Usually do briefs. But I didn’t have anything on under my sweatpants the other night, so…” He shook his head as he gave the coconut another whack. “Weird, isn’t it? Only two days, but being on the plane feels like a million years ago.”
“It does,” Brian agreed quietly. “Completely surreal.” He looked toward the cliff, his face creasing.
Troy hesitated. “Did you want to…we could do a little service for her? Say a prayer or something?”
Brian turned away. “It’s okay. But thank you.”
Maybe Troy would say his own later. It would make him feel better. “I’m sorry. I wish…” Acid swirled in his empty belly. “This wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for me. She’d still be alive.”
Shaking his head, Brian focused on Troy. “No,” he said forcefully. “It’s not your fault. It was me who—” He shook his head again.
Troy tried to smile. “If it’s not my fault, then it doesn’t get to be yours either. Remember?”
Brian’s lips lifted briefly. “Touché.”
Troy went back to the coconut. Before too long, he had the two halves cooking near the base of the fire. He didn’t want the meat to burn, so tried to keep the husks out of the flames. “Wow, I’m actually cooking something. My mom would be so proud.” His smile vanished as he imagined what she was going through. His aunties and uncles and cousins, and God, Ty… His throat tightened.
“I don’t need you!”
Ty’s angry shout echoed through his mind. What if those words were the last they ever said to each other? At least Troy had told Ty he loved him. That was something. Still, tears stung his eyes, and he inhaled sharply.
“You okay? Did you burn yourself?” Brian appeared beside him, his brow furrowed.
“No. I was just thinking.” He swallowed thickly. “About my brother. The big fight we had.”
“The thought that I might never see him again is…” He blinked rapidly. Get it together. Be in the now or whatever the fuck.
“Right. I get it.”
Troy concentrated on the coconuts, prodding with a stick and testing the meat. When he thought they were cooked, he let them cool and scraped out the meat with the knife, leaving it in the half shells. The little bit of juice in each half had cooked as well, making it all tender. He handed Brian his half. “We can use them like bowls. Coconuts are pretty handy.”
He cracked open another coconut and put it on the fire, because a protein bar and one serving of fruit wasn’t going to make a dent in his aching hunger. Brian had spread out one of the flannel blankets from the plane, and they sat cross-legged.
Brian poked at the white meat, which was a little brownish in places. “This is great. Thank you.”
“Well, let’s see how it tastes. Don’t thank me yet.” Troy picked up a piece and took a bite, chewing thoughtfully. “Better, yeah? Not so soapy.”
“Mmm. It is better.”
They ate for a few minutes, and Troy took a deep breath. He had the feeling he always got from a day in the sun, sand, and saltwater—tired but satisfied. And shit, hungry. “Can you imagine how good a burger would taste right now?”
“Well now I can. Thanks for that.” Brian glared jokingly.
They ate quietly, starting on their second coconut before long.
“Is that why you left the band?” Brian asked.
“Huh? Oh, you mean the fight with my brother. Yeah. Well, not the fight exactly, but what caused it.”
After a few moments, Troy raised an eyebrow. “You’re not going to ask what the problem was?”
Brian shrugged. “I figure you’d tell me if you wanted to. It’s none of my business.”
“Most people would ask.”
“I’ve been on the receiving end of invasive questions, so I know what it’s like. Not anything on the scale you deal with, but public curiosity can be…daunting.”
Of course now Troy wondered why Brian would have garnered public attention, but if Brian wouldn’t pry, he couldn’t either. “Daunting’s a good word for it. I’m used to it after so many years, but people ask the most inappropriate shit you can imagine.”
“Well, I’d ask if you wear boxers or briefs, but I guess I already know the answer.”
Troy laughed, a wonderful calm spreading in his chest. “I guess you do. You can devote a chapter to it in your tell-all.”
Brian laughed too, that low, warm sound. “I could call it A Rock Star Wore My Underwear. Wait, what’s the band called again?”
“Next Up.” He actually loved that Brian didn’t know.
“Would be good if I could work that into the title somehow. Hmm.”
“I’m sure the publisher will have a million ideas.”
“I’ll hold out for the one that comes up with the punniest title.”
“Good plan.” Troy’s stomach still rumbled. “Guess I’ll throw on another coconut.” He went about cracking it, aiming the rock for the seam and bashing it repeatedly.
“We definitely need to fish tomorrow.”
“You know anything about fishing? Because I don’t.”
“A little. My grandfather loved it. It’s been years, but I know enough. We can find a good piece of wood for a pole and tie on the line. Use a hook and lure. Put it in the water. That’s basically all there is to it.”
“Cool.” Sweat dripped down Troy’s temple as he finally cracked the coconut and put it on the fire. “Fish would taste amazing right now. When they rescue us, I’m having the biggest burger with the coldest soda. And ice cream. Definitely ice cream.”
Brian smiled softly. “Sounds good.”
The fire crackled and sparked, the stars bright overhead now as night wrapped around them fully. The push and pull of the waves hummed beneath it all. He stared up, trying to recognize any of the constellations. The stars were remarkably bright.
When he was finally full, Troy picked up the stick and poked the fire. “I’ll get some more wood on here.”
“I think I’m going to turn in. We should really work on a shelter tomorrow.” Brian unfurled the mosquito net and one of the other flannel blankets several feet away, then unfolded the two silver emergency blankets. “I can sleep through anything, so don’t feel like you need to sleep right away too. It’s still early.” The face of his waterproof watch lit up. “Not even eight p.m.”
“It’s okay. I’m beat. And yeah, a shelter.” Maybe they wouldn’t even need one. Yes, they’d be rescued soon, and sleeping under the stars wasn’t bad at all. The sky was clear for miles.
Brian unzipped a toiletry bag. “Good thing I didn’t bring my electric toothbrush.” He shot Troy a guilty look. “I don’t have an extra, though.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Troy waved his hand dismissively. Truthfully, his teeth were coated with a layer of grossness, but they’d had so much else to deal with that he hadn’t given it much thought.
“You can just use mine when I’m done. I don’t mind.” Brian squeezed a tiny blob of toothpaste onto his brush and took a swig of water from a bottle.
Brushing and pacing around, Brian nodded. When he was finished spitting into the scrub edging the jungle, he rinsed the bristles and put on another blob of paste before handing it to Troy.
Troy moaned softly, possibly never so glad to brush his teeth in his entire life as he was in that moment. The mint tasted incredible, and his mouth felt so fresh and alive. It was kind of weird using another guy’s toothbrush, but they were on a desert island and he’d take what he could get. Troy was sure to rinse it as well as he could without wasting too much water when he was done. He passed it back.
“No problem.” Brian poked through the rest of his bag and pulled out a washcloth. “We’ve got one little towel, at least.” He sighed. “Definitely no soap in there. Sorry.” He put his things away and got settled under his blanket, which crinkled as Brian fidgeted.
After slipping under the netting, Troy curled up with his blanket a foot away. “Well…good night.”
“Night,” Brian murmured.
Brian soon snored softly, but it didn’t bother Troy. He’d always liked the sound of someone sleeping nearby, the heat of a body next to him. It was one of the best things about being in the band—he never lacked for company. He thought of Savannah with a sigh. What was she thinking now? Did she hate him?
Flicking through memories like the pages of a book, he thought of his old girlfriends. They’d all been fun, nice girls. He’d had good times with them, and the breakups had been made easier by Next Up’s endless touring. Probably made easier too on his part because he’d never loved them. He’d come closest with Savannah, but when he imagined his life and the person who would fill his heart and make him complete, it wasn’t her.
He snorted to himself. He’d been singing sappy ballads for too many years. Did love really fill anyone’s heart or make them complete? His parents had loved each other, but it hadn’t stopped his father from self-destructing. Troy wasn’t sure the kind of love he imagined—passionate, strong, and peaceful too—actually existed.
Brian rolled toward him, mumbling in his sleep. His silver blanket had slipped down, and Troy eased it up over his shoulders again. Brian’s mouth was slack, and the furrows in his brow were smoothed out. Troy hoped the headache would dissipate soon. The bruise on Brian’s forehead was still an angry purple shadow in the darkness. He said a quick prayer that it would heal soon.
Flattening out on his back as Brian breathed deeply beside him, Troy watched the stars, giving the unfamiliar constellations new names.
Copyright © Keira Andrews