- Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward by Joe Cosentino
Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward by Joe Cosentino
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JC Joe Cosen Updated
April 08, 2016
paperback, ebook, Kindle
Praise for COZZI COVE: MOVING FORWARD
“Beautifully written, the story pulls me in and keeps me in Cozzi Cove. I look forward to my next visit there.” TBR Pile
“Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward delivers a strong cast of characters and a few surprising denouements to individual story lines that will bring a smile to your face and perhaps even a heartfelt sigh.” GGR Reviews
“Who knew that 7 bungalows set surrounding a beautiful cove, could hold so many secrets, love and intrigue?” “The humour, whether subtle or not-so-subtle was superb, the timing delivered with perfection, Joe Cosentino is a natural comedian and another reason why I love reading his books. He is also very clever, he weaved moral messages throughout the entire storyline,” “Great fun entwined with the Cosentino romantic magic that brings his books alive, I loved it." Three Books Over the Rainbow
“visiting Cozzi Cove is like coming home or revisiting a beloved holiday destination. I know everyone, by now, who is a permanent fixture and I sincerely hope that Cosentino continues this series forever. As before, the characters are a hoot. They’re a mixture of funny, quirky, sad, lonely individuals who come together to make a riotously brilliant cast.” Divine Magazine
Cal Cozzi sat on the white sandy beach like a king on his throne. The thirty-one-year-old thought about his great-grandfather, Calvin Cozzi III, who had built the eight bungalows, seven of which Cal’s father, Calvin Cozzi II, had rented to guys like Cal when Cal was a boy. With both men long gone, Cozzi Cove was Cal’s heritage, lifeblood, and oasis. As he gazed out at the ancient lighthouse near the horizon, Cal filled his lungs with salty sea air. He was happy to be home.
A familiar yawn and warm breath on his neck caused Cal to turn around and throw his arms around the stocky young man who plopped down next to him. Over a decade younger than Cal, Michael Rodgers rubbed his fingers over dark eyes. Resting his head with its chestnut-colored locks on Cal’s chest, Michael said, “I missed waking up in your arms.”
They shared a long kiss and then rose and stood at the water’s edge, watching the seagulls fly across shades of amber, violet, and flame that were fading to reveal a bright-blue sky. With Cal’s Italian and Scottish heritage and Michael’s Swedish and African lineage, Cal thought their skin glistened in the sun like jewels.
Shorter than Cal, Michael licked Cal’s neck.
“Hey, stop licking. I don’t have any pets.”
“You do now.”
Cal took the boy in his arms and smothered his youthful face with kisses. Though Cal would never forget Lance, the soul mate he’d lost to cancer two years prior, he couldn’t escape the fact that he was growing more and more in love with Michael every day they lived together. Michael’s high-energy zest for life and brutal honesty in speaking his mind both infuriated and delighted Cal. And Cal was well aware that his straightforward, hardworking masculinity still made Michael weak at the knees after living together in the main bungalow for nearly a year.
“Let’s get some breakfast.” Cal ran his fingers through Michael’s curly hair.
Michael kneaded the muscles in Cal’s back. “What are we having?”
“I’m having the honey buckwheat pancakes I made. What are you having?” Cal slapped Michael’s firm buttocks playfully, and then ran away as Michael chased him, laughing.
As they headed for the main bungalow, Cal scanned the row of seven guest bungalows on the cove. Cozzi Cove itself was a quiet stretch of beach with waves tickling jagged rocks perched on white sand only a mile away from the open ocean. Though he was excited about the start of the summer rental season, Cal knew he’d miss the tranquility of having the cove to himself—with Michael.
Michael followed Cal into the kitchen. As Cal gazed at the lantern-shaped kitchen clock on the wall, he admired his grandfather’s taste in decorating all of the bungalows with wood-carved, nautical-themed furnishings.
Sitting at the table, Michael said, “When do the guests arrive?”
“Check-in starts at eleven a.m.”
Michael giggled. “Do I have to check in?”
Cal kissed the top of his head. “Yeah, into my bedroom.” He served the pancakes and orange juice before sitting next to Michael. “What time do you have to leave for school?”
Michael answered with his mouth full. “College! I’m taking a summer class at State, not going to morning kindergarten. I’m a junior.”
“Very funny. In the fall I’ll be a senior, like you.” He kissed Cal’s wide nose.
“Hey, your lips are covered in honey.”
“So they tell me.” Michael continued eating.
“Does your study buddy tell you that?”
Michael raised his eyes to the mermaid-shaped lighting fixture as if gathering patience. “Carlo is my partner.”
“In my advanced photography class.”
“Is that what they call it at State?”
“Maybe in your day.” Michael’s eyes gleamed devilishly. “Hey, did they have college back then?”
“I’ll put you over my knee, young man.”
“Promises, promises.” Michael swallowed his last piece of pancake and then gulped down the rest of his orange juice. “Carlo is coming here before our class. We’re taking some shots of the cove.”
Cal felt his expression harden. “I thought you were going to mow the lawn, rake the pebbles, and hose down the sidewalk around the bungalows.”
“Done.” Michael put his plate, glass, and fork in the sink.
“Last night, when you were in the shower.”
“That’s why you didn’t come in with me.”
Michael wrapped his arms around Cal. “Can I take a rain check for tonight?”
“Maybe you should ask Carlo.”
“Carlo doesn’t shower. He takes baths.”
Cal did a double take. “And you know this how?”
“He told me.” Michael ran into the back bedroom, the home of his computer and photography equipment.
Cal felt his blood boil. Taking in some deep breaths, he told himself to calm down.
Michael came back holding a number of prints and placed them on the kitchen table. “What do you think?”
Cal looked down at photographs. “Nice composition, proportions, and shading.”
He pointed at the dark-haired, dark-eyed, olive-skinned, very muscular young man with a stoic Roman nose, dimples like craters, and a cleft chin like the San Andreas Fault. “Your professor brought in an Italian porn star?”
“Watch many Italian porn films, do you, Cal?”
“Obviously you don’t have to.”
“That’s Carlo. I took them in class.”
Cal offered a weak smile, trying hard not to let the anger and jealously he was feeling show on his face.
Michael ran his finger over the photographs. “Our professor complimented me on the line and shape.”
“I can see why.”
“And the contour and shading.”
“I’m really proud of them. Tommy loved them too.”
Cal rose and put his breakfast things in the sink. “When did you show these to Tommy?”
“Yesterday afternoon when I was working at Tommy’s bar. The pictures of Cozzi Cove are for our next assignment.”
“‘Hot Italian guy on the beach’?”
“‘Summer magic.’ ” He hugged Cal’s neck. “And there’s no place more magical or more romantic than Cozzi Cove in the summer.”
After Michael headed into the bathroom, Cal heard Connor’s jeep pull up into the parking lot.
A minute later, Connor’s voice rang out. “Hi, boss. Private Connor O’Riley reporting for duty.”
Cal met Connor in the living room. “Hi, Connor. Good job cleaning the bungalows yesterday. I aired them out last night. Do me a favor. Get some fresh towels from the bin outside and put them in the bungalows.”
In his usual skintight white T-shirt and short-shorts, the freckled twenty-year-old saluted. “Aye, aye, Capitán.” Connor licked his red lips, which matched his frizzy hair. “Where’s Michael?”
“In the shower.”
“Does he need more towels?” Connor headed toward the bathroom.
Cal grabbed his muscular arm. “Down, boy. And keep it in your pants when the guests get here.”
Connor feigned shock. “Me? Make a play for a guest? Never! Cal, you wound me to the heart.”
“You must have studied dramatics at the college this year.”
Connor batted the long lashes over his sky-blue eyes. “How else could I have dated all the gay dudes?”
Cal laughed. “I’m sure you dated them.”
“I did.” Connor revealed his pearly-white teeth. “It was the football team last year who went straight, pardon the pun, for the touchdown.”
Cal put his arm around the boy’s wide shoulders and walked him to the front porch. “Please get straight to work so everything is ready when the guests arrive.”
Connor said with the eagerness of a child at Christmas, “I can’t wait to see our pick of the litter.”
“Look, don’t touch.”
Connor opened the front door and bumped into Carlo, whose crimson dress shirt had enough buttons open to reveal impressive pectoral muscles. “Welcome to Cozzi Cove!”
As he entered the front porch, his dark eyes glistened in the morning sun. “I’m Carlo. I’m looking for Michael Rodgers.”
Cal shut the door behind him and shook Carlo’s hand, noticing the bulge in Carlo’s black slacks. “Please come in.”
As Cal changed from his T-shirt and shorts into a dress shirt and jeans, he heard a car pull up into the cove’s parking lot. He greeted his first guest on the front porch. “Welcome to Cozzi Cove.”
The tall, handsome, muscular man replied, “Thanks. Is this check-in?”
“Right this way.” Cal walked the man into the living room. Once behind the wooden desk carved in the shape of a boat, Cal turned on his computer.
“I’m George Valis.”
Cal looked at the screen and nodded. “You’re in bungalow seven. It’s the most private.”
Cal noticed the wrinkle marks in George’s pink polo shirt and beige slacks. “How was the drive from—” Cal looked at his computer screen. “—Maine?”
“Fast. I’m a bit of a speed demon. I blame it on my sports car.”
Cal looked down at the empty space next to George. “Your luggage?”
“It’s in my car.”
“Connor will get it for you.” He handed George the key. “I’ve got your credit card number on file. You’re free to swim or lay out on the cove.” He handed George a map. “This is a map of the town of Cozzi.”
George gave it back to him. “No need. I was born here.”
“Really? Where did your folks live?”
George’s olive-green eyes twinkled. “Downtown, near Tommy Malone’s bar. They left when I was a baby, twenty-seven years ago.”
“And you remember it?”
George smiled. “I did some research on the place recently.”
“It took you a while to get back here.”
“My dad died of a heart attack when I was a teenager. Mom passed away from MS a month ago.”
“Thanks. When we lived in Cozzi Cove, Mom was a waitress at Carla’s Seafood Restaurant.”
“Really? What led your folks from Cozzi Cove to Maine?”
“Dad was unhappy at his job selling insurance since it took him out of town so much. So when Mom received an inheritance, my folks bought a house in Maine where real estate’s cheaper than in New Jersey, and they opened their own restaurant, Marissa’s, after my mom. Once she made enough money to send me to college to become an architect, Mom sold it.”
Cal generally didn’t meet bungalow guests who were born in Cozzi Cove. It was a novel experience. “Well, welcome back. I’ll ask Connor to—”
As Cal walked past him, George grabbed his arm. “Can I ask you some questions first…about Cozzi?”
Cal normally didn’t get involved in chin-wag sessions with guests, but since no one else had arrived yet, Cal said, “Okay. Let’s sit on the porch.” Cal sat on a rocking chair, and George sat on the glider. Looking out at the view of the mosaic-like rocks pointing to the turquoise bay nestled underneath the cerulean sky, Cal said, “Morning is my favorite time here.”
“This is some place. It’s like a storybook picture. How was the cove formed?”
“When the sun and salt water wore away softer rocks, it created the bay, shielded by the large rocks out in the distance and smaller rocks here near the sand.”
“Have you always lived here?”
“I was raised in Cozzi, and came to the cove every summer.”
“How long have you managed Cozzi Cove?”
“For two years.” Cal felt as if he were being interviewed for a television talk show. “I was a professional football player before.”
“I watch football. How come I don’t recognize you?”
“I didn’t last too long thanks to a knee injury. Next, I became a restaurant owner. I took over Cozzi Cove when my folks died in a car crash.”
“Sorry to hear that.”
What was it about this guy that made Cal want to answer his questions? “My father sensed my sexuality, and he made Cozzi Cove a summer place where gay men would feel comfortable and safe.”
“And you’re carrying on the tradition.”
Cal nodded. Feeling he’d given the guy enough of his time, Cal stood. “Well, I hope you enjoy your stay.”
George rose. “Thank you for speaking with me, Cal. I appreciate it.”
“All the bungalows are full this week. If you’re not involved with anyone, I’m sure you’ll meet someone. Cozzi Cove has always been a romantic spot.”
“Thanks, but I’m not looking to meet anyone.”
Cal thought, though not his type, a guy that good-looking wouldn’t stay single for long. “Cozzi Cove may have other plans for you.”
“I doubt it. I went through a rough time when my mom passed on, and my boyfriend of five years passed on me. A friend had vacationed here, and told me about Cozzi Cove and recommended that I come. Since I was born in Cozzi and wanted to check it out anyway, here I am.”
“What do you think so far?”
“It’s beautiful. And so far I like the people.”
“Thanks.” Cal always breathed a sigh of relief when his guests were low maintenance and pleasant.
“While I’m here, I hope we can get better acquainted.”
Cal was surprised at how comfortable he felt with George. Still, George was a guest. And he didn’t want him to get the wrong idea. He wasn’t attracted to George. Cal had eyes only for Michael—though the morning’s jealousy when it came to Carlo and Michael was still fresh in his mind. “Once the other guests get here, I’ll be pretty busy.”
George nodded. “I’d like to check out Carla’s and see where my mom worked. Do you know the owner?”
“Carla, Tommy, my sister Taylor, and I went to school together.”
“Great.” George took in a deep breath. “I hate to bother you, but do you think you could go there with me tonight and introduce me? I’ll treat for dinner.”
Cal thought the guy worked fast, especially for someone who claimed to be out of the gay market. He had to admit that George had glowing olive skin, a regal nose, and piercing eyes. And there was something tantalizing about his silky voice, and how he talked to Cal as if Cal were the only person in the world. But Cal didn’t want a so-called study buddy like Michael had with Carlo. He was a one-man man, and that man was Michael. “I don’t mean to be blunt, but are you on the rebound?”
George laughed. “I’m not making a pass at you, Cal.”
Cal felt relieved.
“I’d like to meet my mother’s old boss.”
That made sense. “I can introduce you to her daughter who runs the place now.”
Connor entered the porch. At the sight of George, his eyes all but popped out of his head. “Hello. I’m Connor.”
Cal wondered why he kept Connor on as houseboy. He knew the answer. Connor was a good worker, honest, and kindhearted. And wasn’t that why Cal’s father had kept Cozzi Cove, so guys like Cal and Connor could have a place to call home? Cal said, “Connor, please take George’s luggage from his sports car and take him to Bungalow Seven.”
“It will be an honor.” Connor held the front door open for George.
George looked back at Cal. “Six o’clock?”
Cal remembered that Michael was working at Tommy’s bar after class and wouldn’t be home until later in the evening. “See you then.”
On Cozzi Cove at the New Jersey Shore, handsome Cal Cozzi’s seven bungalows are once again open for summer and love. The vacationers include Rodney Maxwell and Dennis O’Halloran, a Tony Award winning actor and his estranged producer/husband with their two hired studs, Jarek and Zeus. Computer analyst Sam enlists his best friend Chase in a scheme to attract hunky Raul. Middle aged Gil Van Truren wants to end it all—until he sees a vision of his first love. Cal also has his hands full with college student Michael—his new young lover—Michael’s study buddy Carlo, man of mystery George Valis, and Connor, the houseboy packed with muscles and a wondering sponge. All the while Hunter, a female gay romance novel enthusiast, experiences gay life off the page. What secrets, humor, tragedy, mysteries, and passions lie in the magical place called Cozzi Cove?
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