Genre: Contemporary / Romance / Anthology
Release date: May 19, 2018
All roads lead back to beachside music festival Summer Crush for another weekend of high waves, rock & roll, and the promise of summer romance.
On any given day, Michael Brian doesn’t need to do much to hit the right notes with a girl, but there’s something about this day—and something about this girl—that’s got him out of tune. (A Taste of Summer, Six delos Reyes)
Indie filmmaker Datu puts on his dusty event videographer hat for Summer Crush. But memories of a love he let slip away resurface from every corner of this surf town. Now what he thought would be an easy job just isn’t so easy anymore. (Rushes, Tara Frejas)
Corporate-highflyer-on-vacation Ringo has a question to which cookie bar boss woman Kris has the answer, if only they’d stop getting in each other’s way. (Ask Me Nicely, Jay E. Tria)
A Taste of Summer
Six de los Reyes
“Just so we’re on the same page. There’s no boyfriend, is there?” he asked when she returned. As much as he wanted to seem disinterested, even he could tell he was focusing too intently on the calluses on his fingertips. He raised his eyes, blinked away the memories, and grinned.
“I mean, there is no boyfriend currently in the picture?”
She raised a brow. “No.”
“Because I’d rather not be a party to…whatever. Also, I reserve the right to defend myself.”
“A party to…whatever. That happened before?”
“Actively in avoidance of.”
He smiled at her, the kind that said I’m trying to make this better and less awkward and I hope I’m not upsetting you. But she smiled at him too. As if it were he who inspired worry. She was worried about him. About something he’d said.
“It wouldn’t do to make premature conclusions.” That wasn’t an answer.
“I don’t conclude prematurely.”
“I should hope not.”
He was just tripping over his feet and making a fool of himself, wasn’t he?
“But no. No man in my life,” she said, stepping closer, so close a cloud of her scent fell over him. She smelled sweet. A familiar and disconcerting scent he couldn’t place. She anchored her hands on his sides. “Holy latissimus dorsi.”
She blinked. “What?”
“I knew it was you.”
Datu’s knitted brows strained when he looked up from his phone. “Oh. Hey.”
“You’re wearing that famous frown again,” Audrey, his brother’s girlfriend, pointed out. The strapless yellow dress she wore was bright and sunny, matching her smile. The sight gave him no other choice but to turn his frown upside down.
“Didn’t know you’d be here.”
“Didn’t know you’d be here!” she exclaimed, her eyes fixed on his laptop. “And in true Datu Alvez fashion, too.”
“Work is what I’m here for.”
“Figures. You looked pretty intense just now.”
“Oh. I did?” he asked and threw his phone a quick glance before putting it away. “Well, you know me—I take my work seriously.”
That was a lie. Technically, he hadn’t really been working for the last ten minutes. Instead, he was having some sort of crisis upon realizing he had somehow butt-texted Kalila. It was that “do you wanna hang out” message, plus a string of random characters one could have only managed while drunk-texting.
That he had sent that message before he was ready was one thing, but it had been over an hour, and the lack of response made him antsy. He had to remind himself that she didn’t owe him a reply, but he wished she would.
He’d still take “no” over no reply at all.
“I know. I’ll be on my way then…” Audrey started to step away.
“Wait, aren’t you here with Pio?” Datu gathered his equipment, placed them neatly on his side of the wooden table, and motioned for Audrey to have a seat. She obliged.
“Pio’s still in Pampanga for a mall show.” Audrey took a small sip of what looked like sangria and turned her attention to the tabletop menu.
“Oh, yeah. For that movie.”
Her gold and red tassel earrings swung back and forth when she nodded. Nothing in her facial expression hinted at any sort of displeasure over Pio’s absence, and Datu wondered if she was okay with this set-up, or…
He blinked. “What?”
“You look like you wanna ask me something.”
“Just wondering if you two are on vacation.”
Audrey nodded. “Until Monday.”
“Nice. And Pio being late to the party isn’t gonna be a problem, is it?”
“Nah, don’t worry. Besides, we have this running bet over who arrives at our dates first, and I’m two for three.” Audrey took sip of her drink, and a dimple appeared on her left cheek when she smirked.
A running bet. Huh. Where was that nifty idea when I needed it? He once had been the “absentee boyfriend” who got intoxicated by all his dreamchasing and forgot to hold on to the one dream that kept him grounded. Who are you kidding, Datu? Bet or not, it never would have worked out because you never showed up.
Ask Me Nicely
Jay E. Tria
April 14, Saturday
Ringo de Dios had a question to ask.
He always did. This wasn’t new. Ringo had a brain that ran faster than any driving I’d done in the traffic-less streets of Makati past midnight, egged on by an ‘80s rock anthem and one too many bottles of beer. His brain wasn’t reckless like that though (and neither was my driving since I crossed into my 30s, might I add). His brain operated on functioning levers and blueprints and workplans. It was a sound, beautiful, overworking mind. I loved it.
I was in love with this man and his beautiful, overworking mind.
“A backstage what to meet who again?” was the question he asked now.
It wasn’t at all what I’d been dodging. This question was cute, and I was expecting it. I’d been fielding quite a few like it in the past five plus months we’ve been together. It was one of my favorite things to do.
“A backstage pass,” I said, brushing the stubble on his chin with my knuckles. “To meet Trainman.”
I was trying to be cool when I said it, which was pointless. Ringo was there to witness me squeal like a pig on death row when I won the tickets off a radio show contest last month.
So oldschool, right? Snatching tickets from a radio show gimmick thanks to an hour of dialing-redialing-hanging-on-to-a-phone-line-with-a-whispered-prayer and a deep well of random trivia about a favorite band. But tried-and-true was so for reasons. And often they rewarded you.
Like now. Exhibit A. Two free tickets to Summer Crush music festival, inclusive of backstage passes to meet Trainman, the headlining band. The reason why now, at 2 a.m. on aSaturday, Ringo and I were out of bed and on our way to surf town La Union, where there was sand, music, bagnet, and bronzed abs a-plenty.
I died a little inside when I won, I swear.
“Ah, that band with the surly-looking guitarist,” Ringo said, clapping his hands once for effect, dark eyes rounding. “The guy whose lips curl and eyebrows meet when he sings the chorus like it makes him angry. Why does he need to do that, I wonder?”
“Because he is Kim, the band leader, and he is sexy and he knows it.” I slapped Ringo’s arm as I said it, which was cue for laughter. His and mine.
Of course Ringo knew about Trainman. On our first date, I learned that despite being 25, a.k.a. seven years younger than me, the guy knew nothing about music enjoyed by most kids, erm, people his age. He knew virtually nothing about music, despite having a cool mother who named him after the most chill Beatle. So I made sure to commence his indie rock-and-roll education ASAP. He had aced it, of course, as he was programmed to do.
An offshoot of this though was that teasing me about my rockstar crush was now one of his hobbies.
“Who’s sexy?” Ringo had stopped laughing. The spark remained in his eyes but it hinted at danger now. My heart jumped inside my chest and my lips parted, first to give him a smile, next to accept his kiss.
Ringo’s kiss was slow and deliberate. Mouth weighing against my mouth, claiming, tasting. Tip of his tongue stroking the corners of my lips, teasing, while his strong hand cradled the back of my head. Fingers buried in my long, thick curls, kneading down to my nape and up again, melting everything away.
Awareness, included. And propriety.
Our suspended moment broke with the screech of rubber against road. The bus braked, lurched forward, taking us passengers with it, jerking most of the rows awake. It must have been a goat or a horse crossing the road. Dawn was hours away from breaking and it was dark and cool outside, sheets of fog visible through the grimy windows.
Soon the bus was back to its rolling stroll on the pavement. Our fellow passengers were groaning and folding back to sleep around us, and I was reminded that Ringo and I were not exactly in the best place for melt-the-world-away kisses.
“There are people.” I shushed the man whose lips were toying with my earlobe.
“Who is sexy?” His tongue grazed the shell of my ear.
I shivered, from the blast of pine-scented air above us and the shot of heat from my navel. “We’re in a bus.”
“Whose idea was that?” Ringo chuckled, but he eased off and leaned back. He tugged at the thick cotton of my hoodie and tucked it around me, zipping it all the way up under my chin. “I wanted to drive you.”
I buried myself inside my jacket as he pulled the hood up and over my head. “This is your first music festival. You need the full experience. And it starts with a long trip on a midnight bus.”
“I’m not complaining. I am asking who’s sexy.” Dark eyebrows up and wiggling. Ripe lips curved in a smirk, bearing my final warning.
“My boyfriend is sexy,” I whispered in a rush, should he dare attack me with his demanding kisses again while we were in this packed public transport vehicle surrounded by half-asleep, full-on snoring travelers. “And apparently requires validation.” I met his mouth with mine anyway, quick and firm, before sinking back against my seat.
Ringo let out a quiet laugh, self-satisfied and triumphant. The brat.