Brad’s heart thumped like a washing machine full of shoes, his large, calloused hands gripping the scarred, weatherbeaten surface of the volleyball.

“Fourteen serving fourteen!” He boomed in a masculine, assured baritone. He inhaled deeply, then casually pushing a lock of sun-bleached hair away
from his eyes, he served the ball smoothly into the opposing court.

Brad’s team held their breath as the ball soared over the net in a perfect arc, hovering briefly against the brilliant blue sky before dropping. Brad
clenched his fist, perfectly manicured fingernails digging painfully into his palm. The ball hit the sand, bouncing, once, twice, and for a moment Brad
was elated with the knowledge that the opposing team had failed to return his volley.

Until he realized it was out of bounds.

The ball was retrieved and served; the teams vollied back and forth for a moment, but Fitz dug too deep and then it was all over.

Cursing under his breath, Brad smiled diplomatically and high-fived his teammates.

“Good game, Pete. Nice serve there, Gordon. And Cliff-maybe you’re trying a little too hard, all right?”

As he strolled over to the sidelines, Brad couldn’t help but take notice of the presence of the girls’ captain, Stacey Thatcher, and her teammates Valerie
Dawson and Darla Fontaine. He played it cool, smiling cordially at all of them and wiping his hands on the back of his turquoise swim trunks.

“Hello there, ladies. Looking for a little volleyball action, or are you three just spectators today?” His alert yet dreamy baby-blue eyes were focused on
Stacey, her lean, suntanned body in its modest but revealing one-piece bathing suit, and her schoolgirl blush when she noticed his attentions.

“Well, we’re up for some action if you are,” Valerie cut in coyly, stretching her arms slightly so as to give Brad a better view of her sensuously curved
body in its tropically patterned royal purple bikini.

Suddenly Mark appeared beside Stacey, placing a casual arm on her shoulder.

“Now, what’s this about action?” he asked, his chocolate-brown eyes laughing under dark unruly curls.

“Brad’s just challenged us to a little game of girls against boys,” explained Darla, tossing back her mane of long, wavy red hair.

“It’s my favourite kind,” admitted Mark, caramel-colored eyes focused on the sand. But all present could see that the very mention of Brad’s name had evoked
discomfort in Mark’s brooding gaze. Brad laughed lightly.

“Well, we’ll see if the others are interested. I’m sure they will be; for most, it will be the only contact with women they’ll have had all year!” The girls
collapsed into giggles as Brad sauntered off, his back muscles rippling agreeably in the noonday sun.

“He certainly is very handsome,” said Stacey dreamily as the gazed off at the now-vacant volleyball court.

“I’ll say,” agreed Valerie, “He reminds me of a guy I once did in this bathhouse down in Long Beach a few years back. I just hope he won’t be as
rough!” Stacey bit her lip and looked down at her tangerine flip-flops. They were new. She'd got them on sale at Walgreens.

“He does seem awfully gentle,” she replied awkwardly. She didn’t like to be unkind, and Valerie was her friend, but the thought of them together
made her insides squirm.

“I like ‘em rough!” said Darla genially, breaking the pregnant silence pointedly. As the other girls laughed in appreciation, Brad and the guys

“Come on!” Brad called, flashing a rogueish, even-toothed grin.

“Yeah, if you look good out there, we might even let you girls win!” Fitz shouted, leering. Feigning rage, the girls ran out onto the court to take their

After a sweaty, flirtatious match, the boys had won by several points and the sun was beginning to sink below the horizon, so they decided to call it
quits. Brad offered to walk Stacey home, and though she was somewhat reluctant to be alone with a man so early in their acquaintance, his good looks
and good-natured charm won her over with very little persuasion.

As night’s ever-thickening veil wrapped itself around the pair, they wandered back across the beach into the small but welcoming seaside town of Santa
Paulina. Brad continued to charm Stacey with his witty anecdotes about volleyball, internship, and his brief but affecting alligator wrestling foray.

The brisk sea winds began to increase, and Stacey shivered involuntarily. Brad smiled gently, and, taking the towel from about his strong, capable
shoulders, he draped it around her own lithe form.

As she looked up into his eyes, surprise and gratitude mingling with adoration on her face, he tenderly pushed a lock of hair back from her soft,
upturned mouth. He leaned forward as if to kiss her, but just as their lips were about to meet, she recoiled, turned and continued walking.

“Brad, I don’t even know you!” He hurried after her, calling,

“Aw, Stacey, what do you mean? I’m not such a complicated guy.” She turned and looked at him, curving her lips in a smile she couldn’t seem to

“But I don’t even know where you‘re from, or who you’re friends with, or what your family’s like! Who are you, really, Brad?”

“I’ve got a dark, mysterious past, Stacey...a girl like you wouldn’t be interested.” The words were meant to sound flippant, but there was a faraway,
haunted look in his eye as he uttered them. Stacey didn’t notice this, however, snorting slightly in her laughter.

“Well, if you’re going to be stubborn about it, you may as well just not bother with ‘a girl like me’!” She tossed her ponytail and, thinking herself marvalously clever,
glanced coquettishly over her shoulder. Brad laughed and jogged to catch up. As he slowed down next to her, he lightly placed his arm about her waist.

“I think you’ll find that a dark, mysterious past only adds to my allure,” he whispered mischieviously into her ear, as they walked on through the
California twilight.

  Will Brad and Stacey's affections grow into something more? Doesn't Brad's dark past make him so much hotter? Is Valarie a bitch or what?
                                                     And what is up with Mark?!

                        Tune in for the second installment of Passionate Net of Treachary,coming soon, to find out!