LENGTH: 24,795 words | 134 pages
At fifteen, JT Pierce was the star of a hit TV show and had the world in his hands. Every teeny-bopper magazine had his face on it; every teenage girl had his poster on her wall. But then the show went on hiatus, and JT wouldn’t lower himself to bit parts or commercials. Slowly, his star faded from view.
Seven years later, JT is Johnny Thomas, who hopes to jumpstart his career by hiring his former manager, Lou Merrin. He wants to do serious movies, a huge blockbuster or two, and claim one of those coveted Oscars for himself. But Lou cautions Johnny about the paparazzi, who can make or break a star these days, and he’s heard rumors of Johnny’s sexuality that might prevent him from landing those coveted leading roles.
Still, Johnny’s nothing if not persistent, and he swears he’ll play it straight. Until he meets Brett, a photographer who turns his life — and his heart — upside down. Suddenly the celebrity gossip website Z-23 seems to have exclusive pictures of Johnny, and someone close to him leaks information about an audition that was supposed to be kept quiet. When photographs surface that Johnny thought were taken in confidence, he realizes he must choose between the career path Lou offers him and the love he wants to share with Brett.
Note: The paperback contains the short story More Lies as well.
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Inside the club, the air is close and smoky. The crowd moves like the tide, flowing from one side of the room to the other, catching Johnny in the undertow and pulling him along until he’s washed up against the side of the bar. He’s seeing stars he only dreams about meeting one day and he stands with his back against the bar, watching them bob past him like ships in the night. All the big names are here, and he feels his own status burn a little brighter just being this close to the others. This is what he’s missed all these years. This is where he should’ve been, where he belongs.
Someone bumps into him. He moves aside to make room but the stranger presses against him, clinging to his side. He feels a strong hand ease around his arm to settle somewhere in the small of his back, and hot breath curls into his ear. A masculine voice sighs into him, “Hey.”
Johnny spares a glance and finds himself staring into deep eyes the color of rich chocolate. His gaze flickers to take in short brown hair, lighter than his own, streaked by the sun and standing up from a tanned, sweaty brow. A strong, aquiline nose above too red lips. A small gold hoop earring in one ear and, around a slim neck, a black cord with a handful of white puka shell chips like all the surfer guys wear. The shells fall in the hollow of the stranger’s throat, accenting his dusky skin.
One thought crosses Johnny’s mind. Fuck Lou. He isn’t famous yet, right?
His grin must be encouraging, because it makes the stranger grin back. Leaning against Johnny, he shouts to be heard over the music and the crowd. “Anyone ever tell you that you should be a model with a smile like that?”
Johnny laughs. “Is that your best line?”
“I’m serious. Brett Cary.” The stranger holds out a business card for Johnny to read. Freelance Photographer. “With your looks? I could make you a star.”
Taking the card, Johnny jokes, “That seems to be the general consensus today. You do headshots?”
“I’ll do whatever you want,” Brett says.
His suggestive look says he’s not only talking about photos, either. And suddenly Johnny’s evening goes from just alright to hell yeah.
“You come here often?”
Johnny shakes his head. “I’m usually at the Den downtown,” he calls out, raising his voice to be heard over the crowd.
The Den, only Hollywood’s hottest gay club. Johnny watches Brett smile, a slow, sexy grin that says he got the hint. Closing the distance between them, he leans down over Johnny’s shoulder, one hand brushing over the soft skin on the inside of Johnny’s elbow. The touch is ticklish but Johnny doesn’t pull away. Instead, he studies those dark eyes and imagines they’re shadows he could disappear into tonight. Brett’s mouth curves into a bemused grin. “Can I buy you a drink?”
His gaze flickers past him and Johnny turns to see the bartender, waiting to take his order. When he moves, his back presses against Brett’s arm -- warm, firm, strong. With a coy glance over his shoulder at Brett, he suggests, “How about some Sex on the Beach?”
The photog’s eyes widen at his brazen words, but a moment later, they soften and the smile’s back. One hand drifts to Johnny’s waist, nimble fingers easing into the band of his jeans. “You want to wait that long?” he teases. “I was thinking the VIP Lounge upstairs ...”