Ryan tugged at his collar and the bow tie they told him to wear. He insisted that PhD students didn’t necessarily wear bow ties—he certainly didn’t when he was in school—but they insisted that this PhD student did. So Ryan was stuck with a bow tie that threatened to cut off his air supply.
Other than the bow tie, the rest of the outfit put together by the wardrobe crew wasn’t so bad: a slim-fit dress shirt with rolled up sleeves under a vest and tight jeans that showed off his ass. The wardrobe lady called it “hipster chic.” Ryan helpfully pointed out that hipster was already pretty chic, so she didn’t need to add the extra descriptor; that earned him a dirty glare.
The whole production was a lot more than what Ryan was used to. Typically, porn sets had the people having sex, a couple of cameramen and assistants, and the director. Floodlights were set up to light the set, and mics were attached to the top of the handheld cameras.
But this time, Ryan found himself on the sidelines of an honest-to-goodness film set. They’d managed to rent out an actual nightclub for a few hours, and the entire place was filled with gaffers adjusting the lighting, sound guys with mic booms, and production assistants running around with pieces of furniture. Erik was huddled with Gary and one of the cameramen, talking through what they’d be shooting today.
Not for the first time did Ryan question what he had gotten himself into. Once he’d agreed, Erik and Gary immediately started scheduling shoot times despite Ryan’s objection that they didn’t have a script yet. That’s when Erik sheepishly admitted that they already had the first two episodes mapped out.
Ryan remembered the apologetic hesitation in Erik’s blue eyes when he handed the script over. He almost sounded nervous when he asked for Ryan’s opinion. Ryan was loath to admit it, but the script was quite good. Now, he was worried whether he’d be able to pull it off.
“Okay, you ready?” Gary’s approach pulled Ryan from his own thoughts.
“Yeah, where do you want me?”
“Over here.” Gary led Ryan over to a tall, round table with a glass of clear liquid and ice. “This is your drink, so you can sip at it during the scene.”
“Don’t worry.” Erik smiled as he approached. “It’s not vodka, it’s just water.” His dimple flashed at Ryan.
“And where will you be?” Ryan asked.
“Erik will be on the platform.” Gary pointed to the box not far from the table. “You’ll be sipping at your drink and watching Erik dance. Simple. Shouldn’t be too hard.”
Ryan nodded. Right. Shouldn’t be too hard.
“Great, let’s get started.” Gary turned toward the crowded room. “Places, people!”
And suddenly there was a hush. The house lights dimmed as ambient white glow filled the space. Colorful strobe lights roamed around the room, controlled by some unseen force. Someone took Erik’s robe from him, and he stepped up onto the box.
Gary called out, “Action,” and Erik started moving to an unheard beat.
Ryan let his eyes wander, appreciating the ripple of muscle as Erik undulated on top of the box. His skin glistened with oil, and the colored lights played off the shiny surface; he looked less like a man and more like impressionist art come to life.
Wide shoulders and strong arms. Defined chest that tapered to narrow hips adorned simply by straps from a jock. His thighs—Ryan had never seen such muscular thighs in his life—were strips of muscle twisting down his limbs until they disappeared into thick, black biker boots.
And all along Erik’s body swirled one unending tattoo. Ryan had seen one end of it peeking out of Erik’s t-shirt back at the bar: wisps of smoke spiraled down his left arm and licked at his elbow; from there, the tattoo snaked up around Erik’s shoulder and down his back in a frenzy of little swirls. The smoke trailed diagonally across Erik’s back, wrapped around his waist, over his hip, and circled his right thigh before evaporating just above the knee.
Ryan’s gaze trailed back up to contemplate the most important organ. It was hidden behind a scrap of red fabric, stretched taut and threatening to burst. Erik’s bulge was just as impressive as the rest of his body. Ryan had already adjusted his previous guess based on the videos he found online—now that he was confronted with it in person, he knew his adjustment was accurate. It wasn’t eight inches; it was more like nine, and probably five inches in circumference. It was huge.
Ryan tried to suppress a shudder at the thought of Erik’s size, and his asshole clenched involuntarily. They’d already discussed what roles they’d be taking, and although Ryan had always topped in his scenes, everyone had agreed that this character felt more like a bottom. Gary and Erik had been wary of asking Ryan to bottom, and he wasn’t thrilled by the idea himself, but he felt like it was the right way to go. Artistic sacrifice, and all that.
What Ryan had never told anyone, though, was that he secretly preferred to bottom; at least he did in his private sexual encounters. Even now, knowing that the big fat cock hidden behind the red jockstrap would soon be invading his ass was enough for Ryan’s cock to plump, and he shifted on his feet to alleviate the pressure.
Erik turned, his body undulating and rolling, arms raised and his head falling back as if he was lost in some enthralling music. Just like his front, Erik’s back was ripple after ripple of clearly defined muscle, each one glistening in oil, his tattoo a living, breathing creature that moved to its own dance across his skin. His ass: two perky mounds framed perfectly by the straps of the scrappy article of clothing.
Then he bent over, head suddenly between his calves, and piercing blue eyes peeked back at Ryan. He swallowed heavily at the look in them; Erik knew he looked good, and he knew Ryan knew he looked good.
His new position left his ass lifted high in the air, cheeks spread, and Ryan could see Erik’s wrinkly asshole exposed to the air. It twitched once as Erik twerked at him. In this position, Ryan could see Erik’s tattoo as it wrapped around his inner thigh, dangerously close to his most private of parts, and Ryan wondered at how it must have felt to have needles piercing into such delicate skin.
Ryan’s hand ached, and he realized that he’d been clutching his glass of pretend vodka tonic much harder than necessary. He forced himself to relax his grip and brought the drink to his mouth for a sip. It was disconcerting how the glass trembled in his unsteady hand.
Ryan slowly lowered the glass and placed it gently back on the table, eyes lowered, gathering himself for a moment before glancing back up. Erik was watching him, reading him, studying him.
Erik’s hand floated up to his chest; two fingers rubbed at a nipple until it stood on end. The other hand lingered on his bulge and tugged and massaged. And all the while, his eyes unwaveringly focused on Ryan, drawing him into the performance.
This was an act, Ryan reminded himself. They were on camera. But the way Erik looked at him, the way Erik touched his own body and danced to the silent music—it made it easy to get lost in the make-believe moment they were creating.
Erik knew how to move; Ryan certainly could appreciate that. He wondered suddenly what genre of dance Erik specialized in in his past life. It was a weird thing to think of in the middle of a scene, but Ryan felt more surprised that his mind hadn’t wandered off well before then.
It was a testament to how good Erik was, good enough to move Ryan from his typical appreciation for the male body and pull him into a more primal attraction to something beautiful. There was absolutely no doubt that Erik was different from the other guys Ryan had met in the industry; the problem was, Ryan didn’t know what he should be doing about that.
“Cut!” Gary’s voice rang out in the eerie silence of the set.
Ryan blinked a couple of times as his brain reoriented itself. Turning toward the sound of Gary’s voice, he found a giant smile on the director’s face.
“Guys, that was amazing. Unbelievable.”
“Yeah?” Erik had slipped on a robe and was heading toward the monitor. “Let’s take a look. Ryan, you want to watch?”
“No,” Ryan answered immediately. He never watched himself.
Erik shrugged, and his dimple flashed at Ryan.
Ryan watched Erik watch the video they had just shot. The little furrow appeared between his eyebrows, and his eyes darted back and forth, just like that time he was reading the newspaper. He was in analysis mode: gathering information, dissecting it, and drawing a conclusion before moving on to the next set of facts.
“This is good,” Erik concluded. “This is very good.”
He and Gary engaged in some sort of discussion while Ryan waited for his next set of instructions. Around him, the film crew adjusted the set, moved equipment, and was generally busy, although Ryan wasn’t sure exactly what it was they were doing.
They ran through that scene a couple more times before moving on to the next. This time, Ryan was told to exit through the club’s back door to find Erik outside taking a smoke break.
There was some dialogue involved, which Ryan was a little nervous about. In his entire porn-making career, he never actually had dialogue that needed to be convincing. He’d already spent a couple of days making a fool of himself in front of his mirror at home, reciting lines until they didn’t feel stupid coming out of his mouth.
The first couple of times they ran through the scene, Ryan forgot what he was supposed to say. Then the few times he got his lines right, Erik burst out laughing and ruined the shot.
“Sorry! Sorry!” Erik shook his head back and forth with his mouth hanging open. “Ahh…” came a strange sound as he got the giggles out of his system.
“One more time, I’ll get it right, promise!” Erik settled himself back onto the wall and lifted his cigarette into the camera’s field of view.
“Action!” Gary called out.
“Uh, hi.” Ryan hit his mark, hands in pocket, head slightly tucked, voice shy.
“Hi.” Erik barely spared him a glance and took a long drag from his cigarette.
“Um, you were great in there. I was watching you dance.”
“Yeah, I saw you.” Erik blew a lungful of smoke up and away from the camera.
“Uh, my name’s Roman. Roman Cox.” Ryan stuck out his hand and peeked up from under his lashes.
Erik glanced down at Ryan’s outstretched hand, as if weighing his options before slowly extending his own.
“Everett.” Ryan let the name roll around on his tongue. “That’s a nice name.”
Erik raised his eyebrows. “Yeah.”
A moment of pregnant pause.
“So, Roman. What brings a nice fella like you to a place like this?”
Ryan’s head snapped up to find an amused smile on Erik’s face. “Oh, um, well, it’s kind of a weird story.”
“I’m all for weird stories, and I’ve got a couple of minutes to spare. Entertain me.”
“I’m a PhD student. I’m doing research on the psychological effects of being a go-go dancer. I’m in the process of recruiting some subjects to interview.”
“Psychological effects? Like if we’re damaged by dancing practically naked in front of other men?”
“Uh, well, not damaged. That would be starting with a negative bias.” Ryan’s voice adopted the academic drone that once came so naturally to him. “But how dancing affects what the dancer thinks about himself, his relationships with others, his role in the social hierarchy. Stuff like that.”
“Right.” Erik puffed on his cigarette. “So, Roman, do you have any research subjects yet?”
Ryan let out a nervous laugh. “Not yet. I’m still looking for people who are willing to talk with me.”
Erik dropped the cigarette to the ground, crushing it as he pushed away from his spot on the wall. He turned toward Ryan and advanced until he was in Ryan’s personal space. Ryan found himself raising his eyes a couple of inches to meet Erik’s taller stature. His lips parted under Erik’s intense blue gaze.
“Well, Roman. You now have one research subject.”
“What?” The word came out breathier than Ryan had intended.
Erik’s smile deepened in response.
“Me, Roman. I’ll be your first research subject. That is, unless you don’t want me?”
“No! No, I definitely want you.”
Erik held Ryan’s chin with one hand and lowered his mouth to close the two-inch gap between them. It was a quick kiss, a test kiss. When Ryan didn’t pull away, Erik came back for seconds, deepening the contact, his tongue sneaking out to tease.
Ryan responded, his own tongue meeting Erik’s as they lapped and nibbled at each other. Ryan let a whimper escape his throat and angled his head to both deepen the kiss and let the camera get a better view.
Damn. Erik could kiss. It shouldn’t have been a surprise to Ryan, but he somehow had not been expecting such an expert manipulation of lips and tongue. When Erik finally pulled back, Ryan was out of breath, and he wasn’t faking it. A part of him recognized the dilation of Erik’s pupils and the flush on his cheeks—Ryan was glad he wasn’t the only one affected by the kiss.
“Stick around, Roman. We’ll…talk…when I’m finished my shift.”
“And cut!” Gary called out.
Ryan took a step back; a rush of cool air came between their heated bodies. A tinge of regret tugged at Ryan, which he didn’t understand, so he ignored it. He glanced quickly at Erik and caught blue eyes staring at him and a pink tongue sneaking out to swipe at rosy lips.
Ryan knew they were both professionals who were good at their craft, but something about that kiss had nothing to do with acting.
Erik headed off to review the video with Gary, and Ryan settled into the background again. It was just acting, he told himself. This whole thing is just acting, just like every other porn movie he’d shot. It’s all just pretend. So why was he having a hard time convincing himself of that?