It was nice that this apartment had a separate entrance. I paid the driver, grabbed my bag, and entered the key code that opened the door. That code also brought the elevator, one that whisked me up to the top floor as soon as I’d swiped my key card. On the way, I could hear the loud music from the bar, Spartacus, reverberating through the elevator shaft. I chuckled as I thought about that, and my slutty sense of humor, where it was funny that music from Spartacus would vibrate through a shaft.
The elevator doors opened and I walked into my apartment, which was clean, but felt different. I stood there, trying to figure out what it was, until Cam Heely came walking out, smiling. “Will!” He gave me a nice hug, and a friendly kiss. “Dude, great to see you!”
“Good to see you too,” I said.
“Want some food?”
“Duh,” I said, making him laugh.
“You just missed Devin. He took a break to come up and eat,” he said, even as he scooped some shit into a bowl for me. “I made stew.”
“Stew?” I said, even as I took the bowl from him. “Dude, that doesn’t sound like something you’d make.”
“Why not? I’m part Irish,” he said. “You don’t have to eat it.”
I took a bite and it was good. “This is fucking awesome. How much more you got?” He smiled at my compliment.
“A whole pot.”
“Speaking of pot,” I said, raising an eyebrow suggestively. He’d first become Matt’s friend in high school when they’d smoked some weed together, so Cam was usually a good stoner buddy. “Let’s go up on the roof.”
“Lead the way,” he said. We went up to the top floor, which was amazingly cool. I flipped a switch to turn on the fire pit, then sat down near it and pulled out my dugout. We smoked and I ate, just enjoying the evening.
“So you two are like a cute married couple,” I teased. That’s why the apartment felt different. Despite its trendy loft décor, there was an aura of domestic bliss.
“What are you talking about?”
“You and Devin,” I said.
“Does that bother you?” he asked. I stared at him, really surprised at that. Devin was the head bartender at Spartacus, and I’d had some amazing sex with him. He was gorgeous, hung, talented, and sweet. It was a good combination. But it didn’t bother me that he was with Cam; I was happy for both of them.
“Doesn’t bother me as long as I can still fuck him,” I said, managing to sound serious.
He got really nervous. “That may be kind of a problem.”
“You guys are exclusive?” I asked, acting all outraged.
“Yeah,” he said, and had that happy look of someone who was in love. The look I used to have.
“Awesome,” I said, smiling at him. He looked confused. “I was just messing with you. I can still get laid, even though it probably won’t be as good.”
“Asshole,” he said, and we both laughed.
“How’s this gonna work?” I asked him. He looked confused and alarmed, probably because they were both living in this apartment rent-free, only that’s not what I was talking about. “I mean, you’re smoking hot, but he’s downstairs bartending. Shit. There’s a lot of hot guys there.”
“That kind of freaked me out, and that’s probably why I didn’t really want to go out with him,” he said. “He’d hit on me, and I’d blow him off, because he could do so much better, so I figured he was just looking to take me for a ride.”
“You’re such an idiot,” I said. “There isn’t a guy in that bar downstairs that wouldn’t do whatever he could to lure you into bed.” Cam was one of those guys who was really handsome but totally insecure.
“Whatever,” he said, because he was modest. “So I finally gave in, and it’s been great. I think we’re both sick enough of the bar scene that it’s not really tempting.”
“That’s great,” I said.
“What brings you out here? Is Zach with you?”
“I came out here to talk to Josh about the bar,” I said.
“Oh yeah?” he asked.
“Place has lots of revenues, but almost no profit,” I said.
“Do you know why?”
I shrugged. “Gonna find out. The analysts think it’s because we have too many people on payroll, and we’re comping too many drinks.”
“Then you know why,” he said ruefully. “Drives Devin fucking crazy, but he just does his job and doesn’t worry about it.”
“Doesn’t worry about it?” I challenged. That was kind of a bullshit attitude, especially since it was mostly my money that was being tossed around.
“He had a big fight with Josh about it, and it came down to him either just doing his job here or quitting, so he decided to just focus on his job,” Cam said. I thought about that, and could see the tough situation that would put Devin in.
“I’ll bet he has a different approach when we talk,” I said, referring to Josh.
“Maybe,” Cam said. That one word filled me with dread, because Josh was hot, and had a big ego and a lot of pride. He was going to be cocky as hell.
“I think I’ll go down and say ‘hi’,” I said. I went down to my room and changed into bar clothes, then took the elevator down to the bar. The door opened, and the music just blasted me like a physical force, but I adapted to it quickly enough. I walked over to the bar and went over to where the wait staff got drinks, and where there was an entry into the back of the bar.
“You can’t go back there,” one of the waiters said.
“I’ll bet I can,” I said, and winked at him. I walked up behind Devin, who was making some sort of fancy-ass daiquiri drink. “Hey,” I said, nudging him.
He turned around and gave me a huge smile, then a nice kiss. “Good to see you!”
“I’ll let you get back to work,” I said, since he was busy.
“Go sit right there,” he said and pointed to a chair at the bar. I did, pausing to smile at the waiter who said I couldn’t go back there. Devin finished making drinks, and then personally brought me a vodka on the rocks.
“Thanks,” I said. “Cam gave me some stew.”
“Good shit,” he said.
“It is,” I told him.
“I’ll catch up with you later,” he said, since he was busy. I just smiled and downed my drink.
I spotted Josh across the bar, with a hot dude damn near sitting on his lap. There were a couple of other dudes with him, probably the dude’s friends. I saw another drink in front of me, thanked Devin, and drank that one more slowly as I watched Josh. He was acting like the lord of the castle, and I was pretty sure he was paying for their drinks. Or I was.
I finished my drink and Devin brought me another one. “I’ll bet they’re running up one hell of a bar bill,” I said, as I gestured to Josh.
“Wouldn’t know,” he said ruefully. “We never charge those guys.”
I got up, drink in hand, and walked over to Josh’s table. “Will!” he said, and stood up to give me a friendly hug. His friends looked at me curiously. “This is Will Schluter, my partner in this bar.”
“Nice to meet you,” one of the guys said, raising his eyebrow suggestively.
“Nice to meet you too,” I lied.
“So what brings you to town?” Josh asked.
“I’m on my way home from New York,” I lied, again. “I figured I’d stop by and go over the financials for the bar. I’m thinking tomorrow at noon.”
“I can do that,” he said cheerfully.
“Awesome,” I said, even though it wasn’t. “In the meantime, I’m going to check out this place.”
“Let me show you around,” he offered.
“Dude, you’d just end up cock-blocking me,” I teased, making him and his friends laugh.
“Or maybe I won’t,” he said, flirting with me. The guy who was all over him looked annoyed.
“I’ll catch up with you later,” I said. I wandered around the bar, checking it out, noticing the changes they’d made, even as I thought about the situation I was in with it. On the one hand, Josh was just pissing money away, money that could be flowing to the bottom line. On the other hand, everyone here seemed to be having a really good time, and Josh seemed to be on top of the world.
I finally finished my tour and ended up back at the bar, where Devin gave me another drink. The guys here were hot, really hot, and I was enjoying myself just checking them out. There was one guy standing about 20 feet away from me, and I caught him glancing at me a couple of times. I knew the rule, though, so I didn’t make eye contact with him until I was ready to either talk to him, or blow him off. He had to be the hottest guy at the bar, but if I was going to be objective about it, I was probably attracted to him because he looked so much like Zach. He had dark blond hair, a ripped body, and a shit-eating grin. I was admiring that grin when his eyes locked onto mine. I decided that he’d be fun to dance with, at least.
I was about to walk over and talk to him, when he started moving in my direction, so I just sat there and let him make the moves. “Hey,” he said, with a sexy, nasal accent.
“Hey,” I said.
“Nice,” he said, as he looked at my necklace, letting his fingers brush against my chest. I freaked out for a bit, since this was the birthday present Zach had given me, but I focused on the hunk in front of me instead.
“It was a present from a guy I used to go out with,” I said.
“You just break up with him?” he asked, reading me pretty well.
“Want a rebound?” he asked in a sexy way, making me laugh.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Awesome,” he said. We danced for a while, and I had a blast, but the more I was around this guy, the more attracted to him I was. “What’s your name?”
I laughed, since we’d been hanging out dancing for over an hour, and I didn’t even know his name. “Will,” I said.
“Toby,” he responded, and shook my hand like he was a businessman. “You want to go check out the bar upstairs?”
“You trying to get me into the backroom up there?” I flirted.
“Yeah,” he said.
“I’ve got a better idea,” I said. I took his hand and led him over to the elevator, slid my card, and took him upstairs.
“Dude, this place is the bomb,” he said as he looked around.
“Yep,” I agreed. I led him back to my bedroom, and we all but ripped off our clothes. The sex was really good; this guy had the looks to suggest he’d been around a lot, and being with him, I could tell that was true. It was probably even better for me, since it was easy for me to pretend that I was with Zach. This guy was like him in so many ways, even though his dick was shorter, but only by about half an inch.
“That was awesome,” he said, when we were done.
“You are good at that,” I said with a grin.
“I am,” he agreed, cracking me up. “I should get going.”
“Why?” He shrugged, but didn’t say anything. “You’re not up for another round?” I stroked his flaccid cock as I did, and felt it start to come to life.
“Maybe,” he said in his sexy way. “Bar closes in a couple of hours.”
“So.” I had no desire to go back down there.
He sighed. “I don’t do this very often.”
“Fuck? No way I’m believing that,” I told him.
“No, I fuck all the time. That’s what I do for a living,” he said. “I just don’t usually do it for free.”
I stared at him, stunned on so many levels. I hadn’t pegged him as a rent boy, but it made sense, and he sure had the looks and the equipment for it. But he’d fucked me for nothing, just because he wanted to. That was incredibly flattering and sweet, in a weird way. “Thanks,” I said awkwardly, since I was still working this through in my mind.
“I should go,” he said, and made to get out of bed, but I lay on top of him, making it difficult.
“You should stay,” I said. “The first round was free, the second one isn’t.”
“You think you can afford me?” he challenged.
“You think you can handle me?” I challenged back.
“Oh yeah,” he said, and then I fucked him. It wasn’t as much fun as bottoming had been, probably because I couldn’t keep up the comparisons to Zach. Zach was an amazing fuck, with an ass that would literally pulse all around my cock. This guy was good, but he wasn’t close to as good as Zach. I lied and told him it was awesome, then when he’d recovered, I had him fuck me again, and I liked that a lot better. When I came, I shot my load across my chest and the first big blop of cum landed squarely on my necklace. Toby laughed and put the necklace in his mouth, sucking my cum off of it, but the symbolism of the whole thing freaked me out.
“I should go,” he said, and this time I didn’t stop him. I gave him a couple of thousand bucks, got his number, and led him to the elevator. I went to the bathroom and cleaned myself up, then changed the sheets and lay on the bed, staring at the tall ceiling.
I grabbed the necklace and played around with the compass medallion, because it was cool, and to make sure it was cleaned off enough. My eyes focused on the ‘W’, which had a ‘Z’ engraved over it. “So you can always find your way back to me,” Zach had said when he’d given it to me.
Impulsively I pulled out my phone and hit the speed dial to call him. I expected it to go to voice mail, so I was really shocked when it didn’t. I heard the call connect, and I could hear him breathing on the other side. “Zach?” I asked. Then he hung up.
July 25, 2003
New York, NY
I sat at the kitchen table, making a list of all the things I had to do. This was amazingly frustrating. I’d spent my life with other people taking care of all my basic plans and arrangements. I’d had a coach, a manager, a costume designer, and other people. Here, I was on my own, at least until I hired a staff.
“Morning,” Carullo said as he walked into the kitchen. He was wearing boxers and a T-shirt, while I was fully dressed for my day. It made the contrast between us seem that much more stark, but even though he was pretty much my opposite, he was actually good company.
“Good morning,” I said.
“Making a list?”
I gave him my annoyed look. “No, I’m writing a fucking novel.”
“Cool. What’s it about?” he asked, as if he believed me. I just glared at him, and he started laughing. “You don’t like mornings.”
“You’re fucking brilliant,” I said in a nasty way.
“So what’s on your list?”
“Well, let’s see,” I said, staring at it, “it seems like this is my list. Not Johnny’s list, my list.”
“You should add going out with Johnny tonight to your list,” he said. “I’ll take you to the bars. Maybe get you laid. That will cheer you up.”
“No, it won’t,” I said. “That’s how Will is, where sex can heal all his problems, at least for a while. I don’t work that way.”
“Maybe you just haven’t found the right doctor,” he said, leering at me.
“What are you doing today?” I asked, to change the subject.
“Helping you with your list,” he said.
I stared at him, kind of shocked. “Really?”
“Yeah, really.” He’d been making some sort of protein drink thing, and sat down and started to drink it. “I gotta get a job, but I can work on that Monday.”
“Cool,” I said.
“So what do we gotta do?” he asked.
“I have to check out this school,” I said. “And I need to get the great room painted.”
“It looks good,” he said. I got up and walked in there, while he followed me.
“See this blue color,” I said.
“Yeah. It’s pretty.”
“It’s got too much yellow in it. It needs to be a little grayer,” I told him.
“This is like the number two thing on your list?” he asked. “This is so important that it makes it to the slot below school and before getting laid?”
“It’s the wrong color,” I insisted.
“It looks fine.”
“It bothers me,” I said. “It didn’t bother me enough to worry about it before, but now that I’m living here, it bothers me enough to fix.” Stef had picked the color, and I didn’t like to directly challenge his decisions unless they were hideous, or unless I was going to have to live with them. This time, I was going to challenge them.
“I got a cousin who paints,” he said.
“Does he do a good job?” I asked skeptically. The last thing I needed was some buffoon messing up the trim.
“He does places on Park Avenue,” he said defensively.
“Is this Park Avenue?”
“He does a good job,” he said.
“Fine. Will you set it up?” I asked.
“You don’t want him to bid first?”
“I want to get it done,” I said firmly. I wasn’t going to worry about an extra $500 or so. I just wanted to get my life in order.
“You got it,” he said.
“You need to get dressed. You can wear a shirt with buttons on the sleeves,” I teased. He’d evidently had limited experience with French cuffs, so when we’d gone shopping yesterday he’d been stymied by the lack of buttons on the sleeves.
“Or maybe I won’t wear a shirt at all,” he said, flirting with me.
“Go get ready,” I said, but in a good-natured way. I watched him walk out of the room and looked at my list. I was slowly but surely pulling my life back together after the hell that Alex had put me through. I’d been ready to go to England with him, to devote myself to him, yet we were over, and for some strange reason, it really didn’t bother me all that much.
July 25, 2003
I managed to haul my ass into the kitchen at 11:45. There was no time for breakfast, so I decided that my meeting with Josh would be a lunch meeting. “Hey,” Devin said. He was wearing gym clothes, and they made him look sexier than ever.
“Dude, you look amazing,” I said, as I blatantly lusted at him.
“Thanks,” he said uncomfortably, which made me laugh. “So you went off with Toby last night.”
“I did,” I said.
“He tell you he was a rent boy?”
“After the first time we fucked,” I told him.
“Gave you a freebie?” I nodded. “That’s a pretty big compliment.”
“It was, and he was pretty good, but not as good as I’m used to,” I said seductively. He rolled his eyes at me, since he knew I was just teasing him. No way would I fuck Cam over like that, even if Devin would.
“So what are you gonna do about Josh?”
“Nothing,” I said.
“Nothing?” He seemed pretty surprised by that.
“I thought about this for a long time, and I have two choices. I can be a total dick about this, and piss Josh off, maybe even buy him out and send him packing. Or I can ignore it.”
“Yeah, but he’s pulling money out of your pocket,” he said.
“It’s money out of his pocket too,” I said.
“Doesn’t seem to bother him,” Devin noted.
“I have so many things in my life that are fucked up right now,” I told him. “The last thing I need to do is get all involved here. Besides, this seems like a fun place, and people seem to like it.”
“They do,” Devin agreed.
“I don’t need to suck a hundred grand in profits out of this bar,” I said honestly. “Fucking up everyone’s life isn’t worth it.”
“How would it fuck up everyone’s life?” he challenged.
“Alright, if I lean on Josh, the first thing that’s going to happen is that a bunch of people who work here are going to get fired,” I said. “That would fuck up their lives.”
“True,” he agreed. “And the guys he’s hired are pretty cool.”
“Plus, no matter what I say, he’s going to think you’re behind it,” I told him. “How long you want to work at a place where your boss hates you?”
“We get along OK,” he said. “But I can see how that would fuck it up.”
“So it may not seem like the smartest thing in the world, but it’s not always about the money.”
“That’s probably what Toby thought last night,” he said. He gave me a friendly kiss then bailed to go to the gym, while I rode the elevator down to the bar.
“Hey there!” Josh said cheerfully. He was being really nice because he was nervous.
“Hey,” I said. “I decided that our meeting is a lunch meeting.”
“I can work with that,” he said. We strolled out of the bar and down the street to a local café. “Did you have fun last night?”
“I did,” I said. We ordered and started eating, while he regaled me with gossip about the bar. I waited until we were finished to broach the topic he was dreading. “Did you see the financials?”
“I did,” he said. “We made money.”
“We hardly made any money,” I corrected. “Do you know why?”
“We’ve spent more than most bars on booze and on staff,” he said. I was impressed that he’d read the reports closely enough to know that.
“Because you hired too many people, and because you comp too many drinks,” I said.
“Probably, but…” I stopped him.
“If you lose money, we’re going to have a different conversation,” I said firmly.
He looked at me, confused. “You mean you’re not upset?”
“Dude, it’s your money too,” I said. “You’re not pulling down profit-sharing dollars because you’re not making profits. But if you’re happy with that, I can live with it.”
“I used to be a lot bigger hardass than I am now,” he grumbled, as if that were a bad thing.
“Good,” I said with a smile. “You seem happy.”
“I am,” he said, smiling back.
“That’s what’s important,” I told him.
“You sticking around?”
I shook my head. “I have something to do in LA.”
“There’s a good band playing tonight,” he said.
I grinned. “I can go back tomorrow.”
July 26, 2003
I staggered out onto the back deck of Spartacus, panting and laughing as I did. I’d been dancing for a really long time, and I was sweaty and out of breath. “Dude, that was a blast,” Kyle said. He was this cute guy with light brown hair I’d been dancing with. He wasn’t really handsome, or really fit, but he was this nice average dude, and it was really attractive.
“You’re a kick-ass dancer,” I said.
“Yeah, kinda surprises most people,” he said kind of shyly.
“So what other hidden talents do you have?” I asked in a pretty suggestive way.
He gave me an embarrassed smile. “I’m a pretty good kisser.”
“No way I’m believing that,” I challenged, even as I moved closer. He ran his hand up the side of my face, forcing our eyes to lock, then he moved his hand around to my neck, pulling me into his lips in a sexy way that made it seem like I was being forced, when I wasn’t. It was powerful. Then our lips met, and holy shit, this guy played my mouth like a flute. Holy shit! But after dancing all that time, and now kissing for a while, I was out of breath, so I had to end it. I pushed him away a little abruptly, and it could have been embarrassing, but he knew that was one awesome kiss, so he just laughed. “Dude,” I said, staring at him in disbelief.
“Told you,” he said, being cocky.
I was just about to move in for another kiss when my phone rang. I had to at least see who was calling me. “Fuck,” I said, as I pulled it out of my pocket. It was Ryan. “I have to take this,” I told Kyle.
“Find me when you’re done,” he said.
I smiled at him while I answered the phone. “Hey!”
“Will,” I heard Ryan say, only it didn’t really sound like him at all.
“What’s up?” I asked, with a little less volume. I migrated toward the corner of the deck, trying to find a quieter spot.
“Dude, I’m just sitting here, staring at the water,” he said. He was wasted. “Thinking about going for a swim.”
“Water’s cold,” I said.
“I’m cold,” he said, and sounded really sad. Now he was scaring the shit out of me.
“Where are you?”
“Where am I? I think I’m standing on the abyss, staring at the great beyond.”
“Dude, is that anywhere near Santa Monica?” I joked.
“Ding ding ding,” he said, as if to indicate that I’d gotten the answer right. “Hanging on the dock of the bay, watching my life flow away…” he sang, modifying the lyrics from ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’.
“So what’s going on with you?” I asked.
“I and Shiloh, are no mo’,” he rhymed.
“Dude, what happened?” I asked.
“Said she hooked up with some dude, and wanted to be with him,” he said, like it was no big deal.
“Fucking whore,” I said, so pissed off that she’d hurt Ryan like that.
“Don’t talk about her like that,” he snapped at me. “It’s probably my fault.”
“Why would it be your fault?”
“Maybe she wasn’t, you know, happy with me,” he said.
“This is not because you’re a bum lay,” I said emphatically.
“Yeah, well how would you know? You’re not a chick.”
“Whatever,” I said, sounding like JJ. “You have a reserved passion that is really sexy.”
“I do?” he asked, perking up a bit.
“Yeah,” I said. “You’re this quiet dude, with these massive shields, but when you have sex, you really get into it.”
“You are the only dude that makes me horny,” he said.
“Thanks,” I said. “You’re just saying that because you’re fucked up.”
“How did you know I was fucked up?” he asked, even as he laughed, since it was obvious.
“Duh. What are you doing?”
“Pulled out some Special K, for the special occasion of getting dumped,” he said laconically.
“Dude, that stuff rips you,” I said.
“No shit,” he said. “Dude, my phone is beeping.”
“Call me back,” I ordered, but he had already clicked off. I rushed off the deck and through the bar to the elevator. Even as I swiped my key card, I had my phone out, pulling up the next number.
I dialed Jeff, and he didn’t answer, so I called again. He finally answered after the third try. “What?”
“Dude, you have to go to Santa Monica pier right now!” I all but shouted into the phone.
“I am not going to Santa Monica,” he said firmly.
“Yes you are,” I insisted, even as I rushed around my room, packing up my stuff. “I don’t have time to argue about it.”
“I’m standing here, naked and hard, with a fucking rubber on,” he said.
“Ryan is tripping on Special K down at the Santa Monica pier,” I told him. “Shiloh broke up with him.”
“God damn it!” he shouted. “I’ll call you back.”
“Fine,” I said. I called the airport, and asked them to track down the pilots, or any pilots, so I could get home.
One final call for a cab, then I zipped up my bag and tore out of the bar. I kept trying to call Ryan, but he didn’t answer. I told the cabbie where I was going, and then sat back for the ride to the airport.
My phone rang, and I was hoping it was Ryan, but it was Jeff. “I’m in the car, on the way,” he said. “What did he say?”
“He was just really fucked up, and really sad,” I said. “He talked about standing on the abyss, and about how he wanted to go swimming.”
“Fuck,” he said.
“I keep trying to call him back, but he hasn’t answered.”
“Fuck,” he said again. “I’ll call you when I get there.”
“You got his number?” I asked.
“I got his number,” he snapped, then ended the call. I’d tried to get him to tell Ryan the truth that he was Ryan’s half-brother, but for some reason, he wouldn’t do it. I used to give him shit about it, and I did that by giving him Ryan’s cell phone number about four or five times. So here it was, a legitimate issue, but my past bullshit bit me in the ass.
Maybe that’s why Zach didn’t want to be with me. Maybe he was sick of putting up with my bullshit. I pulled myself out of my pity spin, and tried to call Ryan again.