Chapter 1

 

 

PATRICK MORE than wanted this day over; he needed it over. Frustrated and exhausted, he had reached the end of his tolerance for their director’s temper tantrums. If he had to deal with one more, he would have to work very hard to keep from punching the man.

“No, no, no, no, no!” This shout accompanied a foot stomp, causing Patrick and his costar, Rhys, to exchange looks. “How long have you been working on this scene? How many times have you done it now?” Jack asked, and again Patrick’s and Rhys’s eyes met. The exchange held amusement over the director’s stomping and was laced with major annoyance—not with each other but at the circumstances.

They were now approaching their fourteenth hour that day. The director—a truly frustrating man who seemed to make up for his lack of height with an overdose of micromanagement—hadn’t been pleased with anything they’d done in the last three hours, all of which were working on the same damned two minutes of filming. Two minutes.

All Patrick wanted to do was go home and call his wife, talk to his son, and get some sleep so they could start this all over again tomorrow. Instead, he was still standing there, trying to satisfy a director that was… insatiable.

He could feel every one of those hours in every bone in his body. They’d been there for makeup and wardrobe at six that morning. As was typical, they’d spent as much time standing—or even sitting—around and waiting than they did actually acting, which was exhausting in itself. Until they’d started this scene.

Rhys didn’t look any better than Patrick felt, with his long, curly dark hair wild and messed from pulling it. Thankfully, the scene called for it to be like that. His own long black hair was still neat, but only because it was nearly glued down by hair spray. The look in Rhys’s dark eyes told Patrick exactly how short his friend’s temper was getting to be. Both of them, in fact, were becoming very frustrated with the director’s attitude.

He realized Jack was still waiting for an answer. The director was actually tapping his foot in impatience, a copy of the sides—that day’s portion of the script—was crumpled in his hand, and his short hair was spiking out everywhere, undoubtedly from it nearly being pulled out.

Resisting the urge to rub his face—and mess up his makeup, thereby making Chrissy screech at him like a banshee—he turned to Jack. “Um… I don’t know.” He shrugged. “Several?”

“Then why does it still look like you two are kissing a tree instead of each other?”

With another understanding look, Patrick and Rhys silently moved back to their spots, knowing Jack didn’t really want a reply.

Jack sighed. “Okay. One more time. Let’s make this one work, please? I want to go home sometime tonight.”

Patrick closed his eyes, refreshed his character—Nadir—in his mind, and forced his focus onto Nadir’s lover, Cyrus, who was played by Rhys. He only barely registered the other commands being given, waiting for the one he needed. When “mark” filtered into his brain, he opened his eyes and looked up into Rhys’s face to wait for “action.” A few seconds later, he heard it.

“It’s not… we shouldn’t,” he said and knew that, at least, he nailed his line and timing.

“Shh,” Rhys replied, lips tilting into the grin that had become the favorite of Cyrus fangirls everywhere. “He’s not going to care. You know that. And they’re in bed now.” He closed the distance, and Patrick tilted his head a little more. He forced the world around him to fade, the crew and director to disappear, and worked to just be Nadir.

Rhys paused a scant inch away and hovered there for a long moment. Patrick could feel his own breath stuttering, his heart pounding, and he wondered at it. It was Rhys—it shouldn’t cause this. But he shoved the thought aside and did his best to use it to his advantage. He looked into Rhys’s eyes, and the chemistry that had created the demand for more of their on-screen relationship sparked again. Rhys’s eyes darted from Patrick’s eyes to his lips and back again, and the breathless feeling grew as they closed the short distance until their lips touched.

Patrick vaguely realized he hadn’t even had to remember which way to tilt his head this time. It was one of the more unmagical parts of Hollywood to Patrick—that even during kissing scenes, everything was scripted and choreographed until there was nothing even remotely romantic about it. Jack had harped on that for far longer than Rhys could take—what felt like an eternity. Jack had pushed so hard about the exact tilt and angle that Rhys had snapped that they’d kiss and do it well if Jack’d just leave them to it.

So this time, in some fuzzy part of him that cataloged these kinds of details, he noted he hadn’t needed to think about it. It just happened. Then their lips brushed, Rhys nipped at his, and they were kissing.

The first time they’d kissed, which was the first time Patrick had ever filmed a kiss, he’d had to remind himself to keep his tongue in his own mouth. Despite the reminder of all the people around watching, making sure it went the way it was supposed to, he’d lost himself a little in the scene. He’d managed to hold onto only enough of himself—as opposed to Nadir—to remember the directions he’d been given and to keep his tongue to himself.

Getting lost like that had always helped him, had been a credit to how well he did when he’d still been onstage doing community theater. The stage manager he’d worked with there had been content to let them do the kiss the way they’d wanted. That had been the only kiss he’d ever done onstage, but it had been a resounding success, and he’d made note of it.

But here, where the director preferred to specify everything they did and every move they made, it was much more difficult to get into the same mind-set. And in Patrick’s opinion, more difficult to act when every nuance of his facial expression was even scripted.

Now, however, he let go of that. After the last three hours of frustration, he just couldn’t give a shit anymore. He let his instincts guide him instead of the director’s specific instructions. Some sane part of his brain wondered why he hadn’t heard “CUT!” yet, but he ignored that thought too.

Instead, he lifted his hand and threaded his fingers through Rhys’s dark locks. He took the other from its scripted spot on Rhys’s arm and slid it up to the back of Rhys’s neck. Then he returned the nips and nibbles and did his best to deepen the kiss while still keeping his tongue to himself.

Rhys responded by sliding one hand down Patrick’s back and pulling him in tighter. That hand landed on Patrick’s ass, the other resting on his lower back and holding him in place. A quiet moan escaped Patrick’s throat, and as soon as it did, he was sure he’d hear the call. Again though, it didn’t come, so he kept it going.

And as it did, the strangest thing started happening. The hands on him, the kiss from Rhys as it deepened, started to feel… really good. The sensations went through him, and he found himself reacting to it, his cock starting to harden. He didn’t understand it, but he was too focused on Cyrus and the things they were doing to be able to figure anything out.

Finally, he heard the call, and they broke the kiss. Patrick noticed Rhys seemed to be having as much trouble simply breathing as he was, though he didn’t feel anything against him. At least, nothing like his hard cock against Rhys. Rhys and Patrick stared at each other, and Patrick was sure his face was turning red. He didn’t understand it, couldn’t figure out why he’d react to Rhys, even if Patrick was as thoroughly in the role as he was.

“Finally!” Jack grumbled, drawing Patrick’s attention. “I think we can wrap that for today.”

“You… okay?” Rhys asked Patrick, who nodded. “Should I be… flattered?”

Patrick laughed, breaking the tension. “Uh… sure,” he said, chuckling. “I guess. That’s… never happened before. Um….” He paused, glancing around. Most of the crew were busy taking care of what they needed to, but he desperately needed to adjust himself before he walked to his dressing room. When Rhys dropped his hands but didn’t step away, Patrick did his best to adjust himself surreptitiously and finally move back. “Uh… sorry?” he asked, then shook his head.

Rhys laughed. “I’ll just take it as a compliment. Next time, though, maybe don’t think of your wife while we’re working on a kissing scene.”

Patrick forced a laugh, though why that thought bothered him, he couldn’t pinpoint. “Yeah, right. ’K… guess I’ll see you tomorrow….”

“Yup. Later.” Rhys threw up a casual wave before heading to his dressing room.

Patrick followed, going to his own, though his mind was so preoccupied he almost went into the wrong one. When he was settled into his chair so Chrissy could help him remove the scar makeup, he let his mind wander back to the scene. He’d never done that—never—even when he’d been kissing the female actor he had been with for his one romantic role onstage.

He knew it was possible for actors to react. He often thought the assurances that it didn’t happen ever had to be bullshit. There were too many Hollywood romances that grew between costars for that to be the case. And he’d heard the old oft-misquoted line he thought went something like, “Darling, one of two things is about to happen. For either, I apologize,” which told him it was, in fact, quite possible for a man to react during a scene.

He might have even expected it someday when playing a romantic role with a woman. But he’d never in a million years expected it to happen when he was playing a gay man. And he had no idea what to do with it.

 

 

“HELLO,” EMILY greeted him.

“Hi, baby,” he said and yawned. “Sorry, long day today. How are you?”

“Fine.”

“What did you do today?” he asked, resisting the urge to sigh at her one-word answer.

“Rehearsed, what else?” she asked, and he did sigh.

“You haven’t exactly sent me your schedule,” he grumbled. “I didn’t know.”

“It’s all I’ve been doing,” Emily replied.

Did you talk to Avery’s preschool teacher? What did you do for lunch? Did you go anywhere? There were a million things she could have told him, and it bothered him that she never seemed willing to volunteer anything anymore. “How’s Avery?” he asked to shift gears and avoid another argument.

“Good. He’s asleep.”

Patrick resisted the urge to bang his head against the wall. “I figured. I’m sorry I missed him.”

“If you’d called earlier—”

“You know how it works on set. Don’t start.”

She fell silent so long he thought she was going to hang up. “Well….”

“Yeah, ‘well,’” he said. “I…. My….” He paused, not sure he wanted to tell her about Rhys. He’d already told her all there was to tell about Jack and the others. He sighed again. “I’ll call tomorrow. Before Avery’s in bed.”

“Good. Bye.” And before he could reply, she hung up.

Patrick stared at the phone for a long moment. “Yeah, I love you too,” he said before tossing it onto his bedside table.

While he showered, he tried to remember the last time she’d said those words to him. Or the last time she asked how he was. Or what his day had been like. He couldn’t pinpoint any of them, but he was sure it was just because he was so tired.

Their relationship was a turbulent one, but Patrick reminded himself that was par for the course in Hollywood—or any acting-based relationships. They’d been married for four years, since just before Avery was born. He’d been ridiculously young when they met—only nineteen—but very much in love with her and convinced they could make it work.

They spent a lot of time apart, one or the other of them filming or rehearsing or something of the sort. He’d been home in Kane’ohe, a small town on the windward side of O’ahu, for the better part of three months while his mother was sick. Before that, he’d been in Honolulu, working on a stage production. Somewhere in there, Emily was in New York for two months, then back to Los Angeles, then up in Vancouver, Canada. They’d barely been in the same place for more than a day or two at a time in… nearly a year.

As Patrick soaped up his hair, being careful of the extensions he’d had put in to spare him some time in makeup every day, he reminded himself that was how Hollywood couples were. It was a given they’d spend time apart. He knew that. So it was no wonder things had been so strained between them.

Maybe that explained why he reacted to the kiss today. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had sex. He paused midscrub and stared so long at the opposite wall while he was in thought, he got soap in his eyes and had to rinse. He’d been home with Emily four months ago for two days, but despite that, they hadn’t made love. Before then… it had been nearly six months, and even though they’d had four days together, they hadn’t done anything.

He frowned as he rinsed his hair. Yeah, no wonder he reacted. That still didn’t explain him reacting to Rhys, though. But the kiss, being up against Rhys’s body, the hands on him—well, he had to admit it had all felt good.

Being denied as he had been didn’t suddenly make him gay. He pictured Emily’s naked body and felt himself start to react. Yeah, he liked women. No doubt. So that didn’t make a damned bit of sense to him.

He shut the water off, dried off, and climbed into bed, determined to forget about it and just get some sleep. He seriously considered masturbating, but he was even too tired to do that. With a deep sigh, he punched his pillow a few times, though it didn’t help his frustration, and settled in. With any luck he wouldn’t have any more kissing scenes with Rhys the next day and could just get back to something resembling normal. He had a feeling, however, it wouldn’t last.