Exposure

by Alexandra Y. Caluen

Andy Martin ended a long career as a Broadway dancer before injury could end it for him. Now he’s a commercial photographer in L.A., doing jobs like lobby cards for a play. Taking pictures of people like actor Victor Garcia, who shows up five months later at a tenant event at the Brewery, and asks if he can come up to talk about his portfolio. They both know that’s not why he’s going upstairs. Neither of them knows what that night will mean.

Published:
Publisher: Independently Published
Genres:
Tags:
Pairings: M-M
Heat Level: 3
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 46-65
Protagonist 2 Age: 36-45
Tropes: Age Difference, Coming Out / Closeted, Death of Parent, Most Mindblowing Sex Ever, Out for You
Word Count: 83400
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Excerpt:

Victor turned away from that not-very-solemn ceremony, smiling at something the tattoo artist was saying. Then he glanced across the pavement for a moment and saw somebody, and stopped moving. Tall, dark-haired, standing under the building’s harsh floodlight and looking as though he were at center stage. “He’s here?” he said out loud.

Lola turned her head and followed his gaze. “Who, Andy? He lives here. You know him?”

Victor met her mildly-interested eyes. “Not really. I did a play this year. He did the photography, the lobby cards. He was good to work with.”

“Too bad you’ve got fresh ink, you could get him to do an update for you. He does lots of portfolios.”

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Lola might have meant that to sound like a suggestion; Victor certainly took it that way. “No time like the present,” he said. “Who knows when I might get out here again. And my head shot is three years old.” That was true. He hadn’t updated it since he landed the part on ‘L.A. Vice.’

“Better catch him before it gets too late. Nice working with you today.” She offered her hand; Victor shook it; they parted ways. He walked away thinking about ‘too late.’ It wasn’t that late. If he was about to do what he thought he was about to do, it wasn’t late at all. What am I doing.

Five months since that photo shoot. Five months since walking into that scruffy concrete rehearsal room, greeting the director and the other actors in the play, and being introduced to the photographer. Tanith said, Hi Victor, thanks for being on time, this is Andy Martin. Victor said something polite and shook hands, grateful he was an actor. Why now. Why this one. What is happening. He was thirty-five. The world thought he was straight. Keeping up his cover had meant some lonely years, but he was used to it. He thought he was resigned to it. His reason for playing straight had a time limit, after all, and five months ago it had seemed all the more important to maintain. But oh, it was tough to do. Tough to get in character as the bad guy, and follow Andy’s direction or Tanith’s, and not look past the lights and wish.

Victor’s reason still existed. She was even more important now that time was running out. He should not be doing this, should not be walking over to Andy. No matter how gorgeous he looked, laughing at something. Victor should not be letting the loneliness and the hunger get the best of him.

He kept moving.

As the group dispersed, Andy felt a touch on his shoulder. He turned and recognized a recent photo subject.  “Well, Mr. Garcia,” he said with a smile, because who wouldn’t smile at this guy. “What are you doing here?”

“Getting some new ink from Lola,” said Victor, also smiling, and pushing up the sleeve of his loose denim shirt to show the fresh dressing on his forearm.  “Do you live here?”

“Yeah.  Moved here four years ago.”

“Friend of the deceased?”

“We had a gentlemen’s agreement. I wouldn’t try to touch him, and he wouldn’t put any more claws in my leg.” Andy indicated the parallel scars across his shin.

“He did that?”  Victor leaned against a wall, apparently in no hurry to go. “Shame to mess up one of those legs.”

Andy blinked. He habitually wore dance shorts around the complex, but no-one ever remarked on it. He wasn’t even close to being the most eccentric resident. Since he wasn’t certain Victor’s comment meant what he thought it meant, he went with a reference to a project they had both worked on. “I hear the play was quite a success, in spite of everything.  Congratulations.” He was tempted to say more, maybe something about the photo shoot. About that electric moment when their eyes met. But Victor had gone straight into character then. Andy followed his lead, because the room was full of people and they were there to do a job, and maybe it was all Andy’s imagination anyway. A moment of wishing, because someone that beautiful didn’t walk into the room every day.

“It went well, thanks,” Victor was saying. “Definitely the weirdest theater experience I’ve had, but it was a good little part for me. Even if I was the bad guy.” His tone said he didn’t mind playing bad guys.

“You were a good bad guy,” Andy said. “I went to the fourth performance.  It ran really smooth.”

“Everything shook out by then.” Victor gave him a look up and down. Subtle, but unmistakable. Andy kept his face still with an effort. This was not his imagination. Victor was studying him in a way that had nothing to do with his next words. “I liked the photos you did for the production. Do you have a minute to talk about updating my portfolio?”

“Yeah, I guess.” Andy thought fast, because evidently he was not, after all, tripping. Was his studio space a mess? Was the kitchen clean? And why did he care?  Maybe, he admitted to himself, because this is the hottest guy who’s spoken to me in years, he’s practically inviting himself up to see my etchings, and I’d like him to get a good look. Some guys weren’t turned off by domestic disorder; some – like Andy himself - were.

“You’re sure it’s a good time?” Victor smiled a little, and shifted his body in a way that made Andy flash back to his performance in the play. When he’d played a seducer. The implication was dual: ‘it’ll be a good time all right’ and ‘this could take a while.’

Fuck, I hope so. Andy straightened up, making the most of his height for a change, and tried on a smile. “Sure. Let’s go up.” If anyone was listening, they would hear a totally innocuous exchange about an actor’s portfolio. They’d have to be really paying attention to catch that subtle body language. If Andy weren’t well aware that Victor wasn’t out, he would have thought the guy picked people up all the time. He wasn’t entirely sure why the guy was picking him up right now, but he had no intention of questioning it.

Victor followed Andy to a door, up some stairs, up a rampway. Watching those legs move and asking himself, all the way, what am I doing. But the people outside didn’t care who he was. Nobody had paid the slightest attention to him. It was the safest place he’d been in for a long time, more than a year since his last time, and here was the man who’d been on his mind for months. Victor might be risking everything. Andy knew who he was. But he’d played that little scene perfectly. He had to know what it meant to not be out.  So if this was a chance to be himself for a little while … Victor was going to take it.

COLLAPSE

About the Author

A long time ago and three thousand miles away, I wrote my first novel - a historical romance - during graduate school. Twenty years later I finally dusted it off and published it. Since then I have written and published eleven more novels and twenty-nine novellas. My day job is in a law office, I've been married for eighteen years, and I'm inspired by authors like KJ Charles, Laurie R. King, Dick Francis, and Jennifer Crusie.


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