Men Who Love Menby William J. Mann
Meanwhile their best friend Henry Weiner, escort-turned-erotic
For Jeff O'Brien, life has finally fallen into place. He's now a bestselling author, living in Provincetown full-time with Lloyd Griffith, his longtime lover and soon-to-be legal husband. Forty has nothing on Jeff and Lloyd--they're the still-sexy poster boys for settled, contented domesticity.
Meanwhile their best friend Henry Weiner, escort-turned-erotic energy worker, wonders if he'll ever find what Jeff and Lloyd have with each other. Thirtysomething, no longer the muscle boy of his twenties, Henry's searching for that one special someone--though he's just about ready to give up when a meeting at Tea Dance changes everything.
Enter Luke West. Dangerously young, boyishly handsome, with a seductive charm and a rich fantasy life, Luke tells everyone he's come to P-Town to find himself both personally and as a writer. But his real agenda may possibly be very different--and far less innocent. Once he's worked his way into Jeff, Lloyd, and Henry's lives, Luke find his presence arousing intense feelings in all three men. Now Jeff, Lloyd, and Henry will face their futures alone and together, closing the door on some chapters of their lives while opening others to new love and hope.
With Men Who Love Men, William J. Mann tackles the big questions of contemporary gay life, delivering a beautiful, thoughtful book about love, sex, commitment, friendship, and fantasy, about the lives we engineer and the joyful surprises that happen when we least expect them.
"Powerful. . .Mann's most mature and ambitious fiction to date. . .a strong, sexy novel that will stand out." --The Lambda Book Report
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MEN WHO LOVE MEN
By WILLIAM J. MANN
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2007 William J. Mann
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTEA DANCE
That's what these boys are. If my eyes were diabetic they'd be going into insulin shock right now. Look at that one. Tall, dark, copper-skinned, pecs flat and square on his chest. Or that one, with the buzzed head and the lightning bolt inked across his big round shoulders. Or that one over there, with the milk chocolate skin and the eight-pack chiseled into his abdomen. Hell, anybody can have a six-pack these days. Now you've got to have eight.
Eye candy. That's exactly what these boys are. I can imagine popping any one of them into my mouth, rolling them around on my tongue like saltwater taffy. Or hazelnut cream. Nothing nutritious about these boys, nothing at all, nothing that will do any lasting good for the heart or the soul. But how delicious any one of them would be at this moment, and how sweet they'd taste on the way down.
Once, I was eye candy myself. Once upon a time, I knew what it was like to be looked at. To be wanted. To be lusted after, pursued, fantasized over-the way I'm fantasizing about these boys now. Once, I was one of the beautiful boys, one of the A-list. Those days seem like a hazy dream to me now, but they were real. They happened. Right here at this very spot, too. And not really so long ago.
"Henry, that boy over there is looking at you."
Reluctantly, I move my eyes away from the milk chocolate abdominals on the man across the deck and focus on my friend Ann Marie, all big blond hair and mascara. She's returned from the bar with martinis for both of us. I take one, bring it to my lips, and taste the alcohol before I look at her again and ask which boy she means.
"That one, over there." Ann Marie gestures with her head, trying not to be obvious. "In the green tank top."
I see which one she means. He's not looking at me now, if he ever was. He's leaning against the railing, oblivious to me and anyone else.
Ann Marie draws in close. "I know you tend to go for more muscley types, Henry, but he's really cute."
Unsaid is that the muscley types don't go for me. Not anymore. And neither is this kid, despite Ann Marie's claims. I look back at him, framed by the startling backdrop of blue harbor, white sky, and scattered sailboats. He is exquisite. Blond hair hanging over his eyes like a schoolboy. Long lashes, perky nose, pouting lips. Lean, tight, with arms that are sinewy rather than pumped, the blessing of youthful muscle that needs no enhancement from a gym.
"He's cute, isn't he?" Ann Marie asks.
I simply close my eyes. "I'm on eye candy overload."
Ann Marie laughs as she takes a sip of her drink. "If he really were a piece of candy, what would he be?"
"A lollipop." I open my eyes and take a sip of my drink as I look around the deck. I'm feeling arch, a little brittle, a sensation the alcohol only intensifies. "Ah," I say, "how quickly changes the light."
Ann Marie grins. "Are you going poetic on me, Henry?"
"Summer's almost over," I say, doing my best to sound like Noel Coward. Not that I ever heard Noel Coward speak, but it's what I imagine he must have sounded like. Wry and world weary. "Look around you," I continue. "Once, this deck was filled with light. Now, the earth has turned. Winter isn't far ahead."
"You've been hanging around my brother too long," Ann Marie says. "You're starting to sound like him in one of his melodramatic-writer moments."
"Is there even time left to dance?" I ask, airily.
She looks at her watch. "I think so. Tea goes to seven, and it's only six-twenty." She's taking me literally, as Ann Marie often does. "But the dance floor is pretty crowded."
"It's always been crowded," I tell her. "It was just easier once to make room."
"That's a candy, too. Now, see that one over there?" I indicate a strapping blond number, shirtless, of course, smooth and shiny. "He's a Three Musketeers. Light. Fluffy. Easy to swallow. Done in a minute." I nod over at a thicker, meaner bald guy with an eagle tat blazing across his back. "Now he's a Snickers. A little harder to chew, but still, in the end, if you're not careful, he will melt all over you." I cast my eyes toward a short, blue-eyed muscle boy with dark hair and an intelligent face. "Beware that one. He's a Butterfinger. You'll never get him out of your mouth."
"He looks like Jeff."
I shrug. "You think?"
"And that one over there looks like Lloyd."
I follow her nod. Indeed, a handsome, green-eyed, goateed buzz cut talks intently with a group of women, a soft downy fuzz covering a perfect V-shaped torso. "Ah yes," I say. "A Hershey's Kiss. The most addictive candy of all."
"You're making me hungry."
I look at her over the rim of my martini. "I've been hungry for a year and a half."
Well, actually only a year and four months and a couple of weeks. Not that I'm counting. Not that I'm thinking about Joey, standing here on this glorious mid-August day, among this throng of delectable eye candy, listening to Kelly Clarkson whine that she even fell for that stupid love song, yeah, yeah, since u been gone. Oh, how Joey had loved Kelly. He followed her right from her humble beginnings and giddily cast his vote for her on the big night. I was a Justin man myself. Until then, I'd thought we were made for each other. We both had been devoted to Kurt Cobain in our youth. We both owned every album put out by every Seattle grunge band that had ever caused teenagers like us to pogo or headbang. Yet by the time our musical tastes had been co-opted by Kelly and Justin, any relationship between us was probably doomed.
"Just like that?" I asked on the night Joey broke up with me. "You're ending our relationship just like that?"
"Henry, I fell out of love with you. I don't know how else to explain it."
I was incoherent. "How does one fall out of love? Tell me that, please, Joey."
Joey was short for "Jomei," a Japanese name that means to spread light and awareness. But that night Joey was offering no such enlightenment. "I don't know how it happens," he told me. "It just did."
In that circus of illogic, I was grasping for some shred of rationality. "All right," I said, attempting to calm myself. "I will grant that maybe it's impossible to stay 'in love' forever-though I was hoping maybe it might endure past our ten-month anniversary at least."
"I'm sorry, Henry."
Forget calm. I blew up again. "What I'm trying to say is, this is natural, Joey! Don't you see? This is the way it happens! Being 'in love' eventually morphs into just 'loving' somebody. That's all this is. It's just a transition for us."
"I don't think so, Henry."
"Look," I said. "I'll accept that you're not 'in love' with me anymore. Fine. I'll deal with that. But you still love me. Right? You do still love me?"
Yes, I actually asked him that, and in a voice that sounded even more pathetic in person. I'm not proud of that fact. No more than I am of voting for Justin Guarini on American Idol. But I did both things. And in neither case did I get the answer I was hoping for.
Joey said nothing more. He just turned around. Walked out that door. Oh, I know I should've changed that stupid lock, I should've made him leave his key.
But it didn't matter. Not for one second did Joey ever come back to bother me.
"Are you humming something?" Ann Marie asks.
"You are, too," she says. "'I Will Survive.'"
I roll my eyes.
"And you will, Henry. You are a survivor. Hey, I know about surviving. More men have dumped me than have dumped you."
"Oh yeah? How many?"
"Okay, so you beat me by one. Congratulations. You win this round. Rah, rah, let the balloons fall. Let me buy you another drink to mark the occasion."
She smirks. "I think if we play our cards right, we can get someone to buy them for us." Her eyebrows rise as she turns slightly, pretending not to notice that the Exquisite Lollipop is making his way through the crowd toward us.
I have to laugh. "You are so like your brother."
The kid saunters up, his fingers hooked in the pockets of his low-rise jeans. "Hey," he says, in a deeper-than-expected voice.
"Hey," says Ann Marie, fluttering, tossing back her blond locks. "I was wondering when you'd come over and introduce yourself."
"I'm Luke," he says, offering his hand.
"Well, hello, Luke, I'm Ann Marie," she says, grasping his hand and pumping it like a man, "and this is Henry, who I'm sure is the real reason you came over here."
His soft hazel eyes flicker over to me. "Hey," he says.
We shake hands, though I don't pump him like Ann Marie did.
"Where are you from?" Ann Marie asks.
"Well," Luke says-and I try to detect just what kind of accent he has but I can't, just something broad and flat-"last stop was Tucson, but I was thinking of trying a winter here."
"Really? In Provincetown?"
"No way! We live here, too." Ann Marie seems absolutely tickled. "Don't mistake us for tourists!"
The boy is looking at me. "Year-rounders, huh?"
"Well," Ann Marie says, "I go back and forth to Boston. I work there during the week. But I'm here every weekend, because my son is here."
He seems surprised. Most people are. Ann Marie is in her mid-thirties. She might be as old as thirty-eight, I've never been sure. But she can pass for twenty-two. Good genes, she says. And, of course, good access to Botox in the city. She works for a dermatologist.
"How old is your son?" Luke asks.
"He's nine, almost ten. His name is J. R. Want to see a picture?"
I've seen this little ritual before. Whenever anyone inquires about her kid, Ann Marie immediately slips her purse off her shoulder, like she's doing now, and starts riffling inside to find her wallet. "Here he is," she says, flipping open to J. R.'s fifth-grade mug shot. All freckles and big blue bug eyes. Not so different from pictures I've seen of his Uncle Jeff from that age.
"Cute kid," Luke says, but I notice he's looking at me again. Could Ann Marie have been right? Is he really cruising me?
It seems unimaginable. I have, this summer, entered into what Jeff calls the "shoulder season" of gay life. It's a term he derived from living here in Provincetown, where the "shoulder season" consists of those few months at the end of summer when the weather is still pleasant enough to pull in some business. Guesthouse managers, of which I am one, can still hope for a few knocks on our doors in the shoulder season of September and October. If it's not quite the thrumming vitality of summer, it's still something to keep us going for a while longer. Now, to apply Jeff's analogy, let us consider that the season ends for gay men sometime around the age of thirty-maybe thirty-one, if you're lucky. I myself, refusing to go gracefully, hung on for still another year after that. But now I'm thirty-three, and at long last the crow's feet and receding hairline have forced me to accept without further struggle my inevitable entry into the "shoulder season" of gay life. It's by no means retirement, but you can't expect the business you got at peak.
On the other hand, this young man standing in front of me has a long, long way to go before he hits his own personal September. Early twenties, I suspect. Twenty-three, tops. Now I don't normally go for twinkies. Ann Marie's right. I like the muscley ones, and unless a boy has been pumping iron since high school, it's unlikely he'll have the bulk and hardness that I find so fetching. But this boy, this Luke, is looking at me with those big hazel eyes of his and for some reason I can't quite look away. He is cruising me. The first to do so in quite a while. It is, quite unexpectedly, exhilarating.
"Do you want to dance?" he asks.
I don't know how to respond. I turn rather helplessly to Ann Marie.
"You boys go ahead," she says, pleased that I seem to be hooking up at last. "I should be getting home anyway. I've got to get J. R. his dinner. And later we're going to the drive-in movies in Well- fleet."
"You sure?" I ask her.
"Absolutely," she says, kissing me. "Nice to meet you, Luke. You boys have a good time!" She winks at him. He winks back.
My dick gets hard in my cutoff camouflage pants.
And so-we dance. We don't speak. We just shoulder our way onto the tiny dance floor and begin to shuffle our feet. It's about all one can do, it's so crowded out here. I notice the looks being shot Luke's way by other shoulder-season guys, especially when he reaches down and peels his shirt off. I try not to stare but I find myself mesmerized by his taut hard stomach. Little beads of sweat leave shimmering trails down the smooth brown flat plain. A ghost of his tan line peeks out from above his low-cut jeans, making me yearn-ache-to see the rest of it.
I catch him smiling at me. He reaches over, attempts to pull my T-shirt up, but I resist, shielding my torso with my arms. Once upon a time, my shirt would have come off as soon as I entered this place, and all other places like it. Once, I lost so many T-shirts in so many different clubs that I'd have to pack at least five extra ones whenever Jeff and I headed out to yet another party. But now my shirt stays on. Henry Weiner had such a short time at center stage, so few brilliant years, that I won't do anything that might tarnish his memory. The love handles jiggling under my shirt will not be exposed for the world to see. Let people keep their memories of Henry intact.
Or perhaps it's just me who remembers him at all.
Luke motions for me to follow him. I'm glad to leave the dance floor. I'm not at home there the way I once was. These days, I'm happier on the sidelines. For a moment, I lose sight of him, and I feel a tinge of panic. But then I spot him, pushing through the crowd with an agility I find impressive. The sea parts for boys like him, as I'm left to battle my way forward on my own.
Once outside in the sharp salty sea air, Luke turns abruptly to face me.
"So," I say awkwardly, "will you be looking for work here?"
He doesn't answer. He's suddenly in my face, his lips on mine, hot, wet, slippery. He kisses me. Oh, man, does he kiss me. But I don't kiss him back. I'm too stunned to do anything but stand here, allowing myself to be invaded by his tongue.
He pulls back, the suction of our lips actually popping when we break contact.
"Wow," I say.
He's looking at me again from under his long thick boylashes. Ecstasy? Maybe. Tina? Quite possibly. But then I dismiss the idea. Luke's eyes don't have the typical hardness of tweakers. "You want to get out of here?" he asks.
"I-I-well, it depends on where you want to go."
"Upstairs. To my room."
Thank God he has a room. I couldn't take him back to the guesthouse that I manage with Lloyd. Too many guests hanging around, plus Jeff would probably be there and he'd want to meet him, and then-well, let's just say it's never been a good idea to introduce my tricks to Jeff. They rarely remain my tricks when that happens. Besides, Ann Marie and J. R. would be out in the backyard grilling tofu burgers on the barbeque ... no, it just wouldn't do.
So I let Luke take my hand and lead me out of Tea Dance and up the wooden steps to the bank of motel rooms that overlooks the pool. He fumbles for a key and lets us in. The room is dark, the drapes pulled. It's chilly, smelling of air-conditioning and cigarettes. I don't get much of a chance to look around because suddenly Luke is pushing me down on the bed. Literally. His hands on my chest, shoving me backward. I topple over, flopping down onto my back across the shiny bedspread. Then he's on top of me, kissing me again. This time I manage to kiss him back.
We pull at each other's clothes. His shirt is already off, so all I need concern myself with are his jeans. They slip off easily. He's not wearing any underwear, just a seven-inch boner that's already engorged and raging. After all, he's twenty-three.
He finally gets my shirt off. Looking down, he seems pleased enough by what he sees. He slaps my pecs with his palms and grins widely. Then he turns his attention to my shorts and briefs. My own dick is plump with excitement but not yet at full attention. After all, I'm thirty-three.
"Nice tat," Luke says, fingering the starburst around my navel.
"Thanks," I say, in a husky, unsure voice.
Luke drops down on top of me again. "Henry," he says, lips pressed against my ear. "I want to put sliced peaches on your chest and lick them off you."
Now, there is just no answer for a statement like that. I don't even try.
Excerpted from MEN WHO LOVE MEN by WILLIAM J. MANN Copyright © 2007 by William J. Mann. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
William J. Mann is the critically acclaimed author of Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood’s First Openly Gay Star, as well as The Biograph Girl and the novel The Men from the Boys. He is a contributor to Architectural Digest, The Boston Phoenix, and The Advocate.
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