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What? Ryan grouched at his displeased ego. It happens. Last one picked for the softball team. Lighten up. I'll probably clock more miles on the job than a prom queen after homecoming. If I can do this. And I damn well better with my signature on the dotted line.
So here I go.
Ryan rattled off a quick Hail, Mary for courage. Which saint did you pray to for that, again? He'd have to look it up on Wikipedia. You could Wiki anything these days. Asking Father Donnell was kind of out of the question, all things considered.
He wondered, idly, exactly how many Acts of Contrition he'd get slammed with if he brought this up in confession. If he ever went back to Mass.
Then he shrugged and made his way to the buffet line, falling in place at the tail end of the hungry procession. He couldn't see it as being too smart of him to shamelessly cut ahead of the queue the way Teddy had. His friend got away with all sorts of outrageous behavior, and his mojo didn't fail him now, the pretty, vapid women cooing over his multicolored hair and his "sweet smile." Teddy camped up an attempt to make a melodramatic move and got his hand slapped by the giggling intended target and his neck hugged by another.
Turning, Teddy flashed Ryan a dazzling grin and a thumbs up.
Ryan waved back, grinning. Lord love him, but this was going to be the best gig of Teddy's life.
Not so much the best one on record for himself. What the heck, though. He'd be okay. And he'd finally get laid. These weren't what you'd call the most ideal circumstances, but from all the horror stories Ryan had heard, almost everyone's first time with a stranger, and on film, to boot, was prettyhorrible. Might as well get that out of the way and pick up some fuck tricks while he was on the job.
And the paycheck would make up for any other lacks, for damn sure. Four hundred bucks per film. Comparatively not much, as the contract had warned him in fancier language while a stoned-seeming employee had popped his gum and waited for Ryan to wield the penis-shaped pen he'd been given. Temptations's biggest stars--wink, wink, nudge, nudge--pulled in over four thousand per film. Four hundred, though, that would go a long way toward helping with the rent. A couple of more films and he'd have rent plus groceries for a month or two, especially if he could find a couple of roommates to share expenses with after his internship started. If he could keep them from finding out where he worked on the side, that was.
His stomach rumbled. Groceries. Food. Oooh.
The closer Ryan came to the buffet table, the better the impressively lavish array of food looked. He scanned the picked-through platters and decided that popular favorites leaned toward sweet and away from savory, except for the nuts. What looked like a huge bowl of unsalted cashews had nearly been emptied. The fruit-and-vegetable platter he'd seen from the back of the line was stripped bare of everything save three cherry tomatoes, limp bell pepper rings, and a pile of scorned celery sticks.
Celery spears weren't filling or energizing, but they were fresh and they were green. Ryan's mouth watered. He picked a paper plate free of the dwindling pile and wielded a set of tongs with amateur but enthusiastic flair, loading up the goodies. Tomatoes, celery, a dollop of peanut butter, a spoonful of cottage cheese, and some spicy-looking crackers. Oh, damn, actual cheese, not imitation cheddar-flavored food product! Cubes of pepper-speckled Jack and pale Swiss. A feast fit for a king.
Or, er, a queen, as the case might be.
Ryan hesitated over a selection of pretzel sticks, trying to decide if adding those to the growing pile on his plate would make him look like a pig. They called to him with their siren song of crunchiness and saltiness.
"Go for it." A man Ryan hadn't noticed before bumped hips with Ryan as he sidled up beside him. He radiated a hail-fellow-well-met sort of good-natured aura, putting Ryan at his ease right away.
And yet ... and yet there was something odd about him. Something ... different. Whatever it was didn't feel dangerous or cruel, but Ryan didn't think he'd ever run across that kind of signal before. It intrigued him.
The man, of course, had no idea what Ryan was thinking and chattered cheerfully on. "If you don't eat up, I'll start shoveling those bad boys in, and then I'll lose my girlish figure." He winked. "Eh, what the hell. Are there any doughnuts left?"
"Down by the coffee, I think." Ryan pointed. He couldn't help returning the friendly overture. "You know, you're the first guy who's talked to me besides the buddy I came with."
"Came with, huh?" The man winked. "You sly dog."
"What? I--" The penny dropped. Ryan felt himself flush red clear to his hairline. "Funny."
"Hey, no offense meant." The man juggled his modest platter of peanuts and pepper jack cubes, wiped his hand on his jeans, and offered it to Ryan. "I'm À Vincente. À Vincente Lazare. Pleasure to meet you."
Interesting name. Where have I heard of him before? Jeez, with a name like that you'd think I'd remember right away. "Likewise." À Vincente's hand was warm and dry, his grip strong but not one of those macho, bullshit challenges guys liked to pull. Ryan studied him. Cute. Really cute.
Okay, sexy. Completely fucking sexy. Wavy dark hair, a firm jaw dusted with stubble, and mesmerizing eyes. A strange aura, shadowy-dark and compelling. His complexion was pale, brown sugar-colored, his nose strong in a way that made Ryan think of Roman statues. Italian, maybe? So familiar. "Have we met before?"
"I don't think so. Have you seen any of Temptations's films? I've been in my share." À Vincente went back to the important business of picking through an assortment of cookies, looking for a chocolate chip he said absentmindedly, before continuing where he'd left off. "Usually the queer movies. Unless that's not your thing."
"No, it's definitely my top choice when it comes to porn. Although I don't really ... I haven't watched much ... oh, hell."
À Vincente chortled. "You're kidding me, right?" He eyed Ryan, his lips curled in a far-too-sexy moue of amusement. "You're not kidding. Wow, kid. You're hot, I'll give you that, but how the hell did you get a job in this biz?"
"A friend of a friend."
"Ain't that always the way. C'mon, stick with me." À Vincente led Ryan down to the far end of the buffet table and the assorted carafes of coffee and juice. "Never had sex on camera before the audition, I'm guessing?"
Ryan coughed to cover his embarrassment. "Actually, not even then."
À Vincente paused the lever on the coffee carafe in midspurt. "No way."
Ryan shrugged apologetically.
"Damn." À Vincente whistled softly as he returned to pulling his java. "What are you, one of the stars' brothers? In which case, that's twisted."
"Nope. Just a beginning medical intern who needs some cash."
À Vincente shook his head, but with a tickled smirk. "Deliver me from babes in the woods. It's okay, but 99.99 percent of porn studios out there wouldn't let someone through the door without a live audition before a panel of judges. You got lucky, bashful man."
"I'm not bashful," Ryan protested.
"Right. Sure you're not. So why are you blushing?" À Vincente casually found a spot for his coffee cup on the buffet table and turned to face Ryan, giving Ryan his first chance for a good look at the man's body. Whoa, momma. Six feet-plus of sculpted muscles rippling under a thin, plain, white T-shirt and leading to a tapered waist that was defined by tight, tight jeans with artful rips and trailing cuffs. A tribal armband tattoo wound around his bicep.
Certainly well aware that he was being gawked at, À Vincente posed for Ryan, displaying his puckish, impish lips in a pout as pretty as a girl's. Ryan ached to reach out and run his fingers through À Vincente's raven dark waves of hair, even if he knew the style was carefully arranged to look like he'd done no more than roll out of bed and shake tangles from the mop.
Ryan had seen a few porno flicks in his day. Not many. For the most part, the horrible dialogue and wooden acting made him want to giggle. There was one, though, he'd actually sat through all the way--minus breaks to take the pressure off. It had been different from the others, shot in low light with creative camera angles, the emphasis almost as much on what they didn't show as what they did. Hard-core, absolutely, triple-X and not for minors. Yet ... compelling. He'd have bought or rented some more if he'd had the cash to spare.
The lead in the film had worn a harlequin mask that obscured half his face, and his name had been just plain "Vincent," but hot damn! Ryan recognized him now. "You're Vincent, À Vincente," he blurted, fingers going to his lips. "Oh, my God, with a name like yours I can't believe I didn't make the connection. À Vincente."
"À Vincente, Vincent, and other names. Sometimes I go by Blade Bone. A rose by any other name still has thorns. Whatever you want to call me, I'm at your service." The leading man of the sexy screen sketched a bow from the waist. "You're not going to go and get all starstruck, are you?"
Tempting. À Vincente had starred in night after night of erotic dreams long after Ryan had returned the DVD to the adult rental store. But, Ryan reasoned, how would he feel if some wide-eyed neophyte started to fanboy him after perving over a film? "Nah, don't worry about me."
"Thanks." À Vincente took Ryan's hand without warning and lifted it to his lips. He kissed the knuckles. Hommina, hommina, hommina. The kiss was hot, tantalizingly moist, and damned if Ryan didn't start getting hard right there with a paper plate of snacks in one hand.
"Um ... no problem." Ryan wondered if À Vincente planned to give him his hand back anytime soon. Not that he minded if the hunk hung on to it a little longer.
"You taste good." À Vincente released Ryan. "You know, I swing both ways. Mostly for women these days, but for the chance to have long runner's legs like yours wrapped around my waist, I'd gladly swing back. Maybe we'll work together."
"Awesome." Ryan hid his discombobulation behind a hastily pulled Dixie cup of orange juice. Pulp. Ecch. "See you around, huh?"
"I think you can count on it." À Vincente winked, grabbed his beverage, turned, then walked away. Ryan watched him go, marveling at how the ass that had captivated him on film was twice as tempting in the flesh. He could almost feel the tight cheeks cupped in his palms, muscles coiling and flexing as he drove his cock hard and deep inside.