For his final new series, New York Times mega-bestselling author E. Lynn Harris introduces Bentley Dean, owner of the hottest modeling agency in Miami's sexy South Beach.
Only the world's most beautiful models make the roster of Picture Perfect Modeling agency and they only do shoots for the most elite photographers and magazines. They are fashionista royaltyand the owners, Bentley L. Dean and his beautiful partner Alexandra, know it. But even Picture Perfect isn't immune from hard times, so when Sterling Sneed, a rich, celebrity party planner promises to pay a ludicrously high fee for some models, Bentley finds he can't refuse. Even though the job is not exactly a photo shoot, Bentley agrees to supply fifteen gorgeous models as eye candy for an "A" list partyto look good, be charming and, well, entertain the guests. They don't have to do anything they don't want to, but...
His models are pros and he figures they can handle the pressure, until one drops out and Bentley asks his protégé Jah, a beautiful kid who Bentley treats as if he were his own son, to substitute. Suddenly, the stakes are much higher, particularly when Jah falls in love with the hottest African American movie star in America. Seth Sinclair is very handsome, very famous, and very marriedand his closeted gay life makes him very dangerous as well. Can Bentley's fatherly guidance save Jah from making a fatal mistake?
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|Publisher:||St. Martin's Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.36(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.82(d)|
About the Author
E. Lynn Harris (1955-2009) was the author of eleven novels and the memoir What Becomes of the Brokenhearted. Ten of his novelsincluding Mama Dearest, Basketball Jones, and Just Too Good to be Truehit the New York Times bestseller list. Harris was known for writing about men who were black, gay and closeted, introducing many readers to little-talked-about subjects. Unable to sell his first novel, Invisible Life, he self-published and sold copies out of the trunk of his car. He was born in Flint, Michigan, and grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. He attended the University of Arkansas, where he was the first male cheerleader, and remained a dedicated Arkansas Razorbacks fan throughout his life. He divided his time between Atlanta, Georgia, and Fayetteville, Arkansas, before his death in 2009.
Date of Birth:June 20, 1955
Date of Death:July 23, 2009
Place of Birth:Flint, Michigan
Place of Death:Los Angeles, California
Education:B.A. in journalism, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, 1977
Read an Excerpt
If I had kept a journal of my love life five years ago it would have read something like this:
Under the soothing pattern of rain I'm in the middle of a crazy, convoluted daydream. Maybe because I could hear the strains of Aretha Franklin crooning "day dreamin' and thinkin' of you" or maybe because I had a big decision to make about my love life.
You see I'm in love with two people.
She. Her kisses are soothing. Sometimes I sank my mouth into the naked warmth of her, a body that was firm and soft at the same time. So warm and velvety that I think heaven couldn't be better.
He. Six feet two of steely muscles, two hundred and ten pounds, with gravy biscuit brown skin who dishes out a dizzying force of manhood, sending pleasure chills throughout my body. Sometimes I crave him more than my next breath.
She. An undeniably sexy woman who has been preparing her entire life to become the perfect wife and mother.
He. Has a sexual swagger who delivers pulse-pounding sex that makes me feel like my ass is on fire.
She loves colorful lingerie, blush-colored wines, and her family and friends.
He loves black sweats, sneakers, and my scent.
She loves me. I love her.
He loves me. I love him.
Love can sometimes be like running from a storm, when all I really need to do is learn how to dance in the rain.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Just be honest, Bentley, my inner voice said.
So I told the truth for once in my life — in the place where I'd been perpetrating one of the biggest lies. In bed with my fiancée, Kim. I had just made love to her, and she was curled up around my bare body, purring like a kitten. With her damp cheek pressed to my chest, she cast big brown eyes at me with an expression that would make any man melt and want to stay in bed with her all day. There have been many days when I've done just that and enjoyed every minute of it. Kim, when she's not worrying about her social station in life, is really a fun lady to be around.
But my brain was trying to storm up a scheme to get her out of my high-rise condo as soon as possible. So I could enjoy something and someone even bigger and better.
I glanced at the huge rectangular mirror that sat on the floor, angled longways against the wall. It reflected a picture-perfect couple in a nest of white sheets on my brown leather sleigh bed. With my roasted cashew complexion and black hair, parted on the side and brushed close to my head in tiny waves, I was long and lean.
Kim's black Beyoncé hairstyle fanned over my chest; her skin color blended with mine, as did her slim arms and legs. I could smell the too sweet fragrance coming off her skin. The wall of windows overlooking the bright blue Detroit River and downtown skyline let in sunshine so bright that her four-carat diamond ring glowed as if someone had placed a star on her left hand. Kim was gorgeous, professional, and just bourgeoisie enough to please my parents.
Pleasing me, on the other hand, was the problem. The bottom line was she just didn't have what it took to make me happy or keep me satisfied for a lifetime. I didn't want to be one of those handsome newlywed couples in Jet magazine and have former lovers unable to contain their laughter while muttering, "Child, pleeze."
So when she asked a seemingly simple question, the kind that would normally elicit an automatic answer from a man in the afterglow of making love, it had the opposite effect on me. In fact, her question hit me like a truth serum about who I really am. Sadly for her, "husband" is not the answer.
"Will we always be this happy, Bentley L. Dean?" Kim asked with her soft, after-sex voice. As she gazed at me, the black makeup smudged around her eyes intensified her pouty, sexy gaze that demanded an answer. Now.
"Probably not," I replied quickly. The Musiq Soulchild CD had long since ended, so my voice echoed off the cream-colored walls and floor-to-ceiling windows. My words, sounding flat and listless, seemed to hang in the silence. Because I had no more energy to waste on trying to please everyone. It was time to please Bentley L. Dean III. And I refused to live like so many men I'd seen who were married and getting their gay groove on by creepin' on the down low. Damn, I was sick of those two words. My father told us to always be proud of who we are no matter what people think. Maybe he said that because he was convinced that our family were descendants of the talented tenth if ever there were.
No, this is me. And the world needs to accept me as I am. I can't live a lie.
But Kim wasn't ready to hear that. I once heard my father say that sometimes the truth becomes the lie everyone agrees upon.
She raised her head as quickly as if the fire alarm were going off, as if she were trying to determine if yes, the alarm was ringing. And yes, it was time to leave immediately.
My cheek felt cool in the spot where her cheek had been.
"What?" The word shot from her full, heart-shaped lips like a bullet. Her gaze probed my face for signs of a joke. I felt a mixture of heartache and relief. Kim didn't deserve someone like me.
But I stared back, dead serious. And just plain tired of the charade. You see, at the time, I was thinking that I had a few hours to get Kim out of here before Warren, my boo, landed at Detroit Metro Airport and drove the thirty or forty minutes to my twenty-eighth-floor luxury love nest. As soon as she was gone, I would change the sheets, shower, shave, soften my skin with shea butter, and put on the black warm-up pants and tank top that showed off my toned shoulders and chest, my tapered waist, and my muscular ass.
Then I'd be ready for Warren to replace Kim here in my bed. That's when my craving would be quenched. I could hear the message he'd left on my cell phone earlier in the day when in a lazy voice he said, "I'm going to tear that ass down, boi."
That was the truth. And right now, I had just come to the point where I was tired of lying and trying to scheme up new ways to hide my secret from Kim.
"Bentley L. Dean, what in the world did you just say?"
Her eyes grew huge with shock. She looked at me as if I'd lost my mind. Actually, I felt like I'd found it. She and the rest of the world — including my father — would just have to deal with it. Still, I knew dealing with Kim was like petting a kitten where my father would be akin to a tangle with a pit bull. Somebody would come out bloodied.
"Bentley, you're kidding me, right?"
"Kim, I wish I was." My words came out like a sigh of exhaustion. I liked Kim, at times even loved her. But the truth was that I was getting married to please Mother and Father. They are "old black money" rich. As third-generation wealth, they reign from the top tier of Detroit's black bourgeoisie of doctors, lawyers, politicians, and business moguls.
Needless to say, my parents believe very much in tradition. So I was expected to attend Morehouse College and Michigan Law, marry, and have two kids. So the life of Bentley L. Dean III would be a mirror image of the life of Bentley L. Dean II.
That flattery by imitation was my ticket to a seven-figure inheritance. You see, I was born into the black aristocracy. My grandfather, the first Bentley L. Dean, had made his fortune by becoming the first black man to own multiple car dealerships in the state of Michigan. Father expanded the automobile trade, acquired a lucrative soft drink franchise, and purchased several rent houses. The sports lover in him expanded his empire to own an Arena Football League team in Flint. A team I might one day hope to own. Of course, when it was time to marry, he chose a debutante diva with similar status, as my mother's grandfather was one of the first black surgeons in Michigan.
Inheriting the wealth and privilege of their pedigree meant that my sister, Anna, and I would have to become clones of Mother and Father. They expected great things from us, and we both knew better than to disappoint.
So to fulfill my parents' expectations, I chose Kim Boston. She was practically a younger version of Mother, both in looks and in manner. She seemed like a perfect choice. She was beautiful. Educated at Sarah Lawrence and the Wharton School of Business, Kim was working for the governor of Michigan as a policy advisor on new industries.
She could plan a party that would make Martha Stewart take note and had some tricks in bed that made me think I could just stick to women.
But then I met Warren Stubbs and all that changed.
My mouth actually watered the first time I saw him on television. I was sitting in Father's walnut-paneled library, watching the Detroit Lions beat the Dallas Cowboys, when a sports reporter for the local ABC affiliate appeared, larger-than-life, on Father's huge screen.
It was love at first sight. My body and heart reacted immediately, but I had to play it cool in front of Father, who was always quick to condemn a "sissy" or any man who was even rumored to be gay. At that moment, I remembered how one of my childhood friends had exposed Father's hatred for anyone gay. Charlie, who lived across the street from our ten-thousand-square-foot Tudor mansion in Palmer Woods, came out during our senior year at the prestigious Detroit Country Day School.
"You will never be seen with him again," Father had boomed over the dinner table that night. In his business suit and tie, Father was clean-shaven with a Billy Dee Williams mustache. But his usually flawless almond-hued complexion appeared darker. And one of his salt-and-pepper waves, usually combed back in a regal frame around his face, fell to his damp temple. I had never seen such anger flash in his eyes as he said, "We've known him since birth, but Charlie is no longer welcome in our home. And you will never, ever, even think about the disgusting and immoral lifestyle that he has chosen. Not in my house."
So rather than allow Father to see my lust for Warren on the television that day, I took a macho bite of my cheeseburger and chugged a beer.
"Damn, the Cowboys are gettin' an old-school, Motor City beat-down today," I said while secretly devouring Warren with my eyes. He was a dark chocolate god with hazel eyes that wouldn't let me look away and a sexy-as-hell bald head. Warren's deep voice boomed through my chest as he commented about the game in relation to his history as a former quarterback for Purdue University.
From then on, I always watched his reports, and too many times I fantasized about being with him instead of Kim. So imagine my surprise when I went to Chicago with Kim to look at wedding stuff. There in the hotel gym was Warren, in the flesh, even more gorgeous than on television.
With one electrifying glance at Warren Stubbs, and the way his eyes discreetly burned back at me, the life of Bentley L. Dean III as I knew it was over.
I guess you could say I've always been bisexual. I lost my virginity to a pretty blond cheerleader one week during my sophomore year and lost it again to a football player the next. Something about females excited me and something about dudes left me wanting more. I naturally assumed I was smart enough to make it work.
But now, as Kim asked me why we wouldn't always be happy, the truth serum made me say in a calm and emotionless tone, "I'll always cheat on you. And one day, I'll meet a man that I will leave you for."
She sat up, glaring down at me. She pulled the Egyptian cotton sheet to cover her small but plump breasts.
"Does this mean you're one of those down low brothers?" she demanded.
There were those two words again.
"No, Kim. I'm trying to be an up-and-up brother."
"This can't be happening," she muttered.
"Kim, you should be glad you're finding out now, instead of after we've been married for ten years and we've got three kids, a mortgage, and a dog," I said flatly. "Plus, I'm saving you and your parents thousands of dollars. They can keep the small fortune they were about to blow on the wedding —"
"You are not calling off the wedding," she snapped. "Don't even think about humiliating me like that!"
"Someday you'll thank me," I said, glancing at the red digital numbers on the clock. It sat on my sleek brown dresser near the expansive view of the river and the blue silver Caesars Casino amid the buildings and lush green treetops of Windsor, Canada.
This conversation felt like a sure bet for me. I had to make her see it was a win-win for both of us.
"If you don't marry me," Kim threatened, "I'll make you the laughing-stock of Detroit. Yeah, I'll take all the money I saved for the wedding and buy a billboard. You know that giant one downtown on Jefferson, as you come off the freeway? Everyone will see it!"
"Go ahead." I shrugged. She would never do that. My family was richer, more powerful, and more prominent than hers by a long stretch. Father was in the Boulé, the oldest black fraternity that was so upper echelon and exclusive that only five thousand people belonged nationwide. Kim's father, a judge and a Kappa, was powerful, but he was no Boulé. My mother was a founding member and now president of her Links chapter. Father sat on multiple prestigious boards; Mother chaired the Bal Africain, Detroit's most important black social event of the year. Her parents didn't come close. And Kim knew better than to make my parents mad. They could cause major problems for her career with the governor, as well as her family's social standing.
"Yeah," Kim said, "I bet your fraternity brothers and your father's business partners would get a real kick out of that. I'll take one of your modeling pictures, the one where you wore a pink sweater for Polo. On the bottom, I'll put Bentley L. Dean III is gay!"
As she glared down at me, her eyes widened as if a giant spider had just crawled across my face. "Gay! Have you been putting me at risk for HIV?"
"Absolutely not! I'm tested regularly and have the paperwork to prove it." I was wondering why the black community wanted to blame every HIV diagnosis on black gay and bisexual men.
She snatched up a pillow, then whacked me in the chest.
"I trusted you!" she shrieked. "You'd rather have a man than this?"
"Kim, calm down." I grabbed the pillow. Her hair stood in crazy clumps around her head. She panted, squinting at me.
"You won't get a billboard and you know it," I said, not caring how mad she was. I couldn't go on like this, no matter what the cost. "Be glad I'm telling you now."
"Bentley, we can get you some help. Let's go and talk to our minister."
"So he can pray the gay away, Kim? What are you going to do about my appetite for swinging dicks and muscular, plump asses?"
Her face twisted with disgust. "Stop talking like that. You love pussy! I know you do, Bentley."
I sat up, covering my lower half with the sheet. "I love yours, Kim. And most of the time, I loved you. But what I feel the majority of the time is not fair to you."
"Did you ever love me, Bentley?"
"Yes, I love you, Kim," I said, but this wasn't enough before Kim had another plea.
"Then marry me, Bentley. Marry me and we'll work through this together. Do you know what my girlfriends thought when I announced I was going to marry Bentley L. Dean? You changed my life. I want the life you promised me."
I shook my head, glancing at the clock. We needed to wrap this up so I could get her out of here and shower for Warren. "Those were promises I can't keep, Kim. One day you'll look back and realize this was the best thing in the world for you. We can still be close. We can still be friends."
"Friends? I don't need friends, Bentley. I need you to be a man."
"I'm a man, Kim. I'm just not the man for you."
Excerpted from "In My Father's House"
Copyright © 2010 E. Lynn Harris.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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