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This is a work of fiction intended for adults only, as it contains explicit scenes not appropriate for minors. By continuing to read, you are acknowledging you are of legal age to do so. All Rights Reserved. Copyright © 2012 by AJ Rose

Chapter 5

The week from hell arrived, in all its furious glory.

Ty knuckled his forehead to ease the headache that was just the fucking kick while he was down. Several weeks had passed since he’d promised Grady no more drinking, but it appeared the rumors paid no attention to actual events, even embellishing them into heavy drug use. As a result, he’d had several dropped interviews, more than one pass on casting, and his publicist was beside herself whenever he went out for an evening, even if he stuck to drinking water, iced tea, and an occasional Diet Coke.


“It’s not that I don’t trust you, Ty.” She steepled her fingers in front of her lips, looking at him across her desk. “I get what you’re doing, and believe me, I appreciate it. I don’t trust them,” she waved a hand at her office window. “There are people who have glommed onto your supposed dependency problem and they’re selling pictures of you to tabloids with heavy lidded eyes that make you look trashed when they in reality it’s a mid-blink shutter snap. The water looks like vodka. The tea and sodas look like mixed drinks. The fact that you’re out at all makes people assume things about you. Even when you have nothing in your hands, there are speculations about drug use.”

Ty scowled bitterly. “What, so now I’m not allowed to have a life?”

“Not at all, Ty. But giving them the opportunity to catch you in certain locations feeds the rumors. Go jogging. Find a buddy to play some football with or something. Stop hiding behind the hoodie when you go get coffee. Be seen in places that have no association to alcohol or drugs, and the rumors will stop. It’s that simple. Maybe even go out on a couple dates and don’t drink, so someone else can back up your claims.”

That earned her a mutinous look. She knew he was with Grady, both of their publicists being in the select group that needed to know if only to keep the lid firmly shut on that tidbit of information. “No. I’m too busy for that.”

She carefully suppressed the flash of pity he saw cross her features. “I’m not saying cheat, but the chemical dependency isn’t the only rumor circulating about you.” He started to interrupt her, but she held up a hand. “Look, you told me at the very beginning of you and Grady that you thought I should know in order to keep it from leaking out. This is me doing that. Be seen with a girl. Pick a friend you trust who is cool with a few falsehoods, and let those rumors start up. The others will die out. But for chrissakes, make sure whoever she is won’t feed the dependency rumors. Last thing you need is someone who makes it look like you’re sinking deeper into the Hollywood Underground of Debauchery.”

It went unspoken that he wasn’t actually too busy to fake-date. His opportunities had dried up. Casting calls had trickled, and the promising roles that had potential were all given to other up-and-comers. Ty had been down and out before, had seen his fair share of rejection despite his looks and piercing blue eyes, despite that he was talented, but that was before he’d made it, before he was a well known face with a résumé to match. His agent blamed it on the drinking, saying he wasn’t a big enough face in the business for a director to overlook the babysitting an alcoholic would require during shooting. He vehemently denied the rumors, but she only looked at him skeptically. It was a mindfuck. He didn’t know where this was coming from since hereally didn’t have a drinking problem, and yet people were treating him like a pariah even after he quit the booze.

It had escalated this week, when the very last role he’d been vying for went to someone else, and his agent had outright accused him of lying about his promise to lay off the sauce, saying she had proof. When he called her bluff, she’d whipped out a copy of his credit card statement, showing him the bar charges she’d highlighted. He fired her on the spot, demanding she return to him any more personal papers that were none of her fucking business. It was only in the car later that he realized the charges meant something worse for him than just having to fire his agent. Someone had gotten his card or his card number and racked up a bunch of charges. He looked closer at the statement and saw hundreds if not thousands of dollars to area hot spots, as if he’d paid for every soul in those clubs to have a really good time. He called his credit card company immediately, closed the account, and disputed the charges in question only to go around and around on the phone, the customer service rep telling him there were no such charges to dispute. When he got home, he faxed them a copy of the statement, and all they’d done was call him back to tell him they’d be looking into the matter. He got no satisfaction from it, not even assurances from them that if there were fraudulent charges, they would be covered.

He pursed his lips now, looking at his publicist. “You believe me, don’t you? That I’m not drinking or doing any drugs of any kind? That I’m not stupid enough to throw away the career I’ve worked so hard to build?” He hated the pleading note in his voice, but he needed the reassurance. Even Grady had been distant when the subject came up, doubt in his eyes when Ty explained about the credit card company and their assertion the charges weren’t on their records. After one evening where their voices had grown raw from yelling, they’d both just dropped the subject, and for the last day or so, Ty had taken to leaving receipts around his house for any purchases he made so Grady would see there was no alcohol on them.

After a brief moment, she nodded. “I believe you, Ty. I have every reason not to, with the pictures and the concerned phone calls, and you firing your agent two days ago doesn’t help matters, but,” she held up a hand when he opened his mouth in protest. “If your agent did what you said she did, you’re justified in that. Only problem now is that with the stories flying around, it’ll be next to impossible to find you another agent. But I’m on your side, Ty. It’s why you pay me, and I’ll put out some feelers on your behalf. I don’t usually do that kind of thing, but this whole situation is a bit bizarre, and I will help as much as I can.”

He nodded, grateful. Not many people had been sticking with him, and it was a blow. Friends would be too busy to take his calls, and if they did answer the phone, they always had an excuse to keep from hanging out with him, or some reason to get off the phone quickly. He and Grady had fought when Ty asked him to find out from mutual friends what the fucking problem was. Grady would go quiet, saying that if they weren’t willing to stick with Ty for hard times, they weren’t good friends to begin with, which didn’t help with his self-esteem, even though he knew Grady was right.

Softly, without raising his eyes, Ty said in a dead voice, “I’ll talk to Grady about letting hetero rumors start about me and a female friend.” If I have any left, he thought, but kept that part to himself.

Eyes warming, his publicist stood, and he stood with her as she walked him to her door. “Every celebrity goes through a rough patch, and this isn’t surprising. It can be dealt with, but you have to listen to me. It’s not my first dance at this particular ball. Trust me. If you can do that, you’ll be fine, though it may take some time. Hang in there.”

Ty thought about everything she said, and more, what she didn’t say, on his way to Grady’s, deciding to be upfront about the fake dating with him and just getting it all out in the open. Grady was an understanding guy, had the same situation with his own career to deal with, and while it hadn’t been a suggestion by Grady’s publicist, he’d like to think that if the roles were reversed and that’s what Grady thought would help his own career, then Ty would be okay with the rumor as long as it wasn’t true and Grady came home to him after the cameras had snapped their ‘proof’.

He knocked on the door, surprised when it swung in slightly. He stepped inside, over a couple envelopes on the floor, and called, “Hello. Grady?” No answer. A ribbon of fear cinched around his heart, his imagination firing up images of his boyfriend broken or bleeding on the floor, until he rounded the corner and saw Grady sitting at the dining room table, staring into space.

“Hey,” he started forward, relieved, but stopped at the empty look in Grady’s eyes as they slowly swiveled to look at him. “Grady, what is it?” He rushed to Grady’s side, concern turning to fear when the paleness of the man’s skin struck him, the shallow way he was breathing. “Talk to me, man. What’s wrong?” He crouched beside Grady, trying to take the hand closest to him, nearly falling over when Grady jerked away. Standing again, confusion warring with hurt, he saw the mess on the floor, on the other side of the table, as if Grady had swept a bunch of papers off the surface in a rage. Rounding the table, he stooped to pick them up, straightening them until his hands stilled and his eyes really focused on what he was holding.

Pictures of himself fucking someone who’s face, though darkened in that particular picture, was lighted and sharp in many of the other shots, and was distinctly not Grady. Marcus. His brow furrowed as he flipped through the rest of them, looking for flaws, because he knew nothing like that had ever happened between him and Marcus. Even if he’d wanted it to, which he never had, Marcus was straight. Married now. It was such an incongruous notion that he couldn’t comprehend the photos, could not process their meaning, or existence. The last picture, clearly his face in the throes of passion, left no room for doubt it was him. With someone besides Grady.

It was so absurd, Ty started laughing. “Dude, whoever photoshopped these did a fantastic job. Too bad I don’t know who did this or I’d see if I could hire them for head shots. Holy shit.” When Grady didn’t laugh with him, only glared at him, he huffed out a breath. “Oh, come on. You can’t possibly believe this, right? Grady, you know me. I swore to you that you’re the only one I want. And I told you Marcus isn’t an option even if you and I weren’t together.” Even to his own ears, in the face of Grady’s expression, he sounded hollow, false. The smile from the laughter died on his lips, his eyes widening slightly and his voice took on terrified incredulity. “Grady, you don’t believe this, do you? Please tell me you realize this is a cruel joke.”

It had begun to sink in, Grady’s demeanor, yanking his hand back, the icy, blank stare, the open door, the mail on the floor.

“Get out.”

The whisper was so light, sandpapery and discordant from Grady’s usual sounds that Ty didn’t realize Grady had spoken and actually turned his head to look for the source of the disembodied voice. Ty turned back to look disbelievingly at Grady, stepping toward him with a hand outstretched to rub Grady’s shoulder. “Grady, I-” The only thing that stopped him was the scream.

“GET OUT!”

Grady’s face was red, his fingers splayed white against the surface of the table, his neck corded with the scream’s effort and the aftermath of breath whistling through his flaring nostrils.

Ty paused, hands falling limp at his sides even though he still held the pictures. They slid out of his fingers, seesawing to the floor as his muscles drained of all energy, leaving his body hollow. His heart, betrayed and breaking, continued to beat traitorously in his chest despite the two words that ended his world. Unable to even nod, he lowered his head, shoved his hands in his pockets and stalked out, his shoulders hitching as emotion began to overwhelm him.

The last person he really loyal to him had bailed. Not even bailed, but shattered him, leaving him collapsing from within, despair imploding his insides and sucking his will to go on into the depths of its black hole. And it wasn’t just the prospect of being alone that broke him. Ty needed Grady, and now, he faced a life devoid of him. How could he go on knowing Grady was out there, but they weren’t together? The color drained from the world at the realization, his stupefied brain uncomprehending, but working to try to settle the inconceivability. The only friend he had left, his publicist, was on his payroll.

Despite the fact that he shouldn’t be driving, he got behind the wheel and sped off.

***

The audio clicked off once voices ceased after five minutes, the signal coming in with no interference, Mission accomplished. She hit the button to go back through the words, wanting to memorize them, hear the nuances of pain, of disbelief, and in the soft snuffling at the very end, a muted, “I loved him,” spoken in broken desolation. She took note of the past tense, satisfaction warming her insides. You have no idea how to love him like I do.

 

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Disclaimer so I don’t get sued: Any resemblance in this work to people living or dead is entirely coincidental and locations are used fictitiously. Registered trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective owners.

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