Authors: Michael P. Thomas
Wayward Ink Publishing
Unit 1, No. 8 Union Street
Tighes Hill NSW 2297
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the authors' imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Say Cheese Copyright Â©2014 by Michael P. Thomas
Cover Art by: Lily Velden in collaboration with Jay's Cover Designs
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other enquiries, contact Wayward Ink Publishing at: Unit 1, No. 8 Union Street, Tighes Hill, NSW, 2297, Australia.
Published in Australia
IF YOU have a television, you probably have a crush on Felix Medrano. If you have an especially sharp eye for ass-related detail, you've probably had a crush on him since he started doing those Facebook ads for âPerfect Fit Chinos'. But ever since he landed the lead as hunky, heartsick dairy farmer Filbert Green on the smash network hit
, his toothsome mug has enlivened the cover of every supermarket magazine in Americaâfrom
. If you don't have at least an innocent crush on his dimpled grin, someone else does your grocery shopping.
And what's not to like? His windswept, walnut locks? His
chubby cheeks? The cleft in his chin? He can act, he can sing, he can land a joke. With shoulders like a chifferobe, eyes the color of almonds, and a voice that drips smooth, smoky dark chocolate over every word, every woman wants him, and every man.... Well, they all want him, too, whether they can admit it or not. All this, and he's not even thirty yetâas far as any of the magazines know.
The icing on this beefcakeâhe throws one hell of a party. Generous by nature, and raking in the royalties, he spares no expense. Especially when he's showing off, which, okay, he might be doing just the littlest bit tonight. And why not? He loves Shep so hard he can't always see straight, and a gay wedding is still a big deal in Hollywood, especially when both grooms photograph well. If Shep says yes, their engagement will hit TMZ before bedtime. If he's in the papers in the morning, Felix fully intends to make a splash.
Tucked into the greenery just above Sunset, the Re/LAX Hotel and Spa is home to the most sought-after party patio in town, and Felix has sprinkled only a tasteful few famous faces amongst his parents and The Boyz from their Clarion CafÃ© daysâwell, from
Clarion CafÃ© days, he supposes. Shep's still behind the bar at the Clarion six nights a week, Lord only knows why. Led by a nunnish and nearly spherical bass player, the jazzy trio lobs subdued standards into the evening. Untouched yet, the heavy silverware twinkles in the flattering light of the cast-iron candle fixtures. Quieted by the approaching dark, bougainvillea blooms artfully overhead, remarked upon only by Felix's mother, and those few guests who can tear their eyes away from their phones long enough to do anything but signal the waiter for another cocktail.
Not that Felix is in a position to criticize. He's been glued to his own phone for the last forty-five minutes, willing Shep's avatar to appear bearing glad tidings. Hell, any kind of tidings. Shep was supposed to be home from New Orleans almost twelve hours ago, and Felix doesn't know if his new celebrity friends will stick around after the free feed for a Face Time proposal to a virtual boyfriend. The whole thingâthe party, popping the questionâis a surprise, of course, but Felix just knows Shep will find a way to make it to the most important night of their life together.
But where the hell is he?
“FOLLOW THAT car!”
Shep piled into the back seat of the lavender taxi behind his best friend, Billy Bonami. He damn near slid right back onto the gravel when the driver fishtailed in the IHOP parking lot, but Billy grabbed onto his arm, and he managed to wrestle the door closed as they swung, tires squealing, into the traffic on Airline Drive.
“How exciting!” The driver flashed a toothy grin into the rearview mirror. “I've always wanted someone to jump in and say âfollow that car!' I feel like I'm in a movie. Are you making a movie?”
“A play, actually,” Billy improvised, keeping a straight face. “That's why there are no cameras.”
“How exciting,” the driver said again.
What Shep was most excited about was getting on the plane back to L.A., but all of his shit was in the trunk of Billy's car, which some bottle-blond twink in a tank top had just jacked from in front of the IHOP while Shep was paying for Billy's breakfast. In heavy traffic, the IHOP was forty-five seconds away from the Louis Armstrong airport. Even accounting for their late startânever mind Shep's howling hangover, Billy was still half-drunkâstopping to load up on pancakes hadn't cost them much in the way of valuable time. But they'd built in very little car chase cushion, and Shep was more interested in his watch than what was happening on the road in front of them.
As, apparently, was the driver. At least the car he rear-ended was Billy's. The buddies scrambled from the backseat into traffic in time to see Tank Top and his bloody lip bail out of Billy's car. He whirled to accost them, oblivious to the horns and middle fingers popping off like popcorn.
“Seriously? You just ran into me?”
“Seriously?” Billy mimicked. “You're stealing my car?”
“I'm okay.” The cab driver's declaration was muffled by the air bag that had blown his glasses off.
“You're one to talk about stealing,” Tank Top cried.
“What are you talking about?” Billy asked.
The kid pointed a quivering arm at Shep. “He steals you, I steal your car.”
“You two know each other?”
“Grover Shepherd, Brant Mattachine,” Billy, ever the Southern belle, said by rote. Honking cars inched around them. “Brant, this is Shep.”
“Hey,” Shep said with a nod. Brant Mattachine snarled.
“What's his deal?” Shep asked.
Billy shrugged. “We're kinda hanging out.”
“You and this kid?”
“I'm not a kid, asshole.”
“He's nineteen,” Billy explained.
“And a half,” the kid added.
“I hate to break it to you,” Shep said, “but if you're still using halves, you're a kid.”
“Yeah? Well, I'd rather rob the cradle than the grave.”
“The grave?” Shep laughed. “I'm thirty-three.”
“Whatever you say, Gramps.”
“Gramps? Billy's thirty-four.”
-four, asshole. See? You're already fuckin' senile.”
Shep turned to his friend. “Really, Billy? Ten years? With those crow's feet?”
Billy shrugged. “Hey, I moisturize. I'm young at heart.”
Shep laughed. “You're an idiot at heart.” He turned back to Brant, who was tenderly pressing his cut lip, pouting to inspect the damage. “And you believed him?”
“Of course I believed him. We're in love, he wouldn't lie to me. He lied to
when he picked you up last night.”
“Is that what you think happened?”
“I was at Big Sheila's last night, asshole. I saw you leave together.” A mom in a minivan had some decidedly unladylike commentary on the accident scene as she squeezed past, and Brant began to cry. “Billy, how could you?”
“You wanna step in here?” Shep suggested. Billy rolled his eyes as he carefully picked his flip-flopped way through shards of taillight to snuggle Brant to him. “There, there,” he murmured. “You got it all wrong, Baby. I can explain. See,
came on to
Shep laughed. “You wanna at least pop the trunk so I can get my shit and try to make my flight?” This was
Billy Bonamiâhe framed even the most mundane details of his life in terms of a sexual conquest, and he was always, but always, the trophy. They'd been friends since Tulane, hadn't had sex together since their freshman year. Shep had come home to New Orleans to welcome his sister's new baby into the family, spent his last night in town with his best buddy Billy, and now he was just trying to get his ass home. It wasn't a complicated situation, and it certainly didn't require a complicated explanation, but Billy equated âsimple' with âboring', and was always on the lookout for colorful threads to weave through his narratives.
“The police are on their way.” This from the cab driver again.
?” Brant's big blue eyes almost sprang from his head.
“You did steal a car,” Shep reminded him.
“We gotta get out of here.” Brant untangled himself from Billy's half-assed embrace and clambered behind the wheel. “There's no way I'm going back to jail.”
“I don't care where you go.” Shep slid into the backseat of Billy's car as Billy trotted around to sit shotgun. “As long as you drop me off at the airport on your way there.”
“I told him New Orleans isn't big enough for the both of you,” Billy said with the littlest wink.
“For real? And he's leaving?”
“I'm trying,” Shep said.
love me,” Brant swooned. “Oh, Billy....”
Shep groaned. “Oh, brother.”
The good news? This entire episode had unfolded within spitting distance of the airport. Several jetliners had screamed over the proceedings on their way skyward, and once he was back behind the wheel, Brant drove like a madman. Little wonder he'd gone to jail, Shep figured. He careened across the road like he didn't even know there were laws about driving. The cab driver had let out one indignant
as Brant U-turned heedlessly into oncoming traffic, but then he must have done some quick math and decided missing out on a half-mile fare would be a better deal than copping a ticket for rear-ending Billy's car. As they sped by, Shep saw him peer around the drooping airbag as he worked himself back into the flow of traffic.