Currently I’m working on a short story follow-up to my best-seller, Beautiful Liar. I didn’t know there was more to tell about Johnny and his paparazzo lover, Brett, until I re-read the story to edit it for re-release. I realized I wanted to talk a bit more about how Johnny hopes to keep his sexuality a secret while trying to jump-start his acting career.
If you remember Beautiful Liar, the story ends with Johnny being offered the male lead in the upcoming summer movie starring teen Goth princess, Roxy Greene. Johnny’s manager, Lou, said Roxy wants to meet Johnny off the set, in the hopes of sparking interest in the film. Her thought is that if the paparazzi sees her stepping out with a new man (Johnny), buzz will build around their relationship. Johnny doesn’t want to pretend to be someone he isn’t, but he desperately wants to get back into show business and knows this is an easy way to re-connect with fans. The only trouble is, he’s in love with Brett.
The follow-up story is tentatively titled More Lies, but that may change as I go along. In it, Brett has convinced Johnny to take Roxy up on the offer, with Brett hiding in the shadows to snap exclusive photos of the two “lovebirds.” Problem is, Roxy isn’t exactly Miss Congeniality. But the more Johnny gets to know her, the more he suspects he isn’t the only one lying to the press …
Here’s a snippet from the upcoming release (scheduled for early July):
Through the tinted windshield of a sporty BMW M3 convertible, Johnny Thomas watches the crowds surging at the door of Zor’as. It’s a chic little bistro in downtown Hollywood where all the stars eat lunch. Even from his view across the street, Johnny catches sight of a number of A-listers among the rabble lingering by the high wrought-iron fence that keeps them from overrunning the dining patio. In the few months since he started trying to get back into showbiz, Johnny’s learned to come to terms with the paparazzi — his photo online will only help his career, his boyfriend says, and Brett should know. He’s one of the paps, himself. But the fans are a little harder to deal with, Johnny thinks. Particularly if he has to elbow his way through a crowd who doesn’t even know who he is.
Yet, he reminds himself. Once his first film gets into production, they’ll know. Soon enough.
Beside him behind the BMW’s wheel, Brett Cary fiddles with the zoom lens on his camera as he scopes out the bistro. “Lou’s already inside,” he tells Johnny.
Johnny’s manager. Today’s lunch date is the first time Johnny is meeting Roxy Greene, teenage diva and star of his upcoming film. Apparently Roxy thinks tricking the media into thinking she’s seeing Johnny will be a fun way to build buzz. Johnny, who met Brett when he was looking for head shots for his new portfolio three months back now, is in a steady relationship. He doesn’t want to fake it for the paps. Bad enough he has to play it straight for the cameras.
Nervously, Johnny runs a hand through his hair to smooth it back. Even with the convertible’s top down, not a strand has moved out of place. Still, he pats it to make sure, then ruffles his fingers through the length in the back. “Do you see her?”
Brett adjusts the zoom and shakes his head. “Just Lou. Looking at his watch. Someone’s keeping him waiting.”
“He told me one.” Johnny glances at the dashboard clock, which reads 1:09. “I’m fashionably late.”
“And she’s not here at all.” Brett puts down the camera and gives Johnny a strained grin. “If you’re both this punctual, no one’s ever going to be able to get a shot of you together. What’s the use of calling out the paps if you’re going to be late?”
“Fine.” Johnny fumbles with his sunglasses a moment, not sure whether to wear them on his face or up on the top of his head. He settles for somewhere in the middle, and when he glances in the rearview mirror, it looks like four pairs of eyes staring back. He can rock this. She’s just a chick, right? Younger than him, too, to hear Lou tell it. Hell, it isn’t like they’re getting married. It’s just lunch, and both their handlers will be there.
With a brave smile to bolster his courage, he tells Brett, “Wish me luck.”
Brett surprises him with a quick kiss on the jaw. “Rock her world, sexy.”
“I thought you said we couldn’t do that in public any more.” Johnny isn’t complaining — he rubs the damp spot where the memory of Brett’s lips still lingers and wonders if it’s too late to call off this whole farce. He’d rather spend the day sprawled across his bed in his lover’s arms than make small talk over tapas at Zor’as.
“No one saw it,” Brett assures him. “You’re not on their radar. Yet. Once my pictures get online tomorrow morning, all that changes.”
Johnny grouses, “I hope.”
A photographer for hire, Brett often sells choice celebrity shots to Z-23, only the hottest website for candid star news. He isn’t as bad as some of the paps, though — Brett prides himself in being unobtrusive. Unfortunately, his love of the camera threatened to derail Johnny’s revived career before it even got off the ground when his assistant Tish found some compromising pictures saved on Brett’s camera. They’d been taken in Johnny’s bedroom, just for fun — two young men in love with each other and their bodies, nothing more. Though the pictures never made it online, Lou’s anger and Johnny’s sense of betrayal almost ruined his relationship with Brett.
Almost. Brett claimed he never intended for those photos to be seen, and Johnny chose to believe him. Lou didn’t like it, but what say does he have in Johnny’s love life? As long as no more unsavory pics crop up — not just nudies but anything that even remotely hints at Johnny’s sexuality, which means he and Brett must keep it chaste in public — then Lou can’t rag on him about who he loves. And once the world is told he’s seeing Roxy, everything should be gravy.
Reaching for the door handle, Johnny stops as a sobering thought strikes him.”What if she’s a real bitch?”
Brett laughs. “God, if she’s not, then that’s news. You don’t have to like her. You don’t even have to talk to her. Just make sure you pick a seat facing this way, and try to lean in close to her a few times so I can get a good shot. I’ll be here watching the whole time.” He holds up his camera and grins. “Say cheese.”
Johnny sticks out his tongue and is rewarded with the camera’s flash. “I’m going to be late.”
“You’re already late.” Brett takes one more shot as Johnny climbs out of the car. “Love you.”
“Tell me tonight when I can do something about it.” Johnny checks his hair one last time in the sideview mirror, then trots across the street to join the crowds.
© 2011 J.M. Snyder