#WIPWednesday — One on One in the Studio

Today’s snippet comes from my upcoming Men at Work story, which is scheduled for release in June.

Let me just say upfront, I apologize if I offend anyone. I don’t mean to.

One on One in the Studio, excerpt

Copyright © 2016 J.M. Snyder

From inside the studio come the sound of laughter and catcalls as Miles enters. For the first time in quite a while, Joey feels intimidated. It sounds like he’s an outsider stepping into a private club, and the thought makes him nervous. You got this, he assures himself, but does he? Does he really?

Straightening his jacket, he steps up behind Miles, a grin firmly stuck into place. Fake it til you make it, his mother always used to say. He steps around Miles, one hand already out, ready to introduce himself before anyone has a chance to notice he’s there. “Hey, how you doing?”

Joey shakes the hand of the first man he sees, an obscenely obese African-American lounging in an office chair three sizes too small for his large frame. His hand is uncomfortably moist, his skin ruddy and dark. When Joey pumps his hand, the man’s eyes widen until the whites can be seen completely around the inky black pupils. This is Daddy Cage, Joey recognizes him from award shows.

Cage stares, nonplussed, as Joey moves to E-Z Money, who looks positively scrawny beside him. E-Z has a lighter skin tone, more yellow than red, but his complexion is bad, pocked with childhood acne scars he tries to cover with jailhouse tattoos and random piercings in places Joey doesn’t want to think about. Silver rings and studs glint from his eyebrows, nostrils, lips, ears, cheek. There’s even some sort of jewel poking out of the side of his throat; Joey can’t imagine how that got there and isn’t about to ask.

Both men are older than he is, making him the baby in the room. For once Joey feels self-conscious about his age, even though he’s twenty-two. He’s also painfully aware of the color of his skin. He’s never been the only white person anywhere before. In the lobby it was just him and the woman Miles called Tahesha. With only two of them, he didn’t consider himself in the minority. Here, with three other men, he suddenly feels outnumbered. He almost wants to apologize, but for what, he doesn’t know.

Three … where’s DJ Key? Joey looks around. E-Z and Cage sprawl in chairs in front of an elaborate soundboard, and the window behind it opens out onto an empty sound booth. Miles stands by the door; there’s no one else in the room.

Before he can ask about Key, Daddy Cage squints past him at Miles. “Who dis white boy?” he asks, his voice low and gravelly.

With a laugh, Miles finally introduces him. “This is Joey Angel. Key Jay has him singing the hook.”

Cage’s eyes narrow until they’re mere slits. He looks from Miles to Joey and back again. A slow smile spreads across his face, as if he’s sure he’s being put on. “Nah hell, man,” he drawls.

Miles shrugs, bemused, but doesn’t answer.

Cage turns to E-Z, who looks confused. Suddenly the larger man jerks out an arm, catching his friend in the side. E-Z flinches away, scowling. “Hey! What the — Cage, fuck. What was that for?”

“Miles trying to say shorty here’s the nigga we been listening to,” Cage says, pointing at Joey. “Says he’s gon’ sing the hook.”

“I heard.” E-Z frowns at Joey. “We thought you was black.”

Joey glances at Miles. “Um …” He doesn’t know how to respond to that. “I’m not?”

With a snort, E-Z says, “Yeah, no shit.”

“Who are you, again?” Cage asks.

Before Joey can reply, Miles steps in. “I told you who. You heard his CD, so what’s the problem?”

“Problem is, he’s white,” E-Z mutters under his breath.

Cage gives Joey a once-over that’s almost vulgar in its intensity. Every inch of him feels exposed under that scrutinizing gaze, every nerve trembles with fear. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. Cage starts at the top of Joey’s perfectly coiffed hair, scowls over his handsome all-American face, then glares at his denim jacket, his casually rumpled henley top tucked into his expensive jeans, all the way down to the brand new Converse hi-top sneakers he wears on his feet. Then Cage trails his gaze up again, his distaste evident in his sneer.

“I don’t like this,” he growls. “Not one bit. Why’s he here anyway? Whoever heard of a white boy singing backup on a black song in the first place?”

“Key wanted him,” Miles says.

E-Z shakes his head. “Because why? He don’ think we good enough, or somethin’? Why bring a white man in at all? Screw things up. Who said –”

I said, that’s who,” a voice behind Joey interrupts, shutting E-Z up in mid-sentence.

Joey turns; he hadn’t even heard the door open. But Key Jay stands in the doorway, one hand still on the knob, anger chiseled into his taut jaw. The family resemblance between him and Miles is striking, though Key’s skin is more caramel than toffee-colored, his eyes more honey than amber. His hair is a dark shade like roasted hazelnuts, and rises in a high, tight cut that fades on the sides. It appears again midway down his cheek to form a handsome, devilish goatee.

Damn, Joey thinks. His knees weaken, his balls clench, and his dick stiffens in the confines of his jeans. Now he wishes they weren’t quite so form-fitting, because one wrong move and everyone in the room will see he’s suddenly sporting wood. But sweet Lord above. He knew DJ Key was attractive — he’s seen photographs online, he’s been dreaming about meeting the guy since he was a teen, and he’d be lying if he said Key hadn’t fueled a masturbatory fantasy or three of his for years.

Still. Hot goddamn. Still.

Key levels a hard glare at Cage and E-Z. “I want this kid on my song.”

Kid, ouch.