Burne Manda knows a lot goes into photographing a hunk-filled calendar titled Beautiful Man to raise money for a non-profit AIDS organization in Pittsburgh. He’s in charge of the project, overseeing his assistant Timmy, his makeup artist Georgina, and the new intern Late. Burne is also responsible for shooting twelve models for the calendar: promiscuous twins, a bad boy with bullying issues, a stranger named Tinder, and others.
Of all the men in Burne’s life, there’s only one he has a crush on -- local weatherman Kevin Mercer. Kevin’s a dreamboat and knows how to charm Burne, who’s clueless about starting a relationship with the guy.
Burne may know how to photograph beautiful men, but he doesn’t know how to fall in love with a guy. Is it too late for Burne to change the pathway of his heart? Or is someone like Kevin going to forecast love for Burne, and modify his life forever?
When I flip the LED lights on within my studio, turn around, and head to a ping-pong size desk scattered with hundreds of photographs, clicking my expensive Norwegian dress heels on the cement floor, Auckland Pierce startles me.
“We meet again, Burne. Long time, no see.” He has a sinister voice that’s drawn out, dark and sexy. Southern. He sits in the Scandinavian chair that Timmy always uses during his work hours. His legs are ever so slightly spread open and I see the mound of denim-covered meat between his thighs. He’s already removed his black leather jacket, becoming comfortable. The jacket hangs over a hexagonal-shaped end table that I purchased in Chicago and had shipped to Pittsburgh. His nipples are hard and his white T-shirt is pulled up a smidge (probably on purpose), showing off his hairy navel and two abs.
“Why are you here?” I ask him.
“The question is, why are you using the same security pin number and haven’t changed it in the last seven months?”
“What’s the number?” I ask him, curious if he’s knows, testing him.
“My birthday. 0-3-1-5 pound. It’s in few weeks.”
I know when his birthday is. Auckland’s turning thirty-five this year. I don’t plan to celebrate it with him. He probably won’t be in town, because he’s a traveler of the world, a woebegone. “Did you pick the lock to get in here?”
He chuckles. “With my eyes closed. It’s the easiest lock to open. You should get a better one. And you should get cameras. Anyone with a dark spirit can break into this place.”
I pull the photographs together on my desk, piling them. “No one’s ever broken into my studio except for you, Auckland. And just for the record, you’re of a very dark spirit.”
He laughs at me. “You know I can’t resist to some breaking and entering,” he whispers, sneering with a semi-smile that I find alluring and untamable. “It’s what I do for a living.”
A laugh escapes him. “You’re looking around to see if I thieved anything from you.”
I shrug. “Better safe than sorry, Auckland. We both know you steal things for a living.”
History has proven numerous times that he’s a professional thief: money from personal business, bars of gold from high executives in New York City, expensive vases from hotel lobbies all around the country, jewelry from wealthy women in Las Vegas, Napa Valley, or Palm Springs, high-priced alcohol from bars. Even a truck once, in Idaho. Auckland has made a career out of stealing things. Size doesn’t matter. If he wants it, he’ll take it. And if he can make money to live on from selling it, even better. This is his job. This is why he only appears after dark: nocturnal, preying, and untrusting concerning one’s belongings.
“The only thing I’ll ever take from you is your heart, Burne. But you won’t give it to me.”
Never. I have my sights on a weatherman.
I ignore his comment and ask, “Are you looking for a place to sleep while you’re in town?” It’s not uncommon that he stays with me, in separate bedrooms, of course, never on top of me, and never inside me. He’s a friend, not a lover. I don’t want to change this about our relationship.
“I do,” he replies. “I want something else from you, too.”
“Is it true you’re doing a calendar called Beautiful Man?”
I nod, nervously organizing things on my desk: pencils, a magnifying glass, and a dirty coffee cup that says Fancy Ass Boss Man on one side. “It’s to raise money for AIDS. I’m doing it for AHAA.”
“I’ve heard,” he tells me, confident, unmoving where he sits, unblinking. Sexy all the way. But I can resist him. I will.
“Who told you?”
He lifts his T-shirt a little higher: dark skin, more hair, more abs. Jesus Christ, he’s beautiful, and hot as fuck. No wonder I let him stay with me when he’s town. He’s one of those guys that you just want around because he’s good looking. “John Nasdell. I bumped into him this afternoon. He told me what you’re working on.”
I’m not surprised. John knows everybody. The queen of the city. A goddess of Pittsburgh who can’t keep his mouth shut about anything.
“Cut to the chase, Auckland. What are you doing back in town?”
“I want to be Mr. March for your calendar. It can be a little birthday present from you to me.”
“Really?” I say, raising an eyebrow. “What makes you think I’ll do this?”
“Really, Burne.” He stands up from the chair and pulls his T-shirt off. He drops the cotton over his leather jacket, runs a palm down and over his hairy chest. “Look at this. I’m fucking hot. I look good for my age. Guys drool over me. Fags become hard for me. Every woman on the planet wants to suck my dick. Why wouldn’t you want me in your calendar?”
“I never said I didn’t.”
He pinches one of his nipples, entertaining me. “I’m cocky and demanding. And I always get what I want.”
“Maybe you won’t this time.”
He unbuttons his jeans. “Trust me, you’ll make me Mr. March.”
I nonchalantly lick my lips. I think about the weatherman and being hungry for his skin. I imagine Auckland as Kevin Mercer and want to move up to him, fall on my knees, and take his hardening dick in my right hand.
This doesn’t happen, though. I won’t let it happen. I can’t.
He says, “Give me your mouth, Burne. You know you want my cock.”
“That can’t happen. There’s someone important in my life.”
“Such a shame. We’d make a great couple.”
I turn away from him and find my coat on a glass tree. “Let’s get out of here. I bet you’re hungry and you need some sleep.”
He doesn’t argue.