Can a kiss really change everything?
Having made a very successful film together, friends and actors, Nick and Alex have to decide whether to take on another joint venture or go their separate ways creatively. Then the perfect manuscript arrives, offering financial security and the opportunity to one day run their own production company.
The film is Nick’s dream, incorporating amazing effects, a wonderful script, a character every actor aspires to play with the director everyone’s begging to work with. There’s one snag: Nick and Alex will have to get rather personal on set.
Nick has to refuse but much to his surprise, Alex isn’t willing to take no for an answer. Nick eventually agrees, despite a nosy reporter and his brother turning against him. After all, it’s just pretence. It’s not as if he’s gay and wants to make out with his friend...not until Alex kisses him. Then it really gets interesting.
“What’s up with you?”
Nick couldn’t blame Alex for the question. Alex had noticed his behaviour, both on set, and here, now; his friend knew him well.
Maybe too well.
Creeping dread made Nick close his eyes. Had he been blind to what so many others clearly had seen? If this were how his brother was acting right now, what would he do if he knew how Nick really felt? He didn’t know whether he was gay, but he had feelings for Alex -- had for a long time. Maybe always. Shelley was right; he did act homophobic, and his feelings for Alex were why.
Did Alex have a clue? He couldn’t imagine so.
“What’s wrong, Nick?”
Nick couldn’t tell him. Even if he accepted his feelings -- and that was difficult enough -- he couldn’t stand Alex’s teasing, and that was the best he could hope for ... wasn’t it? Alex’s playful banter, turning the tease into a joke so they could brush Nick’s feelings aside. That was how macho men reacted, wasn’t it? If they were cool about another man’s feelings enough not to pound one into the floor? He couldn’t imagine Alex doing anything other than letting him save face. Even then, to admit his feelings to Alex would change their relationship.
Maybe he was wrong and projecting his own fears into imagined scenarios. Why tell Alex how he felt when there was no point? Useless to feel emotions that had no outlet. Even if there were the remotest possibility Alex could return his feelings, what could come of it? A house with a white picket fence? Unlikely.
“Nothing with cheese or garlic,” Alex said into his ear.
Nick jumped. To say he let go of the fridge door would be an understatement. He shoved the barrier away, bottles and jars rattling inside as it banged against the wall. How the hell had Alex snuck up on him like that without him noticing? Alex took up half the room. The stylish flat contained an elegant but small kitchen, a room that now felt miniscule. He couldn’t breathe. Leaning against the tall door of the larder next to the fridge, Nick pressed hard against the unyielding surface, as though he might be able to pass through a solid object with the right amount of prayer. He was torn between asking Alex to back up and what he meant by his remark. All he could do was frown.
Alex closed the refrigerator door, one large hand curling over the edge, the other reaching back to rest lightly on the narrow but long work surface that spanned the other side of the room.
“You don’t want cheese or garlic if you’re lining up for a kiss.”
Blinking, Nick tried to rein in his galloping thoughts. His brain took time to catch up with his ears. He shook his head, even as his mind tried to form some coherent response.
“I should not have challenged you openly,” Alex said.
Nick’s frown tightened in confusion. Hands behind him, the smooth flat surface of the door pressed into his palms prevented him from curling his hands into fists.
“What’s your line?” Alex asked. “I should not have challenged you openly.” He waited.
Lines. Alex recited lines from the script. Nick tried to focus. “So you think it’s perfectly fine to commit treason in private?” The words choked out. He knew what came next.
“I think whatever happens ...” Alex began.
Nick barely heard the rest of the paragraph. This wasn’t, couldn’t be happening, yet Alex’s warm voice soothed his panic, even if Nick failed to concentrate on the words.
“The warm winds, the dry air, our swim. Then later ...”
Nick lost the rest, distracted by the feel of Alex’s fingers threading into his hair. He lost the struggle. This was only the script. He had to kiss Alex tomorrow in front of the director and crew. Surely he could manage to do the kiss this once, in private. In that moment, Nick wanted to. He wanted to kiss while no one else watched. The performance wasn’t real, just pretence. He could do this. He could have this. The thought pierced his brain, bringing with it an instant pain more disabling than any migraine. No. This was too cruel.
Nick made the mistake of looking up.
He’d never seen such a look in Alex’s eyes before, but he feared he wore the same look in his own right now. Awareness, a secret knowledge that he couldn’t name but felt.