“Did you see USA Today, man?” Julian plopped down, eyes wide. “Fayden is… Well, he’s not naming names, but…”
Seth looked at one of his oldest friends and arguably the best choreographer he knew and tried not to growl. “I saw.”
He saw. His brother saw. His mom saw. His neighbor. Fayden’s sister. Ernie at the fucking convenience store where he bought his daily diet energy shot saw.
“World-Famous Director Escapes from Abusive Sex-Slave Relationship! Says He Feared for His Life!”
Ten years they’d been together. He’d been nineteen when he’d met Fay. Nineteen and horny and amazed that a man almost twenty years his senior with money and power and the most beautiful eyes on earth would want a dancer in the chorus.
“It’s all lies,” Julian told him. “You should sue him.”
“Just drop it, Jules. It’s no big deal.”
Just a huge, life-changing, world-altering deal.
Julian’s eyebrow went up, the man not saying another word but still speaking volumes.
“What do you want me to say? I… I don’t have anything.” He had an apartment. The cops had let him take his car and computer—after they’d copied the hard drive for evidence.
“Honey, I’m on your side here.” Julian hugged him.
“I know. I do. Thank God for that.” Who else would he have called from the jail? His lawyer was Fay’s. His friends were Fay’s. Julian was it. His saving grace.
“Come on out with me tonight. There’s a new bar that we haven’t ever been to—he won’t be there.”
“No. Not yet. I’m not going out right now. I need to recover.” Seth needed his space.
“You need someone to take the bad taste of that asshole out of your mouth,” Julian said.
Seth blinked, then started laughing, deep, full belly laughs that felt so good. God, this sucked so hard. “I caught him with another man. That new dancer. Dylan.”
Dylan was nineteen now. Ah, the irony.
“Shit, he’s old enough to be that boy’s grandfather!”
“Yeah. Well, you know…” Seth was going to lie down and die, simple as that. Okay, he wasn’t, but he was going to pretend to, mentally.
“You think we should warn Dylan what a predator asshole he is?”
“Poor, innocent, victimized Fay?” He shrugged. “You wait. I’ll stop getting jobs soon.” It was inevitable.
Julian shook his head. “That’s not fair.” Seth noticed that his friend didn’t say it wasn’t going to happen.
“Life’s not fair. I have to work out and head home. I have an audition for a music video in the morning.” Hopefully he’d make a good impression. It would be good to put some money in the bank before the jobs started drying up.
Julian hugged Seth tight. “If there’s anything I can do, honey…”
“I love you, honest. Maybe we’ll meet for brunch on Sunday? Somewhere new?” Somewhere the paparazzi and Fayden wouldn’t be.
“You got it. Text me the deets.”
“Absolutely.” He grabbed his coffee and headed out of the little coffee shop outside of the studio he’d rehearsed in most of his adult life.
He was going to lose that too, he’d bet. Everything was going to just disappear because Fay had decided to trade him in for a younger model and was doing it in the nastiest way possible. Seth could feel everyone staring at him, could hear people talking about him.
He couldn’t stand it anymore and it was only going to get worse.
“Hey. Seth. I…” Lizzie Bean came up, took his arm, the leggy dancer as tall as he was. They’d worked together a hundred times at least. “I don’t know what to say except that I love you, man, and people suck.”
He made this weird half-tickled, half-surprised sound. “They totally do. God, they do.”
“Come have supper with us? Mel is grilling chicken.”
Mel was an amazing cook. And it was tempting, being with people who wouldn’t look at him like he was a monster.
“Please. Come on. You look exhausted and I promise to just feed you foods with no real calories and ply you with wine.” She put her hand on his arm. “Please.”
“God, you’re so demanding.” Seth nodded, though, found a smile. “Let’s go.”
She beamed at him and slid her hand into the crook of his elbow when they started to walk. Lizzie and Mel lived not that far from the studio in a converted loft with the most amazing roof garden full of potted trees and flowering plants and several large raised areas where they grew vegetables.
Mel was big into farm-to-table cooking and tried to grow as much of his own produce as he could.
Lizzie told him a story about one of Mel’s nephews—the man had far too many nieces and nephews to keep track of—who had gotten a skateboard for his birthday and become the terror of the neighborhood.
Seth tried to laugh in all the right places. Every so often he’d catch sight of himself in a window, just the barest hint, and he’d sigh. He’d really thought Fay was his Mr. Right. They’d been into the same things, the chemistry had been off the charts, they were uber-compatible in bed…