by Sara Dobie Bauer
Rule number one: don’t fuck the boss. Even if he is doing that thing he does when he’s nervous. He pulls on the cuffs of his dress shirt. I don’t think he even knows he does it, and the movement makes me want to rip that Dolce & Gabbana shirt right off. I pretend not to watch.
There are five of us in his hotel room. His driver is in the restroom; then, there’s his tailor and me. His blond agent sits on the edge of his bed with her smart phone. She’s talking to someone and says, “Not her. Don’t make him sit next to her at the premiere.” I can tell she’s eating this up, the way America is eating him up, the way I would love—Jesus, I’m fucking starving.
I give myself permission to look at him when he addresses me.
The tailor, an old dude with glasses like Olivier in Marathon Man, drapes a tuxedo coat over his shoulders.
“How’s the fit?”
I casually address six feet of British politeness and fold my hands over my crotch.
“I keep telling you not to call me sir. Call me Nicholas.”
Not Nick. I’ve noticed no one calls him Nick. And tonight is his night.
A friend called a week ago and asked if I was looking for work. In Hollywood, shit, we’re always looking for work. I’m a personal assistant to the stars, and I’m real good—like Meryl Streep at Oscar time good. They say I’m discreet and subservient; stars like that.
So my pal calls up and tells me there’s this up and coming British star on his way over for a movie premiere. The film is huge, the kind that makes back its budget in a night, and this Brit plays the bad guy. He’s never been to Hollywood. He needs someone who knows the right barbers, tailors, call girls …
That’s where I come in: David Baron, assistant to the stars. And I’m not given to flights of fancy.
I’ve assisted maybe a hundred newbie celebs over the years and felt not a twitch in my pants. I took one look at Nicholas Pike and thought about quitting because PAs don’t fuck the client. In the business, we tell stories about PAs who did. They end up homeless, hooking.
We’re standing around, waiting to leave for his big premiere, and his agent won’t shut up. God, I hate her, been listening to her ever since Nicholas got here. She’s too blond, fake blond, and her British accent isn’t like his. Nicholas is all Oxford-sounding; she’s like the wenches in Oliver Twist. She has terrible style, too—wears pink lipstick, and nobody outside 1985 wears pink lipstick.
She’s giving Nicholas the time breakdown for the premiere, and he’s rubbing the space between his neck and shoulder. He’s been doing that a lot, but unlike the cuff pulling, this isn’t a nervous twitch. He injured his neck doing a stunt for a film he’s making in England. I know this because he told me. He tells me a lot of things.
He’s never once in his life considered smoking a bad habit.
Without a stylist, he would have no idea how to dress himself.
Finally, he believes his sudden and newly realized status as a sex symbol makes no sense. (Quote: “I’ve had the same face since I was twenty!”)
I explained to him days ago it’s all about the role. A role can make somebody, and although I haven’t seen him play the villain, I have no doubt: he’s made it. He’s been doing appearances all week, me at his side, and when we step outside the limo, it’s mania. Women are everywhere, screaming his name, waving pictures for him to sign, and he does sign them. We’ve been late to every single appearance this week, because he loves signing things, having his picture taken. He loves his fans, and I wonder if this is a British thing. He has more manners than an auditorium full of nuns.
I’m his assistant, yet he makes sure I order first at restaurants. He holds the door—for me. He smiles at me in crowds, apparently to make sure I’m alright, and it’s his manners that do it. The manners make me want to fuck him, just shove him against a wall somewhere and swallow his protests with hot, sloppy kisses.
“David, would you …”
I look up. The agent is, thank Christ, back on her stupid phone, and Nicholas is by the window, tuxedo coat on the back of the desk chair. He’s in slim black dress pants that show off his nice, tight ass. His crisp, white dress shirt is tucked in, but he doesn’t have the tie on, not yet. He gestures to his neck.
I nod, because I understand his request. It’s nice to rub your own sore muscles, but ain’t it grand when someone else can do it for you? And I’ve been doing it for days now, only touching that small, tense part of his body. He’s taller than me, and he smells like smoke and Armani, Acqua di Gio. I put my hand by his neck and squeeze, and I hear him take a deep breath.
I remind myself he’s straight. Everyone knows he’s straight. He told me himself he recently got out of a five-year relationship with a woman and wished he’d gotten out sooner. He said he felt rushed now, at thirty-two, to meet someone and have kids.
Yep, straight as George Clooney’s front teeth, but he leans into me so I have to put my other hand on his back to keep him from knocking me over. He’s all warmth and muscle and oh, God, I am so screwed.
On the way to a night of what I expect will be constant blue balls, the radio plays Whitney Houston, “I Will Always Love You,” and this feels so much like the fucking Bodyguard—forbidden lust in the line of business—that I laugh.
“I hate this song.”
He looks at the rich, gated communities of Los Angeles and smiles. Over the high, concrete fences, you can see the tops of young palm trees and tiled roofs, but that’s it. You know you’ve made it in Hollywood when you have a huge house no one can see. Nicholas is all decked out now, arguably ready for a huge movie premiere or, what with the accent, an MI6 super spy attack.
I’ve seen him not prettied up, too, when his hair is a mess of frizzy curls the color of a Louboutin sole. When he’s in public, he keeps it styled back over his high forehead. I don’t know how he keeps it straight; rubber cement maybe, because nothing else could control those beautiful curls. He has high cheekbones and bright blue eyes. And I’m staring again, and he’s pulling on the cuffs of his shirt.
“How did you know?”
“You pull on the cuffs of your shirt when you’re nervous.”
He nods, stares outside. “I’d have a smoke, but …”
His agent thinks it’s bad if people see him smoking. She says smoking isn’t cool anymore; it’s dirty and stinky, she says, but I disagree. Nicholas with a cigarette in his mouth makes you want to put him on a poster with the words: “Lung cancer never looked so good.”
“Do you enjoy what you do, David?”
“I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t.”
He looks away from the window and at me instead. “Do you ever have to work with people you don’t like?”
“Yes.” I hate how honest I am with him. I’m a PA. I’m usually full of more shit than a construction site Port-a-John, but this man, he makes me want to tell him everything.
“Not very often, I hope.”
“No, not very often, although there’s usually at least a little distaste by the end of a junket. Celebrities are needy.”
“Well.” He looks back outside. “I’ll do my best to leave a good impression.”
We slow down when we reach Hollywood Boulevard. The driver communicates with the guy on the red carpet, and Nicholas is expected—late even—so the crowd is in a frenzy. I try to be careful when I watch him, but I’ve never seen him like this, so I allow a quick study.
He’s obviously terrified. He runs his hand through his hair, messes it up a bit, then runs his open palm over it, and it’s picture perfect again. He looks a little pale, and he adjusts his bow tie. He clears his throat.
“Don’t worry,” I say. “Just smile and stand up straight.”
“You sound like my mother.” His face is pointed at the floor of the limo, but he looks up at me and smiles.
I bet he’d feel better if I kissed him. Then I think, Why the fuck did you think that? He’s straight, you know he’s straight. You’re a professional, David. Act like one.
We’re in front of the theater. I hear the screams over the sound of Whitney Houston’s voice—thousands of women, waiting for Nicholas Pike. Through the tinted windows, I see the black cameras, flashing lights, other stars—American stars—waving manicured hands.
“Well. See you after,” he says. He pats my knee, and the designated red carpet doorman lets in the noise. I scoot out of his way, and Nicholas steps out into fresh air. The door slams, but not before I’m blinded by flashbulbs. The thin line of his profile is burnt onto my retinas.
The movie is over, and I’m harder than dried cement on the Walk of Fame. All the minions—drivers, PAs, and extras—we sit in the back of the theater for premieres, up high, on the balcony, and thank God, because if I see Nicholas right now, I will bend him over the nearest piece of furniture.
Whoever did the costumes for the film was gay, gay, gay. I know because Nicholas was in these futuristic tight, leather pants the whole movie that did nothing to hide his package.
One of my fellow PAs already walked by, also gay, and said, “You’re working for that Brit, aren’t you?” I didn’t have to speak before he said, “Might want to put away the boner in your pants before he gets out here.”
Great. Just fucking great.
So here I am, leaned against a black limo, surrounded by other PAs and drivers. We all get to go home soon, and I’m going to fill my bathtub with ice cubes and soak until my balls fall off.
My phone vibrates in my pocket, which makes me bend at the waist and groan. I try to look cool and remove my cell phone from my pocket. It’s Nicholas on the line.
It’s loud where he is, and he’s shouting. “Where are you, mate?”
“By the car.”
“What are you doing there? Come inside.”
He’s new to Hollywood; he doesn’t know PAs don’t come to the after-party, and I can’t see him—no way—not like this. Just hearing his voice makes me break into a sweat. I try to hedge. “I’m really worn out, honest. Do you mind if I just go back to the hotel?”
“Of course I mind. It’s like a bloody rap video in here; I need my sidekick.”
I’m his sidekick?
“Come on, David, please. I already added your name to the list.”
So I’m walking, and I’m thinking about disgusting, horrible things like Barbara Streisand’s nose, Michael Jackson’s nose—Jesus, what is my problem? What’s with the noses? But apparently this works, because I’m no longer uncomfortable in my pants. I walk past the gatekeeper and follow the sound of noise.
The premiere is in this old theater on the Boulevard, redone, of course, touched up, but you can still see the gaudy gold ceilings and cherubs in the corners. I smell expensive finger-foods, and there’s music playing—some live jazz band doing a cover of “In the Mood.” It’s like I’ve gone back in time, 1950s Hollywood. I bet Marilyn Monroe is here, Steve McQueen, too, but I turn the corner, and instead it’s all these glamorous youngsters in shiny silver gowns and black suits.
I have no idea how I’m going to find Nicholas in here. But he finds me. I hear my name, and there he is, two male cast members at his side and the movie’s female lead with her hand on his arm.
And he looks Old Hollywood. Humphrey Bogart would approve.
The girl is talking to him when I walk up. She’s this beautiful, skinny bitch who did a full nude scene in her last picture. I remember she has tiny breasts, plum-sized things she’s pressing against Nicholas.
He politely, pleasantly pulls out of her grasp and nods to his costars before latching onto me and turning me around. “Thank Christ. I can’t talk anymore. If I keep talking, they’ll realize I’m an idiot.”
He puts his arm around my shoulder, and there’s the smell of his cologne.
He doesn’t say anything, just leads me to the bar, where he orders two vodka martinis on the rocks. He knows this is my drink, but I didn’t know it was his. Next thing I know, I’m being dragged toward the band, past Jack Nicholson and Natalie Portman and, shit, was that Tom Cruise?
Now, we’re on the dance floor. The music has gone from Big Band to classic rock, an excellent cover of “December 1963” by Frankie Valli.
Nicholas can dance, and he does so without inhibition. He obviously doesn’t give a shit if people think it’s weird that he likes to dance. He just closes his eyes and goes with it.
I wish I was so free, but I have to keep reminding myself that we’re not in a gay bar and that I should not press against him. I’m dancing behind fucking Angelina Jolie. I’m a PA at a premiere after-party. This doesn’t happen, and I should be enjoying myself, but instead, I’m stiff as a board and painfully, horribly in love with a man who just happens to be my boss.
He’s silent in the hotel elevator. His tie is undone, and his hair is a sweaty mess. I spent the evening into early morn at his side while he ducked his female costar and made small talk with strangers. I think he might be asleep on his feet, but when the elevator clicks open at our floor, he steps out in front of me.
I need to go to bed. I need to stop looking at him, but then, he says, “Nightcap?”
I shake my head. “I really need to—”
“Oh, come on, David.” He opens his door, and I follow.
The room smells like him. I watch him take off his tuxedo coat and throw it on the bed. He kicks off his dress shoes as he walks and ruffles his hair. He goes to the minibar and pours us each a thumb-full of scotch. He rolls his right shoulder once, twice.
“How’s your neck?”
He hands me my glass. “I feel like I’ve been hung from a ceiling by my arms all night.” And he gives me that look I’ve only seen a few times—that insecure “do people really like me” face that is so much hotter than his smile or even his laugh.
“Do you mind?”
He puts his hand on his shoulder.
He doesn’t turn around this time, not like he usually does when I rub his back. He sits on the floor at the foot of the bed, and I understand he expects me to sit on the bed—his bed—and touch him without tearing my pants off and humping his pillow. Jesus.
I hold my drink in one hand and rub his neck with the other. The muscles are like thick rubber bands, and he closes his eyes, moans. He even rests the side of his head against my thigh, and this is fucked up, so fucked up.
I stand and almost knock him over. “I have to go.”
I shoot the scotch like vodka, which makes me choke, which makes Nicholas touch me. I shove his hand away. I look up, and he’s smiling.
“What the fuck is so funny?”
He pulls on the cuff of his shirt. “I’m sorry.” All manners. “I just thought you might be interested. In me.”
My mind cannot compute, so my penis solves the equation.
I put my hand on the back of his neck and crush our mouths together. He tastes like scotch and smells like every man should. My penis continues to run things as I shove his body against the nearest wall and kiss, kiss, lick, suck—God, this is so much better than even my dirty mind could muster. I want him naked underneath me so I push him on the bed and tackle him. He’s making these heady sighing sounds, and my penis wants to tell him I love you, God, I love you more than vintage Fellini films.
But then. My mind.
“I can’t do this.” I put my hands on his chest and stand up. The top two buttons on his shirt are gone. I don’t remember doing that.
“What?” He’s panting, can barely speak. “You’ve been eye-fucking me for a week.”
“I know.” I turn my back on him. “But I don’t fuck clients. And you’re straight.”
“Am I really?” I hear him move on the bed.
“You were with a woman for five years.”
“A man before that.”
“You want children.”
“So do plenty of gay people.” I can tell by the volume of his voice that he’s right behind me.
“You’re a client. I don’t sleep with clients.”
“And according to my agent, I don’t sleep with men.” He tickles the back of my ear with his nose and kisses my neck.
“I can’t.” I’m running for the door.
Just one more look, I tell myself. One more glance, and I’m back to my room down the hall, door locked, and hidden under the bed. But, for shit’s sake, he’s standing there, his shirt destroyed, his hair a mutinous rat’s nest, and his hot mouth swollen like he’s been punched. I’m proud that I did all this, but I can’t move.
So he moves, and I’m aching between my legs. He stops right in front of me and kisses me, his way, with sweetness and manners. This kiss is hotter than my earlier attack; in fact, it’s so hot that I forget my name and that Nicholas Pike is a client. I forget everything but his mouth. By the time he gets me in bed, I soon remember other things like hands, tongues, and tangled legs.
I’m so tired, I feel like I’m underwater when I hear his voice.
His posh British clip speaks, but to whom? I smell coffee and a cigarette. I try to wake up, roll over, but my body is glued to the sheets. I move my head and smell his cologne on the pillow. I must make an involuntary happy noise, because I feel his hand on my shoulder, just for a second.
I blink my eyes, but I still can’t see the room. I can only see images of Nicholas from last night, six feet of toned muscle sprawled beneath me, begging, writhing … Jesus, I’m hard again. I force myself to roll over, and I’m blinded by the sight of Nicholas nude, sitting on the edge of his bed. He’s smoking a cigarette in a non-smoking room. I find this adorable.
“I think I’ll have a lie-in today.”
Woman’s voice on the other line: his agent.
“I’ve made appearances all week, Althea. Can’t I take one day for myself?”
Her voice moves in hills and valleys, sing-song.
There’s a tray of room service at the end of the bed: a silver carafe of coffee and a food plate, covered by a silver lid. Only now do I smell bacon and eggs.
“All right, I’ll call you later. Thank you.” He hangs up and drops his cigarette in a half-full glass of water. He stands up. “I have to brush my teeth before I kiss you.”
I’m giddy like a schoolgirl. Any semblance of rational thought went away with the feel of his mouth on me. I don’t care about my job—what job? Need to quit job and follow Nicholas everywhere. I’ll shine his shoes with my tongue, and he can eat his meals from my bare back.
He returns from the bathroom in loose, plaid pajama pants and sprawls across the bed on his stomach. He leans on his elbows and kisses me the way he does—soft, with just a little tongue.
“Stay in bed today?” His voice is deeper than usual due to the cigarette and early hour.
“What have you done to me?”
“Coffee?” He rolls over and pours me a cup.
“I don’t sleep with clients.”
“You have ruined my life.”
He hands me the cup of coffee, black.
“Do you do this with all your PAs? In England, too?”
He shakes his head. “No. But I like the way you look at me.”
I set my untouched coffee on the table by his bed and crawl toward him. “I was wrecked from the first moment I saw you.”
I push some of his curls from his face. “I’m glad I fucked the hell out of you last night. You deserved it.”
He chuckles, but he has the look; I know the look.
“We can’t do this again.”
“No,” he says.
I want to suggest, Maybe next time you’re in LA? But I’d be crazy to think I could keep this up and not become his bitch. I may have been the top last night, but he owns me. He knows he owns me.
“But we have today.”
“You have nothing you have to do?”
His brow furrows. “I don’t know how to answer that question.”
And I laugh, because he’s right: stupid question. There’s a naked man in his bed and he’s not straight and there’s no one else around; he has plenty to do.
He looks at the floor. “I hate to have to ask, but would you keep this just between us?”
“Are you mental? If people found out I slept with a client, I’d never get respectable work again. I’d become a whore boy that celebrities think they can pass around. No, no one will be hearing about this.”
He seems relieved.
I shut up and kiss his shoulder because my mouth doesn’t want to make words; my mouth wants to make Nicholas happy. I kiss his neck and his collarbone—the sensitive spot at the base of his throat that makes him hold his breath.
Then, something occurs to me, and I pull away. I ask, “Do you think you’ll ever come out?”
He looks disappointed that my mouth is gone, and he reaches for another cigarette. “My agent knows, but she says women like the fantasy. Part of the attraction. They want to believe I could love them, be with them, marry them.”
Yeah, I know the feeling.
“Nothing’s real in show business,” he says.
I wish I could tell him that wasn’t true, but for a newbie star, Nicholas is awfully well informed. He’s too smart, too honest, for his own good.
I reach out and steal his cigarette. I take a puff and crush it out so at least we’ll taste the same. Then, I pull him to me by his hair, and fuck if I don’t show the boss something real—if only for a day.