The Strongest Shape
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by Tessa Cardenas
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica
Description: After his boyfriend breaks up with him, fashion photographer Caleb Moss finds himself alone in Los Angeles looking for work and friends. He finds both in a group of aspiring musicians, who offer help through their connections. But while building a strong friendship with Scott and Chris, a startling sexual tension flares to life among the three men, and Caleb is afraid the new friendships will fall apart. It won't be easy for Caleb, trying to find his way when Scott and Chris invite him into their relationship. They face criticism from their friends, but they'll struggle to stay together because they have discovered a three-fold love.
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: December 2009
76 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [253 KB]
Reading time: 173-243 min.
Separately and together Chris, Scott and Caleb were wonderful characters. I enjoyed seeing the differences between their personalities and how they were able to mesh together to create a bond that included all three of them equally... Those who may not be fans of menage stories may still want to check this one out. Bottom line this is a story about falling in love and making a relationship work and the fact that it's between three people instead of two shouldn't keep you from reading this really lovely book. 4 of 5 stars Lily @ Rainbow Reviews
Caleb doesn't actually remember how he ended up coming home with Jason. He remembers going to Jason's concert alone after Damian broke up with him. He remembers ordering the first few shots of vodka. He even remembers telling Jason that his music was inspiring. He just has no idea how he reached the point of waking up in Jason's apartment. It's not like he's ever spoken more than a few words to the guy. He's hoping there wasn't a hook up involved because it must have been pathetic if he ended up by himself on the couch.
"Coffee, water, or aspirin?" Jason looks at him through the window of the kitchen when he notices that Caleb's awake.
Jason laughs, but he nods before bringing everything to the living room.
"So last night...." Caleb bites his lip. He's really going to have to pay Jason back if he promised Jason something and then passed out on the couch.
"Nothing happened. You did offer, but I have a girlfriend."
Shit. He's lucky Jason didn't kick his ass. "Sorry."
"It's okay. Unless this Damian guy is going to change his mind and try to kick my ass for taking you home." Jason's smiling, but he still looks a little worried.
"He's really not." Damian has probably already moved on to someone else. Caleb takes a sip of his coffee to buy time. "So if you're straight, why did you take me home?"
"The bar was closing, and you wouldn't tell the bartender where you lived so she could call a cab. I was still loading up." Jason shrugs. "It was me or the cops."
"Thanks." He really owes Jason something. Maybe he can buy an entire box of CDs and send them to everyone he knows. Either way, he should probably clear out. "I'll just call a cab."
"You have money for a cab?" Jason asks.
When Caleb checks his wallet, he only finds three dollars and a phone number he doesn't recognize.
"Don't worry about it," Jason says before Caleb can start thinking about how the hell he's getting home. "A friend of mine's coming by to pick something up. I can drive you after that if you don't mind hanging out for a while."
"Thanks. I can pay you back for gas or something." Hell, he's not even sure where Jason lives. He could be miles away from his apartment. He might not even be in LA anymore.
"No big deal." Jason sits in the recliner next to the couch and flips on the TV.
"So either you owe me for something I don't remember, or I redefined pathetic." This is why Caleb likes to drink at home where the worst he can do is call and ramble to people who are already used to him. At least his friends will tell him that they never liked Damian, and he deserves better and all that other stuff people say when your boyfriend leaves you.
"Do you really wanna know?"
He's sure he doesn't, but he has to decide if he can ever go to one of Jason's shows again.
"You told me you couldn't go home because Damian was packing up his stuff. You moved out here from New York because he's an actor on some new show. Now he thinks he's too good for you and he's moving in with some other guy you don't know."
Caleb groans. Damian is probably going to kill him after this shows up in the tabloids. It's not that he still cares if he ruined Damian's career. "He's really not that famous yet."
"Don't worry. If I sold that kind of stuff to the paparazzi, I have other friends who'd be after me. They're already gonna give me shit for talking to a photographer without a job in this city."
"I'm a fashion photographer. I don't do that climbing over fences and chasing down cars shit."
"I promise you told me that a few times last night. You don't have to run back to New York, though. You can freelance in town if you know the right people."
Caleb shrugs and looks away. He knows that. The problem is that the right people he knows also know Damian.
"I know people too. I can introduce you," Jason says before shrugging and admitting, "Actually my friend Chris knows people. He's out of town right now, but when he gets back, he can help you out."
"Why?" He's starting to wonder if Jason's really straight. He doesn't want to go crawling back to New York because he can't survive in LA without Damian, but he doesn't want to be sucking Jason's dick for jobs either. He'll go back to New York before he lowers himself to that.
"I came out here by myself. I probably would've gone running back to Iowa if a couple people hadn't helped me out." Jason gives him a smile, getting up as the front door opens and closes.
The man Jason comes back with is someone Caleb's seen at a few of Jason's shows. His blonde hair falls just above his shoulders. It's loose and wavy. Caleb can't help wondering how it would feel to run his fingers through it. He's not Damian, but Damian's hair was always sticky with gel anyway.
"You switched teams without mentioning it?" The new guy asks when he sees Caleb.
"No. Just gave him a couch for the night." Jason nods to him. "Caleb, this is Scott."
"Actor?" Scott looks him over, and he's not sure if it's because he looks like shit or because Scott's interested. If he's lucky, it's the latter and Caleb will have a chance to find out.
Scott gives Jason a look, but Jason just rolls his eyes. "He does fashion spreads and that fancy stuff. It's not like any of us are getting followed around like Britney. You wish someone besides Chris cared enough to take your picture."
Scott shrugs before bending down to pick up a couple of cords Jason had left on the floor. "Maybe we should've tried a little harder to make it to your show."
"So you could look at him wrong and cause a scene?"
"Just trying to figure out how your night ended up with him on your couch." Scott nods in Caleb's direction. "If he's on my way, I can give him a ride home."
When Jason shrugs, Scott groans before Caleb can interrupt with his address. "You brought him home and you don't even know him? This isn't Nebraska. He could've stolen everything in your apartment. Chris is going to explode."
"Chris didn't know me when he invited me over," Jason says.
"Chris invited you to a party, and you didn't spend the night. He liked your music, and he needed a new project."
"Caleb didn't steal anything anyway."
"I guess that's something." Scott sighs and turns to look at Caleb again. "So where are you going?"
Caleb throws out the address to his apartment, and Scott nods. "It's not that out of my way. Come on."
The first few minutes in the car are silent until Scott taps his leg to get his attention away from the window. "It's nothing against you. Jason's just a little too trusting in this town."
"It's cool." Hell, he's lucky Jason didn't do anything to him. He's the one who got so drunk that he let some guy he didn't know take him home.
When Scott stops in front of his apartment building, Damian's car is gone.
"Something in there you're scared of?" Scott asks when Caleb doesn't move.
"No. Sorry." Caleb starts to open the door, but Scott catches his wrist.
"Why didn't you have anyone to take you home last night except Jason?"
"I went to the show by myself." He doesn't add that Damian was supposed to go with him.
"And got really drunk by yourself knowing that you didn't have a ride home?" When Caleb doesn't give him a real answer, Scott tries something else. "Where are you from?"
"Dallas, but I lived in New York for about four years. I'll be all right. I don't usually get drunk and let random guys take me home."
"Chris was born in Dallas. Ended up moving to Oklahoma though."
"Yeah?" Caleb says before he can stop himself. He hasn't met a lot of people from Texas since he left, and it would be nice to talk about the Rangers without having to explain he doesn't mean hockey.
"Yeah. He's out of town for a couple weeks. He got some gigs by himself up north, but I'll introduce you when he gets back."
"You don't have to make me your new project." It's probably an asshole thing to say, but it's not like he just stumbled off the farm. The more he thinks about it, the more he thinks of people he might be able to call who never really liked working with Damian that much. Of course, that's just gonna get him a job, not anything else. All his friends in LA are Damian's friends.
"You came over here by yourself?" Scott asks.
"You came over here with whoever's not in that apartment anymore?" When Caleb doesn't answer, Scott pulls out a piece of paper. "Write down your number. We'll call you."
"Well, you didn't end up stealing anything from Jason, did you?" * * * *
"Jason's having some people over. You should come," Scott says when he calls a week later.
"Then why isn't Jason calling?"
"His girl's visiting from Idaho. He's always distracted the first few days," Scott says. Caleb's pretty sure Jason said he was from Iowa, but he was kind of hung over at the time. "So just show up. Bring some beer if it makes you feel better."
Any doubts Caleb had vanish when Jason opens the door on Friday. He smiles and takes the six-pack of beer out of Caleb's hands as he pulls him inside.
"Come on in and meet everyone."
"Hey. You showed up," Scott says.
"I didn't really have anything else," Caleb answers before he realizes how pathetic that sounds.
"We're glad you came. My friend Danielle wants to meet you."
Scott takes his arm and leads him past Jason into the living room. Danielle's got the kind of red hair he's seen a lot of models try to get with dye, and even sitting he can tell she's tall enough that she'd only need a pair of heels to look him in the eye. He'd thought Scott invited him so he wouldn't be the only single one at the party--though he's not sure if Scott wanted a date or a wingman. Now he's not sure if Scott's after Danielle. Caleb needs to ask Jason if he told any of these people that he's gay.
"Scott, seriously, you need to be more specific when you tell me you invited some new guy Jason met," Danielle says before Scott even introduces him. Great. He probably made an ass of himself at the club. Caleb opens his mouth to apologize, but Danielle waves it off. "Don't worry. I heard the story, but we left before Jason found you at the bar. I just remember noticing you at the show."
"Is he your ex or something?" Scott asks.
"No, silly. He's Caleb Moss. He took the pictures when I did that spread for TeenChic," Danielle says. Caleb really wishes he could remember what shoot she's talking about, but most of the models he notices are guys. It must've only been one shoot, because he likes to think he would have at least a vague memory of a girl he'd worked with over and over.
"It's okay. It was two years ago, and I'm more into acting now. Or I'm trying to be. It's not working out so well. I'm mostly playing 'high school student number three' right now."
"But she's a very hot 'high school student number three'," Scott says, leaning over to kiss her forehead.
"So is it way too early to ask you to do new headshots for me even though I probably can't actually afford you?" Danielle asks. "You just made me look so good last time. The headshots I have now are okay, but you could do better. Then maybe I'll actually get a job."
"Sure," Caleb says even though he's not sure that Jason didn't put her up to asking.
"Awesome," Danielle pulls him down on the couch next to her as Jason comes back to hand him a beer. "I like him. I vote we keep him." * * * *
"Glad you came?" Scott's alone on the balcony, plunking out a melody on his guitar.
"Yeah. Thanks." Caleb takes the chair across from Scott and watches him play a while. He's past the funny stage of drunk and onto the sleepy part. He should call a cab soon.
"Like it? There's no lyrics yet."
"Yeah. It's good."
"You play?" Scott asks.
"A little. Not like you." He used to play for Damian, but Damian didn't notice how much he messed up. Scott's on a whole other level.
"Let me hear." Scott tries to pass him the guitar, but he doesn't take it.
"Man, I'm drunk. I'm not that great when I'm sober."
"So we'll blame it on the beer if you mess up." Scott puts the guitar in his hands.
Caleb's also going to blame the beer for the way he doesn't realize he's singing along to the music until Scott says, "Well, how about that. You've got a voice too."
"It's nothing." Caleb hands him back the guitar, hoping it's too dark for Scott to notice he's blushing. "I should get going. I remembered cab fare this time."
"Jason's not gonna care if you crash here. Most of us are."
"Maybe next time." Jason might not care, but he'd like to prove he can handle himself and get home on his own.
"Sure. I've got a show tomorrow if you can make it. I've got a bet with Jason that you'll like me better." * * * *
It's three more weeks before Caleb finally meets Chris. With everyone talking about him; no one mentioned how hot he was. His hair is only a few inches shorter than Scott's, but instead of blond and wavy, it's straight and light brown. Scott just says, "Hey, this is Chris," like that's enough of an explanation all on its own. Maybe it is enough because in the last three weeks, Caleb's already heard about ten different opinions of Chris, and half of the group seems to think Chris might hate him on the spot.
Chris smiles, cocks his head and says, "Heard you can play."
"I'm all right," Caleb answers, wondering when Scott was talking about him and how he can get out of playing for Chris. Scott and Chris are real musicians. They both have their own albums and they've recorded a few together, while he just plays around sometimes to get the edge off. Two weeks ago, it took a six pack of Corona before Scott convinced Caleb to pick up a guitar, but Chris doesn't let him get through ten minutes. Caleb wants to say no, but Chris takes his beer bottle right out of his hand and replaces it with a guitar.
"I don't really play much," he says, trying to hand the guitar back, but Chris leans back on the couch and refuses to return his drink until he plays a song.
He plays just enough to get his beer, but Chris smirks. "Not bad."
"You were doubting me?" Scott elbows Chris and takes the guitar.
"You shouldn't start a story with 'well, I was kinda wasted at the time', if you want me to trust your judgment. Remember that time in Nashville when you were doing body shots?"
Scott shoots him a look, and Chris raises an eyebrow, but he shrugs and changes the subject before Caleb can ask what the hell they're talking about.
"I saw Danielle's headshots. They're good. Better than what I did for her."
Caleb glares at Scott. Someone should have told him the pictures he was replacing were taken by Chris. No wonder everyone thought Chris would hate him right away.
"It's all right. Just a hobby. I'd have gotten onto her if she passed up the chance to get you to do them," Chris says before he can come up with some kind of pathetic apology. "Looked up some of your stuff myself. It's good. Got anything new going on?"
"Yeah. I called my friend Dan. He's trying to get me some ad campaigns. That kind of thing."
"As long as you're not crossing over to the dark side."
"I have standards," Caleb says, taking another long drink of his beer. "And I don't need to piss anyone off who I might want to work with later."
"Yeah." Chris tries not to be obvious about catching Scott's eye and shrugging. Caleb hopes that shrug means he passed whatever test Chris was giving.
Caleb nods to the guitar Chris already set aside. "So when do I get to hear you play?"
"You wanna hear anything special?" Chris asks. When Caleb shakes his head, Chris just starts strumming.
"Just don't flatter him too much. He doesn't need it. His head is big enough already." Scott elbows him in the side and smiles. Chris glances away from the guitar to look at them, but he just continues with the song without commenting. * * * *
There's no single thing that makes him suspicious. Caleb doesn't catch them sneaking a kiss or find an incriminating picture. He can explain the way they finish each other's sentences by reminding himself that they've been writing music together for years. He can tell himself that Chris is always at Scott's because Chris can't cook for shit and Scott always has something on the stove. Hell, that's why he's always at Scott's.
But the more time he spends with them, the more he notices the looks they throw each other and the innuendos Chris slips into conversation like he's trying to make a point. It's enough that Caleb starts watching, making note of how many ways Chris finds to touch Scott, whether he's just brushing a hand over Scott's back as he passes or the way his fingers comb through Scott's hair when he makes fun of them both for being blonde.
He doesn't do anything about it until he notices things are changing. Chris's lips tighten when Caleb shows up at Scott's. He stops hassling Caleb about playing, stops saying that now he wants to hear that voice he heard about, or making fun of Caleb because they both manage to look hot with longer hair, while he looks like someone used a chili bowl to cut his hair in the picture they found in his high school yearbook.
Caleb decides he should give them some space. They never do anything around him so he figures if he's right, Chris is probably sick of waiting for him to leave so they can fuck. Maybe if he backs off, Chris will like him again.
The problem is that half the time, Scott invites him over, so he has to make up excuses. He tells Scott he's in talks with a few designers about shooting spreads of their fall lines even though he hates meetings. He'd make all his deals by e-mail if he could. After that, it only makes sense to say he's working out the contracts. He thinks about calling Jason, but he's always hanging out with Chris and Scott, so he ignores Jason's call when Jason finally notices he's gone missing. He goes on a mission to find the best Chinese food in LA and orders from a different restaurant every night for two weeks.
He's expecting his latest test sample when he finds Chris at the door instead.
"You got a job? Must be happening soon with you networking every fucking day." Chris doesn't ask if he can come in. He just pushes past Caleb and wanders into the kitchen where his eyes follow the collection of takeout boxes. "You break up with a girl you forgot to mention?"
"You're not really working. I know I don't get paid thousands to shoot stick figures in ugly clothes like you do, but I take side jobs often enough. You're Caleb Moss. It doesn't take this much for you to get a job." Chris sniffs one of the containers and starts tossing things into a trash bag Caleb didn't know he had. It's not a question.
"You figured out about me and Scott?" This one is a question. Chris doesn't look at him when he asks, just keeps tossing out any trash he can find.
"Guess I don't have to ask what you think about it."
"What? You think I give a shit?" That answers how much Jason let slip about the night he took Caleb home. For whatever reason, he didn't tell Chris about Caleb being gay.
"You've been dodging Scott for a week." There's an edge in his voice, and it's not fair. Caleb's not the one who started answering everything with a grunt two weeks earlier.
"And now that's not what you want?"
Chris looks up and stares at him for a second. "How long have you known?"
"Couple months?" Caleb answers. The last thing he expects is for Chris to start laughing.
"You knew? All this time?"
"I was pretty sure." Caleb shrugs. It would help if Chris would let him in on the joke.
Chris laughs until the corners of his eyes are wet, shaking his head as he drops the bag of garbage. "Fuck, I just wanted Scott to tell you." * * * *
Things change a little each day after that. At first it's the same. They hang out, play a few songs, and go through cases of Corona until Chris talks him into singing. Chris gets him on video promising to sing backup vocals on Scott's CD, and he doesn't care that Caleb is too drunk to remember it the next day.
The first time he sees them kiss, Caleb's sitting on the couch with Scott, watching some documentary on Animal Planet. Chris is leaving to meet an actress who wants some headshots--because some people really do have to meet people for jobs--and he leans down to kiss Scott goodbye. It's quick, routine in a way that only comes from years of doing it, and he's already out the door before Scott catches Caleb's eye and realizes they've never kissed in front of him before.
Caleb smiles and shrugs, turns back to the TV, and tries to pretend he's not jealous. He spends the rest of the documentary trying to figure out who and what he's jealous of.
Caleb's not any closer to figuring it out three weeks later, even though Chris and Scott have taken to kissing in front of him more. Not that he sits around and watches them make out, but they seem to give up censoring. He's at Jason's after one of Scott's shows and Chris has Scott pushed up against the wall, his hands tangled in Scott's hair as he talks. Caleb can't hear anything he's saying, but he can get an idea from the way Scott sighs and pushes against him.
So maybe sometimes he does watch them make out. It's hard not to when they're right in front of him.
"Don't let Chris catch you looking at them like that." Danielle's smirking at him when he jerks his head away.
"You were, but I won't tell," Danielle sighs. "You know, you should talk to other people when we go out. I know Chris is weird about new people, but he's just paranoid. He got used to you. He'll get used to it if you meet someone."
"Maybe I don't want to meet someone." He should. Damian's been gone a long time. Caleb hasn't even thought of watching his show since it started airing, but it must be doing well because he's seen Damian on two magazine covers.
"Hon, even Chris thinks you have a thing for Scott. Why he hasn't done anything about it none of us can figure out. I'm not sure Chris can figure it out, but you shouldn't push your luck. He's not gonna let you have him."
"I don't want to take Scott from him." He really doesn't. That's what he can't figure out.
"Good." Danielle wraps her arm around his waist and leads him back to where Jason is setting up a game of king's cup.
Two hours later Caleb's trying to sleep on the couch because he's too drunk to go home. He doesn't even try not to hear the soft moans from guest bedroom.