Excerpt: The Gallery: The Permanent Exhibit

Rex sighed as he climbed out of Gary’s car and followed him across the street. His skin itched, inside and out, with the hungry, gnawing need to fuck. He hated it, the need that earned him names like slut and whore and pathetic. But he’d long ago stopped trying to pretend it wasn’t a fact—he needed sex, frequently and often. Right now, the need was getting bad enough he had a stabbing headache, was getting dizzy and tired the way most people only did when starved.

Years ago, he’d tried to hold out for as long as possible—and once he’d nearly died, having grown too weak to move. If a regular hookup hadn’t stopped by to retrieve a forgotten watch and not minded being practically mauled, Rex probably would be long dead.

Which’d make many of his exes happy, probably, but he was just as happy to be alive. Though he’d be happier if he didn’t have a nausea-inducing headache.

He needed a good fuck. It was the only thing that ever made the deep, hungry ache go away. But he would not be able to trawl for someone willing for a few hours yet.

“Christ, you just got laid last night, Rex,” Gary said, looking at him in disgust—and familiar, exhausting jealousy. “Already you have that ‘need to fuck’ look on your face. Can’t you just—”

“Drop it,” Rex snapped. “If you want me to help you finish your project, please just drop it. I don’t need my supposed friend calling me a slut, not when you promised you understood and didn’t mind and have broken that promise time and again. I told you: I need sex at least once a day or I get seriously sick. How many times do I have to say it before you believe me like you said you did?”

“Whatever,” Gary muttered, and turned angrily away.

Rex sighed and resumed following him, keeping a few paces back in case Gary whipped around to continue arguing—and so maybe he’d mostly forget Rex was there.

He was so tired of every friendship, every stupid, pointless attempt at a relationship, ending this way. And that was definitely how this was going. The end was all but written. Because Gary was pissed and hurt that Rex never had an interest in him. Once he’d fucked Gary, just once, but it only took one time to ruin everything. He’d known better, but he’d been hungry, and it had been a mistake. They weren’t lovers—they weren’t good for each other as lovers—but Gary refused to believe it, which really proved his point all over again.

Stifling a second sigh, he finally looked up at the last art gallery they had to visit today. Gary was interviewing the curators of each of them, Rex knew that much, but further than that he hadn’t paid much attention. They’d visited at least a dozen already. He was tired and hungry, and more than that, he needed sex. It seemed sometimes that was the only thing that ever made him feel better.

The other galleries had all been uptown, a few in the fashionably shabby parts of downtown. There was plenty shabby, but nothing fashionable, about this area. It was completely rundown, litter everywhere, all the buildings save the gallery boarded up, the street so cracked and broken he could see the old brick street beneath the pavement.

In sharp contrast the art gallery, simply and unimaginatively called The Gallery, was neat, even almost classy, despite the bars on the window. It had a clean sidewalk and was brightly lit inside and out. It was inviting, when the rest of the neighborhood made Rex want to get back in the car and flee the desolation.

“Come on, already,” Gary said irritably, pushing open the door and motioning impatiently at him.

Sighing again, mentally going through his finances and what he’d have to do to get by when Gary moved out at the end of the month, Rex followed him into the gallery.

They stepped into a classy little front room filled with couches, chairs, tables, and candles. The whole place smelled a lot like strawberries, a little like honey. His stomach growled—and, to his surprise, the gnawing, aching need for a fuck grew suddenly sharper. Like smelling a banquet after not eating all day.

He wished he knew what caused it. Rex had been eighteen before he realized it wasn’t at all normal for people to feel the way he did. That he was weird. No one else meant it like he did when they said they needed to get laid.

“It’s missing paintings, I think,” Rex finally said.

Gary rolled his eyes and did not reply.

Rex stifled yet another sigh. Yeah, he would be looking for another roommate in a couple more weeks. It sucked, because he liked company, liked having a roommate, but they never lasted. They always tried to be more than friends, and that didn’t work because Rex’s needs couldn’t be taken care of by one person. He’d tried that, and trying to keep up had left his lover exhausted—and then nearly dead. That was when he had truly appreciated how different he was.

He just didn’t know why.

Rex started to say something else when a door in the back opened, and a man like no one he had ever seen before slipped into the room. He was tall, broad-shouldered and lithe, ridiculously graceful as he crossed the room to greet them. His hair fell past his shoulders, loosely tied with a ribbon, beautiful waves of deep, glossy brown. He wore slacks and a button down shirt in a shade of dark green that brought out the bright, vivid green of his eyes.

Want burned hot in Rex’s gut in a way it never had before. If every previous encounter—and there were thousands of them—had left him hot, this man left him feeling half-melted. Rex felt anxious, restless, too tight in his own skin, desperately eager and painfully, sharply lonely.

“Good evening, gentlemen,” the man said, smiling politely at Gary and shaking his hand.

He then turned to Rex, and the smile froze on his face, those beautiful eyes going wide for a split second. Then they narrowed slightly, in a way that made Rex feel something he never had before: like he was the prey. Even when the people he bedded were dominant in bed, or wherever else they landed, Rex remained in control. He was always the hunter.

But this man…

Rex could not tear his eyes away, and call him crazy, but he loved the way the man made him as nervous as he did hungry. He licked his lips, scarcely daring to breath—

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