There was nothing in the world that Justin Taylor loved more than spending an evening with a glass of scotch watching a lightning storm light up the city below him from his penthouse condominium on the North Side. The flashes of light illuminated the sky, reflecting from the glass and steel of Pittsburgh's downtown high-rise office buildings, the streaks of radiance striking the water of the three rivers far below, the sound of thunder that reverberated through the night air and made his pulse pound in sympathetic rhythm all combined to electrify the otherwise peaceful night air.
Justin watched the light show before him and thought about how he had gotten here, to this place and time in his life. He was what others referred to as a trust-fund baby. He'd been born into a life of wealth and privilege. Unfortunately, the privileges offered to him had not included the freedom to be himself. He was lucky, however. Despite losing his mother when he was just a toddler, despite a childhood where he spent more time with the nanny and housekeeper than his own father, despite being shipped off to boarding school every year since he was six, Justin had turned out okay. He had become his own man, and he was proud of the man he had become.
His father, on the other hand despised the man he had become. Craig Taylor had completely disowned him at the young age of fifteen, but Justin had money from his mother and her family. Despite the falling out with his father, he still held shares in his father's company that guaranteed an annual income that was more than most top executives earned. And he had a trust fund large enough to ensure that he could live in luxury and never have to spend a day of his life working if he didn't want.
He'd been doing just that for almost a year now. Since graduating from college last year, Justin had spent eight months travelling through Europe and North America. When he had come to Pittsburgh, he had found a place he thought he might like to stay for a while. He bought this condo settled down to see what life would bring him.
What it had brought was boredom. He went to the parties and charity events. He mingled with the social elite of Pittsburgh, the people of privilege just like him that the connections of a lifetime had afforded. But he wasn't happy. This wasn't why he had stayed here. He had stayed because Pittsburgh was, underneath the flash of the glitzy downtown, a blue collar city, with real people and real emotions. The circles he traveled in lived behind masks, and he was tired of living his life like that.
As he watched the lightning strikes in the distance, as the storm moved on to the east, Justin realized he was going to have to leave the comfort of his social circles behind if he was going to find what he was looking for.
Justin got off the bus and smiled to himself. Harrison, his driver, had been outraged when Justin had said he wanted to take public transportation. The older man had told Justin he would get lost, that it was too dangerous, that any of a thousand horrible things could happen. Justin had retaliated that thousands of people took the bus every day and were just fine. He promised to call if there was an emergency, but told Harrison to go home to his wife, Addie, who was Justin's housekeeper and who also happened to be pregnant.
Justin had been very careful about how he had dressed for his night out. He wanted to look good, but he also wanted to fit in. As such, he had made a trip to a local department store to buy non-designer clothes for the first time in his life. He wore brand-name jeans, a plain black tank under a V-neck black sweater to ward off the chilly October air and a pair of black Doc Marten boots. The outfit had cost him less than he would normally pay for a single t-shirt.
The night was alive on Liberty Avenue, the center of the gay community in Pittsburgh, as Justin walked up and down the street just taking everything in. The neon lights of several clubs flashed up ahead. There were quaint little shops still open to the people crowding the sidewalks, despite the late hour. And there was a diner. Justin, who had skipped lunch, realized he was absolutely starving and went inside for something to eat. He took a seat at the counter and surreptitiously watched the other patrons. They were mostly men—gay men—dressed in everything from leather chaps to drag to run of the mill jeans and t-shirt. Justin grinned. This was just what he was looking for.
"Hey there Sunshine," an older redheaded waitress smiled at him. "You've got the brightest smile I've seen in forever. What can I get you?"
"Ham and Swiss on rye," Justin said. "With mustard and a side of potato salad. Oh, and a chocolate milkshake."
"You got it honey," the waitress said and went off to put in his order. When she returned a little later with his food, the crowd had cleared a bit and she leaned on the counter to talk to Justin. "Name's Debbie. I know just about every queer in Pittsburgh, but I've never met you before, Sunshine."
Justin swallowed the bite of sandwich he was chewing. "I'm new in town."
"Where ya from originally?" Debbie asked. Justin could tell she wasn't trying to be nosy, just friendly.
"New York, but I traveled around a lot when I was a kid," Justin said. "After graduating from college last year I traveled a bit more and when I hit Pittsburgh I decided to stick around for a while."
Debbie nodded. "That's gotta be tough. But I'm not sure why anyone would choose here over New York."
"Can you tell me where I can go to dance?" Justin asked. "I saw signs for several clubs out there, but I have no idea which would be good."
"Depends on what you're into," Debbie said. "But if you just want to dance, or if you want to see and be seen, then Babylon's the place to go. You finish up here, and I'll give Eddie a ring. He's the bouncer. Ask for him when you get there and he'll get you set up with a membership card."
"Membership card?" Justin asked.
Debbie grinned. "It's not exclusive or anything, but Babylon has to maintain status as a private club in order not to be shut down for what goes on in the back room."
"Sex?" Justin asked.
"Amongst other things," Debbie snorted.
A little later, as Justin was paying for his dinner, he smiled at Debbie. "Thanks, Debbie. For everything."
"Hey, you got it, Sunshine," Debbie smiled. "I take care of my boys. You come back and see me anytime."
Babylon, at first glance, was just like a hundred other clubs Justin had been to in his travels. The throbbing pulse of the bass, the flashing lights, the half-naked men gyrating against each other…it all felt like coming home. At second glance, Justin could see subtle differences: the way men slipped to a darkened doorway at the back of the club, the stairs to the catwalk which seemed to lead nowhere, yet was always occupied, the quality of the drinks offered at the bar.
Justin was surprised to see a bottle of his favorite scotch on display on the shelf behind the bar and ordered a double. As he sipped the alcohol, he looked out through the crowd and took note of a number of men giving him the eye. He knew he looked good, but usually men were more interested in the size of his wallet than they were in him. These men, on the other hand, knew nothing about him other than he looked good in a pair of jeans and gave off an air of youthful sophistication. Justin smirked. Every single one of those men wanted him, but he was very picky about who he chose to sleep with. And since he was avoiding letting anyone know how wealthy he was, they certainly wouldn't be going home with him.
He finished his drink and went out onto the dance floor. He was careful not to encourage any one dance partner, but moved freely from one to the next as he let the music envelop him completely. One dance blurred into the next, one dancer merged with the others, until the need for air and a drink forced him from the floor.
He had just ordered another scotch double when he felt the presence of a tall man next to him. He paid for his drink and took a sip before he bothered to look at the man crowding his personal space.
"Not many people order the 16 year old Lagavulin. Hell, most of these pricks haven't even heard of it."
"I spent a few weeks in Scotland," Justin shrugged. "Discovered this in a brewery in Islay. I was surprised to find it in a nightclub in Pittsburgh."
"I keep it stocked because I like it," the man said. "I'm Brian Kinney. I own this place, and I haven't seen you here before."
Justin grinned at the man. "Justin Taylor. I'm new in town."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Brian smirked. "You must have done something bad in a past life to end up in the Pitts."
Justin took a long swallow of his scotch as he looked Brian over. "Actually, I think I like it here."
"Then you're either from some very small boring backwater town, or you're insane," Brian said.
"Neither," Justin laughed as he finished his drink. "I'm from Manhattan originally, but I've traveled a lot. Enough talk. Are you going to ask me to dance, or what?"
Brian quirked a single eyebrow and bit his lips before allowing a grin to escape. He held out a hand to Justin and said, "Shall we?"
As they danced, Justin took the opportunity to really look Brian over. He was in his mid-thirties; not the oldest man Justin had ever been with, but certainly older than most of his past lovers. He was tall and well-built; he obviously took care of his body. And he had a smile that could be wickedly seductive, mischievous, and sweet in turns. He obviously wasn't your run of the mill gay man from Pittsburgh. Half of the men in the place were watching them now. Brian obviously was something of a local hero or celebrity. The fact that he owned the nightclub they were in probably played a factor in that, but it wasn't just that. Brian was a predator, but Justin had dealt with predators before.
The fact was, Brian interested him. He was well dressed in designer names that Justin had hanging in his own closet, yet he seemed to fit in with the crowd. Justin wanted that even more than he wanted Brian. And he wanted Brian a lot.
After moving together for what seemed like hours, Brian leaned into Justin and asked, "The back room or my place?"
Justin didn't have to think about that. "Your place."
Justin liked Brian's loft. It was sleek and modern without being cold and uninviting. He thought it might have something to do with the exposed brick and wood rafters. Justin had a hard time making his penthouse feel warm without losing the modern feel.
They had fucked for hours until they had both passed out from sheer exhaustion. Justin, however, didn't sleep well in strange places and woke up only a couple hours after falling asleep. Now he was lying in Brian's bed, with Brian's arms wrapped around his waist, and comparing this space with his own. It seemed like a silly thing to do. If he couldn't sleep, he should probably go home. But he wasn't sure about the buses around here, and it was still too early to call Harrison. Not that Harrison would have objected, but Justin would feel guilty about getting the man out of bed in the middle of the night to pick him up from a trick's house.
After about an hour, however, Justin was completely bored, so he carefully shifted Brian's arm and slid out of bed as quietly as he could. He found his clothes scattered around the loft and began pulling them on. Once he was dressed, he quietly called a taxi. The sight of Brian lying so peacefully in his bed, however, called to Justin. So, while he waited for the taxi to arrive, he found a scrap of paper and began to draw.
Brian woke the next morning with a smile on his face. The trick last night had been one of the best. He was inventive and adventurous in bed, and he was interesting out of bed. If there had ever been a man to break his no repeats rule for, it would be this man. As it was, he was looking forward to at least one more go-round before Justin left. But when he reached for the younger man, Brian's hand felt nothing but cold sheets.
A quick look around the loft told him the blond was gone. Brian lay back against his pillow and sighed. Well, it had been a nice thought.
It wasn't until he had showered and went to the kitchen for something to eat that he found the paper on the counter. There was a pencil sketch of him in bed on a scrap of paper. Considering the man must have done it in the semi-darkness and in a hurry, it was unbelievably good. There was no signature on the picture and no note, but there was a cell phone number. Brian smirked. Maybe he could call this guy sometime. Even just to be friends. He really liked his style, and there was something under the surface that piqued Brian's curiosity.