Patrick hadn’t allowed himself to google David.
He probably should have, before signing up as his business partner. Some due diligence was reasonable. And he wanted to—of course he did, David’s past was nothing if not interesting—but it seemed unfair, somehow. Imbalanced. If David googled him (not that he’d want to, but if he did), he’d find an unused Facebook, a list of business graduates from UBC, and a few articles from his hometown paper about high school baseball games.
The extent to which he could invade David’s privacy online made him feel vaguely guilty, so he left it alone.
Sebastien Raine, on the other hand, he googled less than five minutes after he got back to his sad rented room, and less than two hours after hearing David imply to Stevie that the two had slept together.
The difference, he told himself, was that he wanted to learn about David from David. That felt respectful, and frankly he was looking forward to it. David was just so… unique. If he told his mother about him—which he hadn’t yet, for some reason he didn’t examine too closely—she would say that his business partner sounded like ‘something else.’
Sebastien was different. Patrick was merely satisfying idle curiosity.
‘Idle curiosity’ is what Patrick was calling that weird, awful feeling in his gut, for lack of a better term.
Mostly it was just a lot of freaky black and white photographs. There were some articles linking him to David, which Patrick studiously avoided. The short Wikipedia stub told him that Sebastien’s parents were oil-rich Texans with the innocuous last name of Fischer.
Well, there you have it. Patrick filed the fact away out of order in his mind, retroactively justifying his visceral reaction to David’s ex. Of course he hated this guy. He changed his name from Sebastian Fischer to Sebastien Raine. Plus he took weird pictures of rail-thin, naked women wearing animal masks on New York City street corners.
Anyone would hate this guy.
Well, David hadn’t, apparently. At some point.
He does now, though, Patrick thought defensively. And anyway, David just had terrible judgement—great taste, but terrible judgement. He was full of contradictions like that: unearned confidence and irrational insecurity, insincerity barely covering almost painful earnestness, keen intelligence with a total inability to apply it to real life situations.
Clumsy grace. Androgynous style over broad, masculine shoulders. Soft-looking skin and rough five-o’clock shadow.
Patrick decided, forcefully, to stop that train of thought before it ran off the rails.
Sebastien himself was undeniably beautiful, but Patrick only admitted it grudgingly as he clicked around the photographer’s pretentiously minimalist website. On a surface level, he could kind of see why David had been interested, although it was still hard to believe he hadn’t had better options than this douchebag back when he was some kind of socialite.
Maybe Sebastien made a better impression in person, as opposed to frowning from a grayscale website above an incomprehensible artist’s statement. Scowling, Patrick went back to the search results and clicked from web search to image search.
He immediately regretted it.
One of the top pictures wasn’t Sebastien at all, but David, shirtless and wearing jeans that looked expensive and dirty. Except David was about thirty pounds lighter, far too light for his frame, and there was a dark bruise on his cheek under one eye. Stomach clenching, Patrick hoped it was makeup.
There was a small smear of white powder under his nose, and even Patrick wasn’t naive enough to believe that that might be makeup.
The more details he took in, the sicker he felt. David looked high out of his mind, narrow eyes almost closed and mouth half-open. His hands were bound above him to a hook, making his ribs prominent. His chest was waxed, and Jesus, all Patrick could think staring at it was how much better his chest looked now. Not that Patrick had seen him without a sweater, of course, but he could still tell. There was meat on his bones now, and it suited him. The jeans were pulled low at his hips, exposing a hairless stomach, and that Patrick knew for a fact was different. He’d seen a trail of dark hair two days ago when David stretched to reach the highest display shelves.
Nauseated, but in too deep to stop himself, Patrick clicked on the image to see the article it came from. He skimmed for exactly twenty seconds—
“Rose Video Heir Sues Over Racy Exhibit”
“David Rose, son of business magnate Johnny Rose, alleges that the photographs were taken without his knowledge or consent...”
“The collection, which includes disturbing images not suitable for children, is showing from April 15 to May 30 at RaineFall Gallery in the Bronx.”
—before shutting his browser, then his laptop.
The next day, Patrick didn’t tease David even once.
When he went over for lunch—he was still working for Ray in the mornings—Patrick brought him a piece of pie from the cafe. And when David said something about not needing the calories, he smacked him lightly upside the head (“My hair!”) and scoffed.
David ate the pie with slightly pink ears, after politely and insincerely offering to split it.
While he ate, Patrick talked a little more about their business plan, with a couple of gratuitous comments about what a smart idea it was and why he was so confident in its success. By the time they began working, David was practically glowing.
“I know we said I’d handle tech, but I think you should set up the social media stuff,” Patrick said, ticking an item off his agenda.
“Yeah, yes, no offense, but, um, our target market wouldn’t be caught dead on Facebook? So yes, Patrick, I figured you’d be out of your depth, um, in that arena.”
Patrick set down his legal pad and grinned at his business partner. “How- did you google me or something?”
“Of course I did. Like, thirty seconds after meeting you,” David said without looking up from the bottles of anise and clove mouthwash he was arranging. His voice and posture didn’t reveal even a shred of embarrassment, but his ears were pink again.