Authors: Kelly Wyre
Tags: #LGBT, #Contemporary
Nathan had gotten the job.
After that, shit had gotten complicated and completely out of control.
Marching into the building, Nathan beamed at Valerie behind the front desk, her headset in place and blouse low-cut. “Moore Agency, please hold.” She hit a button. “Good morning, Nathan, honey. Your mail?” She handed him a stack of envelopes held together with a rubber band.
“Thank you. How’d Maddy do at the game?”
“Cheered her little heart out! Team lost, but what does she care?” Valerie laughed and hit another button. “Moore Agency, how may I direct your call?”
Nathan winked at her and walked out of the lobby. The company occupied all three floors of the business condo. The main floor was the order center, which made sales calls, managed fulfillment needs, and contacted vendors. It wasn’t big, only ten people in wooden-panel cubicles. It was where Nathan had started, and the hours had been insane.
The floor manager’s office was in one corner, and Nathan headed to Paul Weiss’s doorway. Paul was eating a greasy breakfast sandwich with his feet on the desk. Nathan knocked, and Paul spun around, chair creaking.
“The hell are you eating?” Nathan asked.
“Power food, man.” Paul grinned. He was slightly taller than Nathan, so around six foot two, and built like a linebacker going soft in retirement. Paul had brown hair, brown eyes, and a wedding ring that was cleaner on the inside than the outside. Pictures of his wife and four kids were everywhere in his office. “You on for this afternoon?”
“Yeah. Need it.”
Paul’s grin grew wider. “Overdo it this weekend?”
Nathan laughed on cue. “Don’t I always? Went out to a club, partied all night, sexed somebody up, didn’t get the name…” Nathan’s heart pounded louder for a few beats but settled fast. All part of the act, the honesty without conviction.
Paul rolled his eyes. “Which means you, what, stayed home with Laura and watched her romantic comedy collection?”
“Bullshit.” Nathan hitched his briefcase strap higher on his shoulder. “We both know it’s
romantic comedy collection.”
“Oh right!” Paul clucked his tongue. “You’re the pussy in the relationship. Damn. I always forget.”
Nathan shrugged. “If it’s what the lady wants…”
“Then you bend over and take it.”
“Hey, you haven’t seen her in leather, man.”
Paul kicked back in his chair, hands folded behind his head. “Jesus, I wish. So, what, four?”
“Four’s good.” Nathan hit the door frame with his fist and then pointed at Paul. “See you here, ready to go. Gonna kick your ass on the racquetball court.”
“We’ll see, buddy.” Paul swung around to his breakfast. “We’ll fuh-kin’ see.”
Nathan stepped away and strode past the cubicles. He’d almost made his exit when a sickly sweet voice called his name. He stopped and turned, spotting Kayleigh in the corner cube. She crossed her legs, which were covered in black tights beneath her short dress, and she swung one boot-covered foot. “Saw you off Kingston this morning, Mr. Hunt.” Kayleigh had worked in sales for six months and was angling for a fast promotion to account manager. She likely thought it was working too, since she and Paul regularly went at it after hours on the table in the break room. And the desk in Paul’s office. And Nathan didn’t want to know where else.
“Did I look good?” Nathan called to her, walking backward and smiling. Thank God the woman knew better than to try for the man engaged to the president’s daughter. Well, not more than once, anyway. Nathan had obliquely rebuked her months ago by bringing up Laura with every other sentence. Kayleigh still took any chance she got to play coy, though, just in case Nathan liked it and would put in a good word with the boss man.
“Always.” Kayleigh smirked and swiveled to answer her phone. Her lip gloss looked slimy even at a distance.
Repressing a shudder, Nathan rounded the corner, nodded to Mike at the copier, and went up the stairs to the second floor, forgoing the rear elevator. The account manager offices were up here, including Nathan’s, and the top floor had a conference room, Greg’s office, and supplies.
No sooner had Nathan stepped onto the floor than Angel Mackenrow waved him down. Across the open room ringed by offices, she made a series of gestures that were complete nonsense: tugged her ear, touched her nose, brushed both shoulders, and finally swept one hand in a wide, curving arc over her flat stomach, as though suggesting someone was with child.
Greg Moore was in Nathan’s office.
Taking a deep breath, Nathan curled his arms and flapped them like a chicken, crossing his eyes at the same time. Angel pointed at Nathan. She nodded emphatically, and then dragged the blade of her hand across her throat. Ominous as it was, she was grinning, and Nathan hopped in a quick two-step jig, giving her the queen’s wave. She slapped her palm to her forehead and ducked into her own office, the warning given.
Nathan stopped at the coffee machine, filled two mugs, and added a heavy dose of creamer to one of the cups. Making sure he didn’t slosh, Nathan set his resolve and walked into his corner office. The rear two walls were lined with windows, giving him a view of trees and the rest of the office park. His desk was L-shaped and real cherry. There was even a putting green, albeit a small one, unrolled under one of the windows. He’d inherited the whole setup from the last man who’d had the office, Doug Singleforthe, who had the distinct honor of being one of the only employees Greg had personally fired in the last ten years.
“Nathan,” Greg said, shutting off his phone. He didn’t get up out of the plush leather chair. He eyed the coffee and accepted the mug when Nathan handed him the creamed one.
“Morning,” Nathan said.
“Valerie warn you I was in here?”
“Nah,” Nathan answered, walking around his desk and setting down his bag and coffee mug. “Just a hunch.”
Greg grunted. At sixty-five, Greg had thick white hair and beady dark eyes hidden behind black-rimmed glasses. He was shorter than Nathan by a few inches, but he made up for it with the imposing air and the Hulk-sized ego. He had a comfortable paunch that he masked with well-cut suits. Today’s was a dark gray pinstripe over a royal blue shirt. Thank God the other, repressed, real Nathan didn’t have a thing for Daddy figures; otherwise, after six shots of tequila, Greg might be attractive.
“Missed you yesterday, son.” Greg slurped his coffee.
Nathan adopted a contrite expression. “I’m sorry about that, sir.”
“Greg,” the man corrected, gently. “We’re long past the formalities.”
“Right. Two sorrys, then.” Nathan smiled. “Think it was a twenty-four-hour thing.” Or years, Nathan thought. Really, it was years. “Feeling fine, now.”
“Good,” Greg pronounced. “There’s no substitute for your health, and I know Laura was worried.”
“I’ll make it up to her.”
“Bah.” Greg waved one hand. “Don’t let her ride you too hard. Laura likes her schedules and for everything to be exactly where, when, and how she thinks it should be.” Greg chuckled, sipping more coffee. “Such a little pistol.”
“She is her father’s daughter,” Nathan agreed.
“You’re good for her,” Greg mused, and Nathan remained silent, waiting for the rest of the speech. It was one he’d heard many times, how Nathan was a calming influence on Greg’s youngest, fiercest, ex-navy daughter.
“She seems happier now than I’ve ever seen her.” Greg swung his gaze from the windows to Nathan. “There’s no peace like that which comes from knowing your children are content, save that of our Lord’s grace.”
Greg put the coffee on a coaster. “She’s planning up a storm, I hear. How go things on that front from your end?”
“Oh, I mostly stay out of it. Let Laura have her fun.”
Greg grinned. “Self-preservation at its finest, son. Let the women have their napkins and venues. Get the suit and show up on time, am I right?”
“Always,” Nathan said on autopilot.
“I remember Barb before our engagement party.” Greg sighed, and Nathan surreptitiously made himself more comfortable. Greg was in one of his storytelling moods. They could be here awhile. “It’s a family tradition, these parties. Goes all the way back to my grandfather. I courted Barb for the full year, and half of Atlanta came to our soiree. She always hated public things, still does. She nearly threw up in a potted plant before we made our entrance.” Greg shook his head, paused, and squinted at Nathan, who froze, a mouse suddenly spotted by the eagle. “I was worried about you kids in the beginning. All that together-not-together business.”
Nathan nodded. “We worked out our differences.”
“So you did, so you did.” Greg studied Nathan, and though Nathan remained outwardly calm, he’d be wearing his damned jacket all day to hide the sweat stains under his arms. He breathed and thought of the kid from two nights ago, of flesh striking flesh, of grit and moans and snorting lines. Nathan gave Greg a small smile.
“You ready for the meeting?” Greg barked, changing gears in a blink.
“Oh yeah,” Nathan replied smoothly. He bent to pull folders and his laptop out of his briefcase. “We’re good to go for the interactive displays for the Baptist Marriage Convention in Memphis. I spoke to Cal on Friday, and the production’s finished. We’re at the installation phase, and I’ve got a phone meeting with a representative at the convention center this afternoon.”
“God bless technology,” Greg said. “And your friend who knows how to use it.”
“Cal’s a good guy.” Nathan had met Cal Vaughn freshman year in college. Cal had studied to be an engineer, and after he’d graduated, he’d started working with a company that built and set up interactive booths and displays in museums and theme parks. They’d been trying to launch a line of simpler setups in conventions, fairs, and smaller events, and Nathan, who had been working the sales floor at the time, had taken the idea to Paul. From there it had gone to account management and then to Greg.
A year later, and the Moore Agency and Cal’s company, InterTek, were closely aligned. Cal was grateful, as it meant more money and steps up for him too. He was so grateful, in fact, that he never said word one about how he and Nathan used to suck each other’s cocks on a regular basis and were now making interactive displays for religious organizations that had condemned their lot to hell. Business was business, and Cal remained a friend who knew how to keep his mouth shut.
“And you’ve got the rest?” Greg asked.
Nathan nodded. “Had the art guys over at Hill Design send me samples of all the print materials. And I went ahead and had them work up designs for the World Religions Meeting.”
Greg grinned. “They won’t be expecting that.”
“Nope, but since John’s on the council,” Nathan said, referring to John Stein, the president of the National Baptist Convention, with whom they’d be meeting this morning, “I thought it couldn’t hurt to show them how we could help make their lives easier abroad.”
“The meeting’s in Korea.” Greg rubbed his chin. “The people in Memphis would be beside themselves if we managed to get in on that. It’d be bigger than sixty percent of what they handle out of the Texas office.”
“All for the good of the company.”
Greg gave Nathan a sharp look and waggled a finger at him. “And the Lord, son. And the Lord.”
“May He be with us,” Nathan said soberly.
The edges of Greg’s expression softened. “He is, He is.” Greg stood, and Nathan stepped from behind the desk to walk with Greg to the door. “See you upstairs in thirty.”
“I’ll be there, guns blazing.”
“Good.” Greg slapped Nathan’s shoulder after a moment. “Proud of you, son. Without your ideas and connections, we wouldn’t have our ties to Cal or Hill Design or be able to offer our clients the range of services we do. You’ve expanded business like I never thought possible.”
Greg’s dark eyes gleamed, and Nathan had to look away. The pride was too clear. Nathan knew Greg better than to think it was all about money. Greg might only give such glowing praise to the men and women he felt served Greg’s Lord the best, but Nathan had to admit that when Greg liked what one of his people did, he made it undeniably clear.
Nathan swallowed. “Thank you.”
Greg leaned closer, and Nathan smelled aftershave and coffee. “I know your father’s too blinded by the drink Satan has made him love more than his own blood to be grateful for the man you’ve become, but I can tell you I am, son. Pride’s a sin, but in gratitude we serve, and I look forward to you officially joining our family.”
A lump rose in Nathan’s throat, and fixed by such sincerity, he couldn’t say a single word. Greg seemed to take that as Nathan being truly moved as opposed to truly guilty and clapped Nathan on the shoulder again. “And what about you on that billboard off Kingston?”
“Oh…that…” Nathan tried a laugh, but it sounded forced. As changes of subject went, this one was no better.
“Nothing to be ashamed of, son,” Greg said, taking Nathan’s speechlessness and rising blush as a sign of self-consciousness. “Being the face of the Straight Alliance is a privilege.”
“One that I still can’t believe you talked me into,” Nathan muttered. All over the city, Nathan’s benevolent smile shone down from billboards and out of posters plastered to bus stops, airport walls, and anywhere else the Alliance’s media buyer had thought appropriate. The money had been nice, but some of the taglines next to Nathan’s photo made him cringe. Text about saving marriage from the hands of the condemned, what marriage should be, what was right by their narrow standards. Nathan didn’t believe any of it, and it didn’t have anything to do with being gay or straight, religious or not, closeted or out. It had to do with being
. Nathan had grossly underestimated how awful it would feel to see himself associated with what amounted to piles of shit pasted for the world to see. And, of course, it was too late to do anything about it.
Greg laughed. “You’ve got a good, honest face, son. Use what the Lord gave you.”
“Oh, I do. Trust me.”
Cackling trailed behind Greg as he made his exit. Nathan went back to his desk, sinking into his chair. He held his head in his hands.