“I know dick all about this stuff.” Vincent Williams pushed his chair away from the desk. “Doug did all the fluffy stuff. I handled the books. How in hell am I supposed to run this place on my own?”
“He’s giving you the opportunity to buy him out, Vince. I think it’s a good move,” Bradley Ross told him, giving him that attorney look. “Hire people, people who know how to do the … ah … fluffy stuff.” He snapped his briefcase shut.
Vincent looked at his best friend. He and Bradley had been at university together. Actually, Bradley had been his first real fuck. But it would have never worked out between them. They were too much alike, both dominants with hard heads.
Two years out of university, Vincent had met Doug. He’d hired on as a part-time accountant for Doug’s fledging catering business, a business which had grown into one of the most successful special event planning enterprises on the East Coast. They’d built their company, Events, together, with Vincent crunching the numbers and Doug doing what he did best, charming the clients and throwing events that were talked about in the society pages and in Lifestyles of the Rich and Glamorous.
“I can’t believe he’s throwing everything away for a piece of ass.” Vincent ran a hand through his collar-length black hair.
“Are you talking about you or the business now?”
The question hung in the air like a heavy shroud. Vincent closed his eyes for a minute. Five years of his life down the toilet. He’d been positive that he and Doug were forever. They’d had a great life, nice house, more money than anyone actually needed, fantastic sex—at least it had been fantastic to him. “I hope Doug gets what he needs from Andrew, because apparently he couldn’t get it from me.”
“Doug was an idiot for leaving you,” Bradley said, his voice bitter. “One day he’ll wake up and realize what he’s done. I hope you’re not stupid enough to take him back.”
Vincent looked up at him. Bradley was standing there in his tailored navy suit and white shirt, his matching tie askew. He was getting those distinguished gray strands around the temples now, premature gray, but it suited him. “I’m surprised at you, Brad.” Vincent smirked. “I thought you liked Dougie.”
“He was a little shit,” he muttered, reaching over and ruffling Vincent’s hair. “You were too fucking good for him. You know I always hoped that we…”
“Doug,” Vincent said, holding up his hand, “we’re friends. Let’s not ruin it. We’d kill each other. Besides, I’m through with this stuff.”
“What do you mean, through with this stuff? You’re twenty-nine years old, for Christ’s sakes. What in hell are you planning on doing—joining the priesthood?”
“I didn’t say I was taking a vow of chastity. I mean I’m through with relationships.” Vincent stood up. “From now on, I’m a love ’em and leave ’em kind of guy.”
“Oh, brother.” Bradley rolled his eyes. “You’ll change your mind. Now, should I draw up the papers? He’s offering you a good deal. Grab it before he realizes what he’s giving away.”
Vincent sighed. “Okay. Send the papers over. I’ll sign them. But I still don’t know how I’m going to run this place without him.”
Bradley gave him a hug. “Simple. Hire someone to head up the planning team, and do what you’ve always done—boss people around. You’re good at that.” He smirked.
“Gee thanks, Brad. I think.” Vincent walked him down the carpeted corridor to the elevator.
“We’re on for Friday night, beer and pizza. Game starts at seven.”
“Yeah, okay.” Vincent sighed. “I’ll bring the brews.”
The elevator dinged and Bradley got on. “Keep the faith, sweetie,” he said softly. “The pain won’t last forever.”
The doors closed. Vincent stood there for a moment, studying his reflection in the gold mirrored door. He was six-four and in great shape, having installed a gym in the office four years ago for the staff. His black hair was thick, a little wavy, his brown eyes large and wide set. He had a square jaw, and one of those fashionable shadows. He knew he took himself a little too seriously sometimes, but was he really that bad? Doug had often accused him of being “such a man.” But they’d balanced one another. Doug was outgoing, flamboyant sometimes to the point of being outrageous. He thought with his heart, didn’t look ahead, was spontaneous and a little reckless. Vincent was the rational one, the levelheaded businessman. Maybe he was too unemotional. God, but he missed him. He missed the way Doug used to wake him up in the morning, lips caressing Vincent’s dick. He even missed that silly little song Doug used to sing to him … sugar is sweet, my love, but not as sweet as you…
Everything had been good between them until Andrew had come to work for them. Vincent hadn’t trusted that little twerp from the minute he set eyes on him. Andrew looked like a blond angel, delicate, fine boned, with a soft, silky voice, and he’d always seemed eager to please. Too eager. Several times Andrew had walked into Vincent’s office and given him that come-on look. He had a habit of telling the staff stories about his one-night stands, and he didn’t spare any of the details, resulting in them being practically pornographic. Doug was enchanted by him. The customers adored him. Vincent couldn’t stand him. One day, a few weeks after Andrew had been hired, Vincent told Doug he thought they should let Andrew go.
“Let him go?” Doug had squawked, looking at Vincent as if he’d lost his mind. “Why in the hell would we do that? Andrew is doing a bang-up job. I’m thinking of promoting him.”
“He’s a sleaze.”
“Why, because he tells raunchy stories?” Doug laughed. “Lighten up. You’re so stuffy.”
“Yeah. We should have sex like that.”
“He’s full of shit,” Vincent had protested. “Don’t tell me that you believe all that stuff? And even if any of its true, why in hell does he have to come in here and tell us all about it?”
“I like hearing about it,” Doug replied.
“Turns you on?”
“Well, something has to.”
“I thought we were okay in the bedroom. Is there a problem?”
Doug smiled at him. “No. It’s just that it gets a little old, you know? We need to spice it up.”
“Well, maybe it’s not just me,” Vincent threw back defensively.
“I didn’t say you, I said we. Now, can we drop it? I’m not firing Andrew.”
“Even if I don’t want him here?”
“We have to both agree, and I don’t. So the subject is closed.”
Little did he know that Doug was already fucking Andrew at that point. A few weeks later, he began to suspect something was going on. Then he found them together, and in Doug’s and Vincent’s bed, on top of that. He had stood there numb while Andrew hastily threw on his clothes and Doug sat cross-legged in the middle of the bed with his face in his hands.
On the way out, Andrew had come close to him and said, “If it’s any consolation to you, beauty, it was you I wanted to fuck all along.” If Andrew hadn’t hightailed it out the door at that moment, Vincent would have sent him flying across the room.
He and Doug had had one hell of a fight. They’d said some things that neither one of them could ever take back. Vincent had spent the rest of the evening drinking in a nearby bar, finally coming home in a cab, and somehow crawling to the sofa. When he’d awakened, he’d been almost prepared to forgive Doug, despite the pain and the betrayal. What would he do without his Dougie? But Doug was gone. He’d packed his clothes and left. There was no note, nothing.
At the office, everything was chaos. There was no one to take care of all the events Doug was coordinating. Barbara, the office manager, was in a spin. Doug’s departure cost the company thousands of dollars, not to mention that Vincent was stuck trying to appease and compensate an array of really pissed-off clients.
Finally, three weeks later, after Vincent had compensated the irate and temporarily suspended all activity, some attorney in Switzerland contacted Bradley with an offer to sell him Doug’s share of Events. This was the final death knell. Doug didn’t even have enough respect to contact him personally. Apparently he’d run off to bloody Switzerland with Andrew, prepared to throw everything away.
Vincent jolted out of his unwanted memories when he noticed Barbara standing beside him. She too studied him in the reflection of the elevator doors. Barbara was fifty years old, but with her boyish salt-and-pepper bob and her matronly gray suit, she looked sixty. She also had a mouth like a sailor. Without her, he would have closed the door on this place weeks ago.
“What in hell are you standing here for? Get over yourself, you’re beautiful,” she said.
“Why, thank you, Barbara, old girl”—he placed an arm around her slight shoulders and gave her a squeeze—“you’re not so bad yourself.”
She pushed him off. “Don’t get fresh with me. I want to know what’s going on. Are you buying this place, or aren’t you? If not, I’m expecting one hell of a severance package, cookie.”
He smiled faintly. “I guess I better buy it. I don’t think I could afford that.”
She followed him as he walked down the hallway. “You bet your ass you couldn’t. I don’t come cheap,” she told him. “And don’t think you can run this place on your own. You don’t know dick shit about planning parties, mister. So I better start putting out some help wanted ads, don’t you think?”
“Who do we still have on staff?” He turned to look at her.
“You, me. You laid everyone off except for a skeleton crew. We’ve lost some of the caterers. They’re going elsewhere. And they’re calling about their compensation packages.”
“Well, call them back. Get as many of them as you can. Tell them if they come back, they’ll all be paid for the time they missed.”
She jotted everything down on her clipboard. “They’ll like that.”
“I’ll make up an ad for a coordinator. We need one fast.”
“Looks like you’ll just have to coordinate, honey, until we find one. We got clients waiting, big ones. We need to get back on the horse.”
Vincent nodded. “Okay, pick the most important clients and bring me a list. No weddings. I’m not doing any fucking weddings.”
“Okay.” She turned to go then paused, glancing at Vincent over her shoulder. “And boss, if it’s any consolation to you, I didn’t like that fucking asshole, Andrew. He was full of it. And no one can fuck the way he claimed.”
Vincent’s eyes widened for a second. “I didn’t know you were listening to all those stories, Barb.”
She shrugged. “Only when I was bored.”
* * * *
Luckily, most of the staff came back. Barb put a full-page ad in the paper for a coordinator, and they were as busy as ever. Vincent was working like a crazy man. He signed the papers Bradley sent over and purchased Doug’s share of the business, faxing everything to the bank and to Bradley’s office. As he dealt with fussy clients and overcooked pasta salad, he almost regretted his decisions.
One night, several weeks after he became sole owner of Events, he found himself practically crawling to the elevator. He was beat. He really needed to find someone to replace Doug, and soon. He wouldn’t be able to keep up this pace. He paused just before pressing the elevator button, noticing that Barbara was still in her office. “Hey”—he popped his head in the door—“I thought you’d gone home.”
“I will soon,” she said, punching something into the computer. “I just need to finish up these invoices.”
“I really appreciate you picking up the slack for me, Barb,” he said. “I haven’t had a minute to check the books at all.”
“You look beat. You should go home and get some sleep.”
“I will. I’m just going to stop by the Crystal Room to check on the Bryant retirement party.”
“I’m sure it’s fine,” she said with a wave at him.
“I think I’m going to hire a new secretary.”
She looked up at him. “Why? You’re not happy with my work now?”
“It’s time for a promotion. You’ve earned it. You’re my assistant now; how about a raise in salary, a new office, your own secretary. What do you say?”
She grinned. “I say you’re using your head.”
He laughed. That was Barb. “Any replies to the ad?”
She frowned. “Only ones you don’t want to know about.”
He sighed. “Damn.”
“It won’t be easy to replace Doug.”
That hit home. He blanched.
“Oh God, Vince, I’m sorry.”
He held up a hand. “I know what you mean, and I agree. Doug was good at what he did. What happened between us doesn’t change that. Now, shut down the computer, and come on. You can finish that tomorrow. I’ll walk you to your car.”
In the parking lot, she reached up and touched his cheek. “You’re a good man, Vincent, and one hell of a hunk. If you liked pussy, I’d take you home and give you a night to remember.” She winked at him.
He threw back his head and laughed, gave her a hug, and held the door open for her as she slid inside. “Thanks, Barb.”
“Now, go to one of those sweaty macho bars and get yourself laid. You deserve it.”
“Not a bad idea.” He nodded, lifting a hand as she drove off. He stifled a yawn and got into his car. He made a quick stop at the reception hall, spoke to the client, who was extremely satisfied, and then drove downtown to the gay district. He’d stop in and have a quick drink at the Iron Fountain, a bar that he and Doug used to drink at when they first got together.
When he pulled into the parking lot, he discovered that it wasn’t called the Iron Fountain anymore. It was called the Love Tunnel. Go figure. That’s what he got for settling down like an old married man.
He felt a little overdressed when he walked in and looked around. The place was packed with wall-to-wall men, many of them shirtless and wearing incredibly tight pants. The smell of leather was unmistakable. Some techno tune blared in his ears as he made his way to the bar, pausing to glance up at the naked dancer, who was strutting his stuff in a cage built like an intricate apparatus.
Vincent was wearing an expensive dark olive Armani suit, and he was already feeling the heat. He shrugged out of the jacket as he ordered a gin and tonic, grateful that at least he hadn’t worn a tie. When two hands clamped onto his ass cheeks like a vise, he slopped his drink all over his pale yellow dress shirt. He turned around to face that dancer he’d spied jumping around in the cage, his considerable assets now barely covered by something which resembled a loincloth.
“Buns of fucking steel,” said the dancer with a laugh, his long pale hair plastered to his head. His body was slick with the results of his exertion, and Vincent couldn’t deny that it was a huge turn-on. At least, his cock seemed to think so. He held out his hand. “I’m Frankie. Guess I gave you a scare,” he said, eyeing Vincent’s shirt. “You should take that off.”
Vincent took his hand.
Frankie pulled him forward and said in his ear, “God, you’re so hot. I saw you from the cage, and I thought I’d better get down here and stake my claim. Almost every fucking guy in the joint is hard looking at you, baby. Come home with me.”
Vincent was in shock. Was this guy shitting him? He glanced around. Some guy smiled at him; another winked. Damn. He laughed, put his drink down. “Where do you live?”
“I got a room across the street; convenient, eh?”
“Ah, yeah,” Vincent said. “Don’t you have to get back up there?” He looked at the cage.
“Naw, Denis is going to cover for me. Come on baby, I can’t wait to get you out of that expensive suit.”
Frankie excused himself to get his clothes, then returned while doing up his shirt. Without a word, he headed for the door. Vincent figured he was supposed to follow. When they got outside, Frankie grabbed him and pressed him up against the wall, kissing him hard. He placed one hand on his cock and squeezed. “Oh yeah,” he said, backing away, “just what I thought. You’re hung, fully loaded, baby, just the way I like it. Come on.”
The dancer ran across the alley, whooping like a banshee; Vincent laughed, chasing after him, suddenly feeling like a teenager. They were both breathless when they reached the second floor of a shabby-looking building. At one of the doors, the dancer shoved the key in the lock, struggled with it a bit, then pushed the door open.
The light switched on. There was a single bed, a nightstand, a sink in the corner, and an old thirteen-inch television sitting on a bureau near the window. “The can is down the hall if you need to take a piss.” He whipped off his shirt, then rubbed his erection; his cock pushed against the confines of his tight pants. “See how hard I am?”
Vincent saw. This guy had a gorgeous body, perfect thighs, great chest, and an ass which probably could have made a fortune in underwear commercials. “Do you want me to dance for you?”
Vincent undid his own shirt and took it off. “No,” he breathed. “I want to fuck you.”
Frankie grinned as he slid his pants off, then came closer. “Even better.” He brushed Vincent’s hands aside and pulled down the zipper on his pants. “So, what do you do?”
“Anything you want.”
Frankie met his gaze. “Damn, if you aren’t a sight for sore eyes, and sexy. I actually meant for a living, not in bed, but you can tell me that too.” He pushed Vincent’s pants down over his hips.
Vincent stepped out of them. “I breathe work. Can we not talk at all?”
Frankie traced the outline of Vincent’s erection through the underwear. “Suits me, beautiful.”
“Take it out,” Vincent told him.
Frankie pulled the underwear down over Vincent’s cock. It bounced out of his pants, hard and straight. Frankie ran his thumb over the head, licking his lips. “Wow,” he said softly, “that’s better than in my wildest fantasies. I’m going to swallow you whole.”
Vincent put a hand on his shoulder and drove him to his knees. “Then go to it, baby.”
He watched as Frankie took his cock into his mouth, inch by inch, murmuring his pleasure as he did. A tongue lashed the circumference, dipping into the slit, lips drawing tight around the base. Frankie’s head went back, his throat opening, muscles working their magic. Vincent’s hand settled in Frankie’s hair, pulled.
He didn’t realize how much he needed this until now. He really hadn’t had the time to digest all the stress he’d been under the last few weeks. The man he thought he’d spend the rest of his life with had run off with a younger man, leaving him with a vacuum where his heart once was and a business that was damn near impossible to run without Doug’s expertise and charm. Vincent had been operating in survival mode, denying a deep hurt which burrowed down under his skin and took root in his gut. He closed his eyes. Finally, at this moment, he felt wanted again. He gasped, moaned something, and felt his cock begin to empty into Frankie’s throat. All that stress released suddenly. He grabbed the dancer’s head and fucked his face hard, pumping into him as he shouted out his release.
Frankie relinquished his hold on Vincent’s cock. He sprang to his feet, dragged him forward into his arms, and dug his tongue deep into Vincent’s mouth. They stumbled together as Frankie moved his hands over him, pinching his nipples, roughly fondling his balls, bringing him again back to life.
Against the wall, Frankie lifted his arms over his head, pinning him there, gazing intently into his eyes. “You have a fantastic body. I want to taste it, every inch. Keep your hands like that, over your head. It’s so sexy.”
Vincent closed his eyes as Frankie licked down the length of his throat, slowly circling each nipple then kissing across his chest to his abs. One hand slowly stroked his cock, as the other snaked around to his ass and aggressively began to flirt with his anus.
Vincent grunted; he freed one hand from the wall to find Frankie’s erection. Vincent grabbed his hips and swung him around so that Frankie was facing the wall. “Spread your legs,” he told him, pushing his thighs apart.
Frankie was hyperventilating. “Fuck me,” he urged.
“Not yet. Soon,” he grunted, his lips on the back of Frankie’s neck. “Lube, condoms. I don’t have any.”
“Nightstand,” the other man grunted.
Vincent found them easily. He squirted lube on his fingers. One hand found Frankie’s nipple, explored it, brought it to a peak; the other opened his ass and began to slowly twirl one slick finger around his entrance.
“Oh baby, yeah,” Frankie grunted. “Oh yeah.” His ass bucked out, brushing Vincent’s erection. Vincent pushed his finger up inside, moving it in a way he knew would make Frankie even hotter.
“I want you to be ready,” he grunted, pinching his other nipple until it stiffened beautifully. “I plan to fuck you for a long time.”
“I’m ready.” He ground his ass against Vincent’s groin. “Come on.”
He was practically pleading when Vincent pressed him to the floor and onto all fours. He ran his hand over Frankie’s ass, reached around to torment his cock, teased his ass with the tip of his erection, then put on the condom and took him.
Vincent would make it damn good for both of them. He had always had great staying power; when he was hard, he was hard, and when he paced himself, slowed down just as he felt himself going over the edge, he could go for quite some time. Now, in and out, slow, fast, slower, faster, he did a dance with Frankie’s ass which had the guy screaming, panting, and trembling all over. At the same time, Vincent handled Frankie’s cock and balls, bringing him close, pulling back. He kept up the exquisite torture until the other man was incoherent. Finally he let go, bringing Frankie with him as he jerked to a jolting orgasm.
They both lay there in the aftermath, wet with sweat and cum, breathing hard, enjoying the utter sweetness. There you go, Doug. I’ll show you boring.
Frankie glanced over at him from where he lay on the floor. “God damn,” he whispered, “that was the best fuck I’ve ever had. And I’m not fooling.”
“Thanks,” he said. “You weren’t so bad yourself.”
Frankie perched up on his elbow and kissed his mouth gently. “Can I see you again?”
Vincent sat up. “No.”
Frankie narrowed his eyes. “Why not?”
“I have a new rule. I only do one-night stands. No more emotional attachment shit.”
“Just to fuck, no pressure.”
Vincent stood up and started to dress. “No thanks.”
Frankie lay there watching him as he finished dressing. He didn’t say anything. Vincent raised a hand to him. “’Bye. Thanks. It was great.”
Frankie nodded. “Yeah. Stay well.”
“You too,” he said before he left.
* * * *
When Vincent walked into the office the following morning, he felt a little tired. He hadn’t slept much the night before. He poured himself some coffee from the caterer’s kitchen, and dragged himself into his office.
At nine, his door flew open. Barbara came tearing in, jumping around like her butt was on fire. She was talking so fast, Vincent couldn’t make out a word. He stood, held up his hand. “What’s all this? Slow down.”
He suddenly noticed that there was a strange young man hovering behind her, desperately trying to make himself known. Barbara was rather viciously elbowing him at every turn. “Vincent,” she announced, quite breathless, “I’m sorry about this. This guy just walked right past the front desk, demanding to see you. I’ll call security if—”
The young man in question finally succeeded in ducking in front of Barbara. He held out his hand, a beaming smile on his face. “David Samson. Mr. Williams, this is your lucky day. I’m the best damn thing that’s ever happened to you.”
“Is that so?”
Barbara looked as if she was going to slug the guy.
Vincent patted her shoulder. “It’s okay, I’ll handle this.”
Barbara glared at David Samson then stalked out of the office.
“Looks like you’ve managed to alienate my assistant, Mr. Samson. What can I do for you?”
“David, please.” He lowered his hand. “I’m here for the job.”
“Job?” Vincent ran his gaze over him. He couldn’t have been any more than twenty-two, his fair hair expertly streaked with highlights and falling over his forehead. He wore a silver cross in one ear and a stud in the other. He was dressed in wide-legged jeans and a loose-fitting burlap shirt.
“Yeah, you need someone to run this place, to coordinate all the fluffy stuff, and I’m just the one to do it.”
Vincent’s eyes widened. Fluffy stuff? He smiled faintly. “What exactly makes you think you’re qualified for this job?”
David Samson took a folded piece of newspaper from his pocket. He spread it open on Vincent’s desk. “Okay, it says creative, multitasker, experience in planning special events, managing staff, yada, yada, yada. I have excellent people skills, and I’m an artist on many levels.” He gave him a beaming smile. “When do I start?”
He was standing terribly close to him. Vincent took a step back. “Do you have a résumé?”
“Do you have a degree?”
“I have a college degree in English, and certificates in hairdressing, flower arranging, fast-food cooking, cake decorating, and heavy diesel mechanics.” He was counting them off on his fingers. “Oh, and I can do CPR in case anyone goes into cardiac arrest.”
“Heavy diesel mechanics?” Vincent narrowed his eyes. “How does that fit with the flower arranging and cake decorating?”
“Long story, hunky guy with great biceps, turned out to be a real disappointment in the sack.” He crooked his finger. “So, what’s the pay like?”
“Huh?” Vincent’s head was spinning.
“I’ll expect a raise in two years, paid vacations, and of course, medical and dental. That’s standard.”
“David, please. And, by the way, I had no idea you were so gorgeous. I would have come by earlier, just to look at you.”
Vincent shook his head. “This is a joke, right? Bradley sent you to cheer me up.”
The phone rang. Vincent reached over and picked it up. It was an important client, a prominent politician. Vincent covered the receiver with his hand. “I have to take this. I’ll, ah … get back to you. Leave your résumé with my assistant, and maybe we’ll call you for an interview.”
“That’s okay”—he passed Vincent an envelope—“look it over. I’ll wait in the lobby.”
“No,” Vincent said, but the blond had already left the office. A little flustered, Vincent returned his attention to the client on the phone. “I’m sorry, Mr. Monroe, I wasn’t saying no to you. What can I do for you today?”
“What in hell happened to Doug? Someone told me he’d left Events.”
“Yes, he’s gone, but nothing will change. Events is prepared to give you the same service you’ve always had.” They had catered all Monroe’s parties, birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays.
“But you’re not the fancy pants Doug is. You’re the accountant.” Monroe made it sound like a social disease. “Are you sure you’ll be able to handle my wife’s birthday party?”
“Of course. No problem. I’ll send you the form; just fill out your preferences and have your secretary get that to me as soon as possible. If I remember correctly”—Vincent slowed his speech as he frantically punched the name Monroe into his laptop with one hand—“your wife, ah … Janet, was born on the tenth of January.” Damn. That didn’t give him a lot of time. “Where would you like to hold the event? We can arrange for a banquet hall.”
“No. I want it at the house,” he said. “And you have a good memory, Williams. Send me the form. I’ll drop it by personally tomorrow. Who’s coordinating the parties now that Doug is gone?”
“Ah, oh, I have a new guy,” Vince lied, “wonderful. I’m sure you’ll love him.”
“Well, I hope he’s good. Doug was a natural,” Monroe said, and clicked off.
Vincent sighed, slumped down in his chair, and closed his eyes. A few minutes later, he left his office to check on the kitchen. They had several buffets to deliver that evening and the kitchen was in full swing. John Burns was his head chef, an absolute genius. Doug had stolen him away from a very expensive restaurant in the city three years before.
“Hey boss,” he said, stirring a dark chocolate sauce on the stove, “what’s up?”
“Is everything under control?”
“Great. I’m glad to see you got a new guy.”
“Yeah, that Dave fellow, he’s super, the staff loves him already. Not snippy like Doug.”
“I didn’t hire anyone yet,” Vincent replied, then got angry. “Was he in the kitchen?”
“Hey, what’s the problem? He was in here a few minutes ago. He said he was the new planner. I thought—”
“Where did he go?” Vincent growled.
“He said he’d be in Decorating if we needed him.”
“If you needed him. God damn it. Who in the hell … the nerve of that guy.”
“So, you didn’t hire him, or what?” John shouted after him as Vincent marched down the hallway to Decorating.
Anna Philburt ran Decorating. She had a staff of nine under her, people who could turn a bare room into a fantasy. As Vincent neared the office, he heard Anna laughing. One of the junior workers brushed past him suddenly, bumping into him. “Sorry, sir,” he said, “I didn’t see you there, Mr. Williams. I need to get to the supply room. Do you think we have any red velvet for Cupid?”
“Cupid,” Vincent mouthed, but the young guy didn’t wait for a reply. He just raced off down the hallway. Vincent shook his head.
“That’s wonderful,” Anna was saying when Vincent walked into the room. That David guy was standing next to her at a long table. They were both studying a magazine.
Anna looked up when she noticed Vincent. “There you are,” she said, her ruddy face animated, “where did you find this guy? He’s a bloody genius.”
Vincent met David’s gaze. “I don’t believe you.” He pointed at David. “I never gave you permission to wander around here. Why in the hell are you telling everyone you’re the new planner? I never gave you the job.”
“Vincent,” Anna said, “you’re joking, right? He’s perfect.”
“You see?” David beamed. “I’m perfect.”
“You’re a nut job. I haven’t even had time to read your résumé. Did you ever do anything like this before?”
“No, but I know I can do it. This job was made for me. Just give me a chance,” he pleaded, moving closer.
Vincent noticed that John had come into the room. He walked over and stood beside Anna. They both gave him a look which said quite clearly they wanted this guy.
“He’s just come up with the most wonderful idea,” Anna said. “A client wanted something very special for their wedding and stag, and since it’s on Valentine’s Day, David suggested a Valentine’s wedding. Isn’t that wonderful? They’re two guys and they want a bit of the wild, so we’re going to do costumes for hunky male cupid strippers.”
David came over to show him a picture in a magazine. “Yes, with red velvet hearts covering their—”
“I get the picture. What client are we talking about?”
“A new one.” David grinned. “Samuel Green of Caress Music is marrying Tee Armstrong.”
“The rock star?”
“Yeah,” Anna said. “He’s great, eh? Wonder if we’ll get free tickets to his next concert now.”
John came over to join them now. “My cousin went, said it blew him away.”
“It’s going to be the event of the decade. Green wants to go all out. He said spare no expense. Isn’t that what he said, David?”
With everyone talking at once, Vincent couldn’t get a word in. If he’d had a gun, he would have shot it off. Finally, he shouted loud enough to get their attention. “You,” he pointed at John, “back to your sauce, and you,” he pointed at David Samson, “come with me.”
“I can see the steam coming out of the top of your head,” David said with a chuckle as he followed Vincent back into his office.
“Close the door,” Vincent demanded.
David closed the door and came to perch on the edge of his desk.
“Are you for real?”
“Want to feel?” He batted his eyes at him, then erupted into laughter.
“You seem to think that this is some kind of a joke!” Vincent glared at him. “Can’t you see how angry I am?”
“I do see one thing.” David grinned. “You’re really drop-dead gorgeous. I’m not kidding, and especially when you get angry. You get this crease right—”
“Okay, enough. Did you answer the phone at the front desk?”
“Then how did you end up talking to this Green guy?”
“He’s not actually green.”
“Don’t mess with me.” Vincent narrowed his eyes. “I’m not in any mood to fool around right now.”
“Aw, damn. I’d probably enjoy that, and a lot.”
Vincent couldn’t help but notice that he had the cutest smile. And right now, this David guy wasn’t in the least intimidated by him. He was one cocky guy.
“It would be like a fringe benefit, so to speak, and boy, what a benefit, better than paid vacation.” His gaze was on his groin.
“Stop that,” Vincent muttered. “Answer my damn question.”
“I called his office,” David replied with a shrug.
“You called his office, just like that?”
“Yep. I read about it yesterday; the announcement was in the entertainment section. So, while I was waiting for you in the lobby, I called him on my cell phone and asked him if he had anyone lined up to plan his wedding. And he said no. So I volunteered us.”
“Events. He wants a stag too, for the gay crowd, and a more conventional wedding for everyone else, but he wants it around Valentine’s Day, since that’s when the wedding is. I suggested strippers. He liked that. Not at the wedding, of course.”
Vincent just stared at him.
“I figured since you were going to eventually come to your senses and hire me, I might as well get started right away. It’s going to be a big job. What do you think about pink sweetheart roses in the church?”
Vincent started to laugh. This guy was absolutely outrageous.
“Vincent? Pink roses?”
“You’re not going to take no for an answer, are you?”
David hopped off the desk and grinned. “Nope.”
At that moment, Barbara walked in. She gave David Samson a hostile look. “Oh, you’re still here.” She wrinkled her nose.
“Yes,” Vincent interjected, bowing his head in David’s direction. After a slight pause, he said, “Meet the new planner.”
Barbara rolled her eyes. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
David beamed. “You mean it?”
Vincent shrugged. “I’ll take you on a trial basis.”
Abruptly David let out a whoop and threw his arms around him, practically knocking him over. He planted a huge kiss right on his mouth, then released him.
Vincent was once again speechless.
“You won’t regret this,” David said.
Barbara looked a little stunned as well.
After Vincent recovered, he said to Barbara, “Give Mr. Samson the forms to fill out, and the contract.”
“For how long?” she sniffed.
“Two months,” Vincent said.
“Two weeks would be a better bet,” Barbara muttered.
Vincent smiled faintly. “Two months, Barb.” He looked at David. “After you’re finished, come back here to me, and I’ll orient you.”
“Sounds kinky.” David winked. “Wait until I tell my friends what a hottie my new boss is. They’re going to cream their tighty whities.”
Barbara sighed. She grabbed his elbow. “Oh good Lord,” she muttered, “come on. Didn’t anyone ever teach you to speak proper English?”
“He’s an English major,” Vincent told her dryly.
David gave her a great big smile. “Top of my class.”
“Were you the only one in it?” Barb mocked as she dragged him out of the office.
Vincent heard David laugh then say something about colloquialisms, to which Barbara replied that she “knew what a colloquialism was, for Christ’s sakes…”
Vincent put his face in his hands and sighed. What had he done? He knew nothing about this guy. But he was desperate, and Samson had gone to great lengths to get this job. He was bold; he’d say that for him. Maybe that kind of character would be exactly what Events needed.
* * * *
Twenty minutes later, David sat quietly in the chair opposite him, waiting patiently while Vincent punched in the final figures on the balance sheet.
“So,” David said suddenly when Vincent closed his laptop, “what happened to the other guy?”
“What other guy?”
“Doug. I used to see his picture in the paper all the time. He was the cream of the crop. Wasn’t this his business?”
“It was our business.”
“He was your fuck bunny.”
“He was not my fuck bunny. He was my partner, in business.”
“And in bed.”
Vincent eyed him. “None of your business. I need to show you where everything is, and set you up in a routine.”
“I’m not so good with routines, but I’ll try.” He smiled. “So Doug wasn’t too bright, I guess.”
Vincent stood. “Back to Doug?”
“Why would he leave you?”
“I told you, that’s not your business. Let’s get a few things straight, okay? You work for me, and that’s it. I’m your boss. No personal questions, and no buddy-buddy.”
“No fucking either?”
“And especially not that,” he snapped.
“You don’t like fucking?”
“Of course I like…” Vincent scowled. “Never mind. You’ve got the balls of—”
“I know what I like,” he said, smiling, “that’s all. Anyway, if you change your mind, let me know.”
“So, you’re going to abstain?”
“David! Do you want to learn this business, or not?”
“I do. I’m sorry. I have a habit of saying exactly what’s on my mind. It gets me into trouble sometimes.” David followed him down the hall.
“I can imagine. You’re not going to do that with the clients, I hope.” Vincent glanced at him.
“I’ll try to be good.” He grinned sheepishly.
“Let me show you around.”
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