Eighth Secret

“Where did you get all those desserts from?” Emilia asked the following morning.

Zach looked up innocently from his bowl of cereal. He had forgotten to consider that Emilia would have some questions about the sudden appearance of a plethora of desserts in neatly packed boxes in the fridge. The fridge had been fairly empty so there had been plenty of space to fill.

“I went somewhere last night and picked up a lot.”

He knew it sounded extremely implausible the moment he said it. He just wasn’t cut out for being a good liar.

“Right,” she said very skeptically. “Sure.”

He carried on eating his cereal and hoped she would drop the subject. Emilia snagged the jar of strawberry jam out the fridge and came to sit opposite him at the kitchen table.

“Did you not want to make me any desserts ever again or something?” she asked.

“I wanted someone to share them with,” he replied quickly. “I’ll take some to work today to free up some space.”

Emilia spread the jam over her toast and gave him a pointed look.

“One day I’ll ask how and why you managed to afford the entire dessert menu of a very expensive restaurant,” she said. “I’ll let you keep it quiet for now.”

Zach realised he hadn’t given Emilia enough credit. She had always been sharp for as long as he had known her. He had left the desserts in the branded boxes provided by the restaurant which was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Emilia didn’t want to be an investigative reporter for nothing. He just couldn’t tell her what was going on because of the contract he had signed.


Zach frowned at his email inbox. He hadn’t found a good story all day and the story he had just read had terrible spelling and grammar.

“Thank you for all those lovely desserts,” Becca said as she passed his desk on the way to the printer. “They really hit the spot and probably my waistline.”

Taking them to the office had been a very good idea. Unlike Emilia they had just thanked him and devoured all of them without asking any questions. Now he only had five boxes left in the fridge at home. Darien had generously let him take a slice of the chocolate cake before they had left. The billionaire had left with the other half of the cake.

The more he considered, the more he realised he might have enjoyed their time at the restaurant. Darien hadn’t been nasty or looked down at him for not being used to expensive food. In fact he had been happy to share everything with him. Perhaps the rest of the year would go smoothly.

He wondered what their future meetings would involve. He would be happy if it was just going out to eat. He liked eating food and trying new things.

He was distracted by the sight of Meghan fanning herself with a sheet of paper. He still hadn’t quite figured her out yet. She definitely enjoyed all aspects of her job and delighted in anything salacious. She was just quite eccentric and he couldn’t tell if she was actually a good editor.

Robert leaned over to look at her computer screen and began to fan himself as well.

“Should I be worried?” Zach whispered to Becca.

Becca sighed and stood up to have a look for herself.

“This reaction means that one of her authors has sent in some very hot smut,” she explained.

Becca’s face changed when she read what was on the screen. Instead of looking exasperated, she looked delighted.

“I sense a bestseller,” she commented. “Meghan, keep up the good work. Zach, did you want to take a read?”

Normally Zach would have declined the opportunity given the amount of smut he had already seen that day. This time, he found himself curious. Their reactions had shown it was good.

He got up and came to look for himself. His face heated up as he read the first line and he only felt more embarrassed as he read down the page. It was undeniably well written smut, it just wasn’t for him.

“Bless him,” Meghan said and patted his side. “You can go back to your desk. I don’t want you feeling uncomfortable here.”

Zach dutifully sat back down at his desk and waited for his face to cool down. He really wasn’t cut out for reading smut, let alone editing it. He would have to move onto that at some point in the year. He was supposed to experience all editing roles throughout the year.

“We do get some gay erotica,” Becca told him when she returned to her desk. “It’s just not as common so we haven’t had a submission for a while.”

“Damien Black, whoever he is, is the king of the genre,” Robert agreed. “He hasn’t submitted anything for a while though.”

Zach had never read any gay erotica. It wasn’t something he had seen anywhere. It wasn’t exactly mainstream and he usually relied on newspaper articles and book shop recommendations to find new books. The author’s name was completely unfamiliar to him.

“If he submits anything, I’ll pass it onto you,” Becca said. “You might enjoy that kind of stuff more than what you’re currently seeing. I’ll send you the final draft of his last one so you can get a feel for what he writes.”

Zach was touched by the consideration.

“Thank you for thinking of me,” he said. “You don’t have to go out of your way for me.”

“We need to look after our interns,” Robert quipped. “They keep leaving us. I want you to be the next intern that makes it.”

Zach felt warmed by all the encouragement and he went through the submissions with renewed vigour. He soon found an email from Becca with the promised book draft.

“Is it okay to read it now?” he asked.

“I can’t have you taking it off premises so yes,” she replied. “I know you’re a quick reader.”

Damien Black was a good author. He could tell from the first page. The setting wasn’t unique, but he could tell the author was setting up something that hadn’t been done before. The story was set in at a British university in the 1960s and depicted a forbidden romance between a professor and student. The first smut scene he came across was tastefully done.

He reluctantly stopped reading when he saw an hour had passed. It was a shame to stop reading, but he did have a job to do.

“It’s good isn’t it?” Becca said with a grin. “I’m really hoping he submits something else soon. We do have a six book deal with him so he’s got one book left.”

Zach wondered what type of person Damien Black was based on his writing. His mental imagining of female centric erotica authors was middle aged women unsatisfied with their husbands. Damien Black seemed like someone refined and well read.

“Have you ever met the author?” he asked.

Becca shook her head.

“He’s one of our more private authors. I accept his awards on his behalf and all communication is done by email. I do know it’s a man though- I had to call him urgently when there was a printing error. He had a nice voice and was very polite.”


The man who was sometimes known as Damien Black, paused in his typing to wonder about his latest book. He really should start it soon before the erotica deparment began putting pressure on him.

Darien smirked as he speculated what their reactions would be if they found out that their favourite gay erotica author was also their boss. He would never let it slip though as it would be a hint he wasn’t remotely straight.

He hadn’t felt like writing a love story for a while now, probably due to his personal problems. Things seemed to be improving now due to Zach. He might be capable of writing a happy story.

Where should they go next?

It wouldn’t be fun if they just went to expensive restaurants all the time. There was also Zach’s personal feelings to consider. He definitely was the type of person to feel guilty about not being able to contribute financially.

He would have to ask the intern where he wanted to go next so it felt like they were on a more even playing field. It couldn’t be anywhere too public though as there was a risk of being spotted by someone with a camera.

Darien always had the media somewhere in the back of his mind due to his long history with them. It was amazing how devastating one photo could be for someone. He had managed to keep his sexuality secret for almost 10 years, he could manage his whole life.

He frowned when he remembered that there was probably at least one person who worked in media building up an article suggesting he was a gay man in denial. He just had to not give them any material for it.

Maybe he should write his next story about an investigative reporter going undercover at a large corporation to dig up dirt on the CEO only to fall hard in love. Darien smirked again and wrote down that idea in his notebook.


That evening Zach opened the fridge with a heavy sigh. He really needed to go to the supermarket and get rid of more desserts to get more space for proper food. As Emilia was out with her boyfriend on a reconciliation date, he was alone for the evening.

At university he would either cook for other people in his apartment or order takeaway food to eat with his friends. He was missing that kind of company now he had graduated. His best friend was doing a master’s degree in Germany and was too busy to regularly contact him.

He could do with another friend in London for company. Zach closed the fridge and opened the cupboards instead. He snagged a pack of instant ramen- any student’s friend and an egg. He reopened the fridge to pick out any vegetables going out of date and knocked up his version of ramen.

Zach was halfway through his bowl of ramen when his phone started ringing. He took it out his pocket, assuming it was his mother wanting to catch up with him. Instead the name flashing up on the screen was Darien Harper.

His reaction was to drop his chopsticks into the bowl. Zach swore loudly and answered the call.

“What are you doing at this exact moment?” was Darien’s opening line.

It didn’t surprise Zach that Darien didn’t bother with greetings on the phone. He wasn’t the type of person to bother with phone formalities outside of work.

“I’m eating dinner,” Zach replied and carefully picked his chopsticks out of the ramen soup with one hand.


“I’m by myself,” he confirmed and wondered if he could finish his noodles before they became cold and soggy.

“Excellent. I called to ask where you want to go for our next meeting? It will be the weekend so anything is possible.”

Zach felt a little put on the spot. A billionaire was asking where he wanted to go at the weekend. His mind was completely blank. He still didn’t know London too well and Emilia wasn’t around to ask for recommendations.

He could sense the time ticking away and the heavy silence over the phone line. He blurted out the first thing that came to his head.

“The seaside!”

“The seaside?” Darien repeated with much less enthusiasm. “What would we do there?”

As someone who had grown up in a seaside town, Zach was now in comfortable territory.

“There’s lots to do. We can eat fish and chips, ice cream, walk on the beach and go to the amusement arcades. It’s outside peak tourist season so there won’t be too many people around.”

There was a short silence before Darien replied.

“That sounds like a good idea actually. I’ll find somewhere suitable and make the bookings. It’s going to have to be a weekend stay to make it worthwhile.”

Zach breathed a sigh of relief. His desperate idea hadn’t been turned down.

“I’ll let you know about the arrangements tomorrow,” Darien continued. “Have a nice evening.”

The call ended with that line and Zach was left with his rapidly cooling noodles and anticipation in his heart.

He was going to escape the city to go to the seaside with a billionaire for the weekend. It was strange how things had progressed from being a nameless intern at the company to someone on weekend trip terms with the CEO.

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