“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?” 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.
Zach didn’t predict that he would have to undergo an interrogation from Emilia about his going away bag in the hallway. He was in the bathroom looking for things to pack when he heard her come to a stop in the hallway. “Where are you going?” she asked sharply and came to stand in the doorway. “You don’t go anywhere that requires an overnight stay. It can’t be for work.” Zach put his toothbrush in his wash bag and wracked his brains for an excuse. Emilia was so keenly observant, nothing but the truth or something close to the truth was going to convince her. “I’m having a short weekend holiday,” he replied and came out of the bathroom with his washbag. “It’s been a long two weeks.” That was an understatement. In two weeks he had started his internship, signed a hefty contract with the CEO and had been to a very expensive restaurant with him. Now he was going to the seaside with him for an overnight stay. His world had been turned upside down ve
Their first stop was the hotel to check in and deposit their luggage. Zach wasn’t too surprised to find that Darien had booked at the most expensive hotel in town. He could tell just from the exterior that it was a five star hotel. “I booked the room in your name,” Darien said as they walked through the plushly carpeted entrance. “I’m paying though.” Zach opened his mouth to complain about his name being used without permission and closed it again. It was for the best that Darien didn’t use his own name. He was a well known person after all. Something very important came to his mind suddenly. “Are we sharing a room?” he asked suspiciously. “No,” Darien said shortly. “We have rooms next to each other. I’m a private person and the thought of sharing a room makes me feel ill.” Zach didn’t mind that. The thought of sharing a room with Darien was weird. They weren’t close enough to be comfortable sleeping in beds next to each other or using
Darien continued to stare at Zach as his heartbeat increased rapidly in speed. Either he was on his way to an early heart attack due to the amount of ice cream he had consumed or his heart was responding to Zach. Which was the more preferable option? The billionaire was feeling lost. Instead of being on a quiet beach stuck staring at Zach, he was losing his way in the wilderness. Memories of his one night of freedom at a masked ball were coming thick and fast. He normally tried to keep those memories at bay. “...Are you tired?” Zach’s soft voice made itself known. That was enough to jerk Darien out of his lost state. He could control himself. He wasn’t a romance struck teenager, he was a 27 year old billionaire. “Just a little, let’s go back to the hotel and have dinner. It’s got a five star level restaurant.” Zach perked up noticeably which caused Darien to smile. The intern was very precious. Anyone who ended up dating him would be v
Zach opened his door and found Darien waiting outside as they had agreed. He was feeling excited about breakfast whereas Darien was sporting dark shadows around his eyes and looked like he hadn’t slept well. “Were you up all night working?” he asked. Darien covered his mouth whilst he yawned. Zach took that to be a reply to his question. Despite his visible fatigue, the billionaire was still sleekly dressed in another colourful jacket and blue trousers. His hair was freshly wavy and he was wearing a simple necklace that probably cost more than Zach’s monthly rent. “I finished reading my back catalogue and finished the plot outline,” the billionaire replied. “It took longer than I thought. It’s fortunate we’re leaving this morning so I can sleep when I get back.” They fell into step together and this time Zach elected to take the lift. Darien didn’t look like he would appreciate walking down all those stairs. The breakfast area was ever
Darien couldn’t believe what he had done when he returned home. He had fallen asleep on Zach’s shoulder on the train and had to be woken up. Zach had probably been inconvenienced by that. He had apologised once he realised where his head was. Zach had accepted the apology and had denied being bothered by it like the kind and polite person he was. His stomach rumbled and drew his focus away from his transgression on the train. Eating like he had over the past day had messed with his schedule. Darien strode to the kitchen and made himself a protein shake. Darien’s eating habits had materialised in his early twenties when he had taken over Harper Publishing. Every second of his day back then had been focused on learning how to run the business and once he grasped those skills, he had changed to trying to drive the company to new heights. There had been no time for proper meals unless it was to lure in new business partners. He had compensated by changing to supp
Zach sat down at the well polished table opposite the billionaire. The strange feeling in his heart had gone. Perhaps it had been his first instance of heartburn. Darien looked as good as always. His hair was primped to perfection. Zach liked his wavy hair from the weekend more than his neatly arranged straight hair. Maybe it was because of the implication that he was one of a very small number of people to see him with wavy hair. The billionaire was currently engaged in a quiet conversation with the waiter who came across as efficiency incarnated. “Was that your order?” Zach asked once the waiter had left. “That’s right,” Darien confirmed. “I want to surprise you.” Zach resisted the urge to get his phone out under the table and do some internet research about this particular restaurant. He had a feeling he had seen the name somewhere before so it was probably another top rated restaurant in London. “Is your hair naturally straight or
Darien turned away from Zach and despondently walked off to where he had parked his car. He needed to be somewhere quiet so he could settle his heart.He drove home as fast as the speed limits would allow and swore during every traffic jam. The city centre was terrible for car drivers.Once he reached his multi million pound house, he poured himself a bottle of wine and sat outside in the garden.He had fallen for Zach. There was no denying it now. He didn’t just like him, he was in love with him.There was no turning back now.The contract he had created to chain Zach into improving his life, came to mind the second he thought about acting on his feelings.He had put in the clause that neither of them could fall for the other.Darien put his hand into his hands and groaned.He had ruined his own chances at happiness with that contract. Why was it even in the contract? He could have left it out and he would be feeling muc
Darien wanted to bang his head against the steering wheel. He had shown his hand too quickly to Zach. He just hadn’t been able to control his feelings of annoyance when he had seen Zach talking to Austin for so long through the front window of the flower shop. They had looked happy together and well, he’d always had something against Austin. Why had the dim blond decided to open his damn flower shop so close to his offices? It wasn’t even like he could bribe Austin to leave, the blond was rolling in money. He could tell that the intern was annoyed with him for saying those things. There was a tight set to Zach’s jawline and he felt very sorry already. He knew Zach wasn’t in love with Austin, he hadn’t looked flustered with the blond at all from what he had seen. He had the air of a person putting up with someone dumb. He also knew that Zach had no intention of going against the contract by asking Austin out. He knew all that, yet he had done h