Romantic, wordy, and a tad goofy.

Creative Employment 5

Because of how well things had been going immediately before Tom's latest “OMG-I-hate-the-fact-I-like-what-you-do!” freak out, it gave me a high cliff to be thrown from by his damn reaction.

My mind was fifty million emotions thrown into a blender that created a smoothie of anger.

First I called a taxi, and stood, unhappily, on an unknown corner in my unknown city, having a strange desire to call him, try to talk to him about what just happened. But I squished it, running through the probable soul-crushing outcomes. As if I had ever called him on his phone.

The petulant side of me offered up another idea.

Fuck it, I thought snottily as my fingers found the name I wanted, life is too damn short to be this dicked around.


The next day at work I was not the most functioning of Managers. It would not have been an exaggeration to say I was damn near useless.

Instead of arriving at the office promptly at 7:30am, the asshole boss who was always the first one in, dragged his exhausted carcass in at around 9:30. There were luggage racks underneath my eyes and I held a generally fuzzy outlook on life. I was sexually sated, at least. But emotionally I felt screwed in the bad way.

When I emerged from the stairwell door close to my office, Allie's gave me a startled look, an expression that I read as sarcasm until it shifted to include concern. She gave me a minute to settle in at my desk and set-up my laptop, and slipped in. 


I looked up at her, and my mouth twisted in a wry smile. "That bad, huh?" 

"Well." She pondered how to answer, and seemed to settle on honesty. "You could certainly look worse. But you're unshaven, your hair isn't perfectly mussed per usual, and you look very unhappy to be here," She sniffed. "But you do appear to be clean."

"Glad to know I pass the sniff test. Seriously, I was worried." I wasn't lying; I'd taken a 5 second shower. I blessed the fairly empty slate on my calendar, and pondered a nap in, say, a closet. I wondered if Tom had quit yet. I wondered if I wanted him to or not. Allie sat across from me and neatly folded her legs, her concern clearly on the rise. "You better run those semi-annual numbers for corporate, sweetie, or you're in trouble, but that's the only thing that can't wait. Maybe you should take care of yourself?"

I leaned my cheek on my palm and looked at her in bemusement. "Are you suggesting I tell myself I'm sick and go home? I'm not sick, just tired, Allie. I'll live."

"You just worry me when you're looking less than perfect, Will. You're always impeccable."

"Why, thank you," I blinked my eyes at her in an attempt to be cute.

The attempt failed; her eyes were still concerned. "We can't afford to have this place fall apart again. To be honest..." She hesitated again. "People were kind of freaked out around here to have you gone without warning. I got about a dozen separate questions, and everyone was a bit panicked when I didn't have anything solid to offer as to where you were. "

"Panicked about me?" I was surprised. "I was just a little late."

"You're our captain, and this is our sinking ship," She looked at the glass and the workers beyond it, mostly working, some chatting. Some staring openly at us. "They're very, very afraid you're going to suddenly go away, and then this whole branch will be closed down. WE'RE afraid. You're always so calm and smooth, Will. That makes you seem strong. We need that right now."

It was then I felt guilty. And yet also touched, and flattered. I'd become overly involved in my own drama, and briefly forgotten what exactly it was I was possibly overpaid to do. I'd learned to ignore the stares but had also started to internalize them as personal. That wasn’t very mature of me.

"I'll keep it together," I gave her what I hoped was a game smile. "Don't worry. And I'm not going home; it sounds like that might just make everything worse."

She smiled and blinked at me in gratitude, then leaned in conspiratorially. "So what DID happen last night? Red-headed and gorgeous involved?"

"I, mm, didn't sleep well." I was equivocating. Tom hadn't been directly involved in the long term lack of sleep, at least, as much as I wish he had been.

The images of him the night before in that bathroom flashed through my mind, the feeling of his muscles tensing underneath my hands hands, the rush of joy when he came, swearing in that dirty boy way of his. The hollow echo when he'd freaked out again.

 I wasn't ready to talk details right now, since I knew, like my sister, Allie would see exactly how stupid I was being and call me out on it. In some ways she'd become my replacement sister here in Boston, a burden the poor woman probably didn't need. "You look fabulous today, you know; red is an incredible color on you. How's your mom? Is she recovering okay?"

"Not the most subtle subject change, Will, and I'll take that as a yes on the redhead." But she let it go, moving into small talk and then my various messages. Rich had called, and I wrestled down my surprise. He was the last person I'd expect to call so quickly.

Maybe, I hoped fervently, it was about something business-related.

I kept calm over the next hour or so, but as I attempted to wrangle my calculations into a presentable report last night kept popping into my mind. First Tom, and then Rich. And then where my mind had somehow blurred the two, while constantly reminding me which, unfortunately, was which.

I'd felt confident in what I was doing when Rich had come into my apartment, smiling per usual. He was wearing a light black sweater and surprisingly stylish jeans with his grey hair loose, not gelled back as it was when I'd see him in the office. He looked younger, but certainly still slick.

But that was okay, because I needed something smooth, chill and mind-numbing to distract me from Irish and sexually confused. Slick would certainly do.

Slick stopped for a second, however, and lifted his eyebrows at me as he came in the room. He took in what I was wearing with a languid once over.

"I just showered, and I didn't have time to dress in something a bit better for hosting," I apologized, modestly putting my hand on my stomach thus on the thin cotton black tank top. That and drawstring white lounge pants were not meant to be subtle messages.

"Would you like a drink?" I said, heading towards my open plan kitchen and looking over my shoulder at him with a smile.

"Yeah, we could waste time talking…” Rich said, his dark eyes predatory. "Or..." he moved towards where I was stopped, and put his hands on my upper arms and gave them a firm squeeze.  "Am I here to make you forget about work?"

This was said in such an amusingly smoothly lothario tone of voice that, in other circumstances and on a different night, might make me laugh at what an operator he was.  He certainly moved fast. Rich could be any number of attractive, middle-aged gay businessmen I'd met and declined as playmates in the last 10 years.

But tonight an encounter free of coaxing was exactly what I needed.

As his fingers tightened on my upper arm I felt a rush and began to get hard, the certainty of where we were headed bringing up a palatable, building sense of relief. Four goddamn months.

"I really could use some distraction," I said with an undertone of coyness and took one of his hands off my arm and drew it down onto my stomach, right above my groin. He slipped it under my top accommodatingly, drawing me closer to him in one swift, no-nonsense motion.

"I've been waiting for you to call me, Will," He breathed into my ear as his hands roamed over my body, not hesitating to move below the elastic of my waistband. "I was getting impatient. If it had gone on much longer, I was going to end up fucking you on your desk during one of our meetings, where everyone could see."

"I think I would like that," I breathed.

 He ground his torso into my ass, the cotton not offering much resistance. "Yeah? That turns you on?”

It most certainly did, because I'd pictured that several times - just not with him. Suddenly the image of me fucking Tom on my desk, in front of all our coworkers, came roaring into my head. His face flush, teeth gritted in pleasure/pain, tensed muscles coated in sweat, moaning my name while swearing in that damn cute way of his...

Feeling my erection harden considerably, Rich wrapped one hand around my cock and held me tight with the other. He let out a satisfied chuckle. "Wow, you really DO like that idea. You're so different, Mr. Merrin, when you're like this," he began to stroke me. "You're so hot. So sexy..."

I bucked back into him, and we were facing each other, my hand now on him. His facial expression was a satisfied grin throughout, and I ignored the clichés that came out of his mouth, concentrating on his gym-firm body, his tapered cock and his hot roving hands on my skin.

I blew him briefly, his hands pulling me into the rhythm. He moaned as I pulled back, and looked almost angry until I met his eyes and said, firmly, "Fuck me."

Rich smiled. "You are pent up, aren't you? You want me to fuck you hard?" He ran a finger down my face and caught my chin firmly.

"Yes," Something in me metaphorically rolled its eyes at what he was obviously waiting for, as he wouldn't let my chin go yet, but I was more than turned on enough to play his game. My answer wasn't insincere. "Please. Fuck me."

He smiled.

We stumbled as far as my living room, and before I could go into my bedroom, he pulled a condom smoothly out of his pocket as he pushed my pants down and then his. I bent over the back of my couch and he found his target easily, pushing forward. As his head slipped past my ring, I winced at the initial starburst of intense pain and fuzzily told my mouth to keep shut, because I knew what name would probably slip out.


Rich had been a fast and hard lover, and I'd come groaning and biting my tongue. We'd cleaned up with little fanfare, I gave him a beer, and he'd said a couple of nice things. I was a hot fuck, he was glad I'd invited him over, etc.

He'd given me one last glance before he headed out the door, an up and down as I stood, now only in my white cotton pants, and finally granted me a cocky, heavy-lidded smile. "You're really sexy after just being fucked; I like this well-used look on you. It's better than a suit."

"Thanks... that felt amazing. I'm glad I called you." I gave him what I hoped was a charmed smile. It was a good fast and dirty lay. I was ready for him to leave.

He nodded in acknowledgement. "I'll call you soon, alright? Not just for work." He presented it as if it was a gift with a wink in his voice, and I nodded as if that was exactly what I wanted to hear.

"Great, Sounds good. Good night, Rich." I'd then finally closed the door, padded to bed, ignoring the smell of sex in my living room and falling into an extended replay of the earlier part of my evening.

Almost kissing Tom in the bar.  Our running like little kids, his sexy mischievousness and ultimately his coming, and the brief second of comfortable, languid enjoyment. His skin, red hair, laughing eyes and quirky smile.

And then the reminder he was probably going to have dumped my sorry ass before he randomly asked me out for a drink, the excuse of his mother-in-law in the days leading up to it, something that in the still darkness was obviously just his getting up the balls to tell me to fuck off.

I tried to read a bit, some highly recommended thriller on my bedside table I'd last picked up a week ago, and was too tired to concentrate.

But not too tired to keep thinking.

And back to his asking me out for a drink again. Obviously, I told myself sourly, he missed me and some of my more charming personality traits, such as my willingness to screw around with him in small enclosed spaces, but yet play the "he's straight and he’s happy!" game when in public.

But he’d ignored me for days before hand, and sex had obviously not been on his mind outside of the building that day.

I thought of Rich, the distinct just-fucked ache of my ass and the slight feeling of distaste in my mouth. Not because I'd fucked him, necessarily;  something in my body thanked me mightily for that. But because, in the end, it hadn't really been him I'd been fucking.

Done. Tom and I were done. He needed to leave the company, but I'd make it easy, I'd find him a better job, I'd sell him like a god. Finished. No more.

Then I slept, too close to dawn for comfort.


My head was slipping dangerously close to my desk, and I snapped up with a start. I stared at my numbers, and sighed. I couldn't proof them if my life depended on it, at this point; just the fact that I'd gotten them out was a bloody miracle. There was movement out of the corner of my eye, and I looked up.

Phil. He actually had a window office, a distinct symbol of status in this place, but he was always drifting, toadying about at other peoples’ desk. The man was slime.

But he was smart, and he wasn't a manager for nothing, I suppose. It would probably make him despise me more than he already blatantly did, asking him to do anything for me. But, fuck it, I was the boss and I was knackered. I swallowed my pride, walked to my door, and opened it.


His head snapped up, and his beady little eyes widened. His smile was ingratiating. "Yes, Mr. Merrin?"

"Are you busy right now?"

The sweet-face middle-aged HR woman he'd been talking to - Ann, I thought her name was - hurriedly went back to doing her work. Or at least pretending to.

Phil hesitated as if calculating his best answer. "...No?"

"Fantastic. I'm coming down with something, and these numbers absolutely have to get out. But I'm not sure at the moment if they're right." I handed him the paper I'd been using as my rough draft. "I'll email you last months, so you can see what I'm trying to do?" I pulled on the last dregs of my energy and gave him a wide smile. "You'd be an absolute lifesaver if you could do this for me, Phil, really."

I'd expected veiled anger, a huffy "yes, sir", but instead his face filled with... gratitude?

"Of course, Mr. Merrin... I'll work on this right away." He smiled, and hustled off to his office. I blinked at him, turned to Ann, who'd been staring at me, blinked at her, and she buried herself behind her computer monitor again.

I turned, puzzling over the exchange, when I almost ran straight into Tom. My first involuntary reaction was an embarrassing rush of joy.

“Oh, Shit,” He said, eyes wide. There was a muffled giggle from Ann’s desk and then it hit him what he had just said. His face turned bright red. “I mean, um, good morning, Mr. Merrin, um…”

Lovely, I thought dryly, just lovely. I clamped down on my emotions and let frost tinge my facial expression. Heartsickness and anger fought it out, and I chose cool, cleansing anger.  ‘Oh Shit’? That hurt. That hurt a bloody lot.

“Good morning,” I coated each word in ice. “How are you today? Still working on the networking issues?”

“I really didn’t mean..." He looked out of the corner of his eye at Ann, who was watching us with deep fascination, and cleared his throat. The bastard even had the temerity to look pretty damn good today. Blue shirt, those charcoal pants. He was a complete bastard.

“If you want to talk,” I cut him off, “Come to my office.” 

“Uh, sure,” Ann’s wide eyes followed us all the way down the aisle. Or followed Tom’s ass, more likely.

I closed the door and calmly sat down at my desk, forcing him to sit across from me, with the gulf of my huge desk between us. I set my demeanor to ‘I don’t give a shit about you, and I’m going to be professional about it.’ Fuck him. And fuck those big, startled baby blues, all brimming with guilt.

“Will," He cleared his throat, looked at me, and then looked away again. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean ‘oh, shit’, or that I didn’t want to see you, I just – last night. It really wasn’t how I meant it to go. And -”

“Last night was a mistake,” I cut him off, “You were about to tell me we were done, for some reason you didn’t, we hooked up and now you feel like crap,” I looked at some papers I had on my desk, pantomiming that it had something to do with our conversation.

“That seems to be the inevitable outcome of us being together, doesn’t it? You feeling like crap,” I leaned on one hand and gave him a smile, as if we were having a pleasant work-a-day conversation.

Tom’s forehead gained a crease, and a spot of color appeared in his cheeks. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I can’t..." He stopped and stared at his hands for a moment. I studied the lines of his neck up to his lips. Goddamn beautiful neck, fucking kissable lips.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about last night,” He continued haltingly. “How – unfair that was. How I shouldn’t have invited you out to a drink.”

I softened a bit. God, he was so damn cute when he apologized.  But he shouldn’t have, he was right.

“And I didn’t mean to hurt you,” He looked up, eyes wide, “Look, Will, it wasn’t until last night that I saw I was hurting you. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but something is, and, god, I’m such an asshole.” Tom’s words were so sickeningly earnest, but he still wasn’t looking me in the eyes.

“I’m hurting you, I’m hurting Lori... I’m a mess, I’m a fucking mess. Poor Lori. Oh, fuck, what am I doing to her? I just want to stop this, but last night, it hit me, how to stop it seems so damn hurtful. I don’t know HOW.” He had stopped talking to me at some point, his voice turning inwards.

I wanted to be sympathetic. I wanted to make him feel better.

So instead I replaced that concern with rage, letting it rush at me from all corners of the room.

So he was now feeling sorry for me, while his concern was really with Lori Lori Lori.

The man who couldn’t decide what the hell he wanted pitied me, making me out to be some sort of victim. Screw him. That was worse than him feeling victimized by me; I didn’t need his goddamn pity. I was the release valve for his closeted lusts, nothing more. He didn’t need me, and I didn’t need his kisses or his laughter or any of that stupid shit.

My smile widened. I know my eyes didn’t follow. “Don’t worry about it, Tom. I was just tired, cranky, frustrated. No one likes to be told something they just did to someone is ‘fucked up’.

“But, whatever,” Outside the window, the office hummed on, the world hummed on. Separate from this exhausting drama. “I found a way to work it out last night.  No more frustration.”

I’d calculated those last three words, rolling them out carefully.

Tom went still, his lips contracting into a tight line of anger. The red spots expanded. “What the fuck does that mean?”

I ignored regret and embraced the inner asshole. I was being childish, and I was oddly proud.

It’d been so very long since I had been allowed to be childish.

“I think you know what it means. And what the hell does it matter?” I lifted an eyebrow at him. As if he had a right to be jealous; throughout all of this, he was engaged, and that was never even slightly in doubt or up for debate. He had no right to anything.

“God DAMN it, Will-“ The flush now covered all of Tom’s face, making him appear so very young, as if he was going to stamp his foot next.

“STOP…” I was yelling, calm broken. Closing my eyes and taking a deep breath, I plastered that smile on my face again. “Stop. Calling me. Will. We had a thing. You don’t want that thing. I am still your boss, although I don’t know why.”

“’Don’t know why’?  What the hell does that mean?!” I couldn’t bring myself to say it, to do it, so I just shrugged.

He looked angry and lost all in one. “God, I try to apologize, and you’re being a goddamn prick! I just wanted to-“

“Mr. Naughton, please leave my office. I have work to do.” I opened my laptop and peered at the screen as if seeing something interesting despite the fact it was still loading. “I’m sure you do, also? Perhaps you need to call Lori? Sounds like there are some ‘problems’ there. Maybe it’s time you put some effort into addressing them, as opposed to spouting confused apologies at me.”

He stood for a moment, eyes wide, and took a couple of very deep breaths. I flashed back to an earlier moment in this office, a few weeks ago, where he had done more or less the exact same thing.

It was pretty doubtful he’d kiss me this time, though. The hot air bolstering my rage disappeared as quickly as it had come.

“Fuck you, MR. MERRIN,” it came out as a gargled snarl, and Tom moved towards the door.

“No, no you won’t,” I said with more quiet regret than anger, and his back stiffened. He began to turn, but seemed to think better of it and slammed out the door.

I watched him stalk towards his office, and I thought about how his muscles and his body carriage always expressed so much about what he was feeling at any given moment, even when he couldn’t get the right words out. Amazing to me, at least.

I bolstered myself, with the fact that this was the right thing. Distance, emotional and physical.

“Mr. Merrin, I have a couple of questions…” Phil’s smile was smarmy and his eyes alight with curiosity as he poked his head in my door.  My appreciation for his skills had gone down with my mood, and it was with great effort I gave him an inviting smile to cross the threshold.

“Come on in,” I said graciously, trying not to grit my teeth. I hated the damn windows that made my office a fishbowl. And, currently, I also hated myself.


The day passed until about 2pm.  I did what I had to do and pretended nothing was wrong, despite Rich calling again. I was NOT in the mood to be stalked. But it wasn’t that hard to convince myself it was just another day. 

This was until the moment she walked into the office.

I’d stared at her pictures enough in Tom’s office to be able to recognize her anywhere. Often, inadvertently, when his mouth had been around my cock.

In person, as in pictures, she looked sweet. Lori was pretty and golden in both skin and hair, but not overly made-up.  Wearing a pretty print skirt that went down to her ankles and a form-fitting sweater, she looked very petite and very feminine.

Female, I sighed to myself, not just feminine. Female.

And what was she carrying in that tray? Cookies? Brownies? Good god. Tina from data-entry showed her where the entrance to Tom’s dungeon was, and Lori gave her a sweet, unforced smile in thanks.  So Tom really HAD called her.

I thought of Holly, my sister, crying and crying in her room and refusing to eat or leave the house for a month when she found out the man who she thought of as the love of her life was screwing his female ‘best friend’.

I could see Lori crying like that. Finding out your fiancée was cheating with the “opposite-to-you gender boss” could do that to anyone. This woman had no idea what was going on.

But more importantly from where I was standing I could also see ME crying like that.

 I’d hoped that seeing Tom walk Lori out to the front doors would have been at least less difficult than it could have been. But as he headed down the aisle through the cubicles, he turned to me with a jerky motion, as if it was involuntarily. His eyes were huge, full of pain and the apologies I’d told him to stop saying. I turned away.

I also then left, letting Allie smoothly cover me by asking in a loud voice if my flu symptoms had worsened. I confirmed they had considerably, gave her a grateful smile, and went home to soak in my self-pity.


“Oh, yeah, everyone in my office is really nice to me – oh goddamnit stupid bastard GIMP – sorry, mom,” I apologized and made myself put the controller down after Mitsurugi got his ass whipped by Voldo.

My dad laughed, and she made her noise that suggested how very put-upon she was. “Are you playing video games while talking to us, William?”

“Maybe?” I said impishly. I took a swig of my beer, my 4th of the day.

“Manager of a major company…”

“Manager of a useless, dying branch of a major, possibly soon-to-be-taken-over company,” I corrected her.

“…and still playing video games and ignoring his parents.”

“I’m not ignoring you, I’m multi-tasking.” She harrumphed, and I took comfort in the loving familiarity of the exchange. We’d not talked as much as I’d have liked the last several months, and hadn’t had time to have them visit.

“Will,” My dad interrupted, “Holly mentioned to us that while you’re not really in a relationship, you are – involved with someone from work.  Everything going okay?”

He was always a smoothly diplomatic academic, my father. Most likely the reason he got tenure so quickly. “Oh, it’s just a fling. It’s pretty much over, truthfully. No harm done.”

Mom’s radar honed in on something in my voice like an emotional intelligence Global Positioning System on speed. “You’re upset.”

“I am NOT upset.” I finished my half-full beer in one gulp.

 “Did someone break your heart, sweetie?”

“Oh, look, I have to go out to meet a couple of people for drinks; I’ll call you guys on Sunday?”

She sighed. “My poor baby.”

“Don’t work too hard, Will,” My father advised. “It’s easier to make mistakes in your personal life when you’re putting too much of yourself into your job.”

“Thanks.” I meant it. “Love you guys.”

We said goodbye, and I flopped back on the couch to stare at the ceiling. Holly, being Holly, had probably told them everything I’d told her. My brother had written me a cryptic “I’m here for you, man” email the other day, and the fact that my parents had let it go so quickly was a sign they suspected how upset I was. I’d always needed time to think before I talked about anything.

This could be because I was searching for just the right way to present it, I guess. I needed to feel that it came out in the right way, the right context. Once a control freak… 

I sure as hell didn’t have any idea what I was thinking. My heart and mind had somehow wrapped themselves completely around Tom.

I sighed, scratched, and got up to walk to the fridge for another beer, still carrying my cell phone. Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, if it was later than 8:00, and I could start the process of just falling asleep in front of the TV.

My pants were the same white ones from the night before, but I wasn’t going for sexy this time. They were paired with an extremely beat up Green Bay Packers shirt that I’d had forever – I wasn’t much of a football fan, but there was a lot of nostalgia attached – and it was the very definition of ‘scuzzy’. There was a huge tear in the front and it was  too small around the shoulders since I’d worn it from age fifteen. I’d taken a shower but I was still unshaven and my hair was an uncontrolled nightmare.

The beer I was drinking was a strong microbrew, and I was definitely feeling it. It sucked that I was doing this self-pity game and beer fest alone, as a comfortable guy friend or two would have been more than nice, but I at least felt comfortably relaxed.

My new mantra was that I’d be okay; I was a grown man, and while I’d never been quite so crossed in love like this as an adult, it was probably good for me.

Everyone needs a little kicking around, right? Right, I told myself firmly. Looking around the condo, I wondered if I should get myself a cat. Another living thing in the vicinity might help.

I put my phone down on the counter to open the fridge, and right at that moment it rang. I leaned forward suspiciously to look at the display, figuring it was one of my siblings, alerted to be in Code Red Support Mode by my parents.

But, no, it was Rich. For the second time since I’d left work.

“What the hell?” I asked my phone, annoyed, and wondered if I should answer or not. I’d really figured him to be the fuck ‘em and leave ‘em type, and his attitude last night had certainly seemed like confirmation of that impression. And yet here he was, constant phone calls and, last time, a rather friendly message.

Being a professional colleague, I knew I had to deal with him before he got pissy, and sooner was better than later. Picking it up, I pitched my voice low and sickly sounding.

“Hello?” There, that was pretty pitiful sounding.

“Will? It’s Rich,” He sounded a touch relieved that I’d actually picked up, and I felt guilty. “Are you doing okay?”

“I’m fine… I just think I’m coming down with the flu, you know, it’s going around. My office is full of sick people. I hope I didn’t get you sick.”

“I feel fine, but I rarely get sick, in any case.” There was a pause. “Want me to bring over some food and a movie?”

My eyebrows hit my hairline. I wished I DID have a cat, so I could exchange a comic surprised look with it. Slick Rich was asking to see me again? While sick?

It wasn’t as if I was interested in the guy… but he wasn’t a bad lay. I still needed distracting. I could shave really quickly, admit to him I was just playing hookey, and have him come over… I’m sure with time I could beat the lingering feeling of disappointment I’d had that it wasn’t Tom I was sleeping with.

The voice in my mind that sounded like my father’s and asking if that wasn’t just me making bad decisions to deal with past bad decisions was studiously ignored.

There was a knock at my front door. Figuring it was the recent divorcee with the fake boobs from down the hall who seemed to lurk in waiting until she knew I was in making another go at inviting me over; I padded to the door while talking.

Seeing me like this might finally put her off the hunt. Maybe I could talk openly with Rich about sex with her standing there to seal the deal, a thought that made me smile.

“Hmmmmmm…” I said, coyly. “I wouldn’t want to take the risk of your getting sick…” I undid the locks, not bothering to look out the peephole.

“If you’re really sick today you would have been contagious yesterday, so I’ve probably already got the bug.” He said with amusement.

 “Actually, to be honest, I’m …” Not actually sick was what I was going to say, but instead I just gasped.

 “Will?” Rich said in reaction to my sudden silence, “Is everything okay?”

“Uh…” My weak, unsure tones weren’t faked this time as I continued to stare. “Uh, actually, Rich, I suddenly feel really nauseated; I don’t think food is such a good idea, and I’d be bad company tonight.”

“Okay. Maybe when you feel better we could get together?”

“Yeah,” I said faintly, “Yeah, sounds great.” Before he could say goodbye I closed my cell. So I could stare.

“Will,” Tom said, looking miserable. “Can I – Can I come in?”

I shut my eyes and made a tortured sound.

Part 6