The necessary documents were printed out, the packets were stapled, the folders were color-coded for convenience, and the coffee—black with two sugars—was ready. Everything was ready. There was nothing stopping Morgan from going into Mr. King’s office and starting the workday, except that he didn’t want to. He really didn’t want to. He really, really didn’t want to.
“Right,” said Morgan. He put the coffee down on his desk and then picked it up again immediately. The gesture was pointless; it wasn’t like leaving it sitting around somewhere would help him any.
Five steps away, the door to Mr. King’s office loomed. Morgan crossed the distance and knocked, and then peered in.
Mr. King was sitting at his desk, browsing the computer. When Morgan entered, he glanced up once and then again, smiling. “What is it?” he asked. He stood up as he spoke. Shit.
“The new analyses,” Morgan told him, holding up the folders. “And your coffee.”
“Great,” said Mr. King. “Thanks. Any problems with the information?”
“Not as far as I could tell.”
Go to the desk and put the shit down, Morgan’s brain commanded, and he started to, hardly even dragging his feet. For fuck’s sake, he was twenty-four years old; he could deal with things like an adult. Just walk to the desk and give Mr. King the analyses and then walk away again. It would take fifteen seconds.
Mr. King accepted the folders without any problems, but when Morgan handed him the cup of coffee, their fingers brushed, and Mr. King gave him a look, flickering, heavy-lidded. Repulsion crawled up Morgan’s spine. Mature, he reminded himself. He just needed to grit his teeth and bear it.
“Thank you,” Mr. King murmured.
“Sure. Anything else? I’m not done reading through the emails, but I’ll be finished soon.”
The conversation paused. Morgan’s throat was dry and his head was starting to hurt. He tried to think of a way to extricate himself from the situation, but nothing came to him. The thing was, Mr. King was his boss—the youngest financial manager in Three Trees’s company history, blah blah—and Morgan had only been working for him for two months, and it had been a hellish effort to even get the stupid job, which meant he needed to be on his best behavior. He couldn’t fuck it up. If he did, he was out of work again, and looking at another eight months of searching and searching and not getting anywhere. So he was pretty fucking stuck, even when Mr. King kept flirting with him.
Like then: “Are you doing anything this weekend?” Mr. King asked. Of course he did.
“Um,” said Morgan. “I don’t know.” It was a stupid response, but it was pretty much all his brain was willing to produce right at that moment. Most of his thoughts were skewed toward the “get away at all costs” side of things, and that meant there wasn’t much space left for the “make polite chitchat” part. But judging by Mr. King’s expression, Morgan was basically William fucking Shakespeare.
“No big plans?” Mr. King asked.
“No… specific ones.”
Mr. King moved a little closer and Morgan moved a little away, though not as much as he would have liked: the desk was right behind him, and if he stepped away any further back, he’d crash into it. It was kind of between him and the door, too, so if he needed to make a hasty exit, it was one more thing in his path. He had a giddy, passing image of Mr. King chasing him around the office, like the lascivious boss and naughty secretary out of some old movie. If Mr. King tried anything like that, Morgan would punch him in the face.
“You know,” Mr. King began, and Morgan could guess where the conversation was going, because it was the same place it had gone pretty much every fucking day. Mr. King was going to talk about how he and some friends were going out to dinner on Saturday, and how if Morgan wanted—if he was interested—he’d be welcome to come along.
Sure enough: “I’m going to dinner with some friends this weekend. Saturday. If you’re interested…?” He smiled again.
“Thanks. But I don’t think I can. I… my roommate has something to do. On Saturday.”
“That’s fine.” Another smile. The motherfucker never stopped smiling. “Maybe next time.”
“Maybe,” said Morgan, hoping against hope that that day would be the day Mr. King realized that maybe meant never.
It probably wasn’t. Mr. King didn’t look like a guy who’d finally understood he was being turned down; he was still watching Morgan with that interested glint in his eye, and he wasn’t stepping back.
Morgan bit down a sigh. “If that’s all, Mr. King…?”
“Hmm? Oh, right, sure.”
Finally, he moved away, and Morgan could get through. He slipped by Mr. King, grateful that at least Mr. King wasn’t handsy. It was fucked-up, to be grateful for that, like the fact that Mr. King had never actually touched him was a big kindness on Mr. King’s part. Like it was a sacrifice.
Morgan paused in the doorway and looked over his shoulder. Mr. King’s attention was back on his computer screen, but he glanced up when he felt Morgan’s eyes on him, and his face brightened. Maybe he thought Morgan had changed his mind about the Saturday dinner thing.
“Are there any messages you want me to look out for?” Morgan asked. “When I go through the emails, I mean?”
A flicker of disappointment, and then Mr. King shook it off. “Just mark the ones you think are important. I trust your judgment.”
“Right,” said Morgan. Whatever, man. “I’ll see if there’s anything important.”