To start off our upcoming first birthday we are celebrating by releasing novellas from our first anthology published, Second Chances.
Over the next month leading up to August 31, and our party weekend, we will release all 5 novellas from the anthology - one each Friday.
This week's novella is NON-NEGOTIABLE by T. D. GREEN
Jacob Kerns, the advertising director for a small national greeting card company, is due for a promotion. His ambitions for advancement are jeopardized when he learns his next big contract will be handled by none other than Alexander Cory, his ex-lover from college.
Seeing Alex again opens the old wounds of that long ago betrayal, but Jake endeavors to put personal feelings aside to do his job. If only Alex would let him! When Jake's boss falls ill, secrets come out.
Will Jake find love again or is the whole thing non-negotiable?
“MR. KERNS, YOUR two-thirty's waiting in room twelve.”
“Thank you, Sandra,” I said as I walked by the desk parked in front of my office door. I gave her a wink and loosened my tie a fraction—a small, but effective trick of the trade when dealing with new contracts.
Pauline Sturges, a sales rep from the advertising firm courting my company’s newest branch, had arrived a touch early. I didn't mind. That meant she had to wait a few minutes, which automatically put me on the offensive—the position I preferred.
I shrugged on my charm, pasted an apologetic smile on my face, and tugged on the door to room twelve. “I'm so sorry to make you—” I faltered. The handsome man who stood upon my arrival was definitely not Pauline.
“It's good to see you again, Jacob.”
“Alex,” I sneered. “Where's Pauline?”
“She couldn’t make it, but I’d be happy to—”
I turned away from him. “Have Pauline call to reschedule,” I said without looking back.
I gritted my teeth against that old familiarity.
“I don’t have anything to say to you,” I told him. “And after six years of silence, it’s a little too late for you to say anything either.”
“You’re right,” he said. “Nothing I say will change the past.”
I dropped my hand off the door, remembering he always had a knack for reeling me in. I knew better than to stay and listen to whatever excuses he might spout.
“I have no excuse for what happened back then,” he continued. “When things calmed down, I tried to find you, but you were already gone. When I did find you a few months later, I was afraid it was too late. I knew how you’d stew for ages about things.” Alex chuffed a weak laugh.
“So you let me stew. How nice.”
“I was young and stupid. Like I said, I don’t have any good excuses.”
I turned around and leaned on the doorframe. “Are you seeing anyone?” I asked.
I walked over to the table and stared down at him. “Are you single?”
“I don’t see how that has anything to do with this meeting,” he said, brows furrowed slightly.
“Then why are you here? Pauline could’ve rescheduled, but you came in her place knowing full well I’d be here. Don’t feed me that line of bullshit.”
He crossed his arms and scowled. “Are you?”
I cocked a half-smile. “Am I what? Seeing someone or single?”
“You’ve become cold.” He rose from the chair and pushed it in. “I’ll have Pauline call your secretary.”
I pushed open the door for him to leave. “Please do so.”
He hesitated on his way out. “I’m glad I could finally put a piece of my past behind me. Thank you.”
When he was gone, I returned to the meeting room and slumped in a chair, suddenly exhausted. It took every ounce of my strength to maintain the chilly air of not caring. I couldn’t risk falling under that man’s spell again. The first time had cost dearly; in fact, the coldness he’d so aptly pointed out was a product partly of his making. I’d locked away my feelings to cope with the loss of my lover, and then my older sister a month later.
I would’ve happily told him the painful truth: I’d been single every day of those six years since he disappeared so suddenly. Single except for the long list of one night stands and brief flings to satiate my body’s needs or assuage the temporary bouts of loneliness. Of course, just when I could finally begin to forget him: “You had to return,” I murmured.
“I knew it.”
I leaped from the chair. “Christ!” The bastard had sneaked back in.
“I forgot my Galaxy.” Alex motioned toward the tablet left in his rush to leave.
I scowled and mentally cursed my ill luck. Alexander Cory was the last person I wanted to witness my brief moment of self-pitying weakness.
“For what it’s worth,” he said, retrieving his tablet, “I am single.”
I tried deflecting his statement and the smile he offered. “That’s nice, but what’s that got to do with me?”
“You asked.” He stopped at my side, nearly touching my arm with his elbow. “I take back what I said before.”
“Which part?” I asked before I could stop myself. He was too close.
He faced me and looked straight into my eyes. “That you’ve become cold.”
“I see.” Gathering the shreds of my dropped mask was like scooping armloads of water. “Whatever you think you saw—”
“I heard what you said.”
I stepped backward again and the table hit the back of my legs.
“Your lovely secretary was delighted to inform me that you’re not seeing anyone. In fact, she said you’re a bit of a playboy. Isn’t that interesting?”
I clenched my hand, resisting the urge to punch the smirk off his face. “So? For a man my age, that isn’t exactly outside the norm.” I narrowed my gaze. “Don’t tell me some lie about how you’ve just come out of a long term relationship, how you drifted apart or whatever. I’m not buying.”
“Okay, so I won’t.” He moved closer until I practically sat on the table to avoid contact. “Jake,” he breathed my name, like an exhalation of sweet pleasure.
“I think you should leave.” I had a death grip on the edge of the table.
He stepped back. I huffed and tightened my tie, angry that he still affected me.
“It’s only fair that I should warn you,” he said. “I intend to win you back.”