The meeting with the buyers was over before I knew it. My usual bravado and smooth talking charm had all but disappeared, as my thoughts were on the sullen man that stood to the side the entire time. Tate hadn't uttered a word since leaving Quantis. Not when he turned in his badge. Not when he shakily handed over the keys to his company car. Nothing. He kept his head down, hiding his eyes behind his bangs, and looked every bit the victim that he truly was. My heart ached and not even the transfer of millions of dollars could heal it. I was lost to him. I, Oliver Caldwell, had become a hopeless fool.
A fool who let his temper get the best of him and ruined whatever chance I had with the beautiful creature that was Tate Raymee. I looked at him. He leaned against the open entrance to the warehouse with his arms wrapped securely around his chest. His hair was still disheveled and his tie clung haphazardly to his neck. I wanted to go to him, tell him I was so sorry, and wrap him up in my arms. But he hated me now. How could he not? I called him a whore, I got him fired, and I accused him of faking his innocence. I hated myself more than he could ever know. Even I, who was a stubborn hard ass, was not too stubborn to admit that.
"Sir?" Richard put his hand on my arm. "The car is waiting."
"Thank you Richard," I murmured. My heart beat louder and louder with every step I took towards the open door. Every step closer to him, my mind played out the words I should say, the apology I should make. But I found it hard to breathe let alone speak. Why was he even still here? Why hadn't he run for it? Was he trying to make me feel guilty? If he was, it was working.
Tate moved outside before I reached him, slipping into the car quietly, and shutting the door. Richard patted my shoulder with a look of pity and got in the front seat with the driver. This was terrible. I had an aching feeling in my gut that at any moment Tate was going to let it all come out, and I didn't want to be in an enclosed space with other's watching when he did.
The minute I slid into the back seat and closed the door, he turned to me. His eyes were blank and his words were cold, "I want a job. It was your fault I lost mine, so I believe it's the least you can do."
"Tate," I slid over and he put up a hand.
"It's really simple Oliver. A simple yes will suffice," he bit out, plastering himself to the door. I pondered this god given opportunity for only a second and smiled inside.
"Fine, I'll have Richard look around for assisting positions within the city," I murmured. This way I could know where he went and still keep an eye on him.
"No. I want a job with your company. I'm not about to start out as some entry level grunt boy. I worked my ass off to get to the top of Quantis and maybe I had a little help from Alex, but it was on top and that's how I pay my bills." He narrowed his beautiful eyes. God, he was sexy as hell when he was mad. I had never seen this side of him. Well, I really had only seen him in bed, but as I stared at him, I planned to rectify that immediately. I was not about to let go of Tate Raymee. No matter how much he hated me. I would do whatever it took to be the man he wanted me to be. Who was I becoming? This wasn't me but I didn't care anymore.
"Richard, when we get back to the office, set up a station across from you. Talk to payroll and send them Tate's information. If you need anything, put it on the company card. Looks like your getting that help you wanted after all." He wanted to be on top? Hmph. I'll show you top buttercup.
"Wait! You're going to put me with you directly?" Tate's eye's went wide.
"Isn't that what you wanted? To be at the very top?" I smirked.
"Well yes but..." His eyes were innocent again, his submissive side struggling with his anger.
Richard turned in his seat to face us, "it'll be nice to have someone else to help out. I'll be glad to show you the ropes when we get back."
Tate looked between us for a minute, then sighed, "okay. Thanks."
"Would you like to get changed before we head back? We can swing by your place if you like." I peered down to get an answer.
"Yeah. I'm on Jackson, across from St. Catherines."
"That's pretty far away. Why don't you live closer to work? That's got to be hell in the morning." I grinned.
He looked up, shame flushing his cheeks. "I can't...I don't have the...I just can't okay."
He couldn't afford it, could he? What the hell was Alexander paying him with, dog treats? I would have thought at least six figures, judging by the guy's designer attire and flashy hair, but looks could be deceiving. Why would Tate stay with someone like Rutovsky? What did Tate see in someone that couldn't even pay him what he was worth?
"Sir?" The driver asked.
"Jackson," I nodded.
"Very good Sir," the driver replied.
"I don't want any special treatment Oliver. It's a job and nothing else, understood?" Tate looked over, trying to be stern, but his wavering, ocean hued eyes were uncertain.
"Richard do I give you any special treatment?" I raised a brow at the lumberjack blonde.
"Uh, no sir," Richard chuckled. "None what so ever."
I turned back to Tate, "satisfied?" He grunted and muttered something under his breath before turning back to the window.
Early afternoon traffic would be mind boggling for out of towners, but not locals. The driver was definitely the latter and he knew every shortcut that the city had to offer. Instead of the thirty to forty minute trip to Jackson Avenue, it was thankfully more like twenty. Tate directed the graying gentlemen to a stooped brownstone across from the massive catholic church. The brick was faded, there were bars on the lower windows, and a lovely display of spray painted signatures graced the surrounding walls and doors. I didn't like knowing he lived here. It made me uneasy and I feared for his safety.
"I'll just be a minute," Tate's cheeks were burning red with shame.
"I'm coming with you," I narrowed my eyes at the group of gang bangers sitting on the next stoop, eyeing my car like it was candy. "Lock the doors until we get back."
"You don't need to come with me Oliver! I'm not a child and I'm not going to make a run for it, if that's what you think," he spat.
I grabbed his delicate chin in my strong grasp, "this is not up for discussion. I will come with you. Now get out of the car and let's go."
He whimpered, pulling back and opening the door. I hurried out of the car and eyed the group of men watching us. Tate rounded the vehicle and stood at my side, rolling his eyes up at me.
"Hey Raul!" Tate called out with a smile.
The leader of the stoop pack raised a hand with a grin," what's up bro? Gettin classy I see."
"Nah, just with my boss for a minute. His ride not mine. Say hey to Tina and the kids for me," Tate waved and the whole group waved back. What the hell? These were friends of his? These tatted up, sweaty latin thugs, were his friends?
"Ha. Sure thing bro. You come by and grab some tamales this weekend. Tina would love to see you!" With that Raul stood up and placed a hard hat on his head.
The other guys stood too, gripping lunch pails and bottles of water. Ah fuck. Guess I really was a spoiled brat from the right side of the tracks. My mind had been trained to judge anything lower than myself and I scolded my upbringing. I let my scowl drop and raised a hand to the group walking past us back to the construction zone on the corner.
"Have a good day man," Raul tipped his hard hat with a chuckle.
Tate moved around when they were out of sight and snorted, "come on, let's make this quick."
The hallways smelled like a pack of elderly men had just pissed everywhere and the yellowed carpet rolled away from the walls, peeling up from the dirty tile job underneath. Tate swiftly unlocked the chipped, brown door in front of us and stepped inside. It was small. I could've used the word quaint, but it was just plain small. A living area the size of my bathroom offered a small, clean black couch and a little glass table that held a tiny flat screen television. No pictures on the walls, no potted plants, it was depressing.
He looked at me over his shoulder with a pained expression, "you can sit if you want. I'll be right back." With that, he glided out of the room and down the attached hallway.
Making sure he was behind closed doors, I wandered into the galley style kitchen. Everything was so neat and orderly. This small nook of a kitchen was packed with spices, dried goods, canned goods, and surprisingly a decent selection of wine. I could tell he liked to cook. A splayed out cook book with handwritten notes confirmed my suspicions. An open laptop was on the counter next to the book, along with a slew of loose papers. I skimmed a finger over the pile. Past due. More past due. Final Notice. Ah shit Tate. Why did you stay there?
I heard the door open down the hall and folded the small pile of papers, shoving them inside my coat pocket. I would take care of this. He shouldn't have to live this way.
"Oliver?" His voice sounded uneasy. I grabbed a warm can of coke from the box and popped the top. I had never really drank soda. Maybe once or twice when I was young. My mother never allowed it, so I grew up with a lack of craving for it. Now though, I had no choice. I needed a reason to snoop around this rented cage of an apartment and the shiny red can had just become my alibi.
"There you are," he rounded the corner and I took a sip of the room temperature cola. It was sweet and fizzy, delicious even if it wasn't cold. Holy shit, this is amazing. I lowered the can and looked at it, licking my lips.
"I hope you don't mind. I got thirsty," I grinned, taking another sip. Then another, then another.
"I can see that. You can have more if you want." Tate covered his mouth with a laugh. I slowly put the can down feeling slightly embarrassed but not yet beaten.
"More of what?" I turned my head to look at him and he lowered his hand from his face. He froze up. A familiar look of innocence was in his eyes and I couldn't resist.
He backed into the only free wall at the end of the kitchen, his hands searching for somewhere to escape as I stalked towards him. Suddenly my brain snapped into overdrive and my mouth started to say the things I had longed to tell him, "I meant what I said earlier. I'm sorry how it came out and I'm sorry that I accused you of things you didn't do. My anger is something I seem to struggle with when you're involved, but I'll work on it. But, I meant that I can't stop thinking about you. Your smell, your voice, your eyes. Everything.
When I woke up and you were gone..." I put my hands to either side of his head, trapping him against my chest.
"I fucking lost it. God, I felt so guilty. I still feel guilty. I have no idea what it is about you that makes me crave you. But I will find out and when I do Tate Raymee...I'll never let you go. Not for anything. Because you are mine." I bent my head and sucked at his neck. Tate trembled and tilted his head to the side with one of his soft whimpers.
"Can you forgive me?" I whispered, flicking his earlobe with my tongue. "Will you forgive your..." I couldn't say it. I had said everything right and that one word could bring everything crashing down. Fuck, I was so whipped.
His small hands wrapped around me and clutched at my back. He clung to me, bringing his mouth by ear,"Oliver."
I sucked in a sharp breath, feeling my cock twitch in my slacks. Fuck yes. This time I didn't even hesitate when I pulled his head back and kissed him. He was mine, his lips were mine, everything about him belonged to me. My tongue licked open the seam of his lips, like opening an envelope from the unknown. I had never kissed another man. I'll admit it. I had been too scared that it meant more and now I knew it was true. The taste of coffee filled my mouth, mixing with the tangy syrup I still had on my tongue. His lips were small, but soft and they fit perfectly to mine. I wanted to devour him alive. In this moment though, I finally thought before acting and settled for a gentle exchange of tongues and fingers stroking through hair.
Tate's body relaxed into me. His small frame resting warmly against my chest while his fingers ran slowly up and down my back. What was this? What was happening to me? This slow and gentle crap wasn't me! Think Oliver! In the end though, did I really know who I was after hiding behind my mask this whole time? Could I be gentle and sweet for him? Could I give him hugs instead of spankings? I didn't know. Then again, I didn't know if I didn't try. I would try...For him. I lifted him up and set him on the only free space the kitchen offered. My hands cupped either side of his face and we never stopped kissing. His thin arms encircled my neck, running his agile fingers against the flow of my hair. He whimpered when I slipped a hand down his back and cupped his ass.
Tate gasped as I squeezed, his body arched and his head flung back in pleasure, breaking our kiss. Whack. Oh fuck! His head smacked against the cabinet door above.
"Oh Jesus! Tate are you okay?" I freaked and brought his chin up.
"Ow!" His face scrunched up and he rubbed the back of his head. "Holy crap, that's gonna leave a mark."
"We should get you to a hospital, you could have a concussion!" I pulled him from the counter, clutching him to my chest as I walked.
"Oliver," he laughed. "Put me down, I'm fine I swear it."
I stopped and looked at him seriously, checking his eyes for any signs of dialation, "Oliver..."
He pushed against my chest, his previously quiet laughs now bringing tears to his eyes.
"What is so damned funny? You hit your head harder than I thought. I'm calling Richard." I pulled my phone out of my pocket. Leave it to me to mess this up within five minutes of being near him. I just could not catch a break.
Tate grabbed the phone out of my hands and slipped it into my pocket, "I'm laughing because it's funny. You finally kiss me and I have to go and smack my head. I do it almost every day! Hit my head on those cabinets that is. Not kissing guys." He laughed some more.
I breathed a sigh of relief, "wasn't really Hollywood quality was it?" I smirked. His laugh was infectious. If I wasn't holding back, I would have smiled.
"It was perfect." He glowed from head to toe, a faint pink blush settling over his cheeks. I liked how he blushed. He was so... Oliver, we do not say things like cute. How about...He looks attractive. There we go. Men do not call other men cute.
"I don't think perfect is the correct term," I rubbed a hand slowly over the back of his head. A small bump was starting to swell.
He hissed a little. The bump had to be tender. "We should put some ice on this. Like now." I found myself taking my time running my hands through his hair.
Tate grabbed my hands in his. "Oliver. It was perfect," his eyes were warm, his voice soft. Did he know? How could he? I cleared a knot from from throat and darted my eyes from his beautiful gaze.
"Oliver," he stroked the side of my face. "Do you regret it? Kissing me?"
My head snapped back to him, my eyes narrowed, "How could you say that? I would have never wasted my first kiss if I knew I would regret it..." I trailed off. My eyes went wide and I stiffened with a sharp intake of breath through my nose.
Tate beamed and gasped, "I knew it! I could tell." He bit his lip and looked up at me shyly, "thank you. That was better than any apology you could ever give me."
I let the breath I had been holding go. Be a man Oliver. You can do this. "You're..."
My phone blared in my coat. The high pitch shrill cutting off whatever sweet nothings I had planned to say. Tate sighed and went to put on his shoes as I answered.
"Martin called because Kev is swamped with phone calls at the moment. The inspector's report came back and it doesn't look good. He emailed me a copy of it. Sir, if I may?" Richard hesitated.
"Go ahead..." I sighed. This was bad. I could tell. I would not let Alexander get to me. This was a game after all and I had just as many resources as he did.
"Well if the report I was emailed is the one the inspector has turned in, then you're going to need a lot of help from people in high places. Mr. Rutovsky, er I mean uh Alex, cleaned house this round," he went quiet. My anger was starting to wind it's way to the surface, but just then, Tate looked up at me from his spot on the sofa and smiled. For no reason, he just smiled at me. My heart beat started to slow and I unclenched my fists.
So I just smiled back, "then we'll just have to make a mess for him won't we?"