Saturday, February 20, 2016

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Unconventional by Scotty Cade

An Unconventional Courtship #1
Tristan Moreau loves his job as chief administrative officer and personal assistant to Webber Kincaid, President, Chairman, and CEO of Kincaid International. It would be the perfect job… if only he hadn’t fallen in love with his boss as well as the work. After two years, he’s still doing everything in his power to keep his feelings hidden—mostly because he wants to protect the reputation of his famous boss but also because he wants to keep his job.

Webber Kincaid has stayed in the closet, using his best friend and confidante as his beard. Everything in his life was working out just fine until he met Tristan Moreau. Within months, Tristan stole his heart and became his lifeline. But Webber knows the rules of the workplace better than anyone, so he’s kept his distance.

But two years is too long to wonder “what if?”—especially when business takes them to a private Caribbean island. When Tristan and Webber succumb to the tropical heat, their professionalism starts to backslide. It’s a seemingly impossible relationship, making a go at it under the paparazzi’s microscope. It may be the best—or the worst—business decision they ever made.

An Unconventional Union #2
Kincaid International Corporation’s CEO, Webber Kincaid, and his executive assistant, Tristan Moreau, have just returned from a Caribbean business trip gone horribly right. After years of hiding their love for each other, they finally came clean—and discovered KIC’s chief financial officer has been up to some shady business transactions. Now that they’re back, Tristan and Webber must expose the CFO’s indiscretions—and save Webber’s reputation, since he’s ultimately responsible for his CFO’s actions. With Tristan by his side, Webber faces KIC’s board of directors and a looming investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice.

With all the uncertainty surrounding them, Webber and Tristan rely on the strength of their connection. Together, they plan an intimate wedding on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. But despite their love for one another, Webber and Tristan quickly realize they have some hurdles to cross before they can start their unexpected new life.

I read this duology over two years ago but the love between Webber and Tristan still remains with me.  A well written story of two interesting characters in a situation that has impossible hurdles written all over it and yet their age difference and working relationship is not an impediment to their romance nor is their romance damaging to their work. A definite must if you are a romance lover.


An Unconventional Courtship #1
TRISTAN MOREAU strolled into his favorite coffee shop with the morning paper tucked under one arm and a loaded-down backpack over the other shoulder. He had about two hours to kill before his next class, and he thought he’d eat an early lunch, catch up on the latest news, and maybe even get in a little studying before he had to leave for his next class. He was a senior at NYU majoring in business administration and had a pretty heavy schedule. Three days a week he had back-to-back classes, but the other two days he had only one class in the morning and one in the afternoon and today was one of those lighter days. He took his place at the end of the line with his mouth watering for the first taste of his favorite mocha-flavored cappuccino.

The broad shoulders of the man in line in front of him immediately caught his attention. I know that back. Where have I seen it before? Continuing his summation, he followed the muscular shoulders down the natural V shape to a small waist and beautifully rounded ass. He held his gaze there a little longer than he should, savoring the view, but eventually moved back up to the sandy-brown, shoulder length hair. The package seemed so familiar, but from where? Why would someone’s back be so memorable?

With nothing else to do while he waited in line, he racked his brain trying to remember where he’d seen that physique. Probably sensing Tristan’s stare, the man turned around rather nervously. When their eyes met, the familiar man did a double take and held Tristan’s gaze. Tristan was stunned by the depth and beauty of the rich emerald-green eyes staring back at him. Then it all clicked: Professor Scott.

Justin Scott had been his business communications professor during his sophomore year, and Tristan quickly remembered having the biggest crush on him. The professor was rumored to be bisexual, but bisexual or not, Tristan would have never gotten involved with one of his professors. So the best he’d hoped for was to attempt to sit in class and not drool. How many hours had he watched those broad shoulder muscles flexing as the professor raised his arms to write on the whiteboard? And even worse, how many times had he gotten lost in those emerald-green eyes, face-to-face with the professor just feet away from him?

“Tristan?” the man asked with a surprised look on his face.

Shocked that the professor even remembered his face, not to mention his name, Tristan’s heart skipped a beat and he felt a blush cover his entire face.

“Professor Scott?”

The man stuck his hand out. “I thought it was you. It’s great to see you.”

Tristan shifted the papers to the other arm and nervously accepted the outstretched hand and returned the firm yet tender handshake.

“Good to see you too, Professor. I’m great, how about you?”

“Oh you know, the same ole same ole.”

The barista called “Next!” and Professor Scott moved up to the counter, placed his order and gestured over his shoulder to Tristan. “And whatever he’s having.”

Tristan stepped up to the counter and stood next to Professor Scott. “Thank you, but you don’t have to do that.”

The professor laid a hand on Tristan’s shoulder. “No really, I want to.”

“A large mocha cappuccino with skim milk and a ham and Swiss on rye, please.” Tristan turned his attention back to Professor Scott and smiled. “Thanks.”

They stepped aside and exchanged a little more small talk while the barista completed their order. When the professor’s name was called, he scooped up the tray of coffee cups and sandwiches and headed to a table. “Will you join me?”

Unable to say no after the professor had bought his lunch, he graciously accepted. “Sure, Professor, if you don’t mind hanging out with a lowly senior.”

The professor chuckled. “First, please stop calling me professor. Justin will be fine. And secondly, I’d enjoy it. Don’t tell anyone, but most of the other professors are pretty boring.”

Tristan smiled and twisted his fingers in front of his lips. “That will stay our little secret.”

They ate their lunch while casually catching up and chatting about everything under the sun. Tristan realized that he really enjoyed the professor’s company. He had a dry sense of humor, which Tristan loved, and he didn’t take himself too seriously, which Tristan especially loved. And in addition to all that, he was very easy on the eyes.

With lunch long gone, and a split-second lull in the conversation, Tristan glanced at his watch. “Wow, Prof—I mean, Justin, I can’t believe how quickly time has flown by. I’ve got to go. I have a class in fifteen minutes.”

Justin also looked at his watch. “So do I. Come on, I’ll walk with you.”

Tristan smiled again and nodded, warmed to the heart that Justin wanted to spend a little more time with him. “That would be nice.”

They both stood and Tristan took their empty tray to the trashcan while Justin took Tristan’s backpack and waited for him at the front door. When they met again, Justin handed him his backpack and held the door open for him to pass through. Tristan was assaulted by a beautiful day. Although it was the end of February, they’d had a mild winter, and the temperature felt like it was in the high sixties. He was starting to see small hints of spring as they walked through Washington Square and talked. He knew after graduation, which was a little over four months away, he would surely miss the beauty of the campus, but certainly not the schedule.

“So, any prospects on a job yet?” Justin asked.

Tristan nodded. “As a matter of fact, a few, but one I’m particularly interested in.”

Justin cocked his head. “Really, good for you. You want to tell me about it?”

“It’s an entry-level position with an agency called Media America, one of the leading advertising agencies on Madison Avenue.”

“I’m impressed,” Justin replied. “I’m very familiar with them and it’s not that easy to get a foot in the door.”

Tristan felt a sense of pride. Justin was right; it had taken him three separate interviews just to get an interview with his potential boss. “Thanks, I am rather proud of myself.”

“And rightfully so. It just so happens that I have a good friend who is in the creative department, and maybe I could put in a good word for you.”

“Hey, that would be great. But please don’t feel obligated.”

Tristan noticed that Justin’s smile faded. And was that an expression of hurt on Justin’s face? Wanting that smile back Tristan added, “But look, if you’re willing, I’ll take all the help I can get.”

Justin smiled again and Tristan felt warmed to his toes.

Justin gazed into his hazel eyes. “Then consider it done,” he said, their eyes locked in a virtual embrace.

Feeling a little shy and uncomfortable, Tristan broke the connection by nervously pointing out that they had reached the building for his next class. “Here we are.” And, glancing at his watch again, “And not a minute too soon. This has really been nice, and thank you so much for buying my lunch.”

Justin smiled and nodded but looked as though he were contemplating something.

“Well, thanks again,” Tristan said as he turned.

Justin gently laid his hand on Tristan’s arm, spun him around, and again looked him in the eyes. “Would you ah… like to have dinner with me tonight?”

Tristan tried to mask the look of surprise but probably didn’t do a very good job.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have—”

“Yes,” Tristan said before thinking. It had just come out of his mouth. All his life he’d fought the mouth/brain thing. Having no filter between his brain and his mouth was really going to get him in trouble one day. “Yes, I would love to have dinner with you tonight,” he repeated.

“Really? I mean… please don’t feel obligated.”

“No! I really enjoyed lunch and it’s not like my grade depends on it or anything,” Tristan teased.

Justin beamed. “Okay then, it’s settled.”

Tristan reached into his backpack and pulled out paper and a pencil and jotted down his address and handed it to Justin.

Justin glanced down at the paper. “Seven okay?”

Tristan stuck out his hand. “Perfect, I’ll see you then.”

They shook hands and Tristan bolted for his class, hoping he wouldn’t be late.

Later that night, Tristan couldn’t remember when he’d had such a good time. The dinner was great, the company was great and the sex afterwards, well that was simply incredible. When Justin left his apartment very early the next morning, they made plans for a second date and as the weeks passed, they became closer and closer.

They’d been dating for about three months, seeing each other a few times a week, schedule allowing, when Tristan had his epiphany. It was a week before graduation and he was sprawled out on his couch in comfortable old sweats going over some of Media America’s literature in preparation for his new job. As he read page after page, thinking more about Justin than what he was reading and not really concentrating, he recognized that for the first time in his life, he was in love. He cringed when he realized that it had only been three months, and although they had never shared any thoughts about where they were headed, he’d fallen hard. He thought the only fair thing to do was to tell Justin how he felt and hope that Justin felt the same way. The next night they had plans for dinner, so Tristan invited Justin to his place and spent the entire day cooking and making a very special meal for a very romantic evening.

When Justin arrived, Tristan was flying high on pure adrenaline. He’d never told anyone he loved them before and his nerves were getting the best of him.

When they sat down for dinner, Justin looked at him with a raised brow. “You all right?”

Tristan fidgeted in his seat. “Yeah, why?”

“You just seem a little nervous.”

Tristan had this terrible habit of answering a question with a question when he was nervous. “Do I?”

Justin laughed and rolled his eyes. “Yes, you do.”

Tristan didn’t want to spoil the surprise, so for once, he kept quiet. “I’m fine, let’s eat.”

After dinner, which Tristan thought was incredible, they settled on the couch. Justin removed his shoes and put his feet on the ottoman and motioned for Tristan to join him.

Tristan sat next to him and kissed his cheek. “I want to talk to you about something.”

Straightening up, Justin cocked his head, looking at Tristan. “I knew you had something on your mind. I could tell the moment I walked in.” Justin smiled and kissed Tristan back. “So what is it that has the normally cool and collected Tristan Moreau a nervous wreck?”

Tristan rubbed his sweaty palms on his blue jeans and felt the blood drain out of his face. Get a grip, Tristan; you’re not twelve years old. He took a deep breath, leaned in, kissed Justin softly on the lips and whispered. “I’m in love with you.”

The look on Justin’s face was not at all what Tristan had expected. It was Justin’s blood draining out of his face this time and he suspected it wasn’t for the same reason. “But….”

Tristan pushed himself away from Justin and glared at him. “But what?”

Justin took his feet off the ottoman and planted them firmly on the floor. “I thought we were just having a good time.”

Tristan jumped up and started pacing. He was breaking out in a cold sweat and he couldn’t stop his heart from pounding. “A good time? That’s what we’re having?”

Justin looked down with an embarrassed expression on his face. “I thought we were.” He stood and put both hands on Tristan’s shoulders to stop him from pacing. “I’m sorry, I thought we were on the same page. Tristan, it’s a well-known fact that I’m bisexual. In fact, I’m engaged to be married in a few months.”

Tristan shrugged Justin’s arms off. “Engaged to be married? To whom?”

“Who doesn’t matter,” Justin whispered.

Tristan walked back to the couch and buried his head in his hands. He finally looked up and met Justin’s eyes. “How could I have not known about her? Why didn’t you tell me?”

Justin held his gaze, apparently having a difficult time trying to find words. “I didn’t… didn’t think it mattered. She lives abroad and we currently only see each other about once a month for a day or two.”

“And you’re marrying someone you only see for two days a month?” Tristan asked.

“Not exactly,” Justin tried to explain, pain obvious on his face. “She’s moving here right after the wedding.”

Getting angrier by the minute, Tristan spat out, “And when were you going to tell me this?”

Justin wiped the sweat off of his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt. “I didn’t think it would affect us. She travels extensively and will be gone most of the time. We would still get to see each other as much as we do now.”

Tristan forced out a dry laugh. “So you just expected me to be your squeeze on the side, a place you come to when you need a dick up your ass?”

“Tristan,” Justin pleaded. “You know it’s not like that.”

Tristan slammed his hand on the end table. “Then tell me how it is, Professor.”

Justin was silent for a few minutes. “I care for you Tristan, I really do, but I never made any promises to you about a future together.”

Knowing he was never going to win this battle, Tristan sighed, leaned back, and rested his head on the back of the couch and closed his eyes “So why didn’t you just tell me you were engaged and had a girlfriend?”

Justin joined Tristan on the couch and put his hand on Tristan’s knee. “I guess I was afraid of losing you.”

Tristan raised his head and opened his eyes. “Well guess what, Professor, your fears just came true. Now get out!”

Justin stood and started pacing. “You don’t mean that. What can I do?”

Tristan reached down and picked up Justin’s shoes and tossed them at the front door. “You can walk out that door and never fucking come back is what you can do.” He watched as Justin picked up his shoes and opened the door.

Justin looked back over his shoulder. “Are you sure?”

Tristan glared at him and pointed to the door.

Although Justin closed the door very gently, the sound reverberated through Tristan’s head like an explosion had gone off. Then there was dead silence. The only sounds he heard were his breathing and the beating of his empty heart. A tear slid down his cheek and he wiped it away with defiance. I will not cry! Damn it, I will not cry!

Chapter One
Seven Years Later
TRISTAN had been studying financial reports since he’d arrived at work a little after seven that morning. He blinked a couple of times in an attempt to keep the lines from running together, but it was no use. Accepting that he’d reached his limit and needed a short break, he hesitantly put down his pencil, leaned back in his chair, and closed his eyes. “I’ve got to get through this,” he whispered to himself as he ran both hands through his thick brown hair, stopping at the base of his neck and massaging the knot that had formed between his shoulder blades.

One last squeeze to his tired muscles and he turned in his chair and poured a glass of water from the pitcher on the credenza. He glanced around his spacious office and realized the sun had set and the moon was high in the deep blue Atlanta sky. What happened to the daylight? He lifted his wrist and stared at his watch as if what he was seeing was somehow wrong. Nine thirty-eight?

Shaking his head in amazement at the time, he stared momentarily at the beautiful downtown skyline. He downed the last of his water and turned back to the work at hand. Spreadsheets and other paperwork, illuminated only by a small lamp perched on the corner of his desk, completely covered his work surface.

He remembered switching the overhead lights off when he left his office somewhere around three o’clock to grab a quick salad, but when he returned he’d heard his phone ringing from down the hall and ran for his desk to answer it, never bothering to turn the lights on again. One call led to another, and then something else urgently needed his attention, and everything led up to this moment in time. Another Friday night working alone in my office. I’ve got to get a life.

Refilling his water, he looked around again and decided that he didn’t mind the dimly lit office. He’d always hated the harshness of the overhead florescent lighting universally used in every office building in the world, and he cherished the times when his coworkers were gone and he could loosen his tie, crank up his small stereo, and simply get lost in his work. He turned again to his desk and the waiting pile of financials he’d been evaluating for the upcoming board meeting, along with the smaller stack of things to do that had been continually building up since the beginning of the week. Slowly pushing away from his desk, he walked over to the bookcase on the opposite wall and scanned his stack of CDs. He settled on Etta James, and in a few seconds, her soulful sound filled his ears as she sang “Sunday Kind of Love.” He kicked his shoes off and returned to his desk. Comfortably sitting cross-legged in his chair, he studied what was in front of him. He felt a twinge of anxiety realizing just how much work he still had left to do before the board meeting on Tuesday and the earnings release on Wednesday. I’ve got three full days if I work through the weekend and that should be just enough time to get everything done. He relaxed momentarily, and then looked at his to-do list again and realized he hadn’t even started on the script for the conference call with the industry analysts scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. He sighed and picked up his pencil.

As he worked, the world outside of his office was silent with the exception of the distant hum of a vacuum cleaner and the muffled voices of the janitorial staff milling about emptying trashcans and exchanging polite conversation. Every single associate had left hours ago. Some early in the afternoon, excited to be heading out of town for the long Memorial Day weekend, while others who weren’t leaving town opted for a three-day weekend at home. Just before five o’clock, someone down the hall had shouted “happy hour downstairs,” which meant the Agency Lounge in the lobby of the Kincaid building would be hopping for the next few hours.

With no plans to go away for the weekend because of his current workload, not to mention the fact that he wasn’t in the mood for happy hour, he hunkered down, resigned to a long night of burning the midnight oil. Time passed slowly as he finished one task and closed the file, sorting through the untouched pile, categorizing file folders and prioritizing what he would attempt to finish tonight and what he would work on over the long weekend. Tristan was the ultimate professional. He’d graduated at the top of his class with a degree in business administration and was very career-driven. Since taking this job, he’d kept his personal life to a minimum and didn’t allow himself many distractions from his work. He was learning everything he could about mergers and acquisitions and one day hoped to head the business development group at Kincaid International. The only caveat to his picture-perfect career was that over the last two years, after fighting it tooth and nail, he’d somehow managed to fall hopelessly in love with his boss. Of course his boss didn’t know Tristan was in love with him, and he never would. The pain from his first love, while no longer front and center, was still a strong enough memory after seven years to keep him from ever going down that path again. But not giving in to it didn’t make it any less real. He was resigned to the fact that all he could do was love from afar while taking advantage of any opportunity to work alongside him and that would have to be enough.

With Etta James still singing in the background, he was completely lost in his work when the muffled sound of the phone buried in a mound of paperwork startled him. He glanced at his watch again, deciding on whether he wanted to answer it or just let it go to voicemail. Its nine fifty-five on the Friday night of a holiday weekend. Who could be calling at this hour?

He dug through the paperwork so he could read the display on the caller ID, and then a slight smile formed on his lips. He quickly reached for the phone. “Webber Kincaid’s office, this is Tristan.”

“Why in the hell are you still at work, Tris?” A strong familiar voice said wryly. “It’s ten o’clock on Friday night.”

Before he could answer, the chastising voice added, “Friday night of a holiday weekend, no less.”

His smile broadened and his heart began to flutter. He shook his head in amazement as the caring voice on the phone sent the blood rushing right to his groin. God, after all this time just hearing his voice still does this to me. He looked at his watch again and did a quick calculation. “Good afternoon, Web,” he said with a smile on his face. “How’s Australia?”

Webber James Kincaid was the chairman of the board, president, and CEO of Kincaid International Corporation and just happened to be his boss and the man he was secretly in love with. KIC, as it was commonly called, was a major advertising holding company owning about 40 percent of the largest advertising agencies in the world. With Webber at the helm, it had become a major force to be reckoned with and in the past five years had grown in leaps and bounds.

Tristan’s official title was chief administrative assistant, but in actuality, he was Webber’s guy Friday. He’d worked by his side many long hours, innocently at first, soaking up the knowledge freely being passed on to him. But somewhere along the way, during the many hours they’d spent together, he’d fallen head over heels in love, and his job became every bit as much about spending time with Webber as it had been about learning all he could from the master. On a daily basis, he struggled to hide his feelings where his boss was concerned, and so far, to his knowledge, he’d succeeded. He didn’t even know if Webber was gay, but Webber’s sexual preference didn’t really matter. His boss would never know how he truly felt. Sure, Tristan’s career was very important to him, but the combination of his first attempt at love and the potential of damaging Webber’s reputation was what kept him at arm’s length. He couldn’t and wouldn’t risk everything he held dear for simple matters of the heart.

So day after day Tristan told himself that he was content just to be near Webber and quietly take care of him under the cloak of doing his job. He knew he was being deceitful and cowardly, but at his weakest moments, he always thought back to his first and only love before Webber and how horribly that had turned out, and thinking about that made it all too easy to justify his actions. He constantly told himself that even if Webber was madly in love with him, it could never work, and he’d spent most of his waking hours convincing himself of that. Besides, it was much easier to love a man who didn’t have a clue how Tristan felt about him. No chance of getting hurt, no chance of betrayal, and never any chance of ruining his or Webber’s career. On a daily basis, he imagined what the board would say to such a scandal, not to mention how that scandal could hurt Webber, KIC, and its stockholders. He could never allow his feelings to jeopardize his heart or Webber’s future, so he’d kept everything on an even keel and his personal life to himself.

He’d never actually told Webber he was gay, although he’d never tried to hide it because there was really nothing to hide. Once, out of the blue, Webber had casually asked him about his social life, and since he had none, it was easy to be honest, thinking it was better for both of them not to elaborate. And after that, Webber had never asked again.

He was startled out of his thoughts by Webber’s voice. “Please go home, Tris, you’re making me look really bad,” Webber chuckled. “How long have you worked with me now, ten years?”

Tristan laughed, “Just two.”

“Are you sure it’s just two years?”

“Yeah, but it does seem like forever, doesn’t it?”

“How many times in the last couple of years have I preached to you about having balance in your life? All work and no play make for a very frustrating and lonely life.”

Tristan smiled to himself again because he loved it when Webber called him Tris, and he thought to himself, you have no idea.

There was a short silence on the line when Webber spoke up again. “I hope you mean ‘feels like forever’ in a good way?”

Tristan laughed. “The very best, Web. I’ve learned so much from you; I can’t begin to tell you. I’m so grateful for this opportunity.”

He knew he sounded sappy, but even after all this time, the sound of Webber’s voice and his concern for his happiness, in and out of his job, still sent butterflies right to the pit of his stomach. “So what can I do for you, boss?”

“You can come downstairs and have a drink with me.”

Tristan furrowed his brow. “Downstairs? I thought you weren’t due back from Australia until tomorrow night?”

“Yeah, well, I flew in a day early and was on the way to the office to pick up my car when the jetlag took over and I realized I wasn’t the least bit sleepy. I decided to have a drink before I went home, and when I walked into the Agency, I ran into everyone still downstairs wrapping up happy hour. Hoping you were here having a little fun, I asked around, and one of the guys told me they left you at your desk hours ago, and knowing you, I thought I’d give it a shot and see if you were still there.”

“Who made all the arrangements for your early return?” Tristan asked, ignoring the invitation and feeling a little jealous.

“It was late when I decided and I didn’t want to bother you at home, so I called the pilot and made the arrangements myself.”

Surprised and feeling a little relieved, Tristan said, “Really? It wouldn’t have been a bother, Web, it’s my job.”

“Yes, Tris, I know it’s your job, but I can do some things for myself. And besides, I know you would have done it if I asked, but you already work too hard.”

Suddenly realizing how that sounded, Tristan did a little backpedaling. “I know you’re not helpless and I know you’re very capable of making arrangements, but hell, if you keep that up, why will you need me?”

“That’s funny, Tris. Me picking up the phone to change one flight doesn’t mean I can function without you. Trust me, your job is very secure. Hell, you’re getting better and quicker at the mergers and acquisitions than the business development department.”

Feeling a little proud and smiling again, Tris said, “Oh thank God, for a moment there I thought I might lose my job and have to start selling my body to make ends meet.”

Webber laughed nervously but ignored the joke. There was an awkward silence and suddenly Tristan felt embarrassed and smacked himself in the forehead, a habit he was desperately trying to break, for making such a stupid comment. Webber must have heard the smacking noise.

“What was that?” he asked. There was a short silence on the line. “Tristan, I know you pretty well, remember. Did you just smack yourself in the forehead?”

“Guilty as charged,” Tristan admitted.

“Why?” Webber asked wryly.

“Because there’s no filter between my brain and my mouth.”

Webber chuckled softly but apparently decided to pass on the opportunity to tease Tristan a little more. “So are you going to join me? I have something I want to talk to you about.”

Relieved to be over that awkward moment and feeling the least bit curious, Tristan sighed. “Give me about fifteen minutes to finish what I’m doing and clear my desk and I’ll be right down.”

“Good boy. I’ll see you in a few, and Tris?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Don’t get lost in your work and make me call you again.”

“I promise.”

“See you soon.”

Tristan hung up the phone and sat at his desk, starry-eyed. He thought about how he’d gotten to this place in his life. He was in the middle of the corporate ladder, steadily climbing his way up, all the while wanting to climb his way onto his boss. That mental image of him on top of Webber sent the blood rushing right to his groin again, and he shook his head, trying to clear his mind before he went downstairs and joined the man face-to-face.

A little over two short years ago, he’d been the chief administrative assistant to the president of Media America, the most successful advertising agency on Madison Avenue in New York City, which just happened to be owned by KIC. He was excellent at his job and had earned the reputation of being smart, efficient, hardworking, and most of all discreet, which was very important for a person in his position in a publicly traded company. Word of his performance had obviously traveled to KIC because he’d been sought out by the human resources department and flown to Atlanta in one of the company’s private jets to meet with Mr. Webber Kincaid personally to interview for the position of his chief administrative assistant.

Although he’d been happy in New York, with a close-knit group of friends and a rising career, he’d been twenty-eight years old and single, so he thought if he was going to do something like this, now was the perfect time. He decided to at least explore the opportunity and boarded the tiny corporate jet bound for KIC headquarters in the biggest city in the South. At one point during the flight, the pilot pulled back the curtain separating the cockpit from the cabin and explained in a thick southern drawl that they were crossing the Mason-Dixon Line and would soon be entering Georgia. He couldn’t help remembering the classic movie Gone with the Wind and laughed as he recalled Aunt Pittypat’s famous quote: “Yankees in Georgia? How’d they get in?” He snickered because being born and raised on Long Island, he really would be a Yankee in Georgia.

Before his trip to Atlanta, Tristan had googled Webber James Kincaid and learned everything he could about his potential new boss. He started with his bio on Wikipedia and ended with the smallest accounts of his personal life on the various gossip sites. Of Webber Kincaid’s business accomplishments, he learned that he’d graduated with an MBA from Harvard and he and his father had run The Kincaid Corporation, as it was called then, together for a period of time. After his father’s untimely death, he took over the reins and five years later he’d taken the Kincaid Corporation public. It had become Kincaid International Corporation and traded as KIC on the New York Stock Exchange. At the ripe old age of thirty-four, Webber had become the youngest chairman, president and chief executive officer of a company its size in the United States. Tristan also learned that KIC continued to consistently outperform its revenue projections quarter over quarter and the industry analysts thought very highly of Webber and his capabilities, which kept KIC’s stock ratings very high.

On the personal side, he learned that Webber was an only child, born on December 26, 1966, to Addison Winston Kincaid and James Michael Kincaid. His mother had died of breast cancer when he was just fourteen years old and after her death, his father had become the one constant in his life. For the next four years, they were virtually inseparable. Webber went to the office with his father every day and had been schooled by a private tutor until he went off to Harvard. The one tidbit of information that stuck with Tristan more than anything was the fact that Webber had never married, and he couldn’t deny that had set his mind to wandering. Could Webber Kincaid be gay? He started looking deeper into Webber’s profiles on the Internet, and the more he read, the more little snippets he found that separately, didn’t amount to a hill of beans, but when all put together, might lead one to believe he could be gay. And of course, no web site had actually outed him, which made him all the more curious.

However, during the course of his research, he found many photos of Webber at special events and various fundraisers always with the same beautiful, buxom blonde on his arm. That had set off all kinds of alarms in Tristan’s head, so he investigated more thoroughly. Most of the captions said “Webber Kincaid and his longtime girlfriend Deanna Lynn.” But some of them fell short of calling her his girlfriend and referred to her as his longtime friend and companion. Just for kicks, he’d googled Deanna Lynn and found out that she was a very successful swimsuit model on the West Coast, and in addition to many of the same photos with Kincaid, she had a large portfolio of her own, as well as a life and a career apart from Kincaid’s.

Satisfied that he’d found as much information about Deanna as was available, he went back to Kincaid’s photos and studied them carefully. He appeared to be over six feet tall and extremely fit. His hair was dark brown, bordering on black, with silver streaks and silver at his temples, and he wore it fairly long on top, combed straight back, falling into a natural part. His eyes were crystal blue and his face was long and slender. In the photos where he was smiling, he had these incredible dimples that reminded Tristan of Richard Gere or a very young Tony Bennett. He especially liked the photos of Webber with his senior staff ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. There was just something about his smile. He seemed very proud and humbled to be there, and it showed in his every expression. As he stared at the photos, Tristan had found Webber extremely handsome and was instantly attracted to him, but as he’d later found out, nothing could have prepared Tristan for the real thing.

On the day of his interview, he remembered walking into Webber’s office and instantly feeling the man’s presence completely encompass him, and all the fears of being a Yankee in Georgia had completely disappeared from his mind. He’d felt this immediate attraction to Webber Kincaid, and he was sure it was written all over his face and evident by the shakiness in his handshake and the rattling of his knees. “Oh man, I can see this being trouble,” he’d remembered saying to himself.

After their initial introduction by the human resources representative, they were left alone, and he and Webber had talked about various aspects of the job. Tristan had done his best to impress him with all the right answers, but every time Webber spoke, Tristan had found himself hanging on his every word. And his smile melted Tristan’s heart over and over again. He found himself trying to say witty things just to see that smile again. Thinking back, he realized he was smitten from the very first moment.

By the time their interview was over, he had no doubt that Webber Kincaid was sincere, confident, and caring, with no signs of being pompous or egotistical, which in Tristan’s mind was genuine. He was drawn to the man both on a personal and professional level and when they shook hands at the end of the interview, he decided that if he were offered the job, he would take it in a heartbeat.

Almost two years later to the day, he turned off his stereo, stepped into his shoes, switched off the lamps, and waved to the janitor as he made his way to the elevator. On the ride down, his heart raced in anticipation of what Webber wanted to talk to him about.

An Unconventional Union #2
TRISTAN MOREAU lay in bed staring up at the pleated fabric pulled tightly from the center of the canopy and stretched to the ends of the large four-poster bed. Webber Kincaid, his lover of nearly a month and his boss for the last two years, was sleeping soundly beside him with his head resting on Tristan’s chest and his arm draped over Tristan’s stomach. With the rhythmic up and down motion of Webber’s soothing breaths, Tristan was reminded of what he held in his arms. A little over an hour ago, they were making passionate love, and now, with the passion and desperate need temporarily sated, Tristan mimicked Webber’s slow, even breathing as if they were one body sharing the same lungs. He looked at the diamond and emerald encrusted ring now gracing his right ring finger, amazed at how it caught the blue moonlight seeping in through the transom above the french doors. Engaged! Webber’s words from earlier in the evening still echoed in Tristan’s head: “Tristan Paul Moreau, I am at home only when I am in your arms and I’m more in love with you than I thought humanly possible. I want to be with you for the rest of my life. Make me the happiest man in the world and marry me.”

Tristan smiled as he remembered how quickly his response had left his mouth. “Yes! Yes. Of course I’ll marry you!” he’d said without even giving it a second thought.

He’d always had an issue with what he called the “brain to mouth” syndrome; whatever popped into his brain came out of his mouth. His response to Webber’s proposal was no real exception. The “exception” was that most times he’d wished he could take back what he’d said the minute it left his mouth, but not this time. No way was he taking that back.

His smile turned into a full-out chuckle when he remembered how he’d almost knocked Webber to the floor when he’d thrown his arms around him, nearly squeezing the life out of him.

As Tristan lay there with the man he loved in his arms, his smile slowly faded and concern replaced the happiness. “Tris, I want to marry you as soon as possible,” Webber had said right after Tristan had accepted his proposal.

He stroked Webber’s hair as Webber slept soundly in his arms and wondered if the rush to marriage was because of the investigation by the SEC and the Department of Justice regarding Nathan Bridges, his former CFO. The thought of the SEC investigating Webber sent shivers up his spine. Did Webber really think there was a possibility that the SEC would think he had anything to do with Nathan’s wrongdoings?

Tristan’s mind started to drift back to when they’d met and how far they’d come in their relationship.

ENGAGED to Webber Kincaid was definitely not a turn of events he’d expected when he interviewed for the position as Webber’s chief administrative assistant two years ago. Giving up his life in New York was difficult, but coming to work for Kincaid International Corporation, or KIC, was certainly worth it. Worth it in spite of Tristan’s fears—quickly realized—that he could easily fall in love with his new, seemingly heterosexual, boss. Tristan couldn’t tell Webber he loved him; he didn’t want to risk his job or Webber’s reputation, so he told himself he was content to care for Webber under the cloak of simply doing his job.

When Webber had returned early from a trip to Australia to review potential acquisitions with Nathan Bridges, KIC’s then-CFO, he called Tristan to join him for a drink at the company lounge. Given that Tristan wasn’t even expecting Webber to be back yet, he was a little surprised to hear from him. He was even more surprised when he heard what Webber was proposing—an extended trip to a private Caribbean island to review fifteen potential acquisitions without the interference of the Business Development or Finance departments. Tristan was unsure why Webber was asking him—and whether or not it would be a good idea—but in the end, the need to be close to Webber, even for work, won out, and Tristan agreed to accompany him, knowing they would have to work right through the weekend to complete all of their outstanding projects.

With a rush of excitement, Tristan smiled, remembering the powerful feeling of the helicopter vibrating under his feet and the feel of Webber’s arm over his shoulder pointing out the different islands. And the view as they approached their destination: man, he’d never seen anything so beautiful. The island’s lush green foliage was spectacular against the deep blue-green water. The sight reminded him of a pool of sapphires with handfuls of emeralds sprinkled here and there.

That weekend, as they worked together, Tristan kept wondering if he was imagining things, or if Webber really was subtly flirting with him. As far as he knew, Webber had a longtime girlfriend named Deanna Lynn. But his smile quickly lessened and eventually turned into a frown as he thought back to how elated he’d been by Webber’s interest in him until he’d seen Deanna standing on the helicopter pad excitedly waving her hands in anticipation of their arrival. Shortly after they’d left Atlanta, Tristan had foolishly allowed himself to think, for just a second, that it would be he and Webber on this island alone together, but seeing Deanna had been a rude awakening and quickly crushed any stupid hopes he’d had of the man he loved ever being interested in him for anything more than an assistant.

But unbeknownst to Tristan, Webber had fallen in love with him, yet because of his position and the potential for a sexual harassment suit if Tristan wasn’t gay or simply was not interested, Webber had never been able to tell him how he truly felt. After they got together, Webber confessed that although it truly was a working trip, Webber had hoped the time away would give him an opportunity to see if he could pick up on anything that might indicate where Tristan’s sexual preferences lay. But just in case Tristan wasn’t gay, Webber had invited Deanna, his best friend and confidant, along on the trip as a decoy. That had badly backfired when Webber found the nerve to kiss Tristan, and Tristan, having been hurt by a similar relationship in the past, thought Webber was cheating on Deanna and couldn’t be any part of that.

Tristan brushed the fingers of his free hand over his lips, remembering the feeling of Webber’s lips pressed against his in the warm water of the swimming pool that evening so many months ago. But he also recalled the panic he’d felt when he realized what was happening. He gently stroked Webber’s hair and kissed his temple, partly out of habit, but partly to reassure himself that Webber was still there and this wasn’t a dream.

His mind wandered again, as he remembered he had been so upset by the thought that Webber could cheat on Deanna, he’d even gone so far as to resign. Of course, after some turmoil, Deanna had straightened everything out, and they were finally able to be honest with each other.

But now, Tristan wondered if he was going to lose Webber before they even really began. As the icing on the cake, their time away had become bittersweet, since Webber’s now former CFO threatened to blackmail them because Webber had used the KIC corporate jet for a questionable business trip—although Webber had personally paid for all of the expenses associated with the trip.

TRISTAN was startled out of his thoughts by Webber’s sleepy voice. “Tris, I can hear you thinking,” he murmured. “Do you want to talk about it yet?”

“God, Web, sometimes I hate how well you know me. I’m sorry if I woke you.”

“You didn’t wake me.” Webber leaned up on one elbow. “I was just dozing. Tell me what’s bothering you?”

“I’m just worrying about the SEC. They can be relentless in their investigations.”

“I figured as much. Please don’t worry; it’s not going to change the outcome.”

“I was just remembering everything we’ve gone through to get here, and I can’t lose you. Not now.”

“You’re not going to lose me, Tris,” Webber reassured him. “I’m certain this is just a routine investigation, and I’ll be cleared very soon.”

Tristan sighed. “But tomorrow’s the board of directors meeting. What if they decide you inappropriately used corporate resources for personal reasons? We both know it started out as a business trip, but it sure as hell didn’t end that way. And on top of that, what if they decide you knew what Nathan was doing all along?”

“Well, to be honest, I don’t really care what they decide,” Webber said with conviction. “Not anymore.”

Tristan raised a brow and turned his head to study Webber. “What do you mean?”

Webber dropped back down and again rested his head on Tristan’s chest while he spoke. “Well, since I met you, KIC doesn’t seem to be as important to me as it used to. I mean, for all of those years, KIC was all I had, my partner in many ways. But now that I have you, Tris, I want my life to be different.”

“Different how?” Tristan asked. “I’m not sure I understand.”

“For starters, I just keep thinking about my parents. They worked all their lives accumulating a fortune, and then they died way too soon without ever getting to enjoy the money. And now because of them, we have the opportunity to enjoy our lives without any financial worries. I don’t want what happened to them to happen to us.”

Tristan pulled Webber close against him and kissed the top of his head, inhaling the clean smell of sandalwood shampoo while he decided how to respond. Before he could say anything, he heard Webber’s voice.

“Would you… consider retiring with me?” he asked speculatively.

“Retire,” he murmured as he began to stroke Webber’s hair again, mulling over his request. “I have to admit the idea does sound very enticing.”

Webber reached for his hand and pulled it to his lips, kissing Tristan’s palm. “We could do anything and go anywhere we wanted. We would have so much fun.”

Tristan knew he would consider it. In fact, he would do anything for Webber if he thought that’s what Webber really wanted. But he wondered how much of this was really Webber being unhappy at KIC and wanting to start a new life versus him preparing himself for the possibility of losing his job.

“Web, I have to ask you a question, and please promise me you’ll be honest.”

“Okay,” Webber responded.

Tristan paused while he tried to put his feelings into words. “Did you propose to me because you think there’s a possibility that you’ll be indicted and could possibly go to jail?” he finally asked.

Webber rose up to one elbow again and used his other hand to turn Tristan’s face so he could look him in the eyes. “No! Of course not,” he said quickly. “I proposed to you because I love you. Tristan, please tell me you know that.”

Tristan nodded his head, needing to hear the words.

“I know that,” Tristan whispered.

“But,” Webber continued, “I promised you that I would be honest with you and I will. I have no idea if the SEC or the Department of Justice will think I had anything to do with Nathan’s indiscretions or what they’ll do, but I want you to be taken care of in the event they don’t believe I’m innocent and try to indict me.”

Tristan sat up, his nervousness now getting the best of him. “So I was right. This urgency is all about the investigation.”

Webber caressed Tristan’s cheek with the back of his hand. “Tris, you know me better than that. How many times have you said that when I want something I go after it? Why would I be any different when it comes to you?”

Tristan’s concern ebbed a little and he lay back down. “I just don’t want to lose you, Web, and I don’t want you to marry me just because you think you might be going away.”

Tristan took note of the confidence when Webber next spoke. “You’re not going to lose me. We both know I had nothing to do with my former CFO’s activities, and the truth will come out.”

Webber sighed then took Tristan’s hand and pressed it to his cheek. “Baby, I love you and that’s all that matters.”

Tristan turned his head and kissed Webber’s palm as his rapidly beating heart started returning to normal. “I love you too, Web. But I don’t need taking care of.”

Webber turned his head up and pressed his lips against Tristan’s for a slow, gentle kiss. When the kiss ended, he pulled back and smiled at Tristan. “I always want to take care of you, but that doesn’t mean I think you need taking care of. And just for the record, I knew I was going to ask you to marry me when we were still in the Caribbean. It has nothing to do with the SEC or the investigation, but everything to do with you and the way I feel about you.”

Tristan couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face. “In that case, let’s do it as soon as possible. I can’t wait to be Tristan Moreau-Kincaid.”

Webber smiled. “I like the sound of that.”

“Me too,” Tristan said as he kissed Webber’s temple.

THE next morning Webber stood in front of the full-length mirror tying his necktie. He looked exceptionally calm for a man about to be put under a microscope by a room full of his peers. Tristan walked up behind him, slid his hands around Webber’s waist, and kissed the back of his neck. “You okay?” he asked.

Webber looked at Tristan in the mirror confidently. “Yeah, I am.”

Tristan turned Webber around and slid the knot on his necktie up to Webber’s collar and straightened it. “You look incredible. And you smell good too,” he added, leaning in and taking a deep breath.

“Thanks. How about you, you nervous?”

“A little,” Tristan admitted. “I do feel somewhat responsible since I’m the one you took to the Caribbean.”

Webber smiled and took Tristan into his arms. “You are not responsible. I’m the one who invited you, remember?”

Tristan laughed nervously. “Okay, let’s not split hairs.”

Webber squeezed Tristan tighter and released him. “Tris, you realize I’m going to have to be completely honest with the board. That means outing both of us.”

“I realize that, Web, and I’m fine with it,” Tristan said rather adamantly. “I love you and I don’t care who knows.”

Webber leaned in and kissed him. “Thank you. I feel the same way. But if you think you’ll be the least bit uncomfortable in that meeting, I can get someone else to sit in and take the minutes.”

“Hell no,” Tristan protested. “We do this together. And besides, taking the minutes of the board meetings is my job, and I’m gonna do it with my head held high until someone tells me I can’t do it anymore or until I decide I no longer want to.”

Webber chuckled. “I love you so much,” he whispered as he pulled Tristan into his arms for another embrace.

Webber stepped back and looked Tristan in the eyes. “There are a few more things I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Shoot,” Tristan answered.

Webber didn’t hesitate. “I don’t know how this is going to go today, but I decided that whether or not I get to keep my job, when the SEC and the Department of Justice clear me, I’m gonna resign.” Webber paused. “If it’s okay with you, that is.”

Tristan raised an eyebrow, taking note of the “when” and happy Webber hadn’t said “if.” “Are you sure that’s what you want?”

“I am,” Webber offered. “I’ve thought about it a lot. KIC is no longer the company my dad and I ran. In the back of my mind, I knew that would happen when I took it public, but it was the best thing for the company and my father’s legacy, so I did it.”

“Then I’ll support you one hundred percent,” Tristan said.

Webber took Tristan’s hands in his. “Which brings me to my next question.”

“The answer’s yes, Web.”

“What do you mean, ‘yes’?” Webber asked. “I haven’t said anything yet.”

“You don’t have to,” Tristan assured him. “I’ll resign with you.”

Webber grabbed Tristan around the waist, picked him up, spun him around, and put him back down on his feet. “We are going to have such a great life, Tris.”

“I know it,” Tristan said. “So is that all the significant stuff?”

“Almost,” Webber confirmed with a more serious look on his face. “The last thing is the press conference.”

Tristan tilted his head to one side. “What about it?” he asked.

“Well, once we go public with our news, it’s going to get crazy for a while. The paparazzi are going to go wild over this, and I want to make sure you’re prepared.”

Tristan mulled over his answer. “I suppose I’m as prepared as I can be.”

“Look, Tris, we don’t have to do this. If this bothers you, we have another option.”

“What’s that?” Tristan asked.

“We can lay low, not out ourselves, and wait until someone outs us.”

“It’s not the outing that bothers me,” Tristan confessed. “It’s the fact that our lives might not be our own for a while.”

“Whatever you want to do is fine by me,” Webber said. “But we either pay the piper now or pay him later.”

“I say we go for it and get on with our lives,” Tristan proposed. “I don’t want us looking over our shoulder every time we leave the house.”

“I see your point,” Webber agreed. “I say we go for it too.”

“Then it’s settled,” Tristan said as he raised his arms and locked them behind Webber’s neck. “We’re in this together, for better or for worse, ’til death do us part.”

Webber chuckled. “Those words sound very familiar.”

“They better,” Tristan teased. “We’re gonna be saying them very soon.”

THEY decided to take Webber’s car into work, neither of them caring if anyone saw them arriving together. When they reached the closed boardroom door, Webber stopped and turned to Tristan. “You ready, Tris?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Tristan said in shaky voice.

“Let’s do this,” Webber said as he nervously pushed the door open. Two of the six board members were already seated and stood up when they saw Webber and Tristan enter.

“Scott,” Webber said, extending his hand. “Nice to see you.”

“Good morning,” Tristan said to Scott, extending his hand as well.

Scott Mullin was the chief financial officer of Restaurant Group South, a large chain of high-end restaurants, and had been on the board for four years.

“Gentlemen,” Scott said, sheepishly looking at Webber and Tristan. “Nice to see you both, but I wish it were under better circumstances.”

Webber nodded and smiled. “Tell me about it.”

Webber watched as Tristan gracefully moved on to the next board member.

“Ms. Jordan, how are you?” Tristan said, shaking the woman’s hand.

“Fine, Tristan, thanks for asking.”

Hillary Jordan was the president and CEO of Landscape America and was a personal friend of Webber’s late mother and father. She’d been the first person Webber called to sit on his board when he decided to take the company public.

“Hillary,” Webber said, putting his hand on her shoulder. “Good to see you. How’s Paul?”

“He’s good, Webber,” Hillary said. “We’re a bit surprised by all of this, but we’ll get through it. You know we’re on your side.” She looked at Tristan and smiled.

“Thanks, Hil,” Webber said, looking between her and Tristan. “You have no idea how much that means to us.”

Before Webber could say anything else, three more board members appeared in the doorway: John Reynolds, president of HomeCare, a nationwide home improvement store, Cynthia Bowen, chief marketing officer for Talk US, a cellular provider, and Betty Katz, chief operating officer for the local ABC affiliate. Before everyone could say their hellos, the final board member, Robert Yellos, chairman of the board for Global Media Corp, a broadcast media buying company appeared, not looking too happy. After greetings were exchanged, Webber moved to his seat and Tristan to his position in the corner of the room at a small desk designed for him to quietly take the minutes of the board meeting.

Webber called the meeting to order. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “I thank each of you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to attend this unscheduled meeting of the board for KIC. As you are all aware, Nathan Bridges has confessed to inflating the cost of one particular acquisition we made back in 2005 and divested in 2007, and was trying to guide us to purchase the company again, which has now changed its name and moved Down Under. We are also here to discuss a discretionary business trip taken by Tristan and myself, which may or may not have been appropriate. But we will get to that later. Before we discuss what action may be taken toward me or KIC by the SEC and the Department of Justice, I’d like to play the recording of Nathan’s confession. I don’t have to remind you that in the state of Georgia, a recording can be admissible in a court of law if at least one person knows the conversation is being recorded. Here we go,” Webber said as he pressed the “on” button on his recorder.

“WHAT can I do for you, Nathan?”

“I’ve been told that you requested the file for the divestiture of Marquis Advertising.”

“That’s right.”

“May I ask why?”

“I’m doing a little research,” they heard Webber respond.

“Come on, Webber, we’ve known each other too long to play games.”

“I’m not playing games; I’m just trying to do my job.”

“Really?” Nathan said sarcastically. “First, you held back the Moniker Communications file when you turned over all of the other potential acquisitions to Finance, then you checked out the acquisition file for Marquis Advertising, and then you requested the file for the divestiture of Marquis. I’m not stupid, Webber. That’s a very strange coincidence.

“We’re adults here, Webber, let’s put all our cards on the table and be honest.”

They didn’t hear Webber respond.

“Okay. I’ll go first,” Nathan said. “How did you find out?”

“Find out what?”

There was a loud sound like someone slamming a hand on a desk.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about and I want to know what you’re going to do about it.”

“How did you do it?” Webber asked.

“Oh, it was simple actually. I merely convinced the owner of Marquis to inflate the asking price then supply me with a list of bogus contracts to support that price and we’d split the difference. Clean and simple.”

They heard Webber speak next. “But why risk everything? You make a good living here.”

“I needed money,” Nathan responded. “I was in the middle of a divorce, being taken for everything, and my girlfriend wanted more and more.”

Webber’s voice was clear. “And you might have gotten away with it if you hadn’t gone back for a second round. Did you really think I wouldn’t put two and two together?”

“Hey, can’t blame a guy for trying,” Nathan said. “I’m curious, though, how did you find me out?”

“Actually Tristan did, but only because he looked at the Moniker files before I had a chance to. It turns out that when I was mentoring him on evaluating acquisitions, I gave him a handful of KIC’s previous acquisitions to review and Marquis happened to be one of them. So when he was reviewing the files for Moniker, he recognized the client list and financials.”

“I’m impressed,” Nathan admitted “I didn’t give the twit enough credit.”

Webber laughed. “You’re calling him a twit? But I must admit you seem awfully calm for a man about to be in very big trouble.”

“Oh, I don’t think I’m in that much trouble,” Nathan said with confidence in his voice.

“Really, why not?” was Webber’s response.

“Well, because if I go down, you go down right along with me,” Nathan warned. “You signed off on the transaction, remember.”

“I remember the argument we had over this transaction and you producing a series of contracts supporting the purchase price,” Webber said. “But I had no idea those contracts were fabricated and worth nothing.”

“It’s your word against mine now, isn’t it? Come on, Webber,” Nathan said. “That transaction was a long time ago. If you keep your mouth shut, no one will ever be the wiser.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” Webber responded.

“I’m sorry to hear that, because that leaves me no choice but to out you and that twit back there,” Nathan said.

“What are you talking about, Nathan?”

“There you go playing games with me again, Webber,” he hissed. “I think the board will be happy to learn that you’ve been cavorting around the Caribbean on company resources with an employee of yours, doing who knows what,” he threatened. “I’ve always suspected you two had something going on. I could just tell by the way you looked at each other, but I didn’t know for sure until your little display of affection in the parking lot yesterday. Thanks for giving me some leverage.”

“What Tristan and I do behind closed doors is no concern of yours or the board’s.”

“You’re quite right, but what you’re forgetting is when you use corporate resources to fund your little rendezvous, that becomes a very different story.”

“Nathan, you know perfectly well we were on a legitimate business trip,” Webber insisted. “We evaluated fifteen potential acquisitions in a quarter of the time it would have taken your business development department to do it.”

“Oh, Webber, you disappoint me sometimes. The reasons why have nothing to do with it,” Nathan said. “You took a personal trip on a company-owned jet with an employee with whom you were romantically involved. That doesn’t bode well in your favor at all.

“Webber, you just think about it for a little while and we’ll talk again before the end of the day. I’m sure when you think this through, you’ll agree it’s better for everyone if we both keep our mouths shut and forget this ever happened.”

They heard silence and then a door slam.

“SO THIS is what the SEC and the Department of Justice have,” Webber stated. “My attorney says it is admissible in court and will, in the end, clear me of any wrongdoing. Any comments?”

The board members looked at each other and Hillary was the first to speak. “It appears to me from what we just heard regarding this matter that, pending any other evidence, you are in the clear.”

“I agree,” Scott added.

John, Cynthia, and Betty all nodded in Webber’s favor.

Robert cleared his voice. “How could you not know that those contracts were bogus?”

Before Webber could answer, Scott spoke up. “How would he know? He questioned his CFO like he should have and his CFO fed him bad information. Short of calling each of those contracts to make sure they were legit, there is no way he could have known. Would you have verified every contract?”

“Come on,” Betty added. “We all trust our CFO. If we didn’t, they wouldn’t be in the position. Webber has a great track record here and I believe he will be vindicated.”

Webber stood. “I appreciate everyone’s kind words, but I did sign that contract and I am ultimately responsible, so I’m not trying to dodge a bullet here. The issue at hand, though, is if I was negligent or not, and I do not believe I was. I did my homework and I asked the right questions. Hell, I even fought with Nathan about the price. When he produced executed contracts, I had no choice but to propose it to you for approval.”

“I say we put it to a vote,” Cynthia suggested. “Is everyone in agreement that we show a united front to the SEC and the Department of Justice and support our chairman, president, and CEO?”

Webber looked over at Tristan, his heart racing. He watched Tristan close his eyes and sigh when they both heard “ayes” from all the board members, although a reluctant one from Robert Yellos.

He smiled and winked at Tristan before turning back to the board. “Thank you,” he said. “I appreciate your support. Does anyone want to take a break before we move on to the next issue at hand?”

Everyone looked around, but no one moved. “Okay then,” Webber said. “Moving on to the next order of business.”

Webber glanced over at Tristan and took a deep breath before he spoke. “The next matter is of a very personal nature and may be difficult for some of you to hear or understand, but it’s important to us that you know the truth. Although my personal life and whom I spend it with is of no one’s concern but mine, I want to tell you the complete story and then allow you to decide if I acted inappropriately or not. If you find that I did act inappropriately, I will accept whatever consequences you deem appropriate and not take it personally.”

Webber again looked over at Tristan, who seemed to have lost most of his color but was holding it together very nicely. “My, I mean, our,” Webber corrected, “story began a couple of years ago when Tristan Moreau, who you all know very well, joined KIC as my chief administrative assistant. On my part, there was an immediate attraction and for reasons I didn’t understand at the time, I still made him an offer and ultimately hired him. Unbeknownst to me, Tristan had the same initial attraction and over the last two years, we managed to fall head over heels in love with each other.”

The board members again looked around the room at each other, but no one made any comment.

“However, during those two years, neither of us acted upon our attractions for fear of what the outcome might be. From Tristan’s standpoint, he wasn’t sure that I was gay, so he was fearful of losing his job, and if I was gay, he was concerned for my reputation and the reputation of KIC if he acted on his feelings. From my standpoint, I didn’t know what his personal preferences were, and not wanting to open myself or KIC up for a sexual harassment suit, I kept my feelings to myself. The longer we worked together, the harder it became for me to hide my feelings, so I decided to try and get a handle on where Tristan’s head was.”

Webber paused and poured himself a glass of water, taking a sip and then putting the glass down in front of him. He glanced around the room and smiled, appearing to have everyone’s attention and even a little sympathy from a few of the board members, mostly the women.

“As most of you know, I’d just returned from a trip Down Under to look at possible acquisitions, and although we discovered fifteen possibilities, you as a board had only approved five for the remainder of the fiscal year. I wanted to sort through the fifteen before I gave them to the business development department and decided to take a much-needed working vacation. I’ve shared with some of you that I was mentoring Tristan in acquisitions and divestures and he had a knack for it, so I invited him along to help me sort through the mounds of paperwork. And I know what you’re thinking: it was a way to spend time alone with Tristan and you are right. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. But all I wanted was a little time to see if I could figure out where Tristan’s sexual preferences lay to determine if I would at some point approach him with my feelings. Fortunately for us, I got my answer and we’ve been inseparable ever since. As a matter of fact, I proposed, he accepted, and we will be married very shortly. But, please allow me to be very clear. I did nothing inappropriate, what we did was between consenting adults, and in the end, we sorted through all fifteen potential acquisitions with Tristan discovering that something wasn’t right with Marquis/Moniker. Furthermore, I did use the company jet, but I paid for all expenses surrounding the trip with no costs to KIC. In the folder in front of you, you will find my credit card statements with all expenses highlighted in yellow pertaining to this trip.”

Webber stopped then took a deep breath and another sip of his water. “Any questions?”

Hillary was the first to speak. “I know you said that neither of you acted on your attraction during the two years leading up to the trip to the Caribbean, but it’s very important that you tell us the truth. If we chose to support you and something to the contrary is leaked—” She paused and looked around the room at the other board members. “—none of us will be very pleased. Come on, Webber, if your relationship is anything like my relationship with my personal assistant, I’m sure you must have worked many long nights together and had many opportunities.”

“Yes, we have had many opportunities, but the answer is still no,” Webber assured her and the other board members. “Unless you consider sharing a scotch after a very long day acting on feelings.”

Before Hillary could respond, Scott spoke next. “So, you are right in that your personal life does not affect your ability to do your job, but you must know that it would be very questionable for us to allow Tristan to be your personal assistant knowing what we now know.”

Webber nodded.

Scott continued. “But the real issue I see here for us to determine is if you used company resources for personal interest.”

“He’s already said he invited Tristan to join him to try and gauge his sexual preference,” Robert said. “That to me screams personal interest.”

“Yes,” Cynthia said. “But he also worked while he was away and in the end, caught Nathan in some very heavy deceptions.”

John Reynolds had been quiet up until now. “Look, ladies and gentlemen, Webber has done nothing but run this company and run it well for a very long time. Yes, this was a questionable decision, but are we prepared to terminate a damn good man because of one questionable decision?”

No one answered.

“Thank you, John,” Webber said. “But maybe it’s time for Tristan and me to step out and allow you to speak more freely. Hillary, will you please take notes so we can incorporate them into our minutes when this is all over?”

She nodded and smiled.

Webber held out his hand to Tristan, and he accepted it as they walked out of the boardroom and closed the door behind him.

“Well,” Tristan asked. “What do you think?”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Webber said. “Hillary and John seem sympathetic, Robert as always is a pain in the ass, and I couldn’t get a read on Scott, Cynthia, or Betty.”

“Am I going to lose my job?” Tristan asked.

“I’m sorry, Tris. It appears that way, but by no fault of your own. I take full responsibility,” Webber admitted. “But since we’re going to retire, I don’t think it matters one way or the other.”

Tristan appeared to think this over. “I guess you’re right,” he said, shrugging.

“That’s my boy,” Webber said, pulling him into a hug.

Just then the door opened and Hillary invited them back in.

Webber didn’t release Tristan, but instead led him to the head of the table where they stood hand in hand and awaited their fate.

“Please take a seat, gentlemen,” Scott offered.

“Thank you,” Webber said. “But if it’s all the same, I think we’ll stand.”

Scott nodded and began. “After listening to your heartfelt and very honest confession, we as the board, not unanimously I might add, believe your account and believe you did not set out to deceive KIC’s board, its employees, or its shareholders in any way, shape, or form.”

Webber closed his eyes, sighed, and squeezed Tristan’s hand.

Scott continued looking at Tristan. “It is, however, unfortunate that Mr. Moreau will not be allowed to keep his job as your personal assistant and must be laterally moved into another department where he will have no interaction with you in a professional capacity.”

Tristan nodded and squeezed Webber’s hand.

Webber looked around the boardroom. Everyone was smiling, but Hillary and John were beaming. “Congratulations, gentlemen,” John said. “We wish you the best.”

Webber nodded as he glanced at Tristan, barely able to contain himself. “Thank you all very much, and I appreciate the faith you’ve put in me over the years and the support you’ve shown us today. I’ve enjoyed working with each of you and want only the best for KIC. To that end, Tristan and I would like to turn in our resignations, Tristan’s immediate and mine as soon as the SEC and/or the Department of Justice clears me and you can find a suitable replacement. You’ll each have a copy of my resignation letter by tomorrow morning.”

Webber saw the shocked looks on the faces of every board member.

“What?” Hillary asked. “But….”

Webber put his hands up. “May I speak freely?”

“Please,” John responded.

“I’ve not been happy for a while, and I’ve been considering this move for quite some time. But in light of the recent developments and accusations, I want to be cleared of any wrongdoing before I resign. I’ve had a great track record, and I don’t want that tarnished by a scandal.”

Webber looked around the room for any indication of how they were taking the news. “In addition, because of my philanthropy and my position here, I’m heavily covered in the media, so as soon as I’m cleared, Tristan and I will be giving a press conference to confirm our relationship before TMZ or some other tabloid reporter outs us and we have to do damage control.”

Still no one said a word. “In addition I would like to have a staff meeting for my direct reports and explain the situation before they hear it in the news. They deserve that. I’d love your input and your support for both, but we will move forward with or without it.”

“Of course,” Hillary said, looking around and getting nods from the other board members. “But we have to handle this very carefully.”

Webber put one arm over Tristan’s shoulder and looked at the board members again. “You can decide how much or how little involvement you want from me until you find a suitable replacement. My exit package is on record, so I don’t expect to have any issues there. If you need me in the meantime, I will be reachable by cell phone.”

Webber removed his arm from Tristan’s shoulder and brought his hands together with his fingertips touching. “Ladies and gentlemen of the board,” he said. “Unless you have any other questions…?” Webber looked around the boardroom, waiting for any sort of response. When the room remained silent, Webber said, “This meeting is adjourned.”

He threw his arms around Tristan’s neck and whispered, “I love you. Let’s get the hell out of here.”

They bolted for the door and once they were in the hall, Webber lifted Tristan from the waist and spun him around like a twelve-year-old. “We did it,” he said, almost giddy.

“Web, put me down,” Tristan begged. “They’ll be plenty of time for celebration later; we’re still at the office.”

Webber did as he was told, and Tristan regained his footing about the same time the boardroom door opened and Hillary stepped out. “I guess congratulations are in order,” she said, hugging Webber. She turned to Tristan and smiled. “I’m very happy for you both and I wish you the best of luck,” she added. “Tristan, do you mind if I have a word with Webber?”

“Not at all,” Tristan said. “I need to pack my office anyway. Meet me there, Web?”

Webber smiled and kissed Tristan on the cheek. “Will do, baby,” he said.

As soon as Tristan was out of earshot, Hillary smacked him on the shoulder. “Webber Kincaid, how could you not tell me something like this?”

Webber smiled and rubbed his shoulder. “Because it was a nonissue,” Webber responded. “Until now, that is.”

Hillary chuckled. “Still, you could have told me,” she whined. “But I must say, you do look happier than I’ve seen you in years.”

Webber corrected her. “No, I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”

She took both his hands in hers. “And I’m happy for you. Promise me you boys will come over and have dinner with Paul and me. We need to get to know Tristan better.”

“We’ll do that, Hil,” Webber promised. “But first we’re gonna take some time, find a place to get married, and do a little traveling.”

“That sounds nice,” Hillary said. “I hope we’ll be on the invitation list for the wedding.”

“Of course you will.” Webber paused. “I just wish….” His voice trailed off.

Hillary finished his sentence. “You wish your parents could be there.”

Webber nodded and a single tear slid down his cheek.

Hillary wiped the tear away and kissed him tenderly. “They’ll be there in spirit, don’t you worry.”

“Thanks, Hil.”

Hillary hugged him. “I need to get back in there and see what we’re going to do about replacing you.”

Just as Hillary put her hand on the doorknob, the door opened.

“Oh, sorry, Hillary,” John Reynolds said as he stepped out of the boardroom. “I just wanted to congratulate Webber before he left.”

Hillary smiled. “Okay, I’ll give you two a little privacy,” she said as she went back in to join the other board members.

“Thanks, John,” Webber said. “I really appreciate your support back in there.”

“Hey look, no problem,” John said. “You’ve done a great job here, and I’m truly sorry to see you go.”

John bounced from one foot to the other and Webber thought he looked a little nervous. “Thank you, John,” he said as he offered his hand for a shake.

John accepted it and they shook, John hanging on a little longer than usual. “Is there something else, John?” Webber asked.

“Well, I, ah, just wanted to invite you and Tristan to dine with Charles and me at the Buckhead Club sometime,” he stammered.

“Charles?” Webber asked, a little confused.

“My husband.”

Webber raised an eyebrow. “John, are you telling me that you’re gay?”

John looked around the hall to make sure they were still alone. “Yep,” he replied. “Charles and I have been together for twelve years, married for two.”

“How did I not know this?” Webber asked.

“I guess for the same reason I didn’t know about you,” John responded.

“Touché.” Webber laughed. “I’m sure we’d like that,” Webber said. “As I told Hillary, we’re going to take a little time off, look for a place to get married, and travel for a while, but we would love to spend some time with you guys when we return.”

“Sounds good,” John said. “But hey, before I get back in there, I’d like to suggest a little place for your wedding. Have you ever been to Martha’s Vineyard?”

“I’ve heard of the island, but I’ve never been there,” Webber admitted.

“Great place, secluded and private. There’s a little place called the Inn at Lambert’s Cove and it’s really beautiful. You know gay marriage has been legal in Massachusetts since 2004, and Charles and I were married there. It’s owned by a gay couple, and they did a great job for us.”

“Sounds wonderful,” Webber said genuinely. “I’ll tell Tristan and we’ll look it up later tonight. Thanks for the tip.”

“My pleasure,” John said with a pat on the back. “I’d better get back in there and help them figure all this out. Good luck, Webber.”

“Okay, and thanks again,” Webber said, still stunned at John’s admission.

TRISTAN had just finished going through his files, placing his personal items in a file box, and was about to start packing away his small stereo when it really sunk in that he would no longer be coming to this office every day. He sat in the chair opposite his desk and looked around. No more late nights and weekends taking off his shoes, turning up his stereo, and getting lost in his work. He’d spent some of the best times of his career and his life in this office working with Webber, loving Webber from afar, and he realized how much he was going to miss it. But a smile formed on his face; knowing he was going to spend the rest of his life with Webber instead of simply working for him was so much better.

He was startled out of his thoughts by a hand lightly resting on his shoulder. He turned to see Webber standing behind him smiling weakly. “You okay?” Webber asked.

Tristan nodded. “Yeah, just doing a little reminiscing.”

“You want some time alone?”

“No, it’s okay,” Tristan responded. “I’ve just spent so many long enjoyable hours here with you that I’m really going to miss this place.”

“I’m so sorry. Tris, all this is my fault,” Webber said as he gently massaged Tristan’s shoulders.

Tristan laid a hand on top of one of Webber’s. “It’s no one’s fault, Web,” Tristan assured him. “And just for the record, if I had to choose between spending the rest of my life with you or keeping my job, you win hands down.”

Webber kissed the top of Tristan’s head. “Thanks, baby, I feel the same way. Now what can I do to help?”

“You can start packing up those CDs while I pack up the stereo,” Tristan instructed. “How did it go after I left?”

“Hillary was great. She wants us to spend some time with her and Paul. But that’s not the shocker.”

Tristan held a stereo speaker in his hand, about to start wrapping it up when he stopped and looked at Webber.

Webber simply smiled.

“What?” Tristan asked in an impatient tone.

“If I told you one of our board members is gay, who would you choose?” Webber asked, still smiling.

Tristan thought about the question. He knew the board members pretty well, and he ran down a mental list of their marital statuses. “John Reynolds?” he guessed.

“Bingo,” Webber said, his smile broadening.

“Get out,” Tristan responded.

“How did you guess?” Webber asked.

“I started with him because he’s the only one that’s single,” Tristan said as he started wrapping the speaker again.

“You’re so smart,” Webber teased. “But he’s not single. He has a husband named Charles, and they’ve been together twelve years. Oh, and they were married a couple of years ago at a place on Martha’s Vineyard, and John said it’s very private and secluded.”

Tristan placed the wrapped speaker in the box and reached for the second one. “Isn’t that the island off the coast of Massachusetts where President Obama and his family vacation?”

“That’s the place,” Webber answered.

“Maybe we can look it up on the Internet tonight,” Tristan suggested.

“Perfect,” Webber said. “But as your last official task, can you call my direct reports and set up a meeting in twenty minutes while I go pack up a few things in my office?”

“Yes, sir,” Tristan said with a mock salute.

Thirty minutes later, Webber and his direct reports, minus Nathan, were seated in Webber’s office around the small conference table. Webber explained to them everything that had happened over the last couple of days and what they could expect in the near future regarding the investigation. He answered all their questions as best he could and asked them to be honest, straightforward, and cooperative with the SEC and the Department of Justice if they were questioned. Then he told them about his and Tristan’s relationship and their resignation. Everyone was shocked about Nathan’s activities, but seemed very supportive of Webber and Tristan, although sorry to see them both go. He also asked everyone to be as supportive of his replacement as they had been of him and assured each of them that their jobs were secure and KIC’s future was very strong. The meeting ended with everyone a little dazed and confused, but they all wished Webber well on the way out of his office.

Webber was silent as he threw a few things in a box then sat down behind his desk and rubbed his temples. He looked up to see Tristan standing in front of his desk and their eyes locked in silence. When Webber finally spoke, his voice was a little strained. “Well, I think that went as well as could be expected,” he concluded.

Tristan moved behind Webber at his desk and put his hand on his shoulder. “I’m glad. You know they respect you, Web. They always have.”

Webber covered Tristan’s hand with his own. “Thanks. What do you say we get the hell out of here, find a place for lunch, and start planning a wedding? I can get this stuff later.”

Still at Webber’s side, Tristan dropped to one knee then brought Webber’s palm to his lips and gently kissed it. “Sounds like the perfect plan,” he assured him. “I just need to stop by my office and get a couple of boxes.”

Author Bio:
Scotty Cade is the author of fourteen books published by Dreamspinner Press. He left Corporate America and twenty-five years of Marketing and Public Relations behind to buy an Inn & Restaurant on the island of Martha's Vineyard with his partner of eighteen years. He started writing stories as soon as he could read, but only four years ago for publication. When not at the Inn, you can find him on the bow of his boat writing gay romance novels with his Shetland sheepdog Mavis at his side. Being from the south and a lover of commitment and fidelity, most of his characters find their way to long healthy relationships, however long it takes them to get there. He believes that in the end, the boy should always get the boy.


An Unconventional Courtship #1

An Unconventional Union #2