Avery Hextall, a junior architect at a prestigious firm, is thrilled when his design is chosen for a new performing-arts center—even if it means working closely with his insufferably uptight project manager, Malin Lacroix. When a chance encounter in the boss’s office proves that Lacroix is anything but cold, Avery is determined to learn more about the real man beneath the aloof veneer.
Despite their growing attraction and their increasingly kinky encounters, the enigmatic Malin remains as emotionally distant as ever. Worse, Avery’s friends are convinced Malin thinks of Avery as a dirty secret and nothing more—a secret that might destroy both of their careers.
But the real secret is a single moment in time that haunts Malin and keeps him from committing to the life he wants with Avery. In order to move on, Avery must help Malin come to terms with the tragedy in his past before they can work on building a future together.
Lacroix smiles down at him—that tiny smile that Avery doesn’t like because it’s stupid. “Do I?”
“Yup.” Avery looks over at Harlan, who is trying to tell Avery with his eyes to be quiet. Avery just makes a kissing motion at him and turns back to Lacroix. “You look a lot less stuffy. Like a normal person.”
“And you look… defeated.” Lacroix’s smile is sharper, and it’s strange. It’s a loud restaurant, but Avery can’t seem to hear anything else, notice anything else, who isn’t his boss. “Much like you did earlier, when you were aware you should apologize and were angry about it.”
That kills all of Avery’s ire, and all he feels is incredibly tired. And drunk. Lacroix is clearly enjoying himself at Avery’s expense, which is making him feel weird, and he doesn’t like it. “Go away. Fire me when I get back. I don’t care. Why are you even here? I thought you lived in Mordor .”
“Sorry to disappoint you,” Lacroix says in a smooth voice, and Avery is pretty sure the reference just sailed way over his head. “I’m here to meet a friend.”
“What? You have friends? Are they boring math people too?” Avery grins at him, meanly, like he’s picking on a kid at the bus stop. An older kid who could run him over with a car. “Hey, is it Thomas? Is he going to give you a twenty-five dollar blowjob?” The instant he says that, Avery is well aware he’s gone too far.
How does he still have a job, and why is he doing his level best not to? Something about Lacroix’s insufferable smugness makes Avery want to rile him up. And he’s always been the type to push and push, just to see what he can get away with. But he rarely does it like this. What the hell does he want? Lacroix to lose his cool and punch him in the mouth? Jesus, he’s acting like a twelve-year-old boy with a crush on a—
Oh no. No, no, no. A horrible suspicion is planted in Avery’s brain, and he starts sucking on the ice in his watery gin and tonic, desperate for more liquor to burn it out of there.
Avon Gale was once the mayor on Foursquare of Jazzercise and Lollicup, which should tell you all you need to know about her as a person. She likes road trips, rock concerts, drinking Kentucky bourbon and yelling at hockey. She’s a displaced southerner living in a liberal midwestern college town, and when she’s not writing you can find her at the salon, making her clients look and feel fabulous. She never gets tired of people and their stories — either real or the ones she makes up in her head.