Ed Kaehler is a laidback guy. He manages the housekeeping department for his building, endures insults from some of his fellow managers, and takes care of the elderly in his spare time. Some may consider his life to be lacking something, but there’s more to Ed than meets the eye.
The new facilities director, Titus Leung, discovers this when he goes out of his way to make friends with Ed. But then, Ed finds out that the main reason Titus befriends him is because of a stupid bet. A punch, a knee to the groin, and some choice words settle the matter, and now Titus has to figure out how to get Ed to forgive him.
That might be asking a lot from a man who’s been hurt too many times. But with the help of Ed’s favorite non-profit, anything is possible.
I stalked past the receptionist at the front desk who gawked at me, likely having heard through the rumor mill what had just happened. I headed to Titus’s office. Barb was in there, twittering like a bird as usual while Titus typed something on his keyboard. I knocked on the doorjamb to get their attention.
Barb turned to me, and at the look on my face, her eyebrows rose. “Something wrong, Ed? I heard something about a fight --?”
I held up a hand and she stopped talking. “I’d like to speak to Titus for a moment please, if you wouldn’t mind. Feel free to reprimand me later about my behavior.”
“Uh, sure. Fine.” She edged around me and I closed the door behind her.
Titus hadn’t looked at me yet, but his face was red and his fingers trembled where they still typed on those fucking keys.
I leaned against the door and crossed my arms on my chest. My knuckles were sore and I could use some ice, but I needed to get this said. “I heard you won a bet today. Mind telling me why I was worth so much effort for a few bucks?”
He ran a hand through his hair and finally looked at me. Not sure if I saw regret there at being busted, but there was shame, no doubt. “It was supposed to be harmless fun. The guys assured me you wouldn’t care, that it would be a joke. But then, you sang with me on stage and blew everyone away. And I find out that you spend all your spare time taking care of old people unable to help themselves, and I, for one, couldn’t ever do that. Old people creep me out. It started out as a bet, sure, but as I got to know you, the whole thing started to feel a bit ... sordid.”
“I see.” I did, actually. “But you still took the money.”
He smiled sheepishly. “It was a lot of money.”
Curious, I asked, “How much?”
“A thousand dollars, total.”
Jesus. Such spawns of Satan. “First of all, you were unprofessional. Don’t those guys technically report to you? As the senior manager, aren’t you supposed to set an example and not be ‘buddy buddy’ all the time?”
“Sure, but I thought --”
“I don’t give a shit what you thought, Titus,” I cut in. “There’s a reason why I keep things to myself, especially in this environment. It’s because of assholes like them, and now you. You led me on, made me feel like I could trust you, like maybe you were different, though I had my reservations at first. God, I should have known better. You’re all the same, aren’t you?”
Titus stood and started to move around his desk, but I raised a hand. “Nope, don’t wanna hear it, though at least you told me the truth, I suppose. I’ll never be able to trust anything you say ever again, you know that, right?” His face fell, and I wondered if he finally realized what he’d done in that stupid brain of his. How could such a handsome, confident man be so dumb?
I opened the door behind me. “Thanks, by the way, for ruining my trust in anything anyone has to say to me ever again about dating. I hope the money was worth it, and I’d rather hang from the top of a burning building on a rusty nail puncturing my eyelid before I’d ever think of going out with you. Anywhere. So feel free to take someone else out for steak on Friday.”
With that pronouncement, I went back to work, and a wall was completely built around my heart in concrete, likely never to be broken through in this lifetime.