Joel Anderson is on the fast-track to upper management, and he doesn’t care who he steps on in the process. But when the man he thought was a mentor steals his idea and uses it against him during a meeting, the only thing Joel sees in his future is the unemployment line.
Bryce Harris has been in Joel’s shoes. After months of working with Joel and not even having him know his name, Bryce gives up on both the job and the man he wants.
Can the two men work together before time runs out to keep more than their customer satisfied?
A couple of hours later, Joel teetered half-on and half-off a barstool at the farthest end of the bar. He still wore his suit coat from the meeting but had loosened his tie and unbuttoned his shirt. A series of empty shot glasses were lined up to his side.
The first two he’d drunk in quick succession. The slam of the glass onto the gleaming wood was an unsatisfying echo of what he’d like to do to Charles. The third went down slower and carried a hint of the difficulty he’d face when he told his sister about losing his job. It had taken them a few years to reunite after they exited foster care, and Joel’s determination to do right by her, and now her kids, warred with his panic.
The fourth tasted terrible and almost won the battle to come back up. It represented his denial. His foolishness and worse, everything he stood to lose. The amount of debt he carried hadn’t mattered when compared to the paycheck he was expecting. Joel had convinced himself it was all part of his long game. It would be tight, but manageable at his current salary if he worked hard. If he lost this job all together?
Joel shuddered and clamped his hand over his mouth. What were the chances Charles and the firm wouldn’t blackball him? Oh, it would be subtle. Nothing on paper, nothing he could prove. But the right word in the right ear and his nascent career was over.
Two shots of liquor remained on the wood surface before him. They represented Bruce/Brian/Bryce and the rest of the team Joel let down. He must be getting maudlin because it wasn’t like he bothered networking or building rapport on his single-minded scramble to the top.
Was he really going to pound one? Both? His reflection stared at him from the wall of mirrors behind the bar, and despite the alcohol already poisoning his system, his eyes were still filled with a swirling mix of shame, fear, and self-loathing.
You bet he was.
He picked up one of the shots and closed his eyes. He could do this. But first he pushed down the nausea already building in his stomach. Nothing he tried kept him from remembering the meeting and damn, he wanted to forget. Joel tilted his head back and prepared to send the liquid jet fuel down his throat.
“You don’t want to do that.”
The glass was plucked out of his hand. Joel opened his eyes and sent a bleary glance at the man who slid onto the stool beside him. Without his carefully cultivated filter of polite and office-appropriate behavior, Joel looked his fill.
The newcomer had a lot to offer. Blond, with a hank or two of hair falling over rather chiseled cheekbones. The lines at the corners of his eyes showed he wasn’t as youthful as he first appeared, but age was just a number, right? Joel’s lack of focus didn’t allow him to learn what color his eyes were, but that mouth, baby, that mouth was made for sin.