After seeing his father's profligate ways almost destroy the family business, Ransom Burke has instituted a firm policy of no work fraternization. When his longtime lover leaves him for a woman, Ransom vows never again to let anyone get close to him. He informs all future lovers he'll shower them with gifts as long as they remain monogamous. However, at the first sign of straying, they'll receive a bouquet of white roses tipped with gold and the affair will be over.
Man after man chooses straying over Ransom until the day the very appealing Parrish Rutledge comes to work for him. That means Parrish will forever be out of his reach.
Parrish has been alone since he was sixteen, having been tossed out when his older brother discovered he was gay. He's immediately attracted to his new boss, but even though he dreams of Ransom, he knows, due to the company policy, it can't go anywhere.
But in the aftermath of the office Christmas party, things change between them, and Parrish is given a choice: keep his job and know he can never again see Ransom as anything other than his boss, or quit and become his lover. The one is unthinkable, and as for the other, Ransom is a serial monogamist who doesn't have the best track record. Parrish's choice will either lead to a Christmas Day where once again he'll be alone, or the best present ever will be under his tree.
Parrish had been with the company for four months now, and he found himself enjoying it more and more, especially since he'd overcome that ... crush for want of a better word.
He had gone through the Observer's archives after discovering Mr. Burke was gay, and learned that every one of the men he'd dated really was as fair as he.
It was a good thing he'd stopped dreaming about his boss.
His door opened, and in walked the man himself.
"Good morning, Mr. Burke," he said, as the boss strode through his office.
"My office now, Rutledge." Mr. Burke didn't ask for his executive assistant because she was on vacation.
"Yes, sir." He'd never heard the boss so irritated. He made sure he had a notepad, pencils, and a cassette recorder and hurried after him.
Mr. Burke was standing by the wall of windows, staring out into the brilliance of the Charlotte morning sun. "I apologize for my testiness."
"Not a problem, sir." Parrish sat down and prepared to take notes.
"Mrs. Campbell won't be in today."
"No, sir. She's on vacation."
"Precisely." He stared at Parrish broodingly.
Parrish swallowed and began to sweat. Had he done something wrong?
Mr. Burke turned away. "Has Mrs. Campbell told you about the arrangement I have with Cupid's Bow-quets?"
"How does that strike you?"
"Me? Excuse me, Mr. Burke, it's none of my business."
"Very good. You've got your own life outside of Burke, Burke, and Hammett."
"Yes, sir," Parrish said again. He wasn't about to tell this man who went to the opera, the races, and attended numerous cultural and charity affairs that his private life consisted of hitting the gym when he remembered, going to the supermarket, and sometimes visiting Browse the Aisles, the used book store he'd found a few blocks away in the Fourth Ward Historic District. As for clubbing, the last time he'd done that was when he was still in college and had a boyfriend he could go dancing with.
"I want three dozen red roses sent to this address."
"Excuse me? Oh, yes." Parrish took the slip of paper with the name and address of the guy who must be Mr. Burke's newest lover.
Parrish refused to acknowledge the twinge in his chest, since it wasn't his chest, it was his stomach. It was just that burrito he'd nuked for breakfast disagreeing with him. He must have eaten it too quickly.
"Did you need me for anything else, Mr. Burke?"
"Then I'll get right on this." He tried to walk sedately from his boss's office, although he wasn't sure how successful that was, and breathed a sigh of relief when he was behind his own desk once again.