Scott Riley is living with a terrible secret -- one he dares not share with his family or friends. Who can he turn to... who can he trust?
After losing his job because of one man's actions and lies, Scott Riley is desperately seeking employment. A rape victim, he feels shame, humiliation and a deep seated anger that he cannot bring his attacker to justice because of what he thinks it might do to his parents. Rather than have them live with the knowledge of what happened to their only son, he does everything in his power to spare them, even at a cost to his own happiness.
When Ross Nelson offers Scott a position in his software company, Scott feels that this change in his luck may prove to be the turning point where he can put his painful memories behind him. Although aware of the obstacles inherent in an office romance, Scott and Ross soon find themselves irresistibly drawn to one another. But Scott's nemesis refuses to stop tormenting him with texts and phone messages, some obscene, others that contain threats and derision.
Can the lovers overcome the ravings of a deranged stalker, or will they be torn apart by the clear and present danger this man represents?
The strident buzz of his alarm clock woke Scott from a dark dream he was glad to break free from. It was always the same. The sensation of being trapped, of hands around his throat, visions of a leering face, a struggle, futile against his attacker who was so much bigger and stronger, the pain from his head being struck over and over until blackness swallowed him. The daytime hours gave him some freedom from the horror, although even then, so many times his thoughts would be tainted by memories of that heinous day more than three months ago.
He used to enjoy dreams. When they were just that…dreams. Dreams of people he knew and didn’t dread, or of someone he didn’t know but wished he did. Someone holding him, kissing him. He’d awake aroused, his mind trying to recapture those sensual moments—but that was before Elliot.
He pushed himself out of bed. He didn’t want to start the morning thinking of that bastard. Perhaps this day would turn out to be a better one. Maybe, after three months of looking for a new job he’d finally catch a break.
After relieving himself, he splashed his face with cold water in an effort to clear his mind of the lingering shadows those dreams would haunt him with. He prepped the coffee machine and turned on the TV for the morning news. The pinging sound from his cell phone alerting him that he had a text message, made his stomach churn. Get a grip… He’d changed his number again, so it couldn’t be from him. He picked his cell up and stared at the message then let out a long shuddering breath as he read the words.
Good morning Scotty. Got a job yet? Didn’t think so. Nobody wants to hire a pussy like you.
No matter that he’d received texts like this several times a day, ever since he’d left Blackwell and Norris, his last employer, he had not become immune to them. They still had the power to make him sick to his stomach. Not so much the actual messages, and this one was mild compared to the filth he sometimes read on the screen, but the idea that the man who sent them, the man responsible for him losing his job, who had assaulted him, the creep had somehow managed to find a way to communicate with him, yet again. He had changed his cell number three times and still the bastard had managed to track him down. He shouldn’t be too surprised, he supposed. Anyone with a knowledge of software and computer programming could probably do the same thing. Just about anything could be hacked if you knew how. What he couldn’t understand was why Elliot persisted in cyberstalking him. He couldn’t believe the SOB thought he could wear Scott down, that he would actually respond to any of the often obscene texts he received.
Surely he couldn’t imagine for one minute that I’d ever want to see him or talk to him again. He can’t be that much of a maniac. No, he’s just sick—dangerously sick.
His coffeemaker beeped and Scott poured himself a mug of the strong, black brew adding a bit of sugar. At least today he had something to look forward to. After two weeks of failing to secure an interview from the dozens he’d applied for, he’d finally managed to get an appointment with Nelson Enterprises, a fairly new company, but one that had received glowing accolades in Tech News. Under the direction of its young innovator, Nelson Enterprises was quickly making a name for itself in the software design and marketing industry. Maybe, just maybe, his luck would change for the better. Maybe.
Coming out of the shower he heard his cell ping again.
Shit… That fucker is determined to ruin what I’d hope was going to be a better day…
Once he’d ascertained that the text was from Elliot he was going to ignore it. Why allow him to bring me down again? But a couple of the words drew his attention. He felt the blood drain from his face as he read the message.
Come suck my cock. You know you want to.
If Scott could have afforded a new cell phone, he’d have thrown the one he held in his hand against the wall.
§ § § §
Scott paused for a moment or two outside the tall building on the corner of Broadway and Fifth that looked as if it was made entirely of glass. He stared up at the seemingly endless stories and hoped that this time the job interview would go his way—or would he once more be told they’d be in touch then never hear either a yea or nay from the company? Surely not every corporate entity was manned by jerks, although it certainly appeared to be so, based on his past experiences. But Nelson Enterprises wasn’t a corporation, yet. It was owned by a young forward thinking man who just might be prepared to take a chance on someone who was qualified enough, but without the requisite reference from his last employer.
Sighing, he pushed his way through the glass doors and into the marbled entryway, his footsteps echoing in the vast space as he made his way over to the reception desk.
“I’m here to see Mr. Nelson of Nelson Enterprises,” he told the bored-looking woman who barely lifted her head from the magazine she was reading, to acknowledge him.
Her fingers flew over her computer keyboard. “Oh yeah, here you are. Eleven forty-five, yes? You’re early.”
“I don’t mind waiting.”
“Take the elevator to the twentieth floor, his secretaries will help you.”
“Welcome.” She turned immediately back to whatever it was she found so interesting in the magazine.
After the elevator cleared the second floor, and soared speedily upward he was treated to a view of San Diego’s pristine skyline, the Coronado Bridge and the bay. Almost a shame to get off, he thought as the doors slid open with a soft hum. Scott loved this city, and had ever since he’d moved from Sacramento two years ago.
The first thing he saw when he stepped out into the reception area was “Nelson Enterprises” emblazoned in gold script on the wall opposite the elevator. Under that sat a large desk that housed two computers, one manned by a young woman, the other by a good-looking guy about Scott’s age who gave him an appraising once-over as he approached the desk.
“How can I help you?”
“Uh, I’m here to see Mr. Nelson. I have an eleven forty-five appointment.”
The guy glanced at his computer screen. “Scott Riley?” He looked back at him and smiled.
“Okay, take a seat. Mr. Nelson hasn’t quite finished with his previous appointment.” He held out his hand. “I’m Darren, by the way, and this is Martha.”
Martha gave him a little wave as Scott took Darren’s hand. At least these people were friendlier than most he’d encountered on his previous interviews.
“Like some coffee?” Martha asked. “I just brewed some fresh.”
Scott, surprised, said, “I’d love some, actually, thank you.”
Martha rose from her ergonomic chair and disappeared through a glass paneled door.
Darren smiled again. “You from out of town?”
“Originally from Sacramento, but I’ve lived here for two years now.”
“Don’t you love this city?” Darren’s enthusiasm was palpable. “I’ve lived here for five years and wouldn’t leave for the best job in the country.”
“You like working here?”
“Yep.” Scott felt himself warm to Darren’s gregarious personality. “Ross Nelson is the greatest boss ever. If he hires you, you’ll be one lucky guy.”
Scott chuckled. “I guess I could take that a coupla different ways.”
Martha came back carrying Scott’s coffee. “Didn’t know how you take it so I brought cream and sugar packets.”
“You can sit at that table over there. Enjoy.”
Scott walked over to the guest waiting area and set the coffee mug down on the small table between two chairs. While he doctored the coffee with the sugar, Darren and Martha went back to work. He looked around the pleasantly decorated reception area, at the tastefully framed prints on the walls and the shelf over the reception desk that held several sporting trophies.
Darren saw him looking. “The boss used to be a swimmer. Won a couple of Nationals in his teens. Those are his trophies.”
Any more information about ‘the boss’ was curtailed as he heard a door to his right open and a man exited, not looking particularly happy. Without saying a word to either Darren or Martha, he punched the elevator button and stood with his back to them tapping his right foot impatiently while he waited.
Darren looked over the top of his computer screen and caught Scott’s eye. He winked at him. As soon as the elevator door slid shut he said, “Guess that didn’t go too well for Mr. Forbes.”
“I didn’t like him.” Martha screwed up her face in dislike. “He was way too pushy, and he was wearing way too much cologne—ugh.”
“Martha…” Darren’s half-hearted rebuke just made her giggle, and Scott wondered what they’d have to say about him after he left. Especially if he left without getting the job, which with the way things had gone in the last three months would not be a surprise.
He could feel the start of depression settling over him like a gray and sodden blanket. He tried not to let the little things like Martha’s comment get him down, but he could so easily see himself in the same position as the unhappy Mr. Forbes. Well, perhaps not the too much cologne part. He always used that sparingly after having read in a men’s magazine that too much fragrance was never a good idea.
Interviews were tough, at least the ones he’d been to recently. Not that there had been many. Getting accepted for one was even tougher. Then of course, there was the problem of how he’d left his last position. Walked out without giving notice. That never went over very well. Probably wouldn’t today. If he had any sense he’d just get up and leave. Why put himself through the humiliation of yet another rejection? He gulped down the last of his coffee and started to get to his feet. Darren and Martha might be surprised by his hasty exit, but they’d probably shrug and get over it after a few minutes.
“Oh, Mr. Nelson’s ready for you now.” Darren rose and gestured that Scott should follow him.
Okay, so just bite the bullet. You never know…