Emjay Haze © 2018
All Rights Reserved
“Please come to my office for a minute,” the mid-regional director bellowed, his voice deep with authority, causing Alex to redirect himself from heading to his own office. He followed the older gentleman around the corner and down the long hallway to the executive suites. He’d hoped to be there one day himself but had a long claw to go. Yes, claw. That’s how you got ahead in this place.
Alex had been a manager at the Manhattan financial advising firm for the last four years, having been promoted from sales where he’d landed out of grad school. They called it middle management for a reason. You were stuck right in the center, with twenty employees always needing your attention, and upper management wanting a little more blood. It was exhausting.
He shouldn’t really complain. His job paid the bills for a very nice Manhattan apartment three blocks from Central Park with a gorgeous view of the city. He’d become what his parents had dreamed for him, in every way. Robert and Martha Michaels lived on the outskirts of St. Louis. They both had decent jobs, but a lack of college education had kept them from the “good life,” as they called it, and they wanted more for their only son.
“Come in, Alex.” Mr. Kensington motioned for Alex to enter his spacious corner office with the big windows, which overlooked the New York skyline. It was breathtaking, and a little intimidating.
“Thank you, Mr. Kensington.”
“I think it’s time you called me Mitchell.” Mr. Kensington flashed him a wide grin. Alex wondered if his friends called him Mitch. He glanced at the distinguished gray-haired gentleman with the thousand-dollar suit. Mitchell it is.
“Thank you, M—Mitchell.”
“Have a seat, Alex.” His smile disappeared. He was all business.
Alex took a deep breath and sat in the leather-upholstered chair in front of Mr. Kensington’s mahogany desk. His boss sat behind it in an even larger chair that would have sucked Alex in if he’d tried to sit in it, yet Mr. Kensington sat ramrod straight. Alex couldn’t imagine what this was about as the seconds ticked away. Maybe he was getting fired. He gulped.
“Alex, I value your work here at the firm.”
“Thank you, sir.” A bead of sweat formed at the base of his hairline.
Mr. Kensington glared at him, knitting his eyebrows together.
“Mitchell,” Alex squeaked. That would take some getting used to.
Mr. Kensington stood up, appearing even more intimidating as Alex craned his neck to meet his gaze. “Due to business booming, we’re expanding the operation, Alex, and I’d like you to be a part of a new division.”
Alex’s eyes grew wide. Did this mean a promotion? Was he finally getting an executive position? He sat straighter, waiting for the man to make his point.
“As you know, middle manager is the most important position in this firm,” Mr. Kensington said, pacing back and forth in front of Alex. “You have responsibilities on both ends. It’s not easy finding someone who fits so well in that position, with the respect of both upper management and his employees.”
Where the heck was this heading? It didn’t sound like a promotion.
“And you are a good manager, Alex,” he continued. “Your troops like you, and they’re productive. That’s a huge accomplishment for anyone.”
“Thank you, s—Mitchell.” Alex took a deep breath, waiting for him to get to his fucking point.
Mr. Kensington came around his desk and walked behind Alex. Stopping, he placed his hand on Alex’s shoulder. “I am appointing you manager of the new Celebrities account division, so you will be taking some of the most important accounts this company currently has, as well as acquiring new ones. You will report to the new divisional director, Karl Morrison, from our west coast branch.”
Karl Morrison, who the fuck was that? Another middle manager getting his big promotion? Alex seethed, but kept it cool on the outside. “What does this mean for me, sir?” He tried smiling, but it came out as more of a sneer with his teeth clenched. Fortunately, Mr. Kensington was still behind him.
“A ten thousand dollar a year increase and larger staff,” Mr. Kensington said as he slithered back behind his desk. “You will manage our most prestigious division, Alex.”
As a middle manager and not an executive. He worked up a more believable smile. “Thank you, s—Mitchell.”
Mr. Kensington nodded. “You deserve it, son. Karl will arrive later this month, so you have some time to wrap up your current accounts. You will also choose staff to bring with you—oh, and please see Human Resources for your requirements for the new positions.”
So, I do the work and Mr. Karl Morrison swoops in next month and gets what should be my corner office. “I won’t let you down, sir.”
He smiled and nodded, as if to say I know you won’t. “Oh, and Barbara will order business cards with your new title.” Mitchell sat down behind his desk again.
“New title?” Did I miss something?
“Senior Manager. Congratulations, Alex.”
Alex faked a smile. “Thank you, sir.” It was still middle management. He should be ecstatic. Mr. Kensington could have passed on him completely. So, why did he feel like punching him in the face?
Mr. Kensington dismissed him by standing up and motioning to the door. Alex also stood and shook his hand, thanking him once more and attempting a more believable smile. At least it was more money, and it might be interesting work at that. He wondered if this was the success his parents intended for him when they made him quit culinary school at the end of his first year and go to a real college for a business degree. Stuck in middle management for the rest of his life. God, he sounded pathetic—and ungrateful.
Alex walked back to his windowless office and sighed as he sat down on the much smaller and less comfortable fabric chair at his plain oak desk. Would he ever get a nice chair like Mr. Kensington—err, Mitchell?
The day was almost over, and he couldn’t wait for that clock to strike five. He had nowhere to go, unfortunately, but he liked the quiet after everyone left for the day. No snotty salesman knocking on his door asking for a day off or a better commission structure. No director buzzing his phone asking where the weekly report was. He put his elbows on his desk and rubbed his fingers through his hair. He usually waited for the cleaning guy who always had a good story to tell. Maybe he should go home, or better, go out and get laid.
As if the gods had heard him, there was a rap on the door and his beautiful secretary, Belinda, peeked her head in. “Hey, boss. A few of us girls are going out tonight to a club and thought you might join us.”
Alex pictured an overcrowded dance club where horny straight guys hit on his coworkers while he sat and brooded over his gin and tonic or something that said straight-boy. “Uh, no, thanks, Belinda. You guys have a great time, though.”
“Oh, no,” she said, walking into his office. “We picked this club for you.” She shook her finger at him and winked.
“You’re going to a gay club for me?” He raised an eyebrow. He had never hidden his sexuality from his assistant.
“No, silly. We wanted to go anyway, but honestly, it’s better if we take a gay man with us.” She froze. “Yeah, that didn’t come out quite right.” She straightened her skirt and regrouped, apparently searching for her next words. “We want you to come with us. You’ll have a great time, I promise.”
Alex chuckled, shaking his head. “Might be exactly what I need. I’m in.”
“Good. You work too hard. Maybe you’ll meet a nice man—and get lucky.” She wiggled her eyebrows.
Belinda had worked for Alex ever since he moved to management. She was in her early thirties, single, and she had a lot of friends at the firm. The tall, fiery redhead had long, wavy hair and big blue eyes, and was well-endowed in all the areas that straight men found attractive. Alex thought she liked working for him mainly because he didn’t undress her with his eyes every time she walked into the room. She’d practically told him that one night as she was heading out and one of the supervisors was leaving Alex’s office. He’d given her a creepy once-over as he passed her. She’d rolled her eyes and entered Alex’s office, shutting the door behind her. Then she’d spilled her troubles.
Alex was empathetic, and she’d thanked him for treating her like a human. They’d become friends after that, but never took it outside the office. It might be fun having a night out with the girls. He didn’t want to do anything that would have them all talking about him at the watercooler the next morning, though. That shit could get around quickly. No, he’d have to keep it PG. Still, it would be nice to get out and watch cute boys on the dance floor, even if they were only dancing with his friends. He hadn’t done that since college.
Alex shut down his computer and followed Belinda into the elevator. “We’re meeting everyone in the lobby,” she explained as three women Alex recognized but barely knew barreled over to them.
“Alex, this is Hannah from accounting, Jill, Mr. Lawson’s admin, and Barb, you know.”
“Hi, Alex,” Barb said. She was Mr. Kensington’s assistant. “Congratulations on the promotion.” He had spoken with her many times, but never on a personal level.
“What?” Alex hadn’t thought of his move from manager to senior manager as a promotion. “Oh, thanks. I’m thrilled.” He hoped he sounded convincing.
“What’s this?” Belinda hadn’t heard yet, because Alex hadn’t told her. He felt like shit.
“They offered me senior manager with a new division. I found out earlier today before you walked in my office. Sorry, I should have told you.”
“That’s awesome, boss. Does that mean…?”
“You’re coming with me,” he said. “I couldn’t do my job without you, Bels.”
“Oh, thank God. I’d hate having to break in a new boss.” Her tone was flippant, but Alex knew better. She didn’t want to have someone with authority ogling her all day. He stifled a chuckle.
“Well, come on, ladies. I see you’ve been looking forward to this all day.”
He groaned as they chatted excitedly all the way to the parking garage. He hoped he wouldn’t embarrass himself. Why did he think going out with coworkers to a gay club was a good idea?
Alex drove Belinda and Barbara, while the other two followed them in Jill’s car. This way, Belinda explained, if Alex wanted to leave early, or later, then he’d have his own car and the four women could drive back to the office together. He wasn’t planning on taking anyone home tonight. Not with witnesses to discuss it at work the next day.
They pulled up to the curb outside the club. Alex got an immediate case of nerves as he stepped out of his car.
“Look at this place,” Belinda said, following him. “We’re gonna have a blast.”