Looking back now, I should have always known it would be him to break me completely. From the first day he walked in with those sparkling green eyes and bright dimpled smile, I should have known he would be my end.
October started crisp and smelled of falling leaves, cider and cocoa from the vendors on campus. Senior year was here and I was flying through college with ease. Studying always came easily for me, I rarely struggled in a subject and tests never made me sweat. As long as everything held course, I should be able to breeze through senior year with honors and slide right into my career in my father's firm. Architecture has always been a passion of mine, ever since I was on a business trip with my father when I was 10. One look at the beauty of all the steel, concrete and glass that made up the city and I was in awe. I spent hours pouring over every book my father had and many, many sketch pads were filled with my fantastical (though now I know) impractical designs. Yes, this was exactly what I wanted out of life . . .
"What's is it about my relationship that amuses you?" Rose glared at me over the top of her classic cat-eye glasses. That's my best friend for you - tough as nails ("I can take any man or woman") with a flare for all things classic and beautiful, be it cars or fashion.
"It just she is SO not your type." Really, what was she thinking? There was nothing wrong with the girl. She was petite with pretty mahogany hair and big brown eyes, but she was also very much a tomboy and natural. Rose usually went for the tall supermodel type, preferably redheaded and big boobed.
"Well, I will have you know, Jazz, there is plenty I like about Bella." The goofy grin that spread across her face had me doing a double take.
"No, it can't be?" I say in mocking shock.
"Really Rose? Could it be?" Putting my hand to my heart, trying to be a dramatic as possible to embarrass my dear friend and cousin. "Could it be the almighty Ice Queen Rosalie Hale is in L-O-V-E?"
Rose sputtered and shook her head, but I could see through the blush of her cheeks and the way she took her glasses off and fiddled with them that I might have hit the nail on the head.
"Look, I am not saying that, but she is different." There was that smile again. "She isn't all wrapped up in what I look like or my name or my money. She is real and sweet and she does this thing with her tongue . . .," she says with a smirk.
"Eww, enough!" I say chuckling. "You know 'girl sex' grosses me out!"
"Oh! Like I so enjoy hearing how you like 8 inches shoved up your . . ."
Holding my hands up, it is clear we are at an impasse. "Truce?"
"Truce," she agrees, while she starts packing up her books to head to her next class. Rose is what every man dreams of - tall with a killer body, golden hair to her waist that never seems out of place. She has a face that should grace magazines. She has a wonderful sense of humor. She's smart and knows her way around just about any engine. But no man will every be blessed with the chance to know her in "that way," because she is all about the ladies. Ever since Royce King tried to kiss her on her 11th birthday, she knew and proudly announced she was a lesbian. And since, she always was so confident. No one - not even the family - questioned it. That was Rose. She knew who she was and what she wanted in love and life and that was it.
I wish I could say it was always that easy for me. I had no clue I was gay until the summer after high school. I had dated a few girls throughout high school - even had sex with them a time or two - but it never really felt right. When I graduated, I was still seeing Alice. And though it wasn't sparks and passion, it was easy and fun. We hit the beach every sunny day we could to hang with the gang. We all tried not to think about the fall approaching when we would say goodbye to our childhoods.
I remember clearly the moment I realized why I never felt those sparks with any girl. It was a particularly hot day at the end of June. Alice and I found ourselves at the beach, trying to beat the Texas heat. We were goofing off in the water and having fun. She was stealing kisses here and there and that is when I saw him. While hugging and swinging Al around in the water, I caught a flash of copper hair and long lean muscles glittering with water - looking like diamonds in the sun. Insta-boner!
Suddenly I was imagining licking those drops off of him and I was ready to cum right there in the water. Alice was overjoyed and a bit shocked, since it usually took awhile for me to work up to that hard. Once the redheaded water-god turned and gave me a crooked smile and I caught a glimpse of eyes the color of Brazilian waters, I was sure I liked guys. Alice never noticed the beautiful man and later I felt guilty for letting her stroke me to completion under the water as I eye-fucked with the stranger, but I never came so hard.
Later that day, I sought out the man and found him in the parking lot of the convenience store after taking Alice home. I was so scared to approach him. I was shaking like a leaf as I walked over to him as he stepped out of his car. But as soon as he saw me, he smiled brightly and I was instantly at ease and everything fell into place.
Edward and I spent the rest of the summer exploring each other - first in secret, but later we had to tell people. To my shock, the only person that was surprised I was gay was myself. My mom said, "I know dear," and patted my cheek. My father said, "Okay, pass the salad please."
Alice's reaction still to this day makes me laugh. I was afraid to upset her. But when I came out to her, she squealed, jumping up and down saying "I knew it wasn't me." Then she hugged me tightly and pulled back - looking very serious - and added, "Wait, I didn't turn you gay, did I?"
Edward and I parted ways in the fall, going to schools on opposite ends of the country. We could have tried to make it work, but we both knew in our hearts that it wouldn't. We parted on good terms and with good memories. There haven't been many other partners (school took up most of my time) but I wasn't complaining. The right guy will come along when the time was right.
Snapping back into the now, I gave Rose a peck on the cheek and we parted ways for class. I made my way across campus for my class thinking "Yes, someday . . ."
Two years later . . .
"Mr. Whitlock, your father is ready for you."
"Thank you, Rene," I say to my father's middle-aged overly made-up assistant. Straightening my tie, I stride through the door a bit uneased. Normally my father and I would just cross the hall or call to discuss things. So to have him be so formal as to have his assistant call me and schedule this had me on edge.
My father looked every bit the professional behind his large oak desk, but I knew that something had him bothered as well because his usual polished appearance was disheveled. His jacket was cast aside, his tie was at half-mast and his hair looked as though he had been running his fingers through it and maybe even trying to pull it out.
"Jasper, come . . . come in," he mumbled as he motioned to the chair opposite him. For his 58 years, his father always looked much younger, but today he was looking very much his age with maybe a dozen thrown on. This did not feel good.
"So, what's going on, dad?" Jasper wasn't sure he wanted speculate, glancing at his father's desk and what was in front of him. It appeared to be the blueprints of the new building they just gotten the contract on. It was a state-of-the-art pediatric unit and children's clinic. It had been the first project Jasper had had a real hand in and he was damn proud of it.
"We have some issues with breaking ground." He looked like he was unsure if he should go on. "Look, son. I got a call this morning from Volt construction and they are pulling out."
"WHAT!" I was up out of my chair now.
"It appears that the man there that submitted the bid on the contract didn't have the authority to set the price."
Pacing now in an "I know we are set to break ground next week" way, panic sets in in a BIG way. Well then, why did he? Why are we just finding this out now? What is the fuck . . . ?"
Taking a deep breath, I could see my father pull himself back into the man I remember from dinner last night.
"It appears that he was the man was in charge there, but he was only authorized to see the day-to-day projects they had going already. When he heard about the hospital and knew the attention the company would get, he jumped the gun since the real boss was out of the country." Straightening his tie and fingers running through his hair, he was quickly becoming himself.
My mind was racing with a million problems but no solutions. Man, I am such a rookie. No sense in freaking out now. I take a cue from my father and return to my seat. Calmly, I look my father and start to tackle the problem.
"Why, though, if they see the potential linking them to this project, why are they pulling out?" This could mean lots of jobs for any company that took it on. Their name would be all over the place, especially on TV when news crews reported on the project - just as our firm will get when the "Future site of" billboard went up.
Shaking his head and with a smirk of disgust on his face, he replied, "Oh, well, it seems that in his eagerness to get the job, the man-child left in charge way underbid what he should have and now they want more money," gesturing with his hands, "LOTS more money. There is no way we can give them what they are asking."
FUUUUCCCKKKK! My first major project and it is going up in flames. "What? Now we have 6 days until we break?" We are clearly fucked! "Do we postpone? Lose the project?"
Huffing loudly, he had surely had this meltdown before I showed up in his office. "Relax, son. First, no. We will not lose the project. Our contract gives us up to 3 months in delays before they go to their second choice . . ."
"Great then, we will . . ." Holding his hand up, he stops me.
"But we can't postpone. If we do, we will lose two of the major investors. Between the two of them, they make up over half the budget."
He goes on shuffling papers on his desk. "Losing them will not be an option. Therefore, I need you on your game. I know this is your first real project, but I have no doubt in my mind that you can handle this." Nice to know he had faith in me, but I was not so sure. Hell, I didn't even know where to start. Lucky for me, he did.
Handing me the folder he had been leafing through, I looked at it as he explained. "These are all the bids that came close to the budget." Pointing at the top one, "This is the one that should have gotten the job and should have first refusal."
McCullen Construction - their bid was decent, not right on, but hopefully with my determination, charm and maybe a little begging thrown in, we just might be able to get them. Please, dear Lord, please. Starting the plan in my head, I start to sweat and fidget. My father must have noticed because he rounded his desk and, leaning against it, put a reassuring hand on my shoulder.
"You will do fine, son," he tells me. "You are a Whitlock and with that comes the drive to get the job done and done right."
"You're right, dad. It is just . . . " Trying to find the right words, I let out a few deep breaths and continue. "This has been my dream for so long. I mean, not only putting my buildings on paper and having someone actually want to build them, but to follow it all the way through."
Smiling a proud-papa smile, my father nods his head knowingly. "And you will, son. I know you will."
It was going to be a long day. Heading straight to my office, I buzzed my assistant Peter and had him hold all my calls and free up my afternoon. I didn't have much to move around, I was just going to meet with a few of the other architects and go over they ramps and the rest of the concrete structures. Since that went in much later in the project, it could wait.
Taking off my jacket and sitting down, I got right to getting my baby built. Finding the number at the top of the bid, I made the call and set up a meeting. Speaking with a very helpful and overly cheerful secretary named Jessica, (she made sure she said it 4 times) I was able to set up an appointment at lunch. Picking a midscale Italian restaurant, I was feeling nervously optimistic. There was so much riding on this - not just my future in the industry, but my family's company's reputation. Blowing out a huge puff of air, I gather all the files I will need and shove them in my briefcase, gather my coat and head for the door. One last glance to the heavens, I say a quick prayer and move forward.
Nucci's Bistro was a nice little restaurant set off the main streets, so it was a secret gem that very few people knew about. I have spent many an afternoon tucked away in the back booth, pouring out design ideas onto my sketch pad. This was where I was most confident and the perfect place to be at my best if this deal was going to go through.
Walking past the outdoor tables up to the entrance, I double-check my appearance in the reflective glass. Tie is straight. Hair needs a trim, but my curling locks are presentable. Teeth are clean, nothing in them. Walking through the door, I am greeted by Antony, the owner's son - a very attractive college student who never misses a chance to flirt with me. Though flattered, he really is a little bit young and lot bit too Italian for my taste.
"Mr. Whitlock, so good to see you again," he says with a bright smile as he shakes my hand and lets it linger a bit longer then needed. "I have your table in the back open . . ."
"No, no." Cutting him off, I point to one of the less-intimate round tables in the center of the room. "This is a business meeting today, so one of these will do."
"Of course, right this way," he agrees, heading to one of the round tables towards the back of the restaurant.
I take my seat facing the front of the place and start to fidget with my place-setting. Deep breaths, Jasper. Just because everything is riding on this doesn't mean you need to show it. Tucking away the nerves, I straighten my silverware one last time and collect myself. Just as I look up, I spot Antony heading back my way with a hulk of a man in his wake. He was built like he stepped out of a comic book. All that was missing was the Spandex, cape and mask. The man's body was unreal. Even tucked behind dark jeans and a white button-up, you could count the muscles. But when I completely lost it was when I looked up to his face. I think my heart stopped. I looked up into possibly the most beautiful face I have seen in my life. His dimpled smile lifted all the way to his pale green eyes. The way they sparkled and the raised eyebrow tell me he caught me checking him out. Way to be professional, Whitlock.
As he approached, I rose from my seat and reached out my hand to greet him. "Mr. McCullen, Jasper Whitlock." I manage to spit out as our hands touch and I feel a tingling current as skin meets skin.
"Actually, it is McCarty, but please call me Emmett," he says with a happy tone to his voice. I have a feeling he always has it there. "The name is a combination of mine and my partner's names."
Both taking our seats, I need to remind myself that this is a meeting. Try not to drool over the Greek god sitting across from me, I think. But my lower half is reminding me how long it has been since he has seen any action other then with my hand and some bodywash.
Bringing myself together, I clear my throat. "So will it just be us today?" I say, hoping that he says no and I will have someone else there to keep my mind on task.
"Yes, I am sorry. My partner had a family matter to deal with and can't make it," he tells me, but the way he darts his tongue out across his lower lip tells me I don't think he is at all sorry about it. "But I assure you that we are equal partners. He will trust my decisions."
Did he know about the "epic fail" of the contract that fell through? If he knew we were desperate, this may be tougher negotiating than I had feared. With that rattling around in my brain, it is all the cold water my libido needs.
"Shall we order first or dive straight in?" I nod to the menus in front of us.
"Let's order first." Of course, a man of this magnitude has caloric intake in the forefront of his mind.
Shaking his head, we peruse the selections and order. I am dumbfounded at the amount he has just ordered. I must look it too, because he had a blank-face stare at me.
"What?" he asks, confused.
"Nothing, just . . ." not meaning to come off rude, "do you always eat like that?"
With a small chuckle, "Nah, but my stomach is a bit off, so I am just having a light lunch." Then he is full-on laughing at me, no doubt because my jaw is now in my lap. "Sorry, I'm just kidding. I skipped breakfast and I'll be lucky to grab a burger before midnight."
"Sorry, I didn't mean to be rude." I can feel the tips of my ears redden. Those dimples are going to be the end of me.
After our food arrives, I start in with the pitch.