A rough hand slapped down on Aaron’s shoulder. He jumped and spun around, dropping the paper towels to the ground, where they unceremoniously unrolled out over the slate-grey linoleum.
“Hey, Aaron, calm down. It’s just me. I didn’t mean to scare ya.”
Aaron tilted his head up and stared into Jake’s eyes, a shade lighter than ink, and felt himself relax a tad. The defensive set of his shoulders eased, and he took a relieved breath. “Shit. How many times have I asked you not to sneak up on me?”
Jake laughed, the heavy rumble building up from deep in his broad chest. A chest currently covered in a salmon-colored shirt ‑‑ silk, if Aaron guessed right ‑‑ and coupled with a stiffly pressed pair of beige Dockers. Knowing Jake, the shirt was probably from some obscure fashion designer no one had ever heard of. He was like that. Always up on whatever the latest up-and-comer was producing. Not for the first time, Aaron wondered why he couldn’t have fallen for Jake. He didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of landing either of them, not a skinny, freckled little nerd like him, but somehow being rejected by Jake seemed like less of a tragedy than the unrequited feelings he harbored for Logan. At least with Jake he could’ve made a move and been shot down. That was probably half his problem right there ‑‑ without being able to express his feelings for Logan, they coalesced into a huge, over exaggerated ball inside him and festered there with no way out. He hoped that was the problem, anyway. With time and distance, he was sure the feelings would dissipate. He hated to think otherwise. Endlessly carrying a torch for someone he couldn’t be with was too torturous a thought to contemplate.
“Sorry, bud. I called out to you, but you were a million miles away. Must’ve been thinking about something good, too, because I know washing the windows isn’t that damn interesting.”
Aaron rolled his eyes. “Oh, it is. I have a secret fetish for windows. Like to spend my free time jerking off on them. You just caught me cleaning up my mess before the big boss man comes in.”
Jake chuckled and slapped him playfully on the shoulder. “You’re too much, Aaron. I’m going to miss seeing your cute face around here when you finally land a job with that spiffy new degree of yours.”
Aaron felt heat suffuse his face, both at the offhand compliment and the reference to his leaving. With his fair complexion, he imagined his face was the color of beets. Blushing was one of the many downfalls of being a natural redhead. “Yeah, about that, I ‑‑”
“About what?” Logan breezed through the entrance door and strolled up to them in his usual uniform of tight, worn denim and a faded company T-shirt stretched across his wide shoulders. His obsidian gaze traveled back and forth between Aaron and Jake. “Don’t you have anything better to do with your time than stand around harassing my help, Jake?”
Aaron couldn’t help himself. He visually devoured every ridge of muscle in his boss’s chest and abdomen, clearly delineated in form-fitting black cotton. The jeans hung precariously low on his narrow hips, as if a stiff wind would blow them down at any second. Aaron would have given his eyeteeth to see that happen just once.
Logan cleared his throat, and Aaron realized he’d been caught staring, which, in turn, made his face flame even hotter. He sputtered, “Uh, what were you saying, Mr. Remora?”
“I asked if Jake was bothering you.”
“Uh, no. We were just talking.”
Logan’s gaze seemed to soften. “Good. How about some coffee, Aaron? And how many times do I have to remind you to call me Logan? You’d think you would be comfortable enough to call me by name by now. You’ve been under me forever.”
Don’t I wish? The only time I’ve ever been under you is in my fantasies, and I call out your name plenty in those.
Aaron felt his face heat up at his wayward thoughts.
Jake smirked. “Told ya, I wasn’t bothering the kid. I was just telling him that we’re going to miss him when he leaves.”
“Leaves?” Logan turned those perceptive eyes toward Aaron. “Have you found another position already?”
Shit. This was so not the way he wanted to give his notice. He’d imagined a whole little speech where he told Logan how much he’d enjoyed working for him and about a hundred other things that completely flew out of his brain while he had two identical sets of eyes curiously staring at him and waiting for an answer. He felt like he was under a microscope. Naked, under a microscope, and falling short of expectation.
Aaron resisted the urge to squirm. “I, um, was just about to tell Jake here that I accepted a position with Lowe’s.”
“That’s fuckin’ great, man. I bet you’re thrilled.” Jake clapped him on the back again. A little harder this time, almost too forcefully, because he listed to the side a bit, his shoulder brushing over Logan’s arm. Little tingles crawled down his arm and made his fingers itch to reach out and squeeze the corded muscular forearm within his reach. God, he was pitiful. He really needed to get a life.
He glanced up at Logan, curious about how he’d taken the news, and found an odd expression on his face. Logan caught his gaze and nodded. “That’s great. Congratulations. When are you supposed to start?”
“Uh, well, about that...” His gaze shot down, and he pretended to pluck lint off his polo shirt. He tried to pick and choose his words, but nothing came to him. Better to spit it all out and get it over with. “You see, they want me to start right away, so I’ll only be able to finish out this week. Friday will be my last day. I’m sorry.”
Aaron glanced back up. Logan was studying his face like there was something hanging out of his nose. His hand rose to make sure there wasn’t. Logan nodded. “Sure, no problem. I’m sure I can get a temp agency to send someone out.”
“Thanks, Mr., err, Logan. If you’d like, I could call for you and see if they’d be able to send someone out early, so I can walk them through how you like things.”
“Yeah, that’d be good, Aaron. Thank you. About that coffee?”
Aaron knew a dismissal when he heard one. “Coming right up.” He turned and ducked into the office. Before the door closed behind him, he could have sworn he heard Logan telling Jake to stay away from his assistant.
He’d have to remember to assure Logan that Jake wasn’t bothering him. He liked talking to Jake. The man had a zany sense of humor. As he poured coffee into Logan’s favorite Virginia Tech mug, he decided just to pretend he hadn’t heard anything. With him leaving at the end of the week, it was a moot point anyway.