Nobody said anything to Noah when we filed back into the cube farm. Five o’clock came, and the office girls and Boris left. Lilah hung around for an extra hour or so, rendering some complicated animations, then took off. At eight, the five of us guys ordered a couple of pizzas and switched over to playing Counter-Strike, an online game in which players joined a team of either terrorists or counterterrorists and then tried to shoot the crap out of one another while completing missions.
Dominic was always our team leader. Noah was the best strategist; he was always calling out commands to us, which Dylan couldn’t hear because of his headphones. Since my cube was next to Dylan’s, I was in charge of getting him to pay attention to the messages by kicking his chair.
Kevin was the best shooter. With that dark shadow underneath the all-American exterior, he got into the whole killing thing. I wasn’t that into Counter-Strike, but usually I didn’t have anything else to do, so I stuck around. The guys often used me as a sacrifice to draw out the opponents. I’d get killed and then surf online until the next round.
Not porn, though. Boris was pretty strict about that. And besides, I didn’t think anybody at work knew I was gay, and I didn’t want to out myself. Not that I was afraid of getting bullied or fired or anything—I just thought it was my business.
Noah startled me out of my reverie. “Get your ass in the game, Treetops!” he shouted over the top of the cube.
That’s the nickname I chose for the game. I mean, hey, why not embrace my height? Though I wasn’t going back to Jolly Gay Giant. I shot a couple of terrorists; then, at Dominic’s direction, I jumped out into the middle of a field to draw enemy fire so the rest of the guys could wipe them out.
My character splattered into a pile of guts and guns, and I sat back to wait for the next round. Noah was playing with a real ferocity, killing everyone in his path, even those characters who didn’t appear to be enemies. There weren’t many female avatars playing, but he shot down every one of them. Nobody on our team said anything to him, though.
My cell phone rang, and I looked down at the display. Not someone in my address book. I thought it was a wrong number and almost didn’t answer, but what the hell, I was sitting there doing nothing.
“Larry? It’s Julian Argento. I’m not interrupting anything, am I?”
It was obvious he could hear the rat-a-tat of computer weapons going off in the background. “Just fooling around at work,” I said.
“Oh, well, then I won’t bother you.”
“No bother,” I said. “What’s up?”
“I’m over near where you live, and I thought I could stop by and show you what my previous programmer did. But if you’re busy…”
“I can be home in about half an hour. You want to meet me there?”
I was psyched. He had found out where I lived, obviously from Gavin, and this was a booty call. If I were the one calling, I probably would have said, Want to fuck?
But Julian was a whole lot smoother than I was.
“That would be great,” he said. “See you then.”
I hung up, and my dick pronged as I thought of Julian and getting him naked.
“Woo-hoo! Larry’s got a booty call!” Kevin said.
Shit, I hadn’t realized anyone was listening to me. But when I looked at the screen, I saw that Kevin’s character was dead too. “Gotta run!” I said, and I jumped up and scampered out of the office before anybody could question me.
I didn’t bother waiting for the elevator; I ran down the stairs two at a time and burst out into the lobby. Through the glass front I saw a bus approaching, and I hotfooted it outside and jumped on.
It took about twenty minutes to get home, during which I fidgeted so much on the bus I was sure I looked like some kind of tweaker. Manny was home and lounging in the living room. He was Cuban and his skin tanned to the color of light coffee. His hair was black and straight as a ruler, and he had a pretty-boy look, with long eyelashes and a delicate mouth. He was in love with his boss, a handsome older dude, but his boss was still working out a complicated divorce, so Manny couldn’t see him after work too often.
There was a stack of used glasses on the coffee table, and somebody had brought home the Miami Herald
and then scattered the sections over the sofa. “Can’t you clean up after yourself?” I asked.
“What crawled up your butt?” Manny asked as I gathered the papers.
“Julian’s coming over. I don’t want him to think we live in a pigsty.”
“Julian who?” Manny asked.
“A guy I met through Gavin last night at Java Joe’s. Some kind of computer entrepreneur.”
“Why is he coming over here?”
“Duh. Why do you think he’s coming over here at ten o’clock on a Friday night?” I dropped the paper in the trash and the glasses in the sink. “You’re the one who always says I could snare a cute guy if I tried. Well, I tried.”
The phone rang, and I picked it up. “Send him up,” I said without even waiting for the guard to speak. Then I hung up and raced around the living room tidying up, which Manny thought was very funny. He retreated to his bedroom when Julian rang the doorbell.
I didn’t know how to greet Julian when I opened the door. A handshake seemed too formal for a guy I was about to have sex with. But did I know him well enough to kiss him? I didn’t think so.
He solved the problem by sticking out his hand for me to shake. I should have known right then that we had different expectations for the evening—but tie me up and call me Sally, I was in a whole other place.
Our living room was twice the size of a dorm room at FU, with sliding glass doors out to a big balcony that overlooks Biscayne Bay and the lights of downtown Miami. “Wow,” Julian said, looking around.
I walked over to the balcony and motioned him to follow me. It was warm and humid, but there was a nice breeze coming off the bay. “You’re never going to be able to move to Silicon Valley,” Julian said, shaking his head.
“’Cause you could never duplicate this lifestyle there.” He waved his hand to encompass the view. “The ocean, the sunshine, all the cute guys on South Beach.” He raised an eyebrow. “Now you see why I moved here?”
“I guess. I grew up here, so it’s all I know.”
I turned to kiss him, with that gorgeous view as a backdrop, but he was already on his way back into the apartment, and all I could do was follow. He sat down at the dining room table and opened his laptop.
While it warmed up, he asked, “You grew up in Miami?”
We were going to talk first. Okay. I’d have to manage. I told him about growing up in Homestead, the southernmost city on the US mainland. And though he looked fascinated, I started to realize he really had only come over to show me his project. Another false start, I thought, but it made sense. Julian was too cute and too sexy, and he could have his pick of gorgeous guys on South Beach.
“How did you get into programming?” he asked.
“I got my first computer right around the time my body started to change. My folks were clueless about them, but everyone said that a kid ought to have one. I’ve been this tall since I hit puberty, so I got a lot of teasing when I was a teenager, and the computer became my friend and my refuge.”
I kept expecting to blossom like the boys I saw in gym class, with hair under their arms and bushy patches at their crotches. But all I got were a few stray hairs in my pits and a scrubby bit around my dick.
“I started playing online games and then wanted to design my own levels. I took a programming course in ninth grade and learned the basics of C++. I got myself some books after that and kept going with HTML and Java. By the time I was a junior in high school, I was building websites for friends and neighborhood businesses.”
“Very impressive,” Julian said.
I shrugged. “I majored in computer science at FU and got the chance to learn a lot of cool stuff. By the time I was a senior, app development for mobile phones was getting hot, and I taught myself how to build an app, which I entered into a contest at a hackathon.”
I looked at him. “You know what one of those is, right?”
“Please. I lived in Silicon Valley. Computer guys got together like that everywhere, from the coffee shops to the gyms.”
“So this guy, Boris, was one of the judges, and he offered me a job at his company, AppWorks, which creates apps for corporate clients. They send push messages about sales or new products. They have animated games for company mascots, all that kind of stuff.”
Julian’s computer was ready by then, and I sat next to him to look at the site he was developing. It wasn’t open to the public yet—password protected, with none of the front-end work done.
He wore this lemon-scented cologne, and he sat so close to me that I was almost dizzy. I had to focus on the computer or else I thought I might come in my shorts. “Scoot over and let me drive,” I said. I took over the keyboard and started typing in commands, viewing the source code. Julian watched me.
I sat back. “The guy you had knew what he was doing,” I said. “The basic framework is there. But you still have a long way to go.”
“That’s where I’m hoping you can help,” he said. “Do you think you can finish this?”
I shook my head. “There’s too much work. You’re talking at least a week of steady programming. After that, you’d need to set up some demo accounts, get people to try it out for you, then fix whatever errors come up. It’s a big job.”
“I can make it worth your while,” he said.
“Julian, I may be horny, but I’m not going to bust my hump for a blowjob. No offense.”
He looked at me for a second, his eyes wide, and then he laughed. “I was talking about paying you,” he said.
Holy crap, I thought. Could I have embarrassed myself any worse?
Julian didn’t seem to care about my faux pas. “I have some investment capital already, so I can pay you pretty well,” he continued. “At least as much as you’re making now, if not more.”
“You don’t understand,” I said. “I started my first real job a couple of months ago. I can’t quit for some pie-in-the-sky start-up.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to. But you must have some free time. And maybe there are, I don’t know, some routines you could contract out?”
“You mean like hire some dude in Mumbai to write them?”
“If that’s what it takes. I can’t do that myself, because I don’t have a clue what’s still missing.” He reached out and took my hand, and my dick pressed against my pants.
“Please, Larry? At least help me get moving again. My dad and my uncles have loaned me the start-up capital, and in order to pay them back, I need something to show potential investors so I can move on to the next round of financing. I’m well aware that this is not the most original idea, and I’m scared somebody else is going to beat me to the market.”
I looked into those deep, dark eyes, and I knew I couldn’t refuse him. And though I worked long hours, I also wasted a lot of time playing video games with the guys at work and hanging out at Java Joe’s with Gavin. I could squeeze in some time for Julian.
“All right,” I said. “I can at least get things going for you.”
“Awesome!” Julian said, and he let go of my hand so we could shake on the deal. There was an electricity between us as we shook, but I forced myself to ignore it, and the way my hand tingled once he had released it.
I took a deep breath. “I’m going to need to copy all the stuff you have on your laptop and import it into my development environment. That’s going to take some time. You need the laptop, or can I get it back to you over the weekend?”
“Everything I have is here, so I can’t give it up for too long. Can you copy it now?”
“If you don’t mind hanging around for an hour or so,” I said.
He nodded. “I can do that. We can look over the contract together while we wait.”
He e-mailed me the contract, and I got an empty jump drive from my bedroom. I plugged it into Julian’s laptop and began the copy process.
“Can I have a glass of water?” Julian asked.
“Sure. There’s a tap in the door of the fridge. Can you get me one too?”
While he was in the kitchen, I printed the contract. It looked pretty generous to me, with a competitive hourly rate and a chance to earn equity in the company as well.
“What’s Grupo Argento?” I asked when he came back. “That your company?”
“That’s my dad’s business. Like I told you, he and my uncles lent me some cash.”
“Mexican?” I asked.
He nodded. “Yeah, I was born in Mexico City, but I went to school here in the States.”
“That’s cool,” I said. “There are a lot of Mexicans in Homestead. I had a bunch of Mexican friends when I was a kid, but then, you know, they moved on with the harvests.”
“I see why you and I hit it off so well,” Julian said. “I’m glad we could meet tonight. I have a feeling we’re going to make a terrific team.”
That’s when it hit me, and my dick finally wilted. I’d been foolish to think that anyone as handsome and sexy as Julian Argento would be interested in me for anything more than my keyboard cred.