Compromising Positions

By: Tawny Taylor

“Yeah, it’s been a bit of a shock to me too, but I’m not disappointed by the way things have turned out so far.”

She laughed. “No?”

“Not at all.”

They stared at each other, and he felt like he was a high school kid all over again, caught off-guard in the hallway by the head cheerleader he’d secretly pined over for months. He wondered if she could read his mind with those inquisitive green eyes.

Then, as though a shutter had snapped shut, the emotion he’d seen vanished, and her mien grew guarded again. “Let’s do this.” She flopped open a spiral notebook and took her pen in hand. “Let’s list what is meaningful to our target market, then, hopefully, we’ll find somewhere to go with it.”

He enjoyed the way she took the reins. And her words possessed a trace of proposition he was certain she was not aware of. His playfulness returned. “Okay. My target—er, our target market is single, twenty-something? Right?”

“I don’t think we have much of a choice in that, do we?”

There is that smile! Her whole face lit up. He hoped he would see plenty more of those after they’d both grown more comfortable with each other. He stood and walked to her desk, resting his rear end on a corner and swinging his leg. “Choice? Guess not. Now, what is meaningful to our target market? Off the top of my head, I would list: television, vampire slayers, body piercing…”

Fate cringed. “Body piercing?”

He laughed. “They all have them.”

“I don’t get the appeal.”

“I’m guessing you haven’t kissed a guy with a pierced tongue?”

Her eyes widened to the size of saucers. “God, no!”

He leaned forward, until he was as close as he dared. The fresh scent of her shampoo and light citrus cologne drew him closer. “Then you don’t know what you’re missing.” The empty hole in his tongue rubbed against the roof of his mouth. He wished he had his tongue ring in but he always took it out for work. He would give her a private showing—hopefully soon.

Still seated in her chair, she leaned away from him. “And you have?”

With forced casualty, he straightened up, inspected his fingernails and said, “Of course I have.”

“I didn’t know you were gay.”

Her words clubbed him with dazing force, making his head spin. He lost his balance for a split second. Whoa! Where’d that come from? He gazed at her mischievous face, and laughed. “Touché.” He feigned a hairball in his throat, or otherwise massive obstruction, and dashed from the office for a drink of water. Something stronger would have been welcome, but considering he didn’t drink, at least not often, he figured it would only make him lose consciousness.

Then again, maybe unconsciousness was a good thing.

He took refuge in the break room. While he was fishing amongst the lint in his trouser pocket for some change for the vending machine, Duncan greeted him with a grin. “Hey, Ryan, how are the new digs?” He clapped Gabe on the back. “I did you a huge favor, eh? You owe me, buddy.”

“Sure did, Duncan. Thanks.”

“You look shaken. Everything okay?”

Duncan’s rug had slid a little to the left, and Gabe resisted the temptation to knock it off his head. He’d tried for years to convince Duncan the hairpiece wasn’t going to make him look younger, but the middle-aged divorcee wasn’t about to listen to a guy who still had a full head of hair. “Okay? Yeah, everything’s okay. But I have a question for you. This morning, did you threaten to fire Fate?”

“Had to. The brass won’t have two marketing directors. Don’t need ‘em. But I can’t fire you. I gave you some time, though. Told her we would be finalizing the department’s structure in the next few weeks.” He studied Gabe for a minute and then added, “What’s wrong with you?”

“I’ll resign. Don’t fire her.” Avoiding meeting Duncan’s gaze, he slid four quarters into the vending machine.

“What the hell are you talking about? I’m not gonna let you do that.”

“You can’t fire her.”

“Of course I can. What are you trying to pull here? You have something to tell me?”

The soda can clunked down the chute. When it reached the bottom, Gabe gripped it and opened it with a crack. “No.” He let the fizzy cold liquid wash down his throat then looked at his boss, whose bewildered expression almost made him laugh. “I don’t know, Duncan. She’s a hell of a marketing director. You’d be a fool to fire her.”

Duncan shrugged. “If she’s so great, she’ll find another job.”

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