An Uncovnetional Courtship 400x600

Tristan Moreau loves his job as chief administrative officer and personal assistant to Webber Kincaid, President, Chairman, and CEO of Kincaid International. It would be the perfect job… if only he hadn’t fallen in love with his boss as well as the work. After two years, he’s still doing everything in his power to keep his feelings hidden—mostly because he wants to protect the reputation of his famous boss but also because he wants to keep his job.

Webber Kincaid has stayed in the closet, using his best friend and confidante as his beard. Everything in his life was working out just fine until he met Tristan Moreau. Within months, Tristan stole his heart and became his lifeline. But Webber knows the rules of the workplace better than anyone, so he’s kept his distance.

But two years is too long to wonder “what if?”—especially when business takes them to a private Caribbean island. When Tristan and Webber succumb to the tropical heat, their professionalism starts to backslide. It’s a seemingly impossible relationship, making a go at it under the paparazzi’s microscope. It may be the best—or the worst—business decision they ever made.

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TRISTAN had been studying financial reports since he’d arrived at work a little after seven that morning. He blinked a couple of times in an attempt to keep the lines from running together, but it was no use. Accepting that he’d reached his limit and needed a short break, he hesitantly put down his pencil, leaned back in his chair, and closed his eyes. “I’ve got to get through this,” he whispered to himself as he ran both hands through his thick brown hair, stopping at the base of his neck and massaging the knot that had formed between his shoulder blades.

One last squeeze to his tired muscles and he turned in his chair and poured a glass of water from the pitcher on the credenza. He glanced around his spacious office and realized the sun had set and the moon was high in the deep blue Atlanta sky. What happened to the daylight? He lifted his wrist and stared at his watch as if what he was seeing was somehow wrong. Nine thirty-eight?

Shaking his head in amazement at the time, he stared momentarily at the beautiful downtown skyline. He downed the last of his water and turned back to the work at hand. Spreadsheets and other paperwork, illuminated only by a small lamp perched on the corner of his desk, completely covered his work surface.

He remembered switching the overhead lights off when he left his office somewhere around three o’clock to grab a quick salad, but when he returned he’d heard his phone ringing from down the hall and ran for his desk to answer it, never bothering to turn the lights on again. One call led to another, and then something else urgently needed his attention, and everything led up to this moment in time. Another Friday night working alone in my office. I’ve got to get a life.

Refilling his water, he looked around again and decided that he didn’t mind the dimly lit office. He’d always hated the harshness of the overhead florescent lighting universally used in every office building in the world, and he cherished the times when his coworkers were gone and he could loosen his tie, crank up his small stereo, and simply get lost in his work. He turned again to his desk and the waiting pile of financials he’d been evaluating for the upcoming board meeting, along with the smaller stack of things to do that had been continually building up since the beginning of the week. Slowly pushing away from his desk, he walked over to the bookcase on the opposite wall and scanned his stack of CDs. He settled on Etta James, and in a few seconds, her soulful sound filled his ears as she sang “Sunday Kind of Love.” He kicked his shoes off and returned to his desk. Comfortably sitting cross- legged in his chair, he studied what was in front of him. He felt a twinge of anxiety realizing just how much work he still had left to do before the board meeting on Tuesday and the earnings release on Wednesday. I’ve got three full days if I work through the weekend and that should be just enough time to get everything done. He relaxed momentarily, and then looked at his to-do list again and realized he hadn’t even started on the script for the conference call with the industry analysts scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. He sighed and picked up his pencil.

As he worked, the world outside of his office was silent with the exception of the distant hum of a vacuum cleaner and the muffled voices of the janitorial staff milling about emptying trashcans and exchanging polite conversation. Every single associate had left hours ago. Some early in the afternoon, excited to be heading out of town for the long Memorial Day weekend, while others who weren’t leaving town opted for a three-day weekend at home. Just before five o’clock, someone down the hall had shouted “happy hour downstairs,” which meant the Agency Lounge in the lobby of the Kincaid building would be hopping for the next few hours.

With no plans to go away for the weekend because of his current workload, not to mention the fact that he wasn’t in the mood for happy hour, he hunkered down, resigned to a long night of burning the midnight oil. Time passed by slowly as he finished one task and closed the file, sorting through the untouched pile, categorizing file folders and prioritizing what he would attempt to finish tonight and what he would work on over the long weekend. Tristan was the ultimate professional. He’d graduated at the top of his class with a degree in business administration and was very career driven. Since taking this job, he’d kept his personal life to a minimum and didn’t allow himself many distractions from his work. He was learning everything he could about mergers and acquisitions and one day hoped to head the business development group at Kincaid International. The only caveat to his picture-perfect career was that over the last two years, after fighting it tooth and nail, he’d somehow managed to fall hopelessly in love with his boss. Of course his boss didn’t know Tristan was in love with him, and he never would. The pain from his first love, while no longer front and center, was still a strong enough memory after seven years to keep him from ever going down that path again. But not giving in to it didn’t make it any less real. He was resigned to the fact that all he could do was love from afar while taking advantage of any opportunity to work alongside him and that would have to be enough.

 

With Etta James still singing in the background, he was completely lost in his work when the muffled sound of the phone buried in a mound of paperwork startled him. He glanced at his watch again, deciding on whether he wanted to answer it or just let it go to voicemail. Its nine fifty-five on the Friday night of a holiday weekend. Who could be calling at this hour?

 

He dug through the paperwork so he could read the display on the caller ID, and then a slight smile formed on his lips. He quickly reached for the phone. “Webber Kincaid’s office, this is Tristan.”

“Why in the hell are you still at work, Tris?” A strong familiar voice said wryly. “It’s ten o’clock on Friday night.”

Before he could answer, the chastising voice added, “Friday night of a holiday weekend no less.”

His smile broadened and his heart began to flutter. He shook his head in amazement as the caring voice on the phone sent the blood rushing right to his groin. God, after all this time just hearing his voice still does this to me. He looked at his watch again and did a quick calculation, “Good afternoon, Web,” he moaned with a smile on his face. “How’s Australia?”

Webber James Kincaid was the chairman of the board, president, and CEO of Kincaid International Corporation and just happened to be his boss and the man he was secretly in love with. KIC, as it was commonly called, was a major advertising holding company owning about 40 percent of the largest advertising agencies in the world. With Webber at the helm, it had become a major force to be reckoned with and in the past five years had grown in leaps and bounds.

Tristan’s official title was chief administrative assistant, but in actuality, he was Webber’s guy Friday. He’d worked by his side many long hours, innocently at first, soaking up the knowledge freely being passed on to him. But somewhere along the way, during the many hours they’d spent together, he’d fallen head over heels in love, and his job became every bit as much about spending time with Webber as it had been about learning all he could from the master. On a daily basis, he struggled to hide his feelings where his boss was concerned, and so far, to his knowledge, he’d succeeded. He didn’t even know if Webber was gay, but Webber’s sexual preference didn’t really matter. His boss would never know how he truly felt. Sure, Tristan’s career was very important to him, but the combination of his first attempt at love and the potential of damaging Webber’s reputation was what kept him at arm’s length. He couldn’t and wouldn’t risk everything he held dear for simple matters of the heart.

So day after day Tristan told himself that he was content just to be near Webber and quietly take care of him under the cloak of doing his job. He knew he was being deceitful and cowardly, but at his weakest moments, he always thought back to his first and only love before Webber and how horribly that had turned out, and thinking about that made it all too easy to justify his actions. He constantly told himself that even if Webber was madly in love with him, it could never work, and he’d spent most of his waking hours convincing himself of that. Besides, it was much easier to love a man who didn’t have a clue how Tristan felt about him. No chance of getting hurt, no chance of betrayal, and never any chance of ruining his or Webber’s career. On a daily basis, he imagined what the board would say to such a scandal, not to mention how that scandal could hurt Webber, KIC, and its stockholders. He could never allow his feelings to jeopardize his heart or Webber’s future, so he’d kept everything on an even keel and his personal life to himself.

He’d never actually told Webber he was gay, although he’d never tried to hide it because there was really nothing to hide. Once, out of the blue, Webber had casually asked him about his social life, and since he had none, it was easy to be honest, thinking it was better for both of them not to elaborate. And after that, Webber had never asked again.

He was startled out of his thoughts by Webber’s voice. “Please go home, Tris, you’re making me look really bad,” Webber chuckled. “How long have you worked with me now, ten years?”

Tristan laughed, “Just two.”
“Are you sure it’s just two years?”
“Yeah, but it does seem like forever, doesn’t it?”

“How many times in the last couple of years have I preached to you about having balance in your life? All work and no play make for a very frustrating and lonely life.”

Tristan smiled to himself again because he loved it when Webber called him Tris, and he thought to himself, you have no idea.

There was a short silence on the line when Webber spoke up again. “I hope you mean ‘feels like forever’ in a good way?”

Tristan laughed. “The very best, Web. I’ve learned so much from you; I can’t begin to tell you. I’m so grateful for this opportunity.”

He knew he sounded sappy, but even after all this time, the sound of Webber’s voice and his concern for his happiness, in and out of his job, still sent butterflies right to the pit of his stomach. “So what can I do for you, boss?”

“You can come downstairs and have a drink with me.”

Tristan furrowed his brow. “Downstairs? I thought you weren’t due back from Australia until tomorrow night?”

“Yeah, well, I flew in a day early and was on the way to the office to pick up my car when the jetlag took over and I realized I wasn’t the least bit sleepy. I decided to have a drink before I went home, and when I walked into the Agency, I ran into everyone still downstairs wrapping up happy hour. Hoping you were here having a little fun, I asked around, and one of the guys told me they left you at your desk hours ago, and knowing you, I thought I’d give it a shot and see if you were still there.”

“Who made all the arrangements for your early return?” Tristan asked, ignoring the invitation and feeling a little jealous.

“It was late when I decided and I didn’t want to bother you at home, so I called the pilot and made the arrangements myself.”

 

Surprised and feeling a little relieved, Tristan said, “Really? It wouldn’t have been a bother, Web, it’s my job.”

“Yes, Tris, I know it’s your job, but I can do some things for myself. And besides, I know you would have done it if I asked, but you already work too hard.”

Suddenly realizing how that sounded, Tristan did a little backpedaling. “I know you’re not helpless and I know you’re very capable of making arrangements, but hell if you keep that up, why will you need me?”

“That’s funny, Tris. Me picking up the phone to change one flight doesn’t mean I can function without you. Trust me, your job is very secure. Hell, you’re getting better and quicker at the mergers and acquisitions than the business development department.”

Feeling a little proud and smiling again, Tris said, “Oh thank God, for a moment there I thought I might lose my job and have to start selling my body to make ends meet.”

Webber laughed nervously but ignored the joke. There was an awkward silence and suddenly Tristan felt embarrassed and smacked himself in the forehead, a habit he was desperately trying to break, for making such a stupid comment. Webber must have heard the smacking noise.

“What was that?” he asked. There was a short silence on the line. “Tristan, I know you pretty well, remember. Did you just smack yourself in the forehead?”

“Guilty as charged,” Tristan admitted.
“Why?” Webber asked wryly.
“Because there’s no filter between my brain and my mouth.”

Webber chuckled softly but apparently decided to pass on the opportunity to tease Tristan a little more. “So are you going to join me? I have something I want to talk to you about.”

Relieved to be over that awkward moment and feeling the least bit curious, Tristan sighed. “Give me about fifteen minutes to finish what I’m doing and clear my desk and I’ll be right down.”

“Good boy. I’ll see you in a few, and Tris?”
“Yes, sir?”
“Don’t get lost in your work and make me call you again.” “I promise.”
“See you soon.”

Tristan hung up the phone and sat at his desk, starry-eyed. He thought about how he’d gotten to this place in his life. He was in the middle of the corporate ladder, steadily climbing his way up, all the while wanting to climb his way onto his boss. That mental image of him on top of Webber sent the blood rushing right to his groin again, and he shook his head, trying to clear his mind before he went downstairs and joined the man face-to-face.

A little over two short years ago, he’d been the chief administrative assistant to the president of Media America, the most successful advertising agency on Madison Avenue in New York City, which just happened to be owned by KIC. He was excellent at his job and had earned the reputation of being smart, efficient, hardworking, and most of all discreet, which was very important for a person in his position in a publicly traded company. Word of his performance had obviously traveled to KIC because he’d been sought out by the human resources department and flown to Atlanta in one of the company’s private jets to meet with Mr. Webber Kincaid personally to interview for the position of his chief administrative assistant.

 

Although he’d been happy in New York, with a close-knit group of friends and a rising career, he’d been twenty-eight years old and single, so he thought if he was going to do something like this, now was the perfect time. He decided to at least explore the opportunity and boarded the tiny corporate jet bound for KIC headquarters in the biggest city in the South. At one point during the flight, the pilot pulled back the curtain separating the cockpit from the cabin and explained in a thick southern drawl that they were crossing the Mason-Dixon Line and would soon be entering Georgia. He couldn’t help remembering the classic movie Gone with the Wind and laughed as he recalled Aunt Pittypat’s famous quote: “Yankees in Georgia? How’d they get in?” He snickered because being born and raised on Long Island, he really would be a Yankee in Georgia.

Before his trip to Atlanta, Tristan had googled Webber James Kincaid and learned everything he could about his potential new boss. He started with his bio on Wikipedia and ended with the smallest accounts of his personal life on the various gossip sites. Of Webber Kincaid’s business accomplishments, he learned that he’d graduated with an MBA from Harvard and he and his father had run The Kincaid Corporation, as it was called then, together for a period of time. After his father’s untimely death, he took over the reins and five years later he’d taken the Kincaid Corporation public. It had become Kincaid International Corporation and traded as KIC on the New York Stock Exchange. At the ripe old age of thirty-four, Webber had become the youngest chairman, president and chief executive officer of a company its size in the United States. Tristan also learned that KIC continued to consistently outperform its revenue projections quarter over quarter and the industry analysts thought very highly of Webber and his capabilities, which kept KIC’s stock ratings very high.

 

On the personal side, he learned that Webber was an only child, born on December 26, 1966, to Addison Winston Kincaid and James Michael Kincaid. His mother had died of breast cancer when he was just fourteen years old and after her death, his father had become the one constant in his life. For the next four years, they were virtually inseparable. Webber went to the office with his father every day and had been schooled by a private tutor until he went off to Harvard. The one tidbit of information that stuck with Tristan more than anything was the fact that Webber had never married, and he couldn’t deny that had set his mind to wandering. Could Webber Kincaid be gay? He started looking deeper into Webber’s profiles on the Internet, and the more he read, the more little snippets he found that separately, didn’t amount to a hill of beans, but when all put together, might lead one to believe he could be gay. And of course, no web site had actually outed him, which made him all the more curious.

 

However, during the course of his research, he found many photos of Webber at special events and various fundraisers always with the same beautiful, buxom blonde on his arm. That had set off all kinds of alarms in Tristan’s head, so he investigated more thoroughly. Most of the captions said “Webber Kincaid and his longtime girlfriend Deanna Lynn.” But some of them fell short of calling her his girlfriend and referred to her as his longtime friend and companion. Just for kicks, he’d googled Deanna Lynn and found out that she was a very successful swimsuit model on the West Coast, and in addition to many of the same photos with Kincaid, she had a large portfolio of her own, as well as a life and a career apart from Kincaid’s.

Satisfied that he’d found as much information about Deanna as was available, he went back to Kincaid’s photos and studied them carefully. He appeared to be over six feet tall and extremely fit. His hair was dark brown, bordering on black, with silver streaks and silver at his temples, and he wore it fairly long on top, combed straight back, falling into a natural part. His eyes were crystal blue and his face was long and slender. In the photos where he was smiling, he had these incredible dimples that reminded Tristan of Richard Gere or a very young Tony Bennett. He especially liked the photos of Webber with his senior staff ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. There was just something about his smile. He seemed very proud and humbled to be there, and it showed in his every expression. As he stared at the photos, Tristan had found Webber extremely handsome and was instantly attracted to him, but as he’d later found out, nothing could have prepared Tristan for the real thing.

 

On the day of his interview, he remembered walking into Webber’s office and instantly feeling the man’s presence completely encompass him, and all the fears of being a Yankee in Georgia had completely disappeared from his mind. He’d felt this immediate attraction to Webber Kincaid, and he was sure it was written all over his face and evident by the shakiness in his handshake and the rattling of his knees. “Oh man, I can see this being trouble,” he’d remembered saying to himself.

After their initial introduction by the human resources representative, they were left alone, and he and Webber had talked about various aspects of the job. Tristan had done his best to impress him with all the right answers, but every time Webber spoke, Tristan had found himself hanging on his every word. And his smile melted Tristan’s heart over and over again. He found himself trying to say witty things just to see that smile again. Thinking back, he realized he was smitten from the very first moment.

By the time their interview was over, he had no doubt that Webber Kincaid was sincere, confident, and caring, with no signs of being pompous or egotistical, which in Tristan’s mind was genuine. He was drawn to the man both on a personal and professional level and when they shook hands at the end of the interview, he decided that if he were offered the job, he would take it in a heartbeat.

Almost two years later to the day, he turned off his stereo, stepped into his shoes, switched off the lamps, and waved to the janitor as he made his way to the elevator. On the ride down, his heart raced in anticipation of what Webber wanted to talk to him about.