The Dallas Deception
August 4, 2007
Jared knows something’s wrong before he even wakes up fully.
He hasn’t had a hangover in years, not since he was seventeen, but he remembers what it felt like, and this is different. This is more like the flu, only worse. His stomach is rolling, and his body aches all over. He opens his eyes, and he’s lying in a bed that he doesn’t recognize. He remembers that he’s at Jensen’s cabin, but this isn’t the room that was supposed to be his—this is Jensen’s bedroom.
He also realizes that his arms are bare, and he looks down.
He moves to sit up, clutching his stomach with his left arm, sucking in a breath when he feels the sheet slide across his waist and legs.
He’s completely naked.
Three months earlier…
May 1, 2007
It’s only 10:00 a.m., and Jared’s day is already speeding downhill—he can’t get the wording right on a client letter, the medical records he needs have disappeared, and the computer network is down.
By 10:30, nothing has changed, and he’s ready to slam his fist into the computer monitor.
He pushes his chair away from his desk, exhales, rolls his shoulders and tries to relax, because Jared’s not the guy who gets frustrated when a few things go wrong. He leaves the fist slamming and the box throwing to the attorneys.
Jared closes his eyes. When he opens them, Jeff is standing over him.
“Hey kid, you’re getting reassigned today—Amy’s on maternity leave,” Jeff says, shifting a stack of papers to his other arm.
Jared looks up from the file he’s digging through. “Already?” he asks. Amy’s maternity leave wasn’t supposed to start for another three weeks. Jared knows that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but he’s used to Amy, and the thought of a new boss, however temporary, fills him with dread.
“Yep, her water broke last night, and she’s already dilated to a six,” Jeff says casually, apparently unfazed at the prospect of discussing the very personal details of Amy’s progress.
“That’s great,” Jared says, cutting Jeff off, because he absolutely does not want to get into the mechanics of childbirth with the office manager, especially not where his boss is concerned.
He takes a deep breath, determined not to whine about the early arrival of a baby. “So, who owns me now?” he asks with a slight smile.
“Name’s Ackles. Office is down the hall to the right—young associate, been here a few years.” Jeff pauses, looking at Jared, apparently seeing the concern cross over his face. “Don’t worry Jay, I’m sure it’ll be fine. Maybe he’ll only expect you to work sixty-five hours instead of seventy,” Jeff jokes, clapping Jared on the back before disappearing among the rows of cubicles.
But Jared isn’t so sure that it’s going to be fine. He’s been working for Amy for six months now, and he’s happy with his job, despite occasional razzing about being a male legal secretary.
He sighs and abandons the file, standing and stretching his arms over his head, cracking his neck for good measure before he braves the new boss. He leaves the open area with all the cubes and heads for the hallway, following the gray carpet to the row of associate offices.
Jared pokes his head in the door when he locates the right office, trying to sound at ease, maybe even confident, as he stares at the figure bent over a wide mahogany desk, glaring at a laptop.
“Mr. Ackles?” Jared inquires, making his voice polite but not overly friendly. “Jeff said I’m all yours now—Amy’s off for three months.”
He doesn’t raise his head, and he doesn’t respond immediately, so Jared takes the time to study him, taking in his body language, which is screaming, I’m very busy and very much in the middle of something drastically crucial to the survival of the firm.
Jared smiles. Other assistants might be offended, might think it rude that Mr. Ackles doesn’t take the time to stand up and shake his hand, or offer a smile and polite small talk, but Jared’s been around attorneys for long enough to be accustomed to brusque behavior. Hell, he even welcomes it. Jared can appreciate a bullshit-free environment.
Jared scans the office as he waits for Mr. Ackles to reply. It’s reasonably sized with a floor to ceiling window, and sparsely decorated. No family photos litter the shelves, just straight rows of books and legal directories. Jared likes that too—he hopes his new boss is as serious as he appears.
Jared lets his eyes rest on Mr. Ackles again, noting his short hair and his white button-down shirt, the cuffs rolled up almost to his elbows, shifting over tan skin as he types.
He hits the keyboard a few more times before pausing. “Call me Jensen,” he says, not looking away from his computer screen. “I have a personal injury case I need help with,” he adds, finally glancing up at Jared, pointing at a stack of boxes in the corner of his office before returning to his screen. “File’s over there. I need the interrogatories back as soon as you can, and call the client too, let her know we’re working on it—she’s demanding.”
Jared smiles as Mr. Ackles—no, it’s Jensen now—hunches back down in front of his screen. So far, Jensen’s just like Amy was. All business.
“Sure thing,” Jared says. “I’ll start right now.”
May 4, 2007
Jensen closes his laptop, rubbing over his eyes. His caseload is heavier than he prefers, and it doesn’t help that his last secretary up and left, just stood up at 11:30 in the morning and walked right out of the office without a word, not even a kiss-my-ass, and on top of that drama, now he has to retrain a new assistant.
Only, so far, Jared hasn’t required much training.
Jensen had been shocked to see Jared looming in his doorway three days ago. He’d expected someone older and—not to be stereotypical or sexist or gender biased, or any of those other bullshit things his sister is always on his ass about—someone a lot more female.
He could handle female. Old, young, hot, ugly, smart, stupid, whatever. Give him a few weeks, and they’d be a team. But Jared?
Jensen doesn’t mean to stare up at Jared when he comes into Jensen’s office. He doesn’t mean to take in his tan skin or his green eyes, or the fluid way he moves across the room. He also doesn’t mean to gaze at Jared’s ass while he riffles through the case files.
Luckily for Jensen, Jared seems oblivious. Jared grins and smiles and does his work, and he’s cheerful and enthusiastic, but he’s not a pushy ass-kisser, or a dim-witted moron, and Jensen’s pretty darn satisfied with the way he handles files and clients alike.
There’s just one problem—being around Jared is distracting, and Jensen really doesn’t need that. He’s doing well here, he’s on his way to making partner, and while screwing around with a firm employee isn’t forbidden, screwing around with a subordinate certainly is.
And besides, he has no clue if Jared’s straight or gay or anything in between, and he’s not going to go out of his way to find out, because Jensen doesn’t do relationships, not anymore.
Jensen jumps. Speak of the devil—Jared’s in Jensen’s doorway, discovery binders practically spilling out of his arms, and all Jensen can do is think about the way Jared’s biceps are flexing.
“Yeah?” Jensen asks, trying to sound casual.
“Mrs. Jones said she’s willing to talk about mediation before going to court. She said it’s definitely an option.” Jared smiles at him, wide and open, seemingly pleased that at least one of their clients is a reasonable human being, and when Jensen sees those dimples flash, his stomach flips over.
May 19, 2007
On Saturday morning, Jared sits down with his bills and a glass of orange juice. He opens the first envelope to check the balance owed, but he finds himself thinking about work instead.
Two weeks down, and things are going well for Jared with Jensen as his boss. Jensen can be short-tempered and irritable, but overall he’s pleasant and he apologizes when he snaps. He also hasn’t asked Jared where he’s from, who his parents are, or what firm he worked for previously, and that puts him way ahead in Jared’s mind.
Of course Jared knows all about Jensen. It’s not that he wanted to, or tried to find out. It’s just that everyone knows about Jensen—his family’s a local legend. His late great-grandfather was a judge, his grandfather is the senior partner at one of the oldest firms in Dallas, his father’s a corporate lawyer who’s made a shit load of money, and his mother is the county’s elected prosecutor.
Not to mention that they’re all plastered all over the socialite section of the Sunday paper, every single week. Hard to miss, even for a nobody like Jared.
Jared smiles to himself, and tugs the bill out of the envelope, refocusing on his task. Most people he knows hate paying bills, and bitch and moan month after month, but Jared likes it, and he refuses to move to automatic bill paying—these bills are his, and these checks are his, and when his mail comes, there are never any late notices or warnings about repossession, not since he left home. So Jared savors it all—the rip of the check, the fold of the envelope, the press of the stamp. It proves that he can take care of himself, that he’s a good citizen, that he’s normal.
May 22, 2007
Jensen knows there are firms where the attorneys and the support staff don’t mingle, but the senior partners at this firm have always been laid-back, and Jensen likes that; he appreciates a chance to get to know the people he spends most of his time with.
But so far Jared hasn’t given him any opportunities to chat or make small talk. Jared never lingers like the other employees do, he never asks about Jensen’s family or friends, and he never tells Jensen stories of what he does, or doesn’t do, over the weekend. It’s oddly frustrating.
Just yesterday he asked Jared what his dad did for a living, and the look on Jared’s face had stopped Jensen in his tracks.
Jared had looked downright stricken, his face going pale, and then he’d recovered. “He’s a teacher. In San Antonio,” Jared had said, before launching into a summary of a client phone call, practically shoving the notes he’d made at Jensen and rushing out of the office.
So Jensen doesn’t really know what the problem is. He wonders if he’s been too uptight, or maybe rude. He’s not nearly as short-tempered as some of the other attorneys, but maybe he’s been an asshole and no one’s called him on it lately.
It’s no good having a dedicated assistant if Jensen’s such a dick that Jared wants to leave the firm.
Jensen can’t let that happen—Jared’s a damned good legal assistant, and Jensen’s work life is much improved since Jared came along. Jared’s optimistic, and he has just the right attitude toward the clients. He’s not condescending or short with them, but he’s not sugary-fake either, and they know it. He somehow finds just the right mixture of sweet and professional when he asks probing questions about prior injuries and when he delivers news about settlement offers.
Jensen decides that he’s going to be nicer, friendlier, starting today. Jared will realize what a nice guy Jensen is, and he won’t quit and go work for someone else.
Jensen stops at Jared’s desk right before lunch, tapping on the carpet-covered edge of the cube until Jared looks up.
“Hey, wanna go to Chili’s with me? I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on a few of these cases—we can celebrate.”
“Um.” Jared frowns first, then smiles up at Jensen. “Sure.”
Jensen wonders what the frown’s for, but doesn’t ask. Maybe Jared’s short on cash. Jensen figures he can tell Jared this counts as a working lunch, even if Jensen covers the bill himself.
“So,” Jensen says, dumping a Sweet’N Low into his iced tea. “What do you like to do in your free time? Got any hobbies?”
“I run.” Jared picks up one of the laminated menus and flips through it. “Not marathons or anything, but I run. That’s about it.” Jared’s quiet until his expression shifts, and he looks like he remembers that he’s supposed to reciprocate. “What about you?”
“I sail sometimes, when I can get to a lake, and I run too. I’ve never done a marathon either, but I have done a few 5Ks.” Jensen waits in case Jared wants to talk more about running, but he’s still staring at the menu, and Jensen has the impression that Jared’s working hard to be this reserved. It strikes Jensen as odd, but it’s fine; Jensen can keep a conversation going as well as the next person. “What about music? I’ve been on a Shins kick lately.”
Jared looks up then with an eager smile, like he’s forgotten that he’s being cautious. “Oh yeah, I really like them—heard Phantom Limb on the radio this morning. And I really like—”
“Awesome.” Jensen says with a grin before Jared can finish, pleased that he’s cracked through the barrier and gotten Jared talking. “Bring your iPod up, and I’ll load the whole album up for you.”
Jared wiggles around, staring down, and Jensen wonders what’s so fascinating about the red tile covering the table. “I don’t have one,” Jared mumbles.
“No iPod?” Jensen raises his eyebrows. Even his grandmother and his four-year-old nephew have iPods. He can’t think of the last time someone he knew didn’t have one. “Man, you have got to join the twenty-first century. You really don’t have one?”
Jared meets Jensen’s eyes this time and seems to compose himself, answering with a nonchalant, “No.”
He thinks Jared must be a technophobe, which is hard to believe since he’s so adept with the computer at work, but Jensen’s learned how quirky people are about gadgets and technology—Jensen’s father is obsessed with his iPod, but he still makes his secretary print off his emails and bring them to his desk. Jensen can handle quirks; he’s got a few himself.
“No big deal, I’ve got an extra,” Jensen says, smiling. “I’ll bring it to you—you’ll love having it for running—I’ve even got a playlist perfect for a 5K.”
May 22, 2007, 5:30 p.m.
After work, Jared slumps into the front seat of his car, ignoring the rapidly rising heat. When his shirt starts to cling to his back, he finally turns his car on, wishing he could just bang his forehead into the steering wheel a few times.
Sometimes—no, a lot of the time, he hates his big stupid mouth. He always talks so goddamn much; it’s really a strain to try and be reserved. He thought he’d trained himself pretty well, to not just let every little piece of information slip out—god knows he’s had enough practice. Not that admitting his lack of iPod ownership is going to get him fired or ostracized exactly, but it was such a boneheaded move.
He could’ve just lied, told Jensen sure, “I’ll bring it up,” even though he knew he’d likely never have an iPod, at least not for several years, or hell, he could’ve borrowed one of Chad’s—he knows Chad’s got a silver nano and a black mini and a white shuffle just in his car—but no, he had to go and blush and stutter and squirm because he’s the loser who doesn’t have an iPod.
Now his boss feels sorry for him, and he’s getting a pity iPod, and there’s probably no way to get out of it without sounding like an ungrateful uptight bastard.
May 25, 2007
A few days after Jensen gives Jared his spare iPod, he sees Jared wearing it during his lunch break, thin white wires falling against Jared’s dark red polo. Jensen smiles, glad Jared’s enjoying his new toy.
He has to make himself keep moving, or else he’d stand there and stare at Jared all damned day.
Jensen is afraid he’s developing a crush. Which is pretty disconcerting since Jensen doesn’t do crushes, not anymore.
Sure, Jensen realized that Jared was attractive, hot even, the minute he showed up in Jensen’s office. But he’s been smothering the thought, because fuck, he has to be able to work with his assistant without a fucking hard-on. And he’s been doing a good job, a really damn good job of coping. But it’s getting more difficult to ignore.
Jared’s adorable, with his smiles and hand gestures, and this might not make everyone hot and bothered, but for Jensen, the way that Jared gets completely immersed in a case makes him just about as appealing as anyone Jensen’s ever met. Jensen’s been aware of his attraction to hard work and intelligence since the ninth grade, and he’s gone through his fair share of crushing on teachers and professors and senior partners, back when he was younger, so when Jensen mentions the Baker case or Jackson file, and Jared knows exactly who and what he’s talking about, and then recites a whole summary of the case…
There are attorneys that don’t keep that kind of mental log.
So Jensen’s impressed. And that doesn’t happen often.
June 1, 2007
On Friday morning, Jensen’s working on a particularly difficult brief when Jared knocks on his door.
“Hey, I saw you slaving away in here, thought you might like a Coke,” Jared says, holding the can in the air.
“God, thanks,” Jensen says, getting up and meeting Jared halfway across the room.
“I’ve got to get back. But don’t kill yourself okay?” Jared says, smiling as he walks out of the office.
Jensen sinks back down into his chair, and as he pops the lid on the Coke, he’s finally able to admit that his fear has become a reality. He has a crush. On Jared.
Jensen knows it’s futile to try and resist it, so he decides to embrace his minor infatuation. Otherwise, he’s just going to end up frustrated.
Once the brief is finished, Jensen walks down to the break room, and he just happens to pause by Jared’s desk. Jensen can’t stop staring at him. It’s casual Friday, and that means Jared’s got on black slacks with a plain navy-blue polo shirt.
Some of the other assistants, and quite a few of the attorneys, show up looking tired and rumpled. They’re within the dress code, but they just don’t look right.
But Jared’s always perfectly put together.
And Jensen’s able to appreciate many different body types, but of all the looking he’s done in his life—and he’s done a lot—he thinks that Jared’s build is the best he’s seen yet, and Jared just flat out wears his clothes well. Jared’s not just tall, he’s well proportioned. He’s got long arms to match his torso, and narrow hips that models would kill for.
So if Jensen’s got a crush, that means he gets to look. And he fully intends to enjoy every minute of it.
June 11, 2007
On Monday, Jensen’s got a light day, so he figures he might as well take advantage of it. He asks Jared if he wants to have lunch, but Jared claims that he’s too busy.
Other than the one time, Jensen hasn’t even been able to get Jared to agree to lunch. Most of the legal secretaries eat in the common break room, and at first Jensen thinks that’s where Jared’s going, but once he starts watching, Jensen discovers that Jared’s usually glued to his desk, taking a quick fifteen-minute break to eat his two ham sandwiches, and then he’s back to work.
The kid’s got to learn to relax, Jensen thinks. Jared gets paid by the hour now, but once he’s been at the firm for a year, he’ll be on salary, and fifteen-minute lunches won’t exactly pay off in the same way.
And Jensen still can’t figure Jared out. He’s as friendly as ever, but it’s all surface. He’s warm and open, but when Jensen actually tries to dig deeper, to try to get to know Jared beyond briefs and court dates, Jared clams up. It’s annoying, because Jensen’s not used to having to work hard to make people like him. If he wants people to like him, they usually just do.
But so far, with Jared, he’s not sure. He’s clueless as to what Jared thinks about him, and the fact that he’s got this thing for Jared doesn’t help. It’s driving him insane.
And that’s not really working very well for Jensen.
June 12, 2007
Jensen starts out small.
Running. They both like to run.
On Friday, Jensen perches on the edge of Jared’s desk, ignoring Jared’s look of panic at the possibility of crumpled file folders. “Wanna come running with me?”
Jared tugs at the edge of the mangled folder, yanking it from under Jensen. “Don’t you have other people to run with?”
Jensen smirks and scoots farther back on the desk, crushing a few invoices with his ass. “Not anyone who can keep up with me.”
Jared glances up at Jensen, blushing. “Sorry, I didn’t mean for that to sound rude. It’s just weird—my boss asking me if I want to run,” Jared says, his grin getting wider.
“Nah, it wasn’t that rude.” Jensen slides off the desk, smoothing out the crushed papers with his hands, sneaking a few looks at Jared’s flushed face. “And seriously, have you looked around here lately? This place isn’t exactly teeming with athletes.”
Jensen manages to keep his voice steady, just barely, while his heart speeds up at the combination of Jared’s pink cheeks and his blinding grin. “Every single one of my friends or family members is a doctor, lawyer, or an accountant, and they think that exercise is a few steps on a treadmill once a week and then a stiff drink.” Jensen steadies himself again when Jared laughs at that, letting out a small breath.
“Okay then.” Jared ducks his head, blushing harder, and then smiles even more brightly. “It would actually be nice to run with someone.”
June 13, 2007
Jared frowns into his closet.
His work clothes are all nice—he always makes sure to budget for that, especially now that he works in one of the most reputable firms in Dallas. And he enjoys looking nice, especially after spending months trying to teach himself to dress properly. Once he left home, he vowed that he’d never again wear clothes with stains and holes, reeking of cigarettes and dog piss, the musty stench a dead giveaway of a home that’s never been cared for.
So while he’s got the professional outfits covered, he has nothing to run in. At least not anything that he wants to wear in front of Jensen.
He’s got good running shoes—scrimping there isn’t really an option, but he doesn’t have any workout clothes that aren’t just old t-shirts and shorts. He’s sure Jensen will show up in the latest microweight running gear, but there’s just no way he can justify spending money on that right now.
He’ll just have to look stupid. It won’t be the first time.
His cell phone rings, Jensen’s number flashing across the screen.
“I figured we could run downtown during the weekdays,” Jensen says, talking a mile a minute as soon as Jared says hello. “But on the weekends—my brother lives out in Plano—there’s a great trail out near his neighborhood that’d be perfect. For tonight, I picked the Katy Trail. You know the one? We can meet at the Victory Park entrance.”
Jared wonders, for the first time, if his boss is nervous too.
Jared likes running, for simple reasons. He likes the way his shoes feel, solid and steady against the pavement, he likes the way the burn creeps up the back of his legs, and he likes the way his head feels, clear of swirling thoughts and to-do lists while he’s on the road. And the fact that it keeps him in shape doesn’t hurt either.
He’s always run alone, early in the morning or late at night, sometimes on the streets, and sometimes in an empty high school track. He runs wherever he can, wherever it’s free.
So this plan, to run with Jensen, it’s taking a little getting used to.
It’s weird, seeing Jensen in running clothes. He’s never really seen him dressed casually, and now… Now he can see the outline of Jensen’s stomach, his waist through his thin shirt, the definition of muscle in his arms, the curve of his ass.
Jared rolls his neck and stretches his arms over his head, tries not to look, tries not to let his gaze linger on something that isn’t possible to have, something that Jared doesn’t even want.
Because Jared doesn’t want Jensen.
Jared’s a realist, and he only wants the things he can have, like financial security, a good job, and a way to help his little sister in any way that he can. He doesn’t want a relationship, not anymore, and especially not with a boss.
Jared knows objectively that Jensen’s attractive. He’s known that since the day he stepped into his office. But thinking of your boss in that way is silly and it’s not productive, and Jared’s never silly, and he’s always productive. He learned long ago that sex equals disaster, and he’s been reminded of that fact more than once just recently.
Sex with a boss, even imagined one-sided sex, will only lead to misery.
But even though Jared doesn’t want Jensen, he can’t help but notice the way Jensen moves as they walk toward the path. Jared’s eyes are drawn to the way he bends over and tightens his shoelaces, the way he smiles and tilts his head toward the path. He’s self-assured, confident—there’s something so appealing and sexy about Jensen’s ease and the open way that he handles himself.
To Jared’s relief, they run easily together.
It helps that Jared knows what he’s doing. As shitty as his high school was, the track coach was competent, full of encouragement and information, pushing Jared to stick with the track team even when it would have been easier for him to quit. And Jared’s read Jeff Galloway’s running book, every article on the internet, and all the magazines in Barnes and Noble.
And of course, Jensen knows what’s he’s doing too, not that Jared expected otherwise. He stays at just the right pace, never too fast, and he never lags, and when he moves in front of Jared on a narrow stretch of path, Jared can’t help it if his eyes catch on the way Jensen’s shirt stretches across his shoulders.
June 19, 2007
Jensen realizes that he’s really letting the situation with Jared get out of control.
He looks forward to running with Jared, and if that’s not a clue, then nothing is, because Jensen doesn’t even really like running. It’s okay—he enjoys the rush and the way it makes his body look, and he sure as hell enjoys telling people he can run seven miles without stopping, but running by itself is not a pleasure for him. Never has been.
It’s all about Jared.
June 20, 2007
On Wednesday after work, Jensen slides into the seat across from Chris, unfolding his napkin and plopping it down beside him as he takes in the frown Chris has plastered on his face. “Rough day?”
“Depositions all morning, settlement negotiations all afternoon.” Chris picks up the wine menu, but doesn’t open it, tapping the leather edge against the table. “Didn’t even get to fucking eat lunch.”
Jensen shakes his head in sympathy. His day has been shit as well. One of the defense attorneys he usually works well with had turned into a real dick overnight, sending pissed-off demand letters, and as if that wasn’t enough for one day, Jensen had been notified that one of his cases had been continued, moving the trial date months ahead.
And he barely saw Jared all day.
Jensen pulls himself out of his own thoughts and nods at his best friend. “Well then, don’t get wine, man, not after that kind of shitty day. You deserve some Crown & Coke.”
Chris laughs and flings the wine menu onto the seat of the booth, leaning his head back, giving Jensen a knowing smirk before raising his eyebrows. “Don’t look now, but there’s Chad Michael Murray and his Lolita,” Chris says, turning his head, his eyes moving across the restaurant and settling in the back corner.
Jensen, who’s always been as nosy as any guy he’s ever met, immediately sits up and looks around, eyes roving all over the restaurant. “Where?”
Chris lifts his arms out, spreading them along the top of the booth seat. “I told you not to look, asshole.”
“You knew I would, jackass.” Jensen kicks at Chris under the table, poking Chris’s shin with his shoe. “Now tell me where.”
“Fine, fine.” Chris turns slightly, motioning with his head toward the back corner of the restaurant, shaking his head in disgust as he looks at Chad. “That dude is a creepy son of a bitch.”
“Why?” Jensen peers into the corner, straining to see. He knows the name; he’s seen it in the papers. He has a vague familiarity with the scandal that surrounds Murray, but the details are hazy.
“He’s just some poor asshole, right? And the next thing you know, he’s married to the very young daughter of one of the richest men in the county. Oil money,” Chris adds, as if it were the most salacious story ever. "Everyone knows he blackmailed her. She didn't have any choice but to marry Chad. It was that or be ruined, and god forbid that a debutante lose her reputation."
“How do you know all this?”
“I read the socialite section of the papers, Jenny.” Chris rolls his eyes. “I know because our firm did their prenup. Get your head out of your ass. Jesus.”
“Sorry that my knowledge of the inner workings of Dallas society isn’t up to par,” Jensen says, and he’s already losing interest, his attention wandering to the street, where a nice convertible is parked. He’s admiring the cream-colored Lexus, thinking about how he’d like to trade his own convertible for one of those when someone else shows up and sits down at Chad’s table.
Someone tall and lean and tan.
Jensen chokes on his water, sputtering as he tries to wipe his chin off with the dinky white cocktail napkin.
“Why the fuck are you choking—“
Jensen leans forward, not even bothering to whisper. “That’s my assistant over there with Murray!”
“Good goddamn, Jenny.” Chris twists in his seat, and a grin curls on his face. “You better watch your back.”
“Watch my back? Why?”
“That’s your assistant?” Chris twists his entire body around, staring. “That guy?”
“Yes. Just spill it, Chris.”
“Touchy are we?” Chris grins wider when Jensen’s eyes flash, but he apparently takes pity on Jensen and relents quickly. “Okay, okay. You know, the hot file clerk—Ashley? She said that Chad had a friend who was just like him, only he moves on men. Seduces them and then blackmails them for money,” Chris says with a nod.
“What does that have to do with Jared? People have more than one friend, you know. It could be anyone.”
“Jensen, you’re such a freaking optimist. Look, I know it’s him because she said his name was Jared, that he's ten feet tall, and that he worked at the firm now. Our firm.”
Jensen’s starting to get frustrated. “So what happened exactly?”
“You remember Tony Jones?”
“Yes.” Jensen frowns. “I’ve played golf with him a few times—he’s a prick.”
Chris waits a beat, and Jensen wonders if he just enjoys being dramatic. “So Tony’s not as straight as he’s led his wife and three kids and his bible study group to believe, and Jared picks up on this fact, cozies up to him, and before you know it, Tony’s smitten,” Chris says, apparently relishing the sordid details before he continues.
“Then, Jared blackmails him. Tells Tony if he doesn’t give him a million dollars, that he’ll tell his wife and his church what he and Jared have been up to. Tony tells him to go ahead, thinks he’s bluffing. But then Jared pulls out an envelope—he’s pictures and video of him and Tony together.” Chris takes a sip of wine as he nods at Jensen. “Tony gave him the money in exchange for the proof.”
“Jesus.” Jensen shakes his head. “No wonder Tony was such a mess for awhile,” he says, remembering the last time he’d seen Tony at a CLE meeting. The guy had been thin and pale, slinking around without his usual swagger, and his clothes had been noticeably less expensive.
Chris pauses, letting his grin fade, and he flicks his wrist in Jared’s direction. “Come to think of it, I saw your boy sidling up to Steve the other day. I figured you’d sent him to Steve’s office to get some records, but he was awfully friendly for someone picking up medical transcripts.” Chris lowers his voice. “Maybe he’s already started it.”
Jensen leans slightly to the left, trying to see what Jared’s doing. “Started what?”
“Do you listen, boy?” Chris rolls his eyes. “Started trying to seduce Steve so he can blackmail him.”
“Shit.” Jensen leans a little more, but all he can see is the back of Jared’s head, although he hears Jared laugh, sounding far more relaxed than Jensen’s ever seen him. He sits back up, facing Chris’s irritated stare. “I was really hoping he’d work out. I can’t afford to go through another assistant.”
“There’s no reason he can’t still work for you. Just watch out—make sure he doesn’t get to you—if I remember correctly, Ashley said he’d fuck the lawyers for straight-up cash payment as well.”
“Don’t lecture me, Chris.” Jensen’s head is spinning. He can’t reconcile this gold-digging playboy version of Jared with the hardworking guy he sees every day at the office. “It’s not like you know shit about this kind of stuff.”
“I know plenty,” Chris says, a smug smile quirking his lips. “And remember, I’m already a partner, and you’re not.”
“Only ‘cause you’re old, asshole.”
“Remember what I said, Ackles.” Chris leans forward and cocks his head to the side. “Keep your nose clean, and watch Steve’s back too.”
June 21, 2007
The idea that Jared’s a high-priced whore, luring lawyers into fake relationships just to line his own pocket hits Jensen hard. He really thought Jared was a good guy.
For the first time, Jensen wonders if Jared is so closed off because he’s hiding this side of himself. It’s a sobering thought, and after what Chris told him about Chad and Jared’s friendship, and Jared’s potential for subterfuge, Jensen’s determined to find out, especially if Steve’s involved.
So that morning, Jensen finds reason after reason to walk past Steve’s office.
At 1:30, Jensen needs staples, never mind that he hasn’t actually held a stapler since he was a clerk.
Jared hasn’t moved from his chair; Steve’s on a conference call. Around 2:00 he hits the bathroom. And not one damn time is Jared anywhere near Steve. Jared’s in his cube, clicking away, writing client letters and printing them off into neat little piles.
Jensen sighs. Chris is so often full of shit, and Jensen would hate to misjudge Jared based on the rumors generated by file clerks and disgruntled attorneys.
Jensen will just have to keep a close eye on Jared.
July 2, 2007
By July, Jensen still hasn’t caught Jared doing anything he shouldn’t, with Steve or without.
Jensen is relieved. He really values Jared as an assistant, and Jensen’s found himself enjoying Jared’s company—in spite of Jared’s reluctance, they’ve almost become friends, and Jensen’s crush is still going strong, despite his efforts to ignore it. So he figures it wouldn’t hurt for them to spend a little more time together.
The running thing is going so well that Jensen brainstorms for more things they can do together, things that don’t make Jensen sound like a crazed stalker.
The symphony? Jensen’s got season tickets. No. Definitely a date, and Jared would probably get twitchy if Jensen suggested something so intimate.
Dinner? No, that’s out, because there’d be the argument over who was going to pay.
Sailing? Too soon for that, but maybe later.
Then it hits him.
The zoo. It’s brilliant—it’s noisy, it’s public, and it’s free for Jensen, so no awkward discussion of money or payments.
On Friday, he corners Jared as he’s digging around in the supply room. “I’ve got to take my nephew to the zoo tomorrow. You wanna come?”
“Really?” Jared jumps slightly, almost dropping the blue post-it notes and a box of printer paper he’s holding. “I’ve never been to the zoo.”
“What do you mean you’ve never been to the zoo?” Jensen reaches for the box of paper, taking it from Jared. “How is that possible?”
Jared shrugs and turns to gather up some printer cartridges. “Just haven’t.”
“Not even when you were a kid? Field trip? My class went twice a year—“
“My school’s air conditioning barely worked.” Jared meets Jensen’s eyes, the corners of his mouth turned down. “We didn’t take too many trips.”
Jensen nudges Jared, trying to get him to smile again. It works, and Jensen grins back. “Well, then we’ll just have to fix that.”