When he came to work for TwinStar Optics straight out of college, Cody Prescott had considered himself pretty worldly for a twenty-two year old. He’d had his share of girlfriends, and he’d discovered that guys were interesting, too. He’d given and received his share of handjobs and blowjobs. But he’d never been in love, and he’d never gone all the way with a guy. His friends at Florida State had been willing to experiment, but only up to a point. And some mostly buried, old-fashioned part of Cody’s soul told him to wait for the right moment. And the right man.
Out of habit, he’d checked out his colleagues when he first started working there, but nobody had particularly caught his eye. Then, his partner had transferred to another team, and the manager had hired someone new. He’d taken an instant liking to Seth Williams, but that had been the end of it. No vibe. No jolt, just a warm friendship that Cody had come to treasure, as he did all his friendships with the product team. Except that Seth’s had become the most important. And Cody had realized that he wasn’t very worldly at all. Not next to Seth.
They shared an interest in conservation, but Cody’s experience was all local and mostly theoretical, his years as a Boy Scout giving him a certain appreciation without a lot of practical experience. Seth, on the other hand, had traveled all over the world, but especially to Central and South America, spending his vacation time exploring the rain forests and seeing first hand what he worked so hard to save at home.
Then, two weeks ago, everything had changed. Cody and several of his friends from work had gone out clubbing as usual, dragging Seth along this time. They had all been drinking and all of them except Seth had been dancing. Cody had gotten tired of seeing Seth sitting off to the side by himself and had dragged the older man onto the dance floor, rubbing up against him provocatively. He hadn’t really meant anything by it; he’d just been dancing. But suddenly, he had heard Seth mutter something under his breath, something that sounded vaguely like, “Fuck it,” and then Seth had grabbed him by the shoulders and latched his mouth onto Cody’s. Shock had kept Cody from reacting at first, but the kiss had continued anyway until Cody’s brain caught up with reality and he had kissed Seth back. It wasn’t a tentative kiss. Seth didn’t do things halfway. No, it was a full-bore possession of his mouth, a kiss so deep Cody swore he could feel it in his toes. Then Seth had pulled away abruptly and left the bar before Cody could stop him. Cody had been trying since then to figure out what had happened and to talk to Seth about it. He hadn’t succeeded in doing either. Seth had turned into a master of the disappearing act, staying only until his job was done for the day and then high-tailing it out of the office as quickly as possible. Which meant Cody needed a plan.
The only problem was who to ask for help. It had to be somebody Seth wouldn’t suspect, which left out everyone who had been there that night. Cody didn’t think John, the one team member who hadn’t gone out with them, would help, either, just because John seemed to disapprove of on-the-job relationships on principle. Which was probably good advice that Cody would have followed. Until Seth kissed him. That meant throwing himself on Tessa’s mercy and paying whatever price the admin set. He only hoped it was something he was willing to give.
He caught up with her at the end of his shift the next day. “Hey, princess,” he called after her, “let me buy you dinner.” The offer was unusual enough to catch her interest. She often went out with her co-workers, but rarely did they treat her to dinner or drinks. That would be too much like dating, and they all knew she was engaged to Roy, who was overseas in the Army.
When they settled into a booth at a little Italian restaurant, Tessa fixed Cody with a commanding stare. “What do you want?” she asked.
“To have dinner with a pretty girl,” he said defensively.
“Try again,” she answered. “If that’s what you wanted, you would have called up some girl you met at a bar. That way, you’d have a chance of getting some action after dinner. Tell me the truth this time.”
“Fine,” he pouted. “I need some help, and you’re the only one who can give it.”
“Help with what?” Tessa asked, intrigued.
“Help with Seth. Two weeks ago, he kissed me. Since then, he’s been avoiding me. I need to talk to him, but he won’t let me catch up with him. I need a plan.”
“What kind of kiss?” Tessa wanted to know.
“What do you mean, what kind of kiss?”
“Men,” she sighed. “It obviously wasn’t a quick peck on the cheek or you wouldn’t be worried about it. I’ve seen you out in clubs. Was it a light, ‘I’m a good friend’ kind of kiss? Or an ‘I want to screw you through the carpet’ kind of kiss?”
Cody blushed. “I’m pretty sure it was an ‘I want to screw you through the carpet’ kind. But he hasn’t come near me since. I’m a little confused.”
Tessa thought about it for a minute. It was late January and Gasparilla, Tampa Bay’s huge pirate festival, was coming up. Fireworks, a blanket, a dark night on the water. Sounded perfect to her. “Okay, here’s what we’ll do. I’ll ask Seth to meet a group of us to watch the fireworks for Gasparilla. I’ll just forget to include anyone else but you. What you do with him once you get him alone is up to you.”
“And if he mentions it to anyone else?” Cody wanted to know.
“I have enough blackmail on the guys on your team to make them keep their mouths shut. They might give you hell about it later, but they won’t tip your hand.”
“Okay,” Cody agreed. “Where are you going to tell him to meet you? I mean me.”
“Does he know you have a boat down at Lands End Marina?” she asked.
“I don’t think so. He hadn’t joined our team last summer when we all went out on the Bay.”
“Then I’ll tell him to meet us there and give him the slip number. He lives out that way, so he won’t think about riding with anybody. Now, let’s talk about what you should bring along.” The rest of the meal passed as they finished making their plans.
On the way out, Tessa added, “Oh, and I’ll want details the next day.”
There it was. The price. He supposed it was a reasonable one. He could still decide what to tell her and what not to.