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Chapter Fourteen – I’m Not Okay

Adrian stole a look at his phone, made a move to grab it, and then decided against it. There were only minutes until Edward would call, but he still felt impatient. What was wrong with him? He had had that one in the bag, so to speak, only to be kicked out the door after the deed. Did he want a relationship with Edward, after all? With such an unconventional man?

He used to think of himself as free and unconventional, too, but this impatience, right now, told a different story. Throughout the day, Adrian had dreamed of Edward, with his eyes wide open. Now he was supposed to focus on work and not on what Edward would say or how his voice would sound like when he eventually called.

There had been no phone call on Sunday, and that because Edward had told him that obligations slumped him. But now it was Monday, and the clock was crawling slowly toward seven pm. The waiting was killing him, and Adrian had partly decided to spend more time at work only so that he could keep his mind busy.

Edward was pretty addictive. Adrian shifted in his chair and then decided to stand and walk around for a bit and stretch his legs. He didn’t have to close his eyes to picture Edward waiting obediently to be fed a healthy dose of cum. Adrian felt even a fit of small anger growing. What kind of relationships had Edward been in before him? The pervert that he was, he must have experimented with all sorts of things. Adrian wanted to believe that he was unique, and Edward had even said something to that extent. Still, he didn’t want to fall into the trap of a false sense of security.

Edward could call everything off with the snap of his elegant fingers, and Adrian didn’t want to think of what it would mean. For years, after Alexander, he had guarded himself so well. And now, he cared again, and the thought was unsettling.

As long as he believed himself to be in control, it was all right. With Edward, two nights ago, it had felt like that. Adrian had felt like a winner, a conqueror entering a surrendered city. But the keys to the kingdom weren’t in his pocket. Edward had eluded him with practiced ease, despite their hot lovemaking.

Only thinking of that made Adrian want to slap his cock, and not in the fun way. Was it okay to let himself care? Edward wanted a partner to play with, not a boyfriend, not even a lover in the traditional sense. What was he getting himself into?

The phone rang, and Adrian almost jumped on it, but then he reconsidered. He took two seconds, and then, as if he was slightly surprised by the call, he picked up.

“Is it seven already?” he asked in a voice he hoped was both relaxed and charming.

“So says my watch. Are you still at work?”

“You know, some of us still have to work for a living.”

“Your situation leaves nothing to be desired, or so I understand.”

“I can’t complain. I love my work. What about you?”

“I love my work, too,” Edward replied in a playful voice.

“I know you do. But you don’t have to slave your life away; it’s a matter of choice with you.”

“Do I sense a hint of jealousy? Trust me; you shouldn’t care so much about all that.”

“It’s easy to say when you have a frigging grand staircase leading to the first floor.”

“Ah, I see. You can’t help but tease me. Why are you pissed, as you would say, Adrian?”

“I’m not pissed.”

“I can sense you are.”

Adrian moved the phone from one ear to another. “You kind of left my dick hanging in the wind.”

“I recall letting you leave only after being completely satisfied.”

“You’re not a sex expert,” Adrian retorted. “You can’t know that.”

“Or is it that the source of your dissatisfaction comes from a different place?” Edward talked as if he mused to himself.

“Stop psychoanalyzing me. You’re not a shrink, either.”

“But I’m in charge of your wellbeing, and, right now, I know for a fact that you are discomforted.”

“Discomforted? Pissed sounded better.”

“I thought so. Come on, Adrian, say it. What’s eating you?”

“You sent me home like I was a booty call.”

“You’re a bit above that,” Edward teased him.

Adrian was beginning to feel more irritated. “Oh, so I am that.”

Edward laughed at the other end. “I see that you’re getting all hot and bothered over how I treated you. But it could not be helped, Adrian. My obligations -“

“What obligations? Stop being so secretive. After seeing The Awakening, I don’t think anything else could shock me.”

“I’m afraid my obligations are the opposite of that. They involve dull, tedious affairs. On Sunday, I visit my family, and I entertain some of their guests. I am always required unless I have some emergency to take care of.”

Adrian felt himself cool down a bit. He hadn’t seen his parents in a while, so he needed to commend Edward on being such a dutiful son. Maybe he could call his mom and dad later; they were on a cruise, somewhere, having fun, as they deserved.

“All right. I get that. So when do I see you?”

“This weekend.”

“Fine.” güvenilir canlı bahis siteleri He didn’t know what else to say. If he insisted for them to see each other sooner than that, he would just sound childish, and he might just annoy Edward.

“Dream of me, Adrian. I’ll surely dream of you,” Edward promised with a low, sexy chuckle.

That made Adrian smile. All right, so maybe Edward wasn’t that difficult to turn into a real boyfriend if need be. He just had to play the game and get better at it so that he could beat his opponent.

***

Something was not right, Mike could tell, as he looked at the data coming in. His diagnosis tools were trying to calm him down, but he knew the signs of a cyberattack when he saw one. He could try to reroute the traffic, but he wasn’t particularly sure that it would work. The company needed information to function, and now the useful information was lost in a sea of spam.

He grabbed the phone and called the ISP provider. Like on cue, the landline phone on his desk began to ring. People must have started to notice, as well. Mike held his phone between his cheek and his shoulder and reached for the other.

“Yes, I know, it’s a DDOS attack,” he explained shortly. “No, miss, I’m sorry, I’m not exactly in charge of the Internet. Just don’t do anything.”

Mike put back the phone and prayed for someone at the ISP provider to pick up. While he tried to communicate with the tech service, the landline phone lit up. Between explaining the problem to the tech service guy and trying to appease the people who needed to do their work, his patience was wearing thin.

As he suspected, the tech support guy offered to reroute the traffic, and that pretty much meant that all of it, good or bad, would go into a little black hole. His fingers danced on his keyboard, as he chose to ignore the angry landline phone, while he reconfigured the firewall. Unfortunately, the tech support guy wasn’t much of help, which was precisely what he was afraid of.

The alternative was simple and complicated at the same time. He was just the server guy, after all. He could just let the ISP provider handle things and sit with his arms crossed. Or he could try to use his little software that could reroute the traffic to the cloud, and then he could contain it there and analyze it until the storm weathered off.

That was a bold move. If he did it without talking to anyone in the company, he might just put himself in a vulnerable position. But if he didn’t act fast, who knew how many other things could go from bad to worse?

He needed to call the IT department. By now, they had to know that something fishy was going on. With a not so heartfelt thank you, he ended his conversation with the tech support and grabbed the landline. “Please, don’t call here for a while, as I need to get in touch with the IT department,” he said quickly to the angry person on the other end.

“This is the IT department. What the hell is going on?”

“We’re under attack,” Mike said.

“Thanks, Captain Obvious.”

Mike didn’t know which of the guys in IT was talking to him, but there were some snotty bastards there. “Tech support at the ISP provider tells me they could reroute to a black hole.”

“Oh, great. Just fantastic. Did you tell them to stuff their black hole up their holes?” The snotty bastard laughed at his own bad pun on the other end.

“I need to have confirmation from above for this.”

“We can’t do that. There’s a whole bunch of emails and other communication that would go down the drain, too.”

Talking about who was Captain Obvious now, Mike thought and rolled his eyes. Now there was no time for useless chatting. “Can you guys give the green light for this?”

The snotty bastard fell silent. “No, we can’t do that.”

“All right, so what am I supposed to do?”

“I don’t know. Aren’t you the server guy? This is a server problem. Just deal with it.”

The line went dead. Mike shook his head. So like some people to wash their hands and pretend they had no responsibility. He called the first upper management number he found on the list. The person on the other end declined responsibility, as well.

Mike was starting to sweat. He was lost in a sea of communication problems because he didn’t have who to ask what to do. One after another, the people he kept calling declined to assume it, telling him that it was his problem to solve, or they just keep sending him up the hierarchy. But Mike couldn’t go for one solution or another without having some higher-up tell him they agreed to it.

In the end, there was only one office in the building – of those that mattered – that he hadn’t called. Ryan’s assistant spoke to him in an affable voice, and then he put him through.

“Yes? Micah?” Ryan’s voice sent instant shivers down his spine. And he also called him by his given name, which, for some reason, in his mouth, sounded different.

“Mr. Armstrong,” Mike said and then gulped, quite audibly.

“Why are you calling here?” Ryan sounded puzzled. güvenilir illegal bahis siteleri “Is this because of Saturday -“

“No,” Mike said quickly. The words began pouring from his mouth. The last thing he needed was for Ryan to recall the events on Saturday. Anything but that.

Ryan listened in complete silence. “So, what are our alternatives?”

“Rerouting to a black hole. Only one alternative, so it’s not an alternative -” Mike began to babble.

“Is there an alternative?” Ryan asked, his voice not one ounce angrier or upset.

Mike hesitated. “There might be one.”

“All right. What is it?”

“It’s something I made,” Mike asked. “I’ve tested it, so it should work even with large amounts of data.”

“How does it work?”

“I reroute everything to the cloud, and then I analyze it there so that I can identify the malicious data.”

“Will that save the real traffic that comes to us?”

“It should,” Mike replied.

“Do it. You have my permission.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Mike didn’t wait for a reply from Ryan and got to work fast. There was no time to waste. Was Ryan still thinking of Saturday? Mike shook his head. Now was really not the time to think of all that stuff. He had a lot of work to do.

***

He was still deep in work when he heard someone coming in. “I know, I know, I’m still working on it. The attack might last for twenty-four hours or so -“

“Have you eaten anything?”

Mike turned so fast that the headphones on his head tried to pull him back, their cable entangled, most probably, around his chair. Why was Ryan there? And he looked his usual gorgeous self, so Mike felt his throat getting dry like the Sahara Desert.

“It’s almost nine, and you’re still here,” Ryan explained as if he was some child. “Have you eaten anything?”

“Um, I had something -” Mike stopped, trying to recall when it had been the last time he ate and what it was. It was Monday, so he probably had the turkey sandwich. He liked to keep things well organized, and that included his daily and weekly diet. Funny though, he couldn’t recall eating the sandwich or how it tasted like. His stomach rumbled, suddenly aware of the absence of food.

“I’m going to order something. What’s your pleasure?”

Mike continued to stare at Ryan, who was getting busy with his phone. “Why are you here?” he asked in a meek voice. “This will take some time, and I don’t know how long it will be. But the program is already starting to learn so -“

Ryan threw him a look that made him weak to the knees. Such a good thing that he was sitting. “You’ve been working for seven hours straight, Micah.”

Again with the name, Mike moaned internally. Why did Ryan enjoy so much to torture him? “It’s my job, sir.”

Ryan quirked an eyebrow. “It’s only us here. You can call me by my name.”

“I don’t think I should,” Mike said stubbornly.

“Ah.” Ryan seemed to have forgotten about his phone now and the call he wanted to make. “Then it’s like I’m your boss, and you must do everything I say, right?” As he said the words, Ryan made a small gesture with one hand to illustrate that whatever it was, it had to remain between the two of them.

Mike couldn’t imagine telling anyone about what he and Ryan had. Not that they had much. And he would actually tell Jared and Adrian if anything happened. No, nothing would happen!

“Your lips move in a funny way. I’m your boss, and I’m ordering you to call me by my name and to eat. How is that?”

“Thank you, but -“

“No ‘buts’. It looks like you’re saving the company from quite the pickle. Can you identify where the attack has come from?”

“That would be difficult. Right now, saving the real data is more important. And I hope that my program will learn some interesting things so it can recognize the patterns next time it happens.”

“Your program, you say.”

“Yes.” Mike looked down. “It seems to work and since you didn’t want to go with what the IPS provider wanted to do -“

“It wasn’t an accusation. Actually, I’m very impressed. And glad that you’re here, working for this company.”

Mike just nodded.

“I’m going to order something healthy and filling. You continue to do your thing. And I will be quiet. You won’t even know I’m here.”

Mike turned toward the screen of his computer without a word. He knew Ryan was there; he could smell his sexy cologne, and even sense the air displacement where he stood. Focusing on the task at hand would be so difficult, now.

***

Ryan seemed genuinely interested in what Mike explained as they ate. It was easier than he thought to keep the communication between them at a professional level. Of course, it served that he didn’t look at Ryan at all.

“I’m sorry if I let you down,” Ryan said out of the blue.

“It’s okay. I understand everything,” Mike replied while keeping his eyes down.

“Are you always this accommodating with your lovers?”

Mike snickered. “What lovers?”

“Don’t tell me you’re a virgin.”

“No, güvenilir bahis şirketleri of course not.”

He could feel Ryan’s steady gaze on the crown of his head.

“So, are you going to reply or what?”

“Um, I don’t know what to say. Wait, what do you want me to say?”

The program was working his magic, so he could allow himself this little break.

“I want you to say exactly what’s on your mind. Leave nothing out.” Ryan’s voice was still a tad playful, but not as much now.

“Getting through this attack is on my mind,” he replied, hoping for an easy way out.

“You know what I mean. Have you thought of me since Saturday? Because, stupid me, I’ve only thought of you.”

Mike shifted in his place, but he still didn’t look up at Ryan. “That’s not fair. You decided to break things off. Not that we had … things,” he hurried to add. “We had nothing.”

“We had that magical evening when you took me to that romantic cocktail bar.”

“And the dance on the roof,” Mike added, without thinking.

Ryan moved and placed one hand over Mike’s wrist. It was warm, and Mike could feel his pulse quickening. “I can’t seem to take you out of mind. I was trying hard to push any thought of you away, and then you called to tell me about this situation.”

“I had been trying anyone else for minutes until I got to you,” Mike replied. “I didn’t bother you on purpose.”

“I’m glad that you did. But, for a second, I thought that you were doing something foolish and brave by calling me. I thought you called me to tell me what a coward I was.”

“That’s not what I think of you.”

“You should. What is it about you, Micah?”

“Could you please, not call me that? It sounds kind of intimate.” Mike hoped his voice didn’t quiver. He had little to no control over the beating of his heart.

“It’s maybe because that’s what I want to be intimate with you.”

Mike shook his head. “Your reputation is at stake. I don’t want to be the one responsible for ruining it.”

Ryan sighed audibly. “Then my reputation is, indeed, in good hands. I’m the only one at fault for pining over you when you obviously are okay with the situation as it is. It’s all right. I guess it will come to pass. I’m sorry. I have no idea why I’m saying all these things.”

Ryan curled his fingers around Mike’s wrist and used his thumb to brush over the place where the pulse could be felt.

Mike pulled his hand free. “I’m not okay,” he said quietly. Ryan didn’t say anything, and Mike thought he might not have heard him. So he looked up and stared at Ryan. “I’m not okay.”

Who moved first? Mike wasn’t sure. But he was soon in Ryan’s arms, and their lips connected, drawn by a supernatural force. Now he was okay. Ryan squeezed him tightly, and Mike followed his lead, angling his head to make sure that their kiss was as deep as they could handle.

Ryan broke the kiss and looked at him. “I don’t know what I’m doing,” he whispered and let their foreheads touch.

“I do,” Mike whispered.

Maybe he was possessed when it came to Ryan. Maybe he was a bit insane, and he was putting both of them at risk, trying to pull such a thing at work. If anyone walked in on them, they would both be in trouble.

But he couldn’t think of all that. Right now, the only thing that mattered was to grab Ryan and kiss him forcefully. He was overly aware of how clumsy he had to be, but he couldn’t be bothered with that, either. There was a small shaking in his hands as he tried to open the buttons on Ryan’s shirt. Underneath that fabric, he would find everything he needed, the man he had been dreaming of for the last weeks.

Ryan steadied his frenzied attack by grabbing his wrists. Of course, this was wrong. No, he was wrong to assume anything.

Then Ryan kissed him again, and his worries melted like snow in spring. This kiss wasn’t the hungry one from earlier. It was sweeter and subdued, and it made his mind spin. When it ended, they stared into each other’s eyes.

“I can’t ask anything of you,” Ryan said softly.

“You can ask everything of me,” Mike replied, feeling stubborn. He didn’t move his eyes away.

“It would be wrong.”

“It wouldn’t be.”

“I thought I was your boss, and you were supposed to kiss my ass,” Ryan said, his eyes warming up.

“I would kiss your ass for hours,” Mike let out, and then he blushed. The stupid things he found himself saying. Ryan’s kisses were like a shot to the brain. He couldn’t think clearly and, apparently, anything could leave his mouth without censure.

“I would do the same with you,” Ryan said back.

The ping from the computer, letting him know that the program needed him broke the magic. Mike shook his head and hurried back to his battle station. He couldn’t look at Ryan now, so he pretended to be more interested in what happened on the screen than it was necessary.

Ryan placed his hands on Mike’s shoulders, massaging them slowly. “You are a great person, Micah. I’m glad I met you.”

“But we can’t do this,” Mike added.

“I know.”

“I need to work on this,” he said. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and then blinked fast. He needed to chase away the annoying moisture in them.

“I’m glad you’re my employee, too. It’s great for the company,” Ryan said. “Never leave us, okay? Will you promise?”

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