...Have to hide. Have to leave. Mark huddled on his bed. How soon before they came to fire him? He’d never called in sick before. But he’d told the truth. He was nauseous. Couldn’t work. Needed the afternoon off.
What had he done? The Bastard Richard had pushed him right back into that subway station, those guys, that night. Oh crap. Have to stop shaking. And why had he kissed Armitage? Why? Everything had been so great until that man arrived. Mark’s life had been together, predictable. Even Richard the Bastard staring at him had been a standard thing. Then Ashton Armitage arrived and all hell landed on his head. More like his cock. The guy made him crazy. Him and that crazy elf dragging Mark around in—drag!
The soft knock reminded him of a cue in a bad play. He knew who it was and shouldn’t answer. That insane little man gave him hope when he knew he had no hope. Only hard work. But damn it, he liked Mr. Pennymaker.
He huffed, dragged himself off the bed, cleared the couple steps to the door, pulled it open and headed right back to the bed and curled into a ball.
“Helloooo, my boy. How are you this lovely day?” The chirpy voice paused, and Mark peeked at him from his armadillo-like position. Mr. Pennymaker had his hands on his knees and was peeking at Mark. Yes, he was an elf. “Hmm. I gather we are not tiptop?”
Mark shook his head. “No, sir.”
“What seems to be the problem?”
“Don’t really want to talk about it.”
“Might as well. I want to listen.”
He had a point. Mark needed another point of view. “I did something very bad.”
The dark suit Pennymaker was wearing today would have been conservative, but for the bright pink vest and gardenia in his buttonhole. He sat on the rickety chair. “Would you like to tell me about it?”
Mark sat up. Would he? There was something about the man. Like he was on Mark’s side no matter what. Mark had never had that feeling…at least not since his mom died. It made no sense. Mr. Pennymaker was a stranger, but there it was. “Well, you see, Richard the Bastard tried to force himself on me, and I was so—”
“Hold on! What happened?”
“Oh, the bastard sous chef finally quit perving on me and decided to do the deed. He didn’t get to hurt me because Armitage—you know the rich guy—came to my rescue. And now I know I’m going to get fired any minute and I really need this job and I don’t know what I’ll do if they give me a bad referral. ”
“Now, now, even Herman Marcusi won’t fire a man for avoiding rape.”
“No, you don’t understand. Because I was really upset. See I had this thing happen and I guess I went into flashbacks or something, but I was pretty messed up, and Armitage tried to help me and, shit, I kissed him.”
The man grinned. “Kissed him?”
“Yeah.” Mark returned to armadillohood.
Mr. Pennymaker’s voice dripped with amusement. “I’m sure you were grateful.”
Didn’t he get it? Mark sat up. “No! I kissed him kissed him, like with tongue and, you know.”
The grin got bigger. “I’m sure you were very grateful.”
Mark sighed. “Maybe. But I imagine he’s reporting it to Marcusi right now and I’ll be out on my ass by tomorrow.”
“Maybe he enjoyed it.”
Hell, he hadn’t thought of that. The guy had seemed shocked, but he hadn’t worked very hard to get away. After all, Mark wasn’t exactly Mighty Joe Young. Still, the look on his face… “I doubt it.”
“My dear, either he enjoyed it, in which case he won’t be complaining, or he didn’t enjoy it, in which case he’s too embarrassed to complain. Either way, you keep your job. Now, since you have a little time off, let’s get you into another outfit because my friends, whom I wish to impress with your work, are having a late luncheon. Come, come.” He waggled his fingers.
Mark shook his head. This was nuts. He felt like somebody had just ripped out his guts and this man wanted to play dress up. “Sir, this is serious.”
“Your past was serious, Mark, but your future is waiting. We can’t be late for it, can we?...”