Man Crush, page 1
Copyright © 2018 Isobel Starling
All rights reserved worldwide. This book may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the Author, except for the purposes of reviews. The reviewer may quote brief passages for the review to be printed in a newspaper, magazine or journal.
The characters and events described in this book are fictional. Any resemblance between characters and any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2018 Isobel Starling
Cover Art by Isobel Starling
PRAISE FOR ISOBEL STARLING
“Isobel Starling writes some of the steamiest scenes out there” Review for “Return to Zero” by Kat on Love Bytes Same-Sex Reviews blog
“One of the sweetest and one of the kinkiest books I have read in some time” Review for “Back Where He Belongs” by Helena on She Reads A lot blog.
Five stars—Gripping and glorious storytelling
“Maybe because I have a partly Scottish background, this story fascinated me from the start, with just the right balance of humor, tension, and magnificent lovemaking. This will keep you reading non-stop until the end, leaving you hungry for the next book in the series – can’t wait!” Amazon reviewer Drew Kirkpatrick for “As You Wish.”
Wonderful! This is my first time reading one of Isobel's books. This story has amazing main characters and supporting characters. Throughout the story your emotions will be all over the place. I can't wait to read the next book in this series. Definitely a one-click buy!! Keep up the great work” Review by Chantelle on United Indie Book Blog for “Fall Together.”
Table of Contents
About the Author
I was working through my lunch hour, again. I always seemed to be eating at my desk these days, but work needed to be done, and in the circumstances, it appeared that I was the best person to do it.
“We’re popping down to Marco’s Deli for a bite; you want anything?” My assistant Kyle hollered through the crack in my office door.
“Did you send me that report?” I couldn’t hide the frustration in my bark.
“Yeah,” Kyle called absently.
“Get me a double espresso,” I ordered, needing an extra boost to keep me focused and get me through the rest of the afternoon.
“M’kay, boss,” Kyle replied in his lazy East London drawl.
I took a deep breath to calm the bubbling anger in my chest, saved, and closed the project I’d been working on. I listened to Kyle’s idle banter and laughter from the production office girls as they left the building.
Silence at last. Relieved to be alone, I sat back in my chair and exhaled the breath I’d been holding in. Things were not going well with Kyle. He’d only been my assistant for six-weeks, and in those six-weeks, it felt like my workload had doubled, not eased, which was the point of having an assistant. I knew that the younger staff members had a more relaxed attitude to work, and admittedly, I’ve always been highly motivated, but Kyle just wasn’t pulling his weight. He didn’t have the right attitude to work for RopeTrik Media.
Kyle was a twenty-one-year-old Media Studies graduate. I had no idea what that degree even meant these days. Were these kids just playing with their phones, watching TV all day and then being awarded a degree? It wouldn’t surprise me. Over these last six-weeks, Kyle had proven to have a handle on the hyperbole that surrounded the media industry—and a smart mouth. But, no matter how impressed the board was with his resume, citing TV Extra credits, and that he’d completed an internship with the BBC, he didn’t possess the basic skills for working in an office, let alone working at RopeTrik Media where we developed format ideas for TV shows.
Sure, Kyle could use a computer for email and social media, but his, basic grammar and spelling were poor, and his time management skills and work ethic were non-existent. Yes, Kyle had interned at the Beeb, but RopeTrik were not in the same league. We didn’t have the kind of budgets or facilities that a major broadcasting corporation offered. Workers in the production offices at the BBC could easily fall between the cracks and get away with talking in circles but doing little actual work. I knew all about the culture of having meetings about planning other meetings! However, at RopeTrik we didn’t have the time or money for that charade. We’re in constant need of investment. Employee’s needed to be actively working at one-hundred-and-ten-percent to be worthy of their wage. Kyle was so laid back about everything—the opposite of me, and when I gave him instructions, his usual “Yeah, cool Bro,” response was really starting to get right on my tits. I was not his bro, and things certainly were not cool.
I groped beneath my desk for my brown leather satchel and unpacked my lunch, a Chicken Caesar wrap that I’d made the night before, and an apple. I bit into the apple and left it in my mouth as I typed hurriedly on my laptop, accessing my email to read through the list of possible funding sources for our next project that Kyle just told me he’d sent. I removed the apple from my mouth, not having taken a proper bite. There was no email from Kyle. I refreshed the page, but still, there was no email.
“Damn it, do I have to do everything myself?” I roared to the empty office. I put the bitten apple down on my desk and stood abruptly; then I stomped out of my office and into the small anteroom Kyle used as his office. His desktop computer was still on and logged into the office intranet, which was against company policy. We were all told again and again by IT that we must log-out when we leave the building.
I sat down at Kyle’s desk, noticing a bag of Gummi Bear’s had been spilled over the tabletop, and there were two old take-out coffee cups. I gritted my teeth. His desk was a mess. Was he just drinking coffee, and eating sweets all day? What if a client had come in for an impromptu chat? I decided that I would have ‘words’ with Kyle on his return.
I shuffled the chair closer to the desk and clicked Kyle’s computer mouse. The screen lit up, and I scowled when I saw Kyle had been surfing the internet on office time when he should have been compiling my bloody report. I was furious. My anger felt like a burning ball wedged at my solar plexus. It was the last straw. If I kept this guy on I was going to have a heart attack before I turned forty, next month.
The browser opened on the landing page for a website I’d never seen before. The site was called Undr, and the design appeared young, colorful, and fresh. From my first impression, I wondered if it was a TV extra’s website, or maybe modeling. I stared at the screen, my fury bubbling under my skin. So THIS was what I paid him for? My eyes fixed on a photo of a, quite frankly, ‘smokin’’ hot man wearing running gear. He was standing in the aisle of a London Underground Tube carriage gripping a chrome pole to steady himself. His sweatpants clung to his bubble butt, and his sleeveless vest ensured the tribal tattoos on his arms were on full display. My ‘other brain’ perked up and took notice.
With such a heavy workload and bucket-loads of stress, sex was the last thing on my mind, and, honestly, these days my libido was so low that if I could get an erection, it would be a miracle. My single status didn’t help either. In my younger days, I was very sexual, but I just didn’t have time to date, and when I did have spare time I wa
The man on Undr was a beautiful chunk of masculinity, and admittedly if I’d seen him on the London Underground, I would have paid attention too.
I scrolled through the images on the site and now understood that I was not, in fact, looking at modeling shots, as I’d first thought. Undr was a website where gay men and straight women anonymously uploaded photos of attractive strangers they saw while riding the London Underground. Viewers could rate the attractiveness of the men in each image and discuss attributes they liked and disliked about them.
It was shallow, and honestly, I felt uncomfortably like a bit of a pervert as I scrolled the images, hating myself, but I was unable to stop. Surely this website must be illegal? I was aghast that it could be okay to take a photo of a stranger and upload it to the web for judgment by the whole world. But as I scrolled, a line-up of totally hot men passed my eyes. My rational, logical, moral brain fought with my dick. Its sudden attentiveness surprised me—there is still life in the old lad! When I happened upon an image of a tall, dark-haired man wearing a white shirt, I stopped scrolling. The shirt he wore clung to silhouette the musculature of his torso, and tight suit trousers effortlessly displayed athletic thighs and a biteable ass. My neglected dick got the victory it deserved.
“Ho-leey Fuck!” I was glad I was alone in the office because I prided myself on having impeccable manners while at work. Beneath the image of the attractive man, the uploader, D-dawg, had given the man in the photo the moniker of Java Joe. Underneath that, the location the photo was taken at, the time, date and ‘other’ details were listed. As I avidly read on, I discovered that the man named Java Joe had been labeled so because when he’d exited the train carriage, D-dawg noticed the embroidered logo for the Java Joe coffee chain on his shirt. Java Joe had been photographed on a Northern Line train between Highgate and Archway at 6:50 a.m. last Wednesday, but D-dawg was unsure which station the man got on at. He did share that the man alighted at Waterloo Station at 7:15 a.m. It was the very same station I got off every day at too, but I traveled to work an hour later than Java Joe.
I scrolled through the comments and saw that other users covertly located Java Joe on morning and evening trains and also photographed him. In fact, it looked like this thoroughly handsome man had a large fan base of stalkers.
I was repulsed and affronted on his behalf. He was clearly being fetishized, but still, I could not stop myself from staring at him and hungrily scrolling down to the next image on the page. I wondered if he was aware of the unprecedented online attention. If I thought too long I knew I would find the whole thing creepy, but his body was incredible, and when I found a close-up shot of his rugged face and his soulful eyes, something seemed to snap inside me. I knew then I had to find out his orientation, and if he was available.
When Kyle returned from his lunch break, I asked him to join me in my office. A heated discussion ensued and culminated in me firing him for poor time management, disobeying direct orders, ignoring company policy and surfing the internet when he should have been working. He did not take his dismissal well, and his exit had been dramatic. Kyle threatened to sue for unfair dismissal before calling me a ‘withered old fag.’ He threw the hot Espresso he’d bought for me, and slammed my office door behind him. I’d ducked, and the coffee sailed past my head and splashed artistically across the wall. That coffee stain would be a bitch to remove from the back wall of my office, but I was glad I’d not asked him to get my regular beverage, a Grande Latte.
That violent action alone was the perfect reason to call the building’s security, and for one of the brawny ‘no-nonsense’ guards to ensure the little shit—and his bag of Gummi-Bears was swiftly removed from the premises.
Two weeks had passed since I fired Kyle, and with his replacement, Angelica, coming on board, my life became a little easier. Angelica was the antithesis of Kyle. She was so efficient. Angelica was older than Kyle; she was an experienced PA, and so anticipated what I needed and supported me through a round of difficult project proposals. I was impressed and wondered if maybe witchcraft was involved.
I’d worked hard over the past two years in my role as New Projects Director at RopeTrik Media, but it was to the detriment of my social life. In hindsight, working with Kyle had been a positive thing for one significant reason. He’d made me aware of a definite work/life imbalance. The reality was that I was approaching forty and single. My last boyfriend, Arthur, found a job in the States when I got my job at Ropetrik. He wouldn’t stay, and I wouldn’t leave, and so we parted ways. When he left it was like I’d just stopped feeling sexual, a switch had been flicked off inside, and desire was something I didn’t feel I could reach for anymore. I did not want to end up as a lonely ‘withered old fag,’ as Kyle had so charmingly called me on his exit. I’d been in denial of just how sad my life had become, telling myself that being single wasn’t a problem. But then my new, reliable assistant freed-up my time, and I’d taken that time to reconsider my life, and browse online—more specifically, to keep tabs on the Undr website, looking for new photographs of Java Joe.
In the weeks since I’d first seen his photo, I couldn’t get Java Joe out of my head. I fantasized about him, jerked-off thinking about him, and avidly watched the faces of men on the Tube each morning just in case I saw him. I returned to the Undr website each night to check if a new photo of Java Joe had been uploaded.
The rush I felt at seeing a new shot was like a drug. I wanted to know where he was, what he was doing, what he was wearing—Did he always travel alone? Had anyone ever sighted him with a girlfriend or boyfriend?
I knew I was getting a little obsessed, so I convinced myself that my obsession was research. The concept of Undr would make great TV. Maybe Undr might be a good format to develop for a reality dating TV show? I’d found other websites based in New York, Paris, Berlin all of which catered for voyeurs to upload photos of attractive men they saw while traveling on the city’s subway. I decided that I needed to research further. If I could develop the idea and then sell the dating show format worldwide, I could really put RopeTrik Media on the map. I was sure I was on to something.
On Monday morning I awoke at five-thirty a.m. and decided that it would be pointless to try and get back to sleep when my alarm was set for seven. I’d might as well take the train into the city and get to work early.
I’d been scrolling the group sourced images of Java Joe the night before, and so I knew that a fan had discovered that he got the six-thirty Northern Line train at Highgate Underground Station. I usually got my train from the next stop down the line, Archway Station, so I took my car, parked in a side street and headed for Highgate Tube Station.
The self-delusion that I was ‘researching for a reality TV show format’ dissolved when I stepped on to the platform at Highgate. After several minutes of strolling up and down the chewing gum stained platform, occasionally looking at the tired faces of passengers waiting for their train into the city of London, I came face to face with a familiar man. He was six-feet-tall, had dark hair, which was neatly combed back and shone with some kind of styling product in it. His attractive, chiseled jaw was cleanly shaven. It was chilly out today, and so he wore a navy peacoat, but even though there was no gun show or coffee shop logo on display, I knew at once that it was Java Joe.
Java Joe was engrossed with his phone. He scowled and tapped on the screen as he walked, then looked up from his device to avoid bumping into me. When our eyes met my chest constricted with lust, and I’m sure my heart stopped beating. The dark-eyed look he gave me was curious, and his gaze quickly swept up and down, lingering on me—on my beard framed mouth, for longer than necessary. It was exhilarating to see him in the flesh, to contemplate the physical bulk of him, see the smoothness of his skin, and get a whiff of his aftershave. God,
The sound of static feedback through the station’s announcement system was followed by a tinny voice alerting that the ‘incoming train on platform two is a southbound train serving…” The announcer listed all of the stops from Archway through the City of London and out the other side to Morden.
The buzz of electricity on the tracks and distant ‘clickety-clack’ sound warned of the approaching tube train. A gust of warm, stagnant air scented by the bowels of London rushed up the tunnel and seconds later, the tube train followed. Passengers pushed and shuffled, arranging themselves on the platform behind the painted yellow line and ‘MIND THE GAP’ notice. Everyone was at the ready, preparing for the familiar daily race to get on the tube train and find a seat as soon as the doors opened.
I maneuvered through the crowd to ensure I stepped into the same carriage as Java Joe. Within a frantic minute the doors opened, a few commuters forced their way out of the carriage and through the milling crowd, and when there was space, en-masse, we pushed onto the train. A minute later when the doors screeched closed. I could see in the crush of bodies that Java Joe about a meter away from me. He was holding tightly onto the vertical chrome pole in the same way I’d seen him do in so many photos on Undr.
It was awkward. I was wedged in by the people around me, but I had nothing to hold on to. Frustrated, I set my feet flat on the moving floor of the tube train as it shuddered and then moved off down the track. I took on the blank, thoughtless stare of a commuter. I saw the same tired, distracted looks on the faces of my fellow passengers, however, covertly; I was staring straight at Java Joe.
To my surprise he looked up, fixed his gaze on me, and stared straight back, unblinking. His eyes were dark brown and seemed to look straight inside me. The exchange of eye contact was intoxicating. My skin tingled with electricity, and my balls ached. The way passengers accidentally rubbed against me with the rolling gait of the train made things worse. I moved my satchel from my hip to cover my growing erection. I’d heard stories about predators on the London Underground who got their kicks from rubbing up against strangers. I did not want to be given that unsavory label.
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