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Title: Due Diligence
Author: Anna Zabo
Genre: Bisexual, Contemporary, M/M Romance
A business trip leads to a surprise encounter with an old flame in this sexy romance from the author of Just Business.
After Fazil Kurt breaks up with his girlfriend, a business trip to Seattle offers some much-needed time away. Sent by S.R. Anderson Consulting, Fazil is there to help audit Singularity Storage, a company they are trying to save. His first discovery is intriguing to say the least: One of Singularity’s engineers is Todd Douglas, Fazil’s first love.
He knows better than to get personally involved on a job like this. Back in high school, Todd broke Fazil’s heart more times than he could count, but both men have grown so much since then—and Fazil never could say no to Todd…
Author’s note: My editor hasn’t seen any of this yet, so it is subject to change before the book comes out. And any mistakes are entirely mine!
This scene takes place near the start of Due Diligence, just after Fazil Kurt, one of the engineers who works for Sam Anderson has shown up at Todd’s company. Neither has seen the other for fifteen years. Both are pretty rattled by the reunion, for similar and different reasons…
Someone had turned the surreal dial up to eleven in Todd Douglas’s life. That was the only explanation for Fazil Kurt standing in that conference room and giving that presentation. He couldn’t touch the guy to make sure he was really there.
Wanted to, though he wasn’t sure if he wanted to hug Fazil and never let go or punch him in the head for nonchalantly walking back into his life after all these years.
Todd flexed his fingers. Actually, he knew exactly what he wanted to do to Fazil, but that involved a bed, a lot less clothing, and many uninterrupted hours. Jesus, that body.
Fazil had certainly filled out from the gangly kid he’d been back then. Same slim hips that begged to be grabbed, but topped with a much more powerful torso and arms that looked well acquainted with the inside of a gym. The jet-black hair that had been long and gone every which way back then had been tamed into a short cut that brought out just how dark his eyes were.
Beautiful. Still. Even more now, but given fifteen years of silence, he doubted Fazil had any desire to jump into Todd’s bed. He’d made his point quite clear the autumn after they graduated.
Hey, I’ll give you a call or drop you some email once I’m settled.
Days had passed. Then weeks. Then years.
Still, he couldn’t ignore Fazil, not when he’d come from Sam Anderson’s consulting company. Nor could he pretend they didn’t know each other. His only option had been to ask for lunch. Fazil had said yes, thank God. Maybe they could clear the air enough to get through the next two weeks without too much awkwardness.
Todd scrubbed a hand over his face and stared at himself in the mirror of the unisex bathroom he’d jumped into after he’d left Todd and the finance guy to Sandra. He needed to catch his breath and get his body to stop tingling and dick to remember that Fazil didn’t want anything to do with him.
Plus, he wasn’t ready to face his co-workers’ questions yet and too many had overheard his brief conversation with Fazil—they’d want to know what he knew about him.
Which was absolutely nothing. Well, not anything he was willing to share.
This was going to be interesting. He straightened, washed his hands for the hell of it, and left the room. He almost made it back to his cube before someone stopped him, and in seconds, half the engineering staff was piled into the hall.
“You know that guy?”
He wasn’t even sure who asked, just that the questioner had been male. Maybe Ganesh.
“Out with the intel, Douglas.”
Todd held up both hands and backed into his cube. “I went to high school with him. I have no idea what he’s like now.” Other than completely fuckable. “This is the first time I’ve seen him since we graduated.”
“Oh come on.” Monica leaned against cube wall, arms crossed. “Give us something.”
Todd flopped into his chair and peered out at his co-workers. He was technically only a project lead, but he’d pretty much been Stephen’s right hand man recently, documenting as many procedures as possible before the Anderson team arrived. Every person out there had worked flat out for him at one point. He owed them something.
“He was smart and dedicated. Graduated fifth in the class.” Tom ran a finger under his watchband. “He’s kind of the reason I went to college. Tutored me in math. I thought I was hopeless. Turned out I just needed some help.”
So many of those tutoring nights had turned into make-out sessions on Fazil’s bed, kissing and grinding and sucking until they both came.
“Good kid. Sarcastic around the edges, but everyone’s that way when they’re teens. We lost track of each other after graduation.” He shrugged to cover the pain in his chest. He’d tried to keep in touch with Fazil—but that effort had been one-sided. “That’s all I know, honest.”
There was a bit of grumbling, but eventually they all trickled away. Some out to lunch and others to eat at their desks. His stomach was in too much turmoil to think about shoving anything into it, so he grabbed some water, brought up his tasks for the development sprint they were in, and tried to lose himself in code. Didn’t work because he kept remembering that he could trace a line from his current job back to the first time he kissed Fazil.
Todd rubbed his eyes. He didn’t quite remember how, I can’t believe I got an A on that test! I so could kiss you right now, man, had turned into kissing, then touching, then humping so hard they’d both come in their jeans.
But he could remember the taste of those kisses and the blinding orgasm and Fazil’s whispered holy shit before he’d kissed Todd again. God, he wanted to know how Fazil kissed now, if he tasted the same, if he moaned like he used to.
And there went any illusion that he’d ever gotten over Fazil. It fucking hurt, too. There should have been a phone call, an email, a damn Facebook or LinkedIn request. Something. Not…walking back into Todd’s life as if he hadn’t run away from it all those years ago.
None of the code on his screen made sense. “Fuck it.” He grabbed his water bottle and headed for the exit. Maybe a walk and some fresh air would clear his head and he’d have a reason for the pounding of his heart other than Fazil fucking Kurt.
The walk worked well enough. He even managed to snag a sandwich before arriving back at his desk to descend into the bliss of problem hunting and solving. An hour and a half later, a gentle rap on the frame and the low murmur of his name startled Todd away from the code he’d been fixing.
“Yeah?” He glanced over and his heart stopped.
Fazil stood there, balancing his open laptop in one hand and holding a Starbucks coffee in the other. “Is now a good time? Stephen said you were the procedure guy.”
Yes. No. Never would be the best time. God, why is he still so beautiful? Todd cleared his throat. “Yeah. Pull up a chair.”
Fazil set down his coffee and laptop before dragging the guest chair over next to Todd. Next thing he knew, Fazil was sitting next to him, close enough their shoulders nearly touched. Yes, he was real. The heat, the scent, the sound Fazil’s breathing all proved that. “What do you want to know?”
There was a pause. Fazil brushed the keys of his laptop with his fingers before answering in a voice that was a little to deep to be entirely professional. “Everything.”
God, those eyes. Dark and full of emotions Todd didn’t want to see or contemplate. You’re the one who left, Z. “Sorry, I’m not the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
Fazil’s smile was worse. Sharp and sweet, highlighted with a bit of a blush. Thankfully, he looked away from Todd. “Well, how about we start with the procedures you’ve written, and then I’ll figure out what’s missing.”
“That I can do.” He brought up the procedure folder and walked Fazil through it all, from development to testing to bug fixes to releases. Everything he’d been able to collect and write down when he’d heard Anderson’s team had been hired. It didn’t matter if this was a mission to save them or sell them—something had to be done.
The process of creating all the processes had helped. They all knew there was dysfunction in how they did things—the right hand never seemed to know that the left was up to—codifying what they did do had shined a big spotlight on things.
He hadn’t scraped the surface, though, of what he expected Fazil—and Sam Anderson—might want. Two jobs back, the company he’d worked for had gone through ISO certification. The amount of paperwork had been madness. He put all the files on a thumb drive and handed it to Fazil. “All yours, such as they are.”
Their fingers brushed and he nearly dropped the damn thing. A flash of heat and a cascade of memories. Those lips, those eyes, that heat.
Fazil’s breath caught. “Thanks.” He stuck the drive into his laptop. “Do you mind if I sit here while I take a look at these? In case I have any questions?”
Yeah, he did. There was that desire again, to throttle or kiss and he couldn’t decide which one. Neither were good options. “Sure. My cube is your cube.” He opened the window he’d been working in before Fazil had arrived.
Surprisingly, he slipped right back into the grove. Oh, he knew Fazil was there, less than an arm’s reach away, but rather than distracting, his presence soothed, like a cool breeze on a hot day, Just as it had so many years ago.
Like that, he snapped back into a world not made of Python syntax and statements as the sound of Fazil’s voice tickled through his limbs and down into his balls. He glanced at the clock. At least forty-five minutes had passed in his trance. “Yeah?”
“Do you have any documentation on the open source code you guys have used?”
His expression probably answered that question, since Fazil sighed and typed something on his laptop.
“It’s one of the things I’ve hounded people about, but…”
“Never enough time?”
His chuckle was ever so slightly bitter. Exactly. Always something more important to work on “Been there, done that?”
“Oh yeah.” Fazil sipped his coffee, though it had to have gone cold by now. “Several times. But that was before Sam hired me.”
So many things Todd didn’t know. Words slipped from Todd’s head, vanishing completely with the need to draw close to this man who had once been his best friend. He gripped the arm rests of his chair. What happened, Z?
Before the pause grew any more awkward, Fazil set the coffee cup down. “Anyway, nice job with this. It’s all very well organized.” He gestured at the screen.
A barb lay in the complement, that little turn in Fazil’s voice, same as when Todd excelled in anything without help. “You sound surprised.”
There was that lovely flush again, this time accompanied by a swallow that bobbed Fazil’s Adam’s apple. “I guess I am. I don’t remember you being…quite so neat about things.”
Todd snorted. “The mechanic’s son thing made everyone think I was a slob. Greasy rag and all.” His amusement fell into pain. “I thought you knew better, Z.”
Fazil’s blush deepened and he looked at his hands. “I…You weren’t a slob. I didn’t mean that.”
He bit back the Then what the hell did you mean? Because the cube had ears. So many ears. “Do you remember my dad’s garage?”
Fazil blinked, and got that far-away look. “Yeah.”
So did he. The sounds, the smell of oil and concrete and grease. “You know the back wall, with all those bins?”
“Every single one of those was organized alphabetically by make, model, and part type. Dad was so cool he was OCD before hipsters did.”
Fazil laughed, but sobered quickly, his smile smoothing into seriousness. “Your book collection. I forgot.”
Organized by genre, author name, and publication year. “Yup. Didn’t fall too far from the tree in that respect.”
Fazil tapped his fingers lightly on the keys again, not typing, just touching. Nerves, probably. He’d never been able to sit still when anxious.
A sense of grim delight slithered up Todd’s spine. He was making Fazil uncomfortable and he had to stop himself from pulling him into a kiss. Fifteen years ago, that would have been the usual outcome when Fazil had gotten that cute lost look after being beaten at his own game.
One of them eventually ended up with the other’s dick in their mouth. Or they both would, in a rather enjoyable game to see who could make the other come first. Todd shivered, the memory of Fazil’s tongue a little too close to the surface. Thank God the keyboard tray hid his lap, because his jeans were far tighter than they should have been.
Fazil’s voice was soft. “I just wanted to tell you that this is really good work. We’ll need to do more, but it’s far more than I expected Singularity to have.” He closed his laptop and stood.
Well, how about that. Given the not so subtle rumple in Fazil’s pants, someone else was remembering that part of their past, too. “Thanks. I’ve heard good things about Sam Anderson.”
“All true.” He tossed the cup into the trash and headed for the hall. “See you tomorrow.”
Not so fast. “Fazil?”
He spun on his heal, eyebrows up in his hair.
“Lunch tomorrow?” The sooner they started airing out the past, the better, because another afternoon like today would be hellish.
Fazil fidgeted in the hall, then his shoulders dropped. “Yeah, tomorrow’s pretty flexible.”
There was apprehension in that response. Todd ignored the pain in his chest. “Good. Tomorrow it is.”
But Fazil’s smile was genuine, if small. “See you later, Todd.” Then he was gone.
Hearing his name spoken by that voice was like honey and lemon. So sweet, if you ignored the bitter sting.
I’m giving away a copy of Due Diligence to one commentor. I’ll gift a pre-order from Amazon, B&N, or Kobo, so you’ll get it on the day of the release (June 21, 2016)
About the Author
Anna Zabo writes contemporary and paranormal romance for all colors of the rainbow. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which isn’t nearly as boring as most people think.
She has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, where she fell in with a roving band of romance writers and never looked back. She also has a BA in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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