An excerpt from Lord and Master

Steven sat upright, focused totally on him. "I'm not going to press you for an answer today, and I haven't made a firm decision myself yet. But if I offer you the job, are you likely to take it?"

He hadn't been certain when he'd walked in here this morning. But now he was. "I'll need to think about it. And talk it over with Sanjay. But yes, I think I'd probably take it."

"There's one other thing to consider. You're young and pretty, and you're sitting in a secretary's chair. It's not fair to let you take this job without knowing that people will wonder if I hired you for the same reason a straight man would hire a young, pretty woman. There will be people who will assume that if you're working as my PA, you must be gay."

Mark sat in stunned silence.

After a moment, Steven said, "I wondered if Sanjay had told you. Is it going to be a problem?"

"No. I don't go around wearing a pink triangle, but I'm not in the closet." At least he wouldn't have to worry about telling Steven that.

It was Steven's turn to sit in silence. Eventually he said, "I thought there was something... Then I decided it was wishful thinking. You covered it up fast." He picked up his phone. "Just sit there a moment, Mark."

The tones as Steven punched in a phone number sounded familiar. So was the voice that answered. Steven had set the phone to speakerphone mode, so Mark could hear the other end clearly.


"Sanjay, my dear Indian chum, are you having a bout of cultural homesickness? A little episode of imitating your mother, perchance?"


"This pretty young gay man you've sent me. I thought you'd given up marriage arranging as a hobby."

There was a laugh at the other end of the phone line. "No, I wasn't matchmaking. Which is why I didn't tell you about him, because you would have assumed that I was and not given the lad a fair hearing."

"You didn't tell him about me, either."

"Because he doesn't know me as well as you do, but he'd still have probably thought I was throwing you two together because you're both gay. Now, while I certainly think you'd make a very attractive couple, I sent him because I thought the job was a good career opportunity for him. And that you'd suit each other as officemates, even without the gay thing."

Steven interrupted the flow of burble with, "Incidentally, he's listening to this conversation."

"Mark!" Sanjay called. "Forgive me for the surprise, but I didn't want you turning it down because you thought I had ulterior motives. Has he had a chance to tell you about the job?"

Steven pushed the phone across the desk towards him. He shuffled the chair closer so that he didn't have to shout. "Yes. You were right; it sounds interesting. I'll talk it over with you when I get back in."

"You're thinking about taking it, then?"

"I haven't decided for certain, but yes."

Steven took the phone back. "Happy now?" he said to Sanjay.

"Yes." Sanjay sounded cheerfully unrepentant.

"I'll roast you later, when Mark doesn't have to listen to it. Goodbye, Sanjay."

There was a rude noise from the phone, then a click. Mark stared at it for a few seconds, then said, "He did mention you were friends at university."

"And his sense of humour hasn't improved." Steven smiled fondly at the phone, then looked at him. "Is this going to be a problem?"

"If it isn't for you, it isn't for me." Not quite true. He'd never worked for someone he fancied, so he'd never had to worry about keeping his mind on business before. But he'd fancied Steven before he'd known that Steven was gay. The main difference it made was not worrying any more about his boss being freaked if he noticed the fancying. "And it could be entertaining."

Steven's mouth quirked slightly. "Watching people thinking, 'Are they?' you mean? Yes, though remember you'll get the brunt of it. There are people who wouldn't dare say anything to me about being a queer who'd think it was safe to take it out on you." He stood up and walked to the window, leaning on the safety rail and staring out over the cityscape. "I'd certainly find it entertaining to do exactly what half the other important men sitting in one of these plush offices do. Install a pretty little thing out in the front office as a status symbol. Say to the world, 'See what I can attract with my power and status'." He turned and looked over his shoulder at Mark. "But if I hire you, it will be for the job I advertised. I need a scientist, not a status display; being able to annoy people who disapprove of me is just an added bonus. I don't expect any extra services."

"You know, I don't think Sanjay would have let me come here if he thought you would."

That got him a smile. "No, he wouldn't. I've made my decision. The job's yours if you want it."

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