Monday morning had come far too quickly for Elias. The weekend had been hell, and somehow, sleeping with Vito Minetti on Saturday night had become the least hellish thing he’d faced.
He scrubbed his hands over his face one last time and climbed out of the driver’s side of his car. He lifted his satchel over his head and grabbed his coffee cup from the center console. He had barely managed to close the door before his phone dinged with a text.
With a sigh, he set his coffee cup on the roof of his car and pulled his phone from his pocket.
Dad: Mom and I need you to entertain a donor’s daughter tomorrow night.
Elias: I had a rough weekend, Dad.
Dad: And? We’ve all had rough weekends, Elias. If your mother and I gave up every time we had a bad night, we’d be homeless.
Elias closed his eyes. There were days where Elias wanted nothing more than to crawl into a hole and die. Today was one of those days.
Elias: All I’m saying is I’m not the charmer you want me to be. I’m not interested in women, and I’ll have a hard time faking it if I’m in a bad mood.
Dad: Then do something gay before you meet up with her, put yourself in a good mood. How would your father feel, knowing you were going out of your way NOT to land us a huge donation for disabled children? Do you really think he’d want you to put your ‘bad mood’ before a donation that could help them get better equipment? Better accessibility?
Elias smacked his forehead against the roof of his car, holding it against the cold metal until his head hurt.
Dad: Good boy. Your mom will bring over the suit you need to wear.
Dad: Tonight. What time do you get off work?
Elias: I’ll be home around six.
Elias: Sure, 5:30.
Dad: Great. She’ll see you then.
Elias shoved his phone into his pocket and dug his teeth into the inside of his bottom lip, fighting back the burning behind his eyes. Maybe he’d get lucky, and Vito’s prank call would turn into a homicide before his ‘date’ with the woman. After the weekend he’d had, Elias was certain he’d accept it with open arms.
He grabbed his coffee cup and drew in a deep breath. But until the homicide, he had a murderer to research.
Researching Vito had been useless that day. He hadn’t been able to focus long enough to Google anything, and he’d been far too lost in his own office to figure out where the hell his notes were.
If Vito didn’t kill him soon, Elias would make up for the lost day when he felt better. He’d make up for it when every little thing he did didn’t make him feel like crying.
He made his way home after work, skipping the grocery store to make sure he didn’t keep his mother waiting. Her car was already parked outside in the drive–in his spot–but the lights in the house were on. “Thanks for letting yourself in,” he mumbled, parking on the street. He’d come out and pull into the drive after she left.
Elias headed inside, finding his mother in the kitchen. “Whatcha lookin’ for?”
She didn’t even have the good grace to act like she’d been caught red-handed. Instead, she closed the cupboard and turned to face him, a smile on her face. “Was just beginning to wonder if I needed to find food to keep myself from starving while I waited for you.”
“There was a detour around a car accident. I apologize for the delay.”
“Oh, that’s okay, sweetie.” She patted his cheek. “Come. I’ve got the suit laid out in your room.”
“I can find it on my own, Mom.”
“I want to make sure you still fit into it. You look like you’ve put on a bit of weight since you wore it last.”
Elias closed his eyes for a moment. “Sure, Mom. Lead the way.”
After his mother left, Elias pulled his car into the drive. He skipped supper in favor of a shower, changed into his pajamas, and crawled into bed. He lay on his stomach, head turned toward the nightstand. It was only a little after six, but he was exhausted. He’d fall asleep sooner or later.
Sleeping was better than ‘stuffing his face’ anyway.
After work the next day, Elias showered and changed into the suit his mother had brought over the night before. He hated the plain black suits with the white button-ups. They slimmed him down even more than his body did by itself, made him look unreasonably thin and sickly. But his parents loved the way he looked in them. The girls loved the way he looked in them. And as long as Elias was the only one who despised them, there wasn’t an issue.
“Take off the necklace.”
Elias flinched, lifting his eyes to his mother’s reflection above the sink. “Why?”
“You know why.”
“It’s not like she’ll know it belonged to Dad.”
“Your deceased father. Try not referring to him as ‘Dad’ around other people.” She stepped up behind him and undid the clasp necklace. “There. Now it’s like you don’t need a second father to feel special, hmm?”
Elias swallowed. “Yeah. Sorry.”
“Oh, it’s okay, dear. You were never really… advanced enough to understand the ins and outs of charity work.”
Elias nodded, eyes locked on his face in the mirror. “Yeah. I always have been a bit stupid when it comes to this.”
“But that’s okay. That’s what your dad and I are here for.” She tossed the necklace onto the counter and patted his shoulder. “You look dashing, Elias. She’ll be swept off her feet, long as you can keep that depressing look off your face for a few seconds.”
Elias forced a smile, the well-practiced ‘for Mom and Dad’s guests’ smile he’d gotten so good at over the years. “Sorry, Mom. You know my resting bitch face.”
“Yes, unfortunately I do. I still think you should consider just a bit of botox. Really get those lips turned up all the time.”
She nodded. “All right, honey, let’s go. I’ll walk you to the car.”
“Are you… coming with?”
“Of course not. Your father and I will be dining with her father. But you’re picking her up at the diner we’re dining at, so we’re taking a company vehicle together.”
Great. Just what he needed. “Sounds good, Mom. Lead the way.”
Olivia Buffet was far from the worst ‘date’ Elias had ever been forced on, but it didn’t mean it was an enjoyable night. After supper in a far too expensive restaurant, Olivia had wanted to abandon their plans and go on a walk. Elias had fought her on it at first, but in the end, he’d let her win. Hopefully, that would bode well for him and his parents.
They walked down the sidewalk, her arm wrapped around one of his. “You know, I read an article from several years ago that said you were gay.”
“That article was incorrect. The subsequent articles about my bisexuality–those are the ones that are correct.”
Olivia nodded. “That’s what my dad said too.” She cleared her throat, eyes on her feet as they walked. “I know what it’s like to be forced to do things for your parents and their business. It’s a little different for me, of course. I… still have both of my biological parents, and I don’t think they force me into anywhere near as much as your parents force you into.”
Elias chuckled. “No one forces me into anything, Olivia, especially not my parents.”
“I’ve had a girlfriend for three years, Elias. Like I said, I know what it’s like.”
Elias stopped walking, finally turning to look at her. “You…?”
“My dad doesn’t know I’m a lesbian. I told my mom once, but I don’t think it really registered. She was a little drunk at the time. I haven’t brought it up again. I haven’t been able to bring myself to. And if I do now, it’ll look like my parents were pimping their lesbian daughter out to men, and I… can’t risk that.”
“Jesus,” Elias whispered.
Olivia offered a smile, gently tugging on Elias’s arm until he started walking again. “I’m going to tell my parents we had a lovely time and that you’re a very charming young man. The donation will be secured for your parents’ charity without any issue.”
She nodded. “Like I said, I get it. So you’re very welcome.”
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