Not sure if I’m going to serialize all this one here. There aren’t enough viewers to cannibalize sales from the book and hey, if you drop in late and want to read a first draft backwards on a web page, more power to you. And I do love getting that desperately needed positive reinforcement on a daily basis… 🙂
Two hours later, he woke up, refreshed and alert. He pushed a button on a remote control, starting the grinder on one of the coffee machines in his office that were always loaded and ready to go. Number one task – drink lots of coffee. Number two – dig deep into Lexis/Nexis on Jesse Dillinger.
The news coverage was frustratingly limited. “Jesse Dillinger, aged 21, was arrested today for violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act,” etc. The CFAA was a wide net that had been used against Chelsea (Bradley) Manning for leaking government secrets to Wikileaks, and against Aaron Swartz for trying to “make information free” by opening JSTOR research articles to the public, among others.
Jesse had been sentenced to 35 years in prison, the maximum sentence, for breaking into banking and corporate systems and raiding them for information. The list of corporations was the usual run of bad behavers – oil companies, heavy industry, factory farming agribusinesses.
Then one tidbit lit up a bulb in Marc’s head: a portion of the court transcript had been sealed for “national security reasons.” So Jesse had even targeted the government itself. Or had been convicted of it; like anyone else alive today, Marc knew to take all government assertions with a grain of salt.
Then he gasped out loud.
It was a picture of Jesse’s mug shot. He looked…absolutely nothing like he looked now. He looked like…well, like a science nerd. He had a bushy beard, and not the groomed and sculpted hipster type. His curly hair was unmanaged. He was thin. Pale.
Jesse had been a senior at MIT when he was arrested. Marc found pictures of him in college, to see if the mugshot was an outlier. Nope. The only difference in the school photo was the addition of a pair of big, 70s-looking tortoiseshell glasses. A deeper dig found his high school yearbook picture – the same look, only the beard was thinner and scragglier.
From so many years in the tech industry, Marc knew the type. This was the look Jesse would have still had in grad school. The look he’d have as a professor or a researcher. The look he’d have in his retirement. The look he’d take to his grave. Jesse looked like the type who would drink “Soylent,” the food replacement drink, because eating food was “inefficient” and a waste of time. Shaving was inefficient, so he’d grow a beard. Designer glasses weren’t sturdy and reliable, so they were inefficient. Jesse was the type who would watch “The Big Bang Theory” once, blink, and wonder what was so funny. (Marc also wondered that.)
What had changed? How had this guy become…Jesse Dillinger? The insanely gorgeous, solidly built, well groomed, elegantly tailored man who had just been in his office. People changed, sure, but guys like that? Never. They had no interest in their physical attractiveness, and expected that no reasonable person should, either.
He called Cal into his office. “I have a task for you. Not sure if it’s more suited to Wendy’s group, but…”
“We can manage it,” his security manager said gruffly. Marc smiled. He hated internal rivalries, he’d seen companies and government agencies fail spectacularly because of them, but Cal and Wendy’s was definitely in the “friendly rivalry” category.
“Okay. Our new friend Mr. Dillinger. His court transcript is redacted, ‘national security’ blah blah blah. I need the redacted bits.”
“And you shall have them.” Cal was already on his phone, making calls before he left the office.
Marc leaned back in his big, comfortable “Emperor Palpatine” chair and pondered another fact. How had Jesse been released from prison after serving five years of a thirty-five year sentence? Intuition told him the obvious answers. They had needed him for something. Or, they had made a mistake in convicting him, so they made one of those deals where he was released but unable to seek redress and embarrass them. Or, someone powerful had intervened for some other reason.
Marc started tapping out a text to Cal: Check out Jesse’s family, see what web of connections might be there that…
Then he stopped and erased it, remembering the obvious. Anything he said on a phone, anything he typed into a phone or a computer, could be intercepted. By the government, by his enemies, or by Jesse’s team, for that matter, now that they were “inside.”
Instead he pulled out one of his trusty Moleskine notebooks, the large, lined-page ones he kept in bulk. Once upon a time, he’d gone to a meeting of techies in a security firm, and they’d all had pads of paper next to their laptops. That had shocked him until he’d remembered companies didn’t keep audit trails of what you wrote with a pen on a piece of paper. He’d used a notebook himself ever since.
He went back to the computer to dig some more. If Jesse wanted to know how deep Marc was digging into his past, good. Let him.
Jesse was single, never married. No girlfriend or anyone else who’d been there for him at the trial. The parents were out of the picture, for some reason – that was interesting.
Could he be gay? Marc couldn’t help wondering. Dammit! That doesn’t matter. This is a professional relationship.
He had to clear his head, get Jesse off his mind. He switched to a burner phone and dialed the one number in it.
“Hello sir. Are you available tonight? No, not an overnight, but…please sir, may I please have a couple hours of your time. I need it really bad…”
He flinched at the reply. “Yes, sir…sorry sir. No. You’re in control. No means no, sir. Thank you sir.”
Fuck! Ryan had refused to see him tonight. Marc was angry, and frustrated…but turned on, too. Just as Ryan would have known his refusal would do. Or not – maybe he just didn’t fucking feel like working a sub tonight. Not Marc, anyway. He could afford to turn down clients, to turn down thousands of dollars. Probably got off on it…
It made Marc weak and sick with lust. To be refused what he wants, what billionaire ever has that happen? It was as if Ryan knew just how badly he needed it right now, and gave him this instead, this furious frustration…and a raging boner to go with it. It was the old joke all over again: “Beat me!” the sub cries. “No!” the dom replies – the worst punishment of all.
Marc locked himself in his bathroom with the burner. There was a picture of Ryan on there, in a little pale blue pair of undies, on a go-go dancer stage, looking down at the photographer at his feet with an amused contempt. You fucking want this, his face said, laughing at the viewer’s desire for his rippled abs, his swollen basket.
“I do,” Marc whispered, dropping his pants, freeing his hardon. “I do.” He stroked over the sink, hard and fast, thinking of those legs squeezing his head between them as Ryan smacked him with his dick, thinking of those eyes narrowing in anger as Marc’s teeth grazed the base of it, thinking of…
How good it felt to be helpless. Powerless. With no decisions to be made, nobody looking to him for answers, nobody as much as giving one shit what he wanted or thought. Ryan had his own personal kinks, his turn-ons, and his job wasn’t to discover Marc’s and service them – no, Marc’s job was to make Ryan feel good.
He was close now, so close to erupting. It felt so good, to be out of command. To be taken on a ride on someone else’s train…someone who made him pay for the privilege…who wasn’t even available when he wanted it…no matter what the price…
“Fuck!” he shouted, exploding all over the fixtures, the mirror, everything, his orgasm was so fierce. For one moment he was there, Ryan’s fucking slave, free to feel that way again.
Which was all he needed. He took a washcloth and mopped up the sink and mirror, dropping it into the hamper. He sighed, put his dick back in his pants, literally and figuratively, and went back to work.
Marc and Jesse got to work in the afternoon, taking the conference room as their war room. By 9 pm, the long table was littered with paper. Personnel files had been printed out for Jesse’s examination. It wasn’t a bad idea, Marc thought. He could hold a lot of concepts and data in his head, but it was actually…efficient in a strange way to have it all laid out, where it could be arranged into piles, physically delineating each piece of data’s level of importance.
Jesse had a system for sorting people into piles, and while Marc was curious about his process, he didn’t interfere. The whole point of paying for competence was that you didn’t grill the competent for their methodology – well, not until you got the results, anyway. No micromanaging, Marc reminded himself.
“All your people are very well compensated,” Jesse said, pausing on a page of Wendy’s printout. “You give out big bonuses. But they’re not evenly distributed.”
“No. It’s not a democracy. Some people work harder here than others. For some people it’s a part time gig, they do good work but they’re not instrumental to my success. They’re buying freedom in their schedules and their commitments, and part of the price is a smaller bonus.”
“Good plan. You did background checks on all of them on hire, but none since?”
“We should run credit checks on everyone.”
“Just to eliminate the possibility that someone’s in financial trouble, that you have a mole.”
“Ah. I hadn’t even thought of that.”
Jesse smiled. “Are you a Scorpio?”
“I beg your pardon? Do you plan on casting any charts today?”
“People are either nothing to you but suspicious characters, or they have your complete faith and trust.”
“Until they cross me, when they go on the eternal enemies list. Isn’t that another Scorpio characteristic?”
“So you are one.”
Marc sighed. “Yes, more than one superstitious person has told me all about my personality based on my birth date.” He paused. “Okay, do the credit checks. But I’m going to let them know. I’m not sneaking behind their backs. And they’ll find out anyway.”
“Oh really, how’s that?”
“One of the fringe benefits is a free credit monitoring service. They’ll get an alert when someone gets a report.”
“You really do have some gold-plated benefits around here.”
“Well, these are my people,” he said simply.
Jesse looked at him for just a second, and Marc knew he’d revealed more than he’d intended. As Jesse made the call to his own people, to get their fingers flying on their keyboards, Marc thought about what he’d just said.
The men and women he worked with, all day every day, were the only people in his life, really. Well, he had his parents, but how often did he see them?
I live alone, I don’t have friends, my hours at work are the closest I get to a social life. He didn’t pursue a social life, and the only “social life” that pursued him in Manhattan was one he didn’t want, the role of benefactor for “rich people causes” like the symphony or the opera. His charity was limited to anonymous donations to worthy causes, broken up into medium sized amounts over time and routed through Cayman Island banks. He didn’t want his face in the paper.
Jesse finished his call and leaned back in his chair, clasping his hands behind his head. Marc couldn’t help noticing how the slim-fit shirt hugged his flat stomach. His shirt sleeves were rolled up, and Marc could just see some elaborate tattoos that ended just below the elbow. You’d you’d never know they were there as long as Jesse was dressed for business. He could see Jesse shirtless, ripped, dancing in a club, the object of everyone’s attention, their adoration… Damn you, Ryan. If only you’d…
“Your Internet policy is quite liberal,” Jesse said, looking at Marc.
Marc looked away, flushed. “Yes, we don’t use filters.”
“Someone could spend their whole day here watching porn, if they wanted.”
“If someone was waiting for code to compile, or for a test to run, and had time on their hands, I don’t mind if they cruise the Internet to their heart’s content, but no, they can’t watch porn. It’s in the employee manual.”
“Do you disapprove of porn?”
“No. I disapprove of other employees filing complaints saying they feel ‘harassed’ by someone else’s porn.”
Jesse laughed, hard. Marc smiled. It felt good, making a handsome man laugh. Jesse was even more beautiful, leaning back, head tilted, eyes flashing with humor… Stop it!
“That’s a great benefit, but it leaves you open to unfortunate link-clicking.” He tore out a page from a stapled printout and pushed it towards Marc. “This is an incident report from Wendy’s team. One of your employees went out last week and did a web search, looking for product reviews. You know how dangerous that is, yes?”
Marc nodded. Most of the search results you got on Google for “reviews” of a product were spam sites with fake reviews, designed to sell the unsuspecting a crappy product. Or, they were just outright vehicles for malware.
“So he goes to a site, and he gets a popup. It says the usual, ‘Do you want to install this wonderful toolbar of ours in to your browser?’ And of course he doesn’t, and he clicks No. And guess what?”
“Both buttons have the same code.”
“Yep.” Jesse looked him straight in the eyes. “The button says no but the code says yes.”
Marc blinked. Was Jesse…flirting with him? Had he been “caught looking” at Jesse’s body when he’d leaned back in the chair?
Marc looked away. “Right. What you’re supposed to do when that happens is close the browser. Or even restart the computer. Shut it down.”
Jesse was looking at him, Marc knew, but he wouldn’t return the gaze. If he did… If he did he know he would sweep all the paper off the conference table and throw himself across, screaming at Jesse to fuck the hell out of him.
“Wendy’s software caught the attempt, and your employee was notified, but still. Shit happens. You didn’t know about this?”
“I’m not a micromanager. It was a minor incident, obviously, no harm no foul. If I was informed about every little thing that happens around here, I’d never get any real work done.”
Jesse nodded. “You know what? Let’s take a break. Clear our heads.”
“Sounds good. I’ll order in some dinner.”
“No, let’s get out of here. Take a walk. I’ve found there’s nothing like a little exercise and a change of scenery to clear the mind.”
“No argument from me.”
Marc walked in Manhattan all the time. He had no desire to be a social fixture or pillar of the community or whatever, so his face was rarely in the press. And billionaires were a dime a dozen, so to speak, in New York City, so just being rich didn’t make him that special. Nonetheless, his security detail followed at a discreet distance, both on foot and in a black Suburban.
As they walked into Madison Square Park, Jesse sniffed the air and sighed. “I love fall in New York. The air is so crisp, so clean.” He closed his eyes, inhaled again. “Shake Shack’s still open. Are you a fan?”
“I try to limit my Shackburgers to once a week. But the operative word is ‘try.’”
They stood in the long line with the rest of the city, waiting for the best hamburger in the history of everything ever. Marc signaled his security team to join him in line so he could buy them dinner as well.
“So,” Jesse said quietly, after Marc’s security team had sheltered them from the rest of the line. “Your traffic solution. Isn’t that looking backwards? Aren’t driverless cars the future?”
Marc sighed. “That’s the problem with most people in tech. They can only see technocratic solutions to human problems. Would driverless cars make everyone safer and make traffic flow better and all that? Sure. If you’re the kind of person who only sees driving as ‘a method of transportation from one location to another,’” he said in a metallic voice, waving his hands like Robby the Robot.
“But that’s not what driving is,” he continued. “The whole point of having a car is that you’re not passive, you have the freedom to go somewhere, the point isn’t so you can be taken somewhere. But your hardcore technocrat only sees the driverless car as, you know, ‘1.743 hours more per day that I can spend on my computer.’ My solution lets people keep their autonomy, and it fixes problems now, not a decade from now. It saves gas wasted idling at unnecessary red lights, it saves time, it decreases pollution and traffic congestion. And people get to keep their independence, their ability to have an adventure, to be in control of their journey…”
Marc laughed. “Sorry, I get carried away.”
“No,” Jesse said quietly. “You’re right.” He paused, hesitant. “There’s nothing like having your freedom. Autonomy.”
Marc flushed, remembering Jesse’s five years in prison. He wanted to ask, but he wouldn’t.
They got their burgers at last. “Do you want to sit…” Marc gestured at the packed tables near the stand. “I really would rather sit on a park bench and eat it my lap, and make a mess, than be in the middle of all those people, to be honest.”
“Praise the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” Jesse said. “You read my mind.”
“So where’s your COO?” Jesse asked as they finished their delicious dinners.
“He’s in Nevada, supervising the startup of a new office.”
“Nevada? What’s that about?”
Marc’s eyes tracked a couple as they crossed the park. Two young gay guys, handsome, happy, hands around each other’s waists, laughing. In love. He gave Jesse a sideways glance to see if he was watching them, too. He was, but with no discernible expression on his face.
“Oh. It’s crazy. When the state was trying to build an industry besides gambling, they lured all these huge companies to come and build giant warehouses, giving them tax credits specifically for that. Now Microsoft and Apple have offices there so they can,” he made air quotes, “ ‘warehouse’ software there and get the same deal. It’s bullshit,” Marc shrugged, “but we’d be fools not to cash in on it.”
They got up and started walking back to the office. “You’re not that interested in day to day operations, are you?” Jesse asked.
Marc laughed. “No. Isn’t that in your research?” he needled Jesse gently. “I get bored. Restless. I hate repetitive tasks. I need novelty. Once a thing is built, perfected, I don’t want to see it again. Let someone else make the same sandwich over and over, day after day. I already spend my whole life on this business, you know? Working on the Next Next Thing. I don’t have time to manage quarterly feature updates and bug fixes to a finished product, unless it’s a serious upgrade.”
“No time for a relationship, either?”
Marc looked at Jesse to see if there was any innuendo there, as there had been with the “button” comment. But it just looked like genuine curiosity.
“No time, no interest. A relationship would just…mess up my schedule.”
Jesse smiled. “I hear you. I have a schedule, too. I’m up at 3 am every morning to work out, then start my work day. I could date a UPS driver or something I guess.”
Marc’s stomach trembled. Was this Jesse telling him something? Only one way to find out.
“Those guys are hot,” he ventured.
“Yes indeed they are,” Jesse agreed.
Well, Marc thought, there’s that then, he’s gay. That’s good.
No, it’s not! He reminded himself. You’re not supposed to be thinking about having sex with this guy! And come on, really? Look how handsome and polished and crisp and pressed he is. You hate that kind of guy. You like them…dark and dirty and dangerous. He’d be a competent fucker, sure. But he’d always be looking in your eyes…to see how he looked in them.
“I mean,” Jesse continued. “I’m sexually active. I make time for that.”
“Yeah, me too,” Marc said, not caring anymore. He wasn’t going to be doing it with Jesse Winchester. Jesse Winchester would never…
“I know. Your guy, Ryan.”
Marc stopped in his tracks, shocked, then outraged. “What do you…did you spy on me!”
“No, just on your phone records.” Jesse looked at him, and went on in a matter of fact, non-judgmental voice. “You like escorts, rough dominant young dudes who’ll work you over. I know your type, Marc. You’re so totally in control in your life, with everyone, at every moment, that you need that. Someone to take you down a peg or two in the bedroom.”
Marc shivered. In Jesse’s face was something different…a dark shadow fell across it as he said it, and in that moment Marc knew that what he’d seen all day today, the bright smile, the light tone, was a mask. He would. He would take you down a peg.
“Sure,” he said defiantly. “I use escorts. You know why? Because I can’t find someone who will tie me up and spit on me and slap me around, force his cock down my throat and treat me like shit in the bedroom… and still treat me like an equal outside of it. I can’t find someone who won’t try to extend the power dynamic where it doesn’t belong.”
Jesse was startled by Marc’s honesty, his defiance. Had he expected…shame? Marc had no shame about his sexual preferences, any of them. Marc turned the tables on Jesse.
“And what about you? You’re the top, aren’t you. You never like losing control, not for a minute. “
“Yes,” Jesse said, his eyes burning into Marc’s. “But my situation is different. You’re the CEO of a giant corporation, and you’re a billionaire, many times over. You’re in command all day, everywhere, and I can see the attraction, oh yes, of letting go, of surrendering all that for a little while. But that’s not my situation. I spend my day with clients, I have to be smooth, persuasive, and even accept a certain ration of shit from difficult clients. In the bedroom, I don’t have to take any shit from anyone. I’m not the one taking the abuse there.”
The inference was plain. Someone else was taking the abuse there.
Marc could see it plain as day. His hands bound to the bedposts, his legs in the air, Jesse above him, his mass, his energy, his intentions in his eyes…
“You could have been an escort,” Marc said. “There are a lot of guys who would love to have a man like you use and abuse them.” He couldn’t say it out loud, was too proud to say it, what he was thinking – I would pay anything for that. “Then you’d never have to take any shit from clients, because you’d be the one doling it out.”
Jesse roared, his head thrown back. His neck was lean, corded, pale, smooth, delectable…
“Nah. You want to talk about getting bored. Most bottoms are too…weak for me. Especially the ones paying for it. No offense. But most of them are so…cooperative. It’s boring. It’s like driving a car, versus the driverless car, now that I think about it. I like to get into control, not to just be in control. If you know what I mean.”
They were face to face. They could kiss, right there. No, they couldn’t. A peck on the cheek, a romantic kiss even, yeah, sure, it’s New York City. But what they were both feeling now, the urge to attack each other, to fight, to give into reckless raw sexual combat…
Marc shook himself. “We need to go back to work.”
Jesse relaxed. “Yeah. Let’s get back.”
On the way back, Marc felt ready to venture some of the questions on his mind. “You must have hated prison,” he said. “Not having any control there.”
Jesse nodded. “Yes. I hated it at first. Then I… I learned how to be a prisoner.”
When he didn’t say more, Marc went on. “It’s very strange, you know. That you were sentenced to such a long prison term and only served five years.”
“Yes. It was strange.” He looked at Marc, the impish smile, the charm, back in place. “And someday, when I trust you, I’ll tell you all about that.”