Title: Diversion Plan
Series: Rooms For Romance, Book Two
Author: Tag Gregory
Publisher: Tag Gregory
Release Date: 4/21/23
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Genre: Romance, Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ, MM Romance, Gay Romance
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Brent Riddick has been up to his armpits in work ever since he started his job as the Truman School’s manager. He admits he probably qualifies as a workaholic, although he doesn’t really care. He’s simply more comfortable standing in front of a board meeting than sitting in a cocktail lounge and has no desire to examine his lack of a social life. So it isn’t a big deal to him that he sorta forgets it’s his birthday.
Unfortunately his staff, led by the hotel’s sexiest troublemaker, Guthrie, remembers the occasion and Brent is begrudgingly forced to allow his co-workers to take him out for drinks. However, when all those birthday drinks go to Brent’s head and he ends up going home with an equally drunken Guthrie, things get a little more complicated.
Guthrie Walker is the kind of guy who always knows where the next party is happening. He also has a Plan B Party and a Plan C Party if his original party plans fall through. He’s still young and figures there’ll be plenty of time later to get serious about life. Drinking and dancing with his friends is definitely more fun than dealing with his messed up finances or dwelling on the festering rift with his family. So what if he occasionally drinks a little too much, does a few club drugs, comes in late to work a time or two, and suffers from an almost perpetual hangover? Everyone does it, right? Too bad the judge overseeing his case after Guthrie is arrested for drug possession doesn’t see things that way.
As if things weren’t messy enough, the court-ordered Diversion Plan requires Guthrie to enlist the help of his supervisor at work – who also happens to be one of Guthrie’s many one-night stands – if he wants to stay out of jail, retain his server’s license, and not lose his job. The hotel is already short-staffed and Brent is too much of a softie to say no to his desperate subordinate. Which is how Brent ends up vouching for Guthrie and agreeing to monitor his compliance with the court’s mandates. Now Brent just has to come up with a way to divert the party boy’s attention away from his club-scene past and himself away from lusting after his hot mess employee.
Chapter 1 – Brent
It’s not my fault that I’m so busy I sorta forget my own birthday.
The past six months, ever since I was hired as the manager of the Truman School, have been wild. I’ve been so busy that I rarely even remember what day of the week it is, let alone the actual date. Unless, of course, there’s some critically important work event I need to know the date of; those dates I remember because I’m paid well not to forget them. Personal stuff, though . . . Not so much.
The first three months leading up to the Grand Opening of the hotel were filled with hiring staff, overseeing the remodeling of the building, and working with the PR team to plan the opening. Most of that time I was working fourteen hour days, six or seven days a week. Things only slowed down incrementally following the opening. Being the manager, I end up being the one expected to handle all the problems and, for some reason, those problems always happen at the least opportune times. Primarily weekends and the middle of the night, it seems. I don’t think I’ve really taken a relaxed breath since starting this job.
Not that I really mind. I guess I probably qualify as a ‘work-a-holic’ but that’s fine with me. I’d rather be too busy than not busy enough. Work is good. I’m good at what I do. I like knowing that I’m appreciated. I like hearing the accolades from my bosses at McNally’s. I really like that I’ve already received one merit-based promotion despite being with the company less than a year. Plus, when I’m up to my armpits in work shit, I don’t have time to worry about anything else. So, generally speaking, I don’t complain about being too busy. Life is easier when you’ve got a purpose and, since I don’t have much of a life outside of work right now, that’s really my only purpose.
However, this weekend is proving especially hectic, what with it being Labor Day. The last official weekend of Summer is traditionally one of the busiest times of the year in the hospitality industry and, happily, the hotel is booked to capacity. It doesn’t help matters that our chef up and quit on me last week and the replacement, Easton, is not one hundred percent up to speed yet. Or that I’m immersed in marketing meetings with Ryan Zellers and the McNally’s PR team most of the weekend. Or that Ryan and his boyfriend – our ex-artist, Jayce – invited most of the staff to join them for dinner on Friday night. Or that the plumbing in the north wing backed up on Saturday afternoon. Or that any of the hundreds of other things that I’ve had to worry about this weekend have been taking up any spare brain capacity I might have left over.
Anyway, it’s no wonder I’m far too preoccupied with the daily crises of managing a full hotel to notice that this year September sixth – my birthday – falls on the first Monday of the month. I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing that Logan, my assistant manager, remembers the occasion. I’m afraid that I probably look a little confused, though, when my team surprises me with an impromptu celebration just as soon as I give the okay to the restaurant staff to close up the Courtyard kitchen at nine-thirty that Monday evening.
“For he’s a jolly good fellow . . .” They all sing as Malia emerges from the kitchen with a Jaciva chocolate cake festooned with three largish candles.
The fact that they aren’t singing the traditional birthday song adds to my confusion. “What’s this for?” I ask as the group circles round the table where the cake has been placed and I’m pushed down into a chair facing the confection. “Are you folks angling for promotions or something?”
“I told you he’d forget.” Logan gives a conspiratorial laugh. “Happy birthday, Brent!”
“Happy birthday, Boss!” the crowd echos.
I look around and see the faces of pretty much the entire hotel staff staring at me: Logan, Guthrie, Easton, Wyatt, Keshawn, Perry, Tasha, and all the rest. I note that even Mark has come by this evening, despite working out of corporate headquarters most of the time. I smile around at them lamely and try to look happy at being ambushed, even though I hate being made the center of attention like this. I’ve never been overly comfortable in social situations, especially when I haven’t had time to prepare something to say or figure out how I’m supposed to act. It’s different when I’m standing in a boardroom or in front of a staff meeting. Those I can handle. But random surprise parties where I’m the guest of honor are a whole ‘nother thing.
I can feel my skin heating up and I try to fight back the blush I feel creeping up from under the collar of my shirt. Being a redhead, I can’t control the fact that my ruddy skin usually gives me away any time I’m feeling embarrassed or put on the spot. I try not to let myself get caught out like this too often. I’m the fucking manager after all; I can’t be going around blushing like a school-girl in front of my staff. Apparently my body doesn’t understand the need to maintain a professional demeanor, though, and that stupid blush takes over, no doubt turning my cheeks almost as red as my beard. But I try to smile anyway as I laugh at myself along with the rest.
“Thank you. But you didn’t have to do this.” I gesture at the cake and try to bat away the hands attempting to pull the elastic strap of a paper birthday hat under my chin. “Really. You shouldn’t have . . .”
“Of course we should,” Logan insists, pulling out the chair across from me and smiling in an officious manner as they seat themselves. “Celebrating staff birthdays together is part of the fun of working here – or so it says in the McNally’s Team Policy Manual – but I knew you wouldn’t take the time to celebrate on your own, so I made the executive decision to ensure you at least sat down long enough to eat a piece of cake. And, after the ridiculously busy weekend we all just had, everyone deserves a party. Including you. Now, be a good boss and pretend to enjoy yourself.”
I know they’re only teasing so I try to play along. “Who has time for birthdays?” I respond, causing several of the party to chuckle.
“C’mon, Boss. You’d think someone born on ‘Labor Day’ would at least remember when to celebrate!” Someone in the back – I think it’s probably that smart-ass, Guthrie – calls out.
And, yes, I’m aware of the irony of the fact that the celebration of my birth is happening on ‘Labor Day’ this year. My poor mother, going into labor on ‘Labor Day’ thirty years ago, no doubt also thought it hilarious at the time. However, since my birthday and the holiday coincide about every six or seven years, I’ve definitely heard that joke more than a few times. It wasn’t funny the first four times I heard it, and I’m not really that amused now either. But I can’t be ungracious when they’re all trying to be nice by throwing me this party so I offer an awkward smile and fake a chuckle.
Did I mention how much I hate uncomfortable social situations?
Then another voice from the crowd – Guthrie again, I assume, because nobody else would dare to be that flippant with the boss – urges me to, “make a wish and blow already!” which, of course, leads to more teasing and joking.
What else can I do? I can’t just walk out of my own birthday party, so I play along, blowing out the candles and accepting a piece of cake. Malia pours beers for everyone who’s already off the clock, and maybe a few who are supposed to still be on the clock, but I turn a blind eye to that minor policy infraction since they’re ostensibly only doing it in my honor. The party carries on from there.
I’m not sure exactly when the party gets so out of control.
One minute we’re sitting around in the empty dining room, drinking beer and eating cake, chatting and laughing about work stuff and the crazy weekend we’d just lived through, and the next minute someone suggests we take the party on the road. I hear Guthrie, the eternal party boy, proposing we all go to Scandals. Several other voices concur. I try to demur, using the pile of administrative paperwork waiting on my desk as an excuse to get out of this little field trip, but I’m shouted down. After all, it’s my party, right? I’m the guest of honor. They all want to buy me more drinks. I might still have backed out, though, if Guthrie wasn’t teasing me so relentlessly.
“Come on, Boss!” The tall, bold blond waggles his eyebrows at me from behind those hipster horned-rimmed glasses of his. “Pull the stick out of your ass and live a little for once!”
I want to tell him to fuck off, and maybe even write him up for talking to his superior in such an improper manner, but that would make me look like an ungrateful jerk. This whole celebration is supposedly for my benefit, right? I’m expected to play along. Which is exactly why I hate social interaction. I feel so awkward; I never know how I’m supposed to react when put on the spot like this. So, despite feeling completely out of my element, I allow myself to be talked into relocating the party to one of Portland’s more well-known gay bars. What the hell, right? I suppose I can allow the diversion this once.
The debauchery progresses rapidly from that point.
I suppose it’s obvious fairly early on that I don’t routinely drink very heavily. I’d had a couple beers back at the Truman School, so I’m already feeling a bit loose when we arrive at Scandals. The team immediately insists that I drink something called a ‘Birthday Cake Shot’ to celebrate my special day. That’s followed up by a Jagerbomb. After that I completely lose track of the seemingly endless rounds of drinks that follow as everyone and their brother offers to buy the Birthday Boy a drink.
Although Scandals isn’t a dance club, per se, at some point during the night the entire Truman team ends up in the middle of the floor, jumping, twisting, gyrating, and dancing together in a big group. Surprisingly, I’m right in the middle of the roiling mess of them and, for once, I’m having a pretty good time, despite my introvert tendencies. The bartender cranks up the tunes. The music is decent and quite danceable. None of us are feeling any pain and the party moves into high gear.
I’m more than halfway sloshed by this point. I will readily admit that all the toasts I’ve been the recipient of have me flying pretty high. I’ve had enough to drink that my inhibitions are pretty nonexistent and I’m relaxed enough not to care how I look anymore. I even give up trying to remove the stupid party hat that my staff insists I keep wearing. I’m having a great time dancing, to be honest – something I usually avoid out of fear of looking like a juvenile red-headed moose having a seizure – which is, unfortunately, my go-to dance move. But I’m just tipsy enough tonight to not give a damn and it feels good to let go for a change.
So, when Guthrie comes up behind me at some point and starts grinding against me from behind I don’t sweat it. I merely laugh and wiggle my ass a little provocatively. Then I toss back the rest of the glowing, fruity blue drink that is currently in my hand and twirl around like some kind of drunken ballerina.
“Oh, so he can dance,” Guthrie says, taking advantage of the smooth tempo of the music to pull me back against him even closer.
I can feel his tall, lanky body pressed up against me from behind and then his hips do this swivel thing that causes his crotch to grind into the crack of my ass. I don’t even bother trying to stifle the groan that escapes from my lips at that move. It’s been a hella long time since I had anyone grinding up against me and I’m not about to waste the experience. Especially not when it’s a hot blond like Guthrie.
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Meet the Author
TAG has been living in Portland, Oregon, so long that it’s almost like being a native. They don’t even mind the rain that much anymore. TAG loves the city and the state with a passion. TAG has been writing for almost a decade, starting out with a hesitant toe in the realm of fanfiction before venturing into the scarier world of self-publishing original works. With an eclectic background as an attorney, microbiologist, all-around nerd, and adventurer, TAG brings to all their writing an off-kilter sense of humor, unbounded curiosity, a love of historical and contemporary details, and astonishing powers of research. If you are looking for a gripping story, with compelling characters that deal with real world issues, then you’re in the right place.