Title: After Hours
Series: After Hours, Book One
Author: Emjay Haze
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: April 9, 2018
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, Contemporary,romance,waiter,nightclub,businessman,chef
SynopsisAlex Michaels is a successful manager for a Wall-Street financial firm and lives in a beautiful hi-rise apartment overlooking Central Park. Anyone looking in from the outside would say Alex has it made, especially his working-class parents who wanted more for their only son. Nick is working his way through graduate school with dreams of becoming a teacher so he can help kids like himself. With his parents cutting him off and leaving him with nothing but a student apartment and low self-esteem, he’s determined to make something of himself in spite of them. Even Nick's club friends think Alex is too good for him, but Alex keeps showing Nick how worthy he is. Alex learns a lot from Nick, too—how not to give up on his dreams.
Emjay Haze © 2018
All Rights Reserved
“Please come to my office for a minute,” the mid-regional director bellowed, his voice deep with authority, causing Alex to redirect himself from heading to his own office. He followed the older gentleman around the corner and down the long hallway to the executive suites. He’d hoped to be there one day himself but had a long claw to go. Yes, claw. That’s how you got ahead in this place.
Alex had been a manager at the Manhattan financial advising firm for the last four years, having been promoted from sales where he’d landed out of grad school. They called it middle management for a reason. You were stuck right in the center, with twenty employees always needing your attention, and upper management wanting a little more blood. It was exhausting.
He shouldn’t really complain. His job paid the bills for a very nice Manhattan apartment three blocks from Central Park with a gorgeous view of the city. He’d become what his parents had dreamed for him, in every way. Robert and Martha Michaels lived on the outskirts of St. Louis. They both had decent jobs, but a lack of college education had kept them from the “good life,” as they called it, and they wanted more for their only son.
“Come in, Alex.” Mr. Kensington motioned for Alex to enter his spacious corner office with the big windows, which overlooked the New York skyline. It was breathtaking, and a little intimidating.
“Thank you, Mr. Kensington.”
“I think it’s time you called me Mitchell.” Mr. Kensington flashed him a wide grin. Alex wondered if his friends called him Mitch. He glanced at the distinguished gray-haired gentleman with the thousand-dollar suit. Mitchell it is.
“Thank you, M—Mitchell.”
“Have a seat, Alex.” His smile disappeared. He was all business.
Alex took a deep breath and sat in the leather-upholstered chair in front of Mr. Kensington’s mahogany desk. His boss sat behind it in an even larger chair that would have sucked Alex in if he’d tried to sit in it, yet Mr. Kensington sat ramrod straight. Alex couldn’t imagine what this was about as the seconds ticked away. Maybe he was getting fired. He gulped.
“Alex, I value your work here at the firm.”
“Thank you, sir.” A bead of sweat formed at the base of his hairline.
Mr. Kensington glared at him, knitting his eyebrows together.
“Mitchell,” Alex squeaked. That would take some getting used to.
Mr. Kensington stood up, appearing even more intimidating as Alex craned his neck to meet his gaze. “Due to business booming, we’re expanding the operation, Alex, and I’d like you to be a part of a new division.”
Alex’s eyes grew wide. Did this mean a promotion? Was he finally getting an executive position? He sat straighter, waiting for the man to make his point.
“As you know, middle manager is the most important position in this firm,” Mr. Kensington said, pacing back and forth in front of Alex. “You have responsibilities on both ends. It’s not easy finding someone who fits so well in that position, with the respect of both upper management and his employees.”
Where the heck was this heading? It didn’t sound like a promotion.
“And you are a good manager, Alex,” he continued. “Your troops like you, and they’re productive. That’s a huge accomplishment for anyone.”
“Thank you, s—Mitchell.” Alex took a deep breath, waiting for him to get to his fucking point.
Mr. Kensington came around his desk and walked behind Alex. Stopping, he placed his hand on Alex’s shoulder. “I am appointing you manager of the new Celebrities account division, so you will be taking some of the most important accounts this company currently has, as well as acquiring new ones. You will report to the new divisional director, Karl Morrison, from our west coast branch.”
Karl Morrison, who the fuck was that? Another middle manager getting his big promotion? Alex seethed, but kept it cool on the outside. “What does this mean for me, sir?” He tried smiling, but it came out as more of a sneer with his teeth clenched. Fortunately, Mr. Kensington was still behind him.
“A ten thousand dollar a year increase and larger staff,” Mr. Kensington said as he slithered back behind his desk. “You will manage our most prestigious division, Alex.”
As a middle manager and not an executive. He worked up a more believable smile. “Thank you, s—Mitchell.”
Mr. Kensington nodded. “You deserve it, son. Karl will arrive later this month, so you have some time to wrap up your current accounts. You will also choose staff to bring with you—oh, and please see Human Resources for your requirements for the new positions.”
So, I do the work and Mr. Karl Morrison swoops in next month and gets what should be my corner office. “I won’t let you down, sir.”
He smiled and nodded, as if to say I know you won’t. “Oh, and Barbara will order business cards with your new title.” Mitchell sat down behind his desk again.
“New title?” Did I miss something?
“Senior Manager. Congratulations, Alex.”
Alex faked a smile. “Thank you, sir.” It was still middle management. He should be ecstatic. Mr. Kensington could have passed on him completely. So, why did he feel like punching him in the face?
Mr. Kensington dismissed him by standing up and motioning to the door. Alex also stood and shook his hand, thanking him once more and attempting a more believable smile. At least it was more money, and it might be interesting work at that. He wondered if this was the success his parents intended for him when they made him quit culinary school at the end of his first year and go to a real college for a business degree. Stuck in middle management for the rest of his life. God, he sounded pathetic—and ungrateful.
Alex walked back to his windowless office and sighed as he sat down on the much smaller and less comfortable fabric chair at his plain oak desk. Would he ever get a nice chair like Mr. Kensington—err, Mitchell?
The day was almost over, and he couldn’t wait for that clock to strike five. He had nowhere to go, unfortunately, but he liked the quiet after everyone left for the day. No snotty salesman knocking on his door asking for a day off or a better commission structure. No director buzzing his phone asking where the weekly report was. He put his elbows on his desk and rubbed his fingers through his hair. He usually waited for the cleaning guy who always had a good story to tell. Maybe he should go home, or better, go out and get laid.
As if the gods had heard him, there was a rap on the door and his beautiful secretary, Belinda, peeked her head in. “Hey, boss. A few of us girls are going out tonight to a club and thought you might join us.”
Alex pictured an overcrowded dance club where horny straight guys hit on his coworkers while he sat and brooded over his gin and tonic or something that said straight-boy. “Uh, no, thanks, Belinda. You guys have a great time, though.”
“Oh, no,” she said, walking into his office. “We picked this club for you.” She shook her finger at him and winked.
“You’re going to a gay club for me?” He raised an eyebrow. He had never hidden his sexuality from his assistant.
“No, silly. We wanted to go anyway, but honestly, it’s better if we take a gay man with us.” She froze. “Yeah, that didn’t come out quite right.” She straightened her skirt and regrouped, apparently searching for her next words. “We want you to come with us. You’ll have a great time, I promise.”
Alex chuckled, shaking his head. “Might be exactly what I need. I’m in.”
“Good. You work too hard. Maybe you’ll meet a nice man—and get lucky.” She wiggled her eyebrows.
Belinda had worked for Alex ever since he moved to management. She was in her early thirties, single, and she had a lot of friends at the firm. The tall, fiery redhead had long, wavy hair and big blue eyes, and was well-endowed in all the areas that straight men found attractive. Alex thought she liked working for him mainly because he didn’t undress her with his eyes every time she walked into the room. She’d practically told him that one night as she was heading out and one of the supervisors was leaving Alex’s office. He’d given her a creepy once-over as he passed her. She’d rolled her eyes and entered Alex’s office, shutting the door behind her. Then she’d spilled her troubles.
Alex was empathetic, and she’d thanked him for treating her like a human. They’d become friends after that, but never took it outside the office. It might be fun having a night out with the girls. He didn’t want to do anything that would have them all talking about him at the watercooler the next morning, though. That shit could get around quickly. No, he’d have to keep it PG. Still, it would be nice to get out and watch cute boys on the dance floor, even if they were only dancing with his friends. He hadn’t done that since college.
Alex shut down his computer and followed Belinda into the elevator. “We’re meeting everyone in the lobby,” she explained as three women Alex recognized but barely knew barreled over to them.
“Alex, this is Hannah from accounting, Jill, Mr. Lawson’s admin, and Barb, you know.”
“Hi, Alex,” Barb said. She was Mr. Kensington’s assistant. “Congratulations on the promotion.” He had spoken with her many times, but never on a personal level.
“What?” Alex hadn’t thought of his move from manager to senior manager as a promotion. “Oh, thanks. I’m thrilled.” He hoped he sounded convincing.
“What’s this?” Belinda hadn’t heard yet, because Alex hadn’t told her. He felt like shit.
“They offered me senior manager with a new division. I found out earlier today before you walked in my office. Sorry, I should have told you.”
“That’s awesome, boss. Does that mean…?”
“You’re coming with me,” he said. “I couldn’t do my job without you, Bels.”
“Oh, thank God. I’d hate having to break in a new boss.” Her tone was flippant, but Alex knew better. She didn’t want to have someone with authority ogling her all day. He stifled a chuckle.
“Well, come on, ladies. I see you’ve been looking forward to this all day.”
He groaned as they chatted excitedly all the way to the parking garage. He hoped he wouldn’t embarrass himself. Why did he think going out with coworkers to a gay club was a good idea?
Alex drove Belinda and Barbara, while the other two followed them in Jill’s car. This way, Belinda explained, if Alex wanted to leave early, or later, then he’d have his own car and the four women could drive back to the office together. He wasn’t planning on taking anyone home tonight. Not with witnesses to discuss it at work the next day.
They pulled up to the curb outside the club. Alex got an immediate case of nerves as he stepped out of his car.
“Look at this place,” Belinda said, following him. “We’re gonna have a blast.”
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Author Interview – Emjay Haze
Do you have a writing schedule or do you just write when you can find the time?
Unfortunately, I have a fulltime job, so I write when I can find the time. My best times are the weekend mornings. I'm working on being able to write full time.
Briefly describe the writing process. Do you create an outline first? Do you seek out inspirational pictures, videos or music? Do you just let the words flow and then go back and try and make some sense out it?
I usually start off with a broad idea. Something will pop into my head and I'll go, "that would make a great story." I'm not really good with outlines, because I haven't thought that far in advanced. I usually just start writing and let it flow.
However, I do start an outline and then add to it as I go. I also write out a story timeline as I go too, so I make sure everything is in order.
Where did the desire to write LGBT romance come from?
I started reading fanfiction about 10 years ago because I was in a fandom of a gay artist. I just loved the genre and started writing my own stories online. I rewrote one of them as an original story and tried getting published. It was a long and painful learning experience and I went through a couple of different publishers, but the story finally became its own.
However, my first editor advised me to start reading books in the genre and that's when I was introduced to m/m romance and fell in love with it.
How much research do you do when writing a story and what are the best sources you’ve found for giving an authentic voice to your characters?
I do a lot of research. Google is my best friend. But, nothing beats real life experience. I’d visited New York a few times, and walked through Central Park, so even though I did research for exact names of things, and I studied Google Maps a lot, I had a picture in my mind from having been there.
What’s harder, naming your characters, creating the title for your book or the cover design process?
Character names just come to me. I usually go with my first instinct and try not to overthink it. Titles are a little harder. I used to spitball a bunch of names and then get opinions from another writer, or family members. I’ve been fortunate enough to have wonderful cover artists. I will give them a general idea and let them do their magic.
"How do you answer the question “Oh, you're an author...what do you write?"
I just tell them, “Gay Romance.” I usually get, “Oh really? That’s cool.” I love what I write.
What does your family think of your writing?
I think they are proud of me that I'm a published author, but they really don't understand why I like to write gay romance. My mom always asks when I'm going to write something she can read.
Tell us about your current work in process and what you’ve got planned for the future.
Currently, I have two things in the works. The first is the sequel to After Hours. There will be three books total in the series. Afternoon Delight has Alex starting Culinary Arts school and Nick finishing grad school. I won't go into much detail, but there's a wedding to plan (not theirs) and a lot of struggles along the way.
The second is a short story that I'm rewriting as a holiday novella for an anthology. It's about a bi-sexual widow who goes on a singles cruise and meets the man of his dreams (a mystery shopper for the cruise line). It's just a fun story with lots of shipboard adventures.
Once those are finished, I'll start on the third in the After Hours book in the series. I think the title is Breakfast in Bed. It will take place in Vermont as Nick finally has a teaching job and Alex opens his own restaurant near his parents Bed and Breakfast.
I know I want to continue writing in this genre, but I also want to venture off a bit. I'm thinking about a spy novel (I loved Robert Ludlum). The main character will be a gay man, but it won't be a romance, and it won't center around his sexuality. I want to show a badass character with lots of adventures and danger with his job. If he hooks up a little with hot men, that's cool.
Do you have any advice for all the aspiring writers out there?
Just do it! Start writing. And, don't worry about the first draft. It's called that for a reason. Also, get a thick skin. Your editor is there to make your book better. Let them help you.
We’ve all got a little voyeurism in us right? If you could be a fly on the wall during an intimate encounter between two characters, not your own, who would they be?
One of my favorite series, is Xavier Mayne’s Frat House Troopers. Ethan Brandt and Gabrielle Donnelly are the hot, and seemingly straight, state troopers. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for their first encounter which was by skype. It was hot.
If I were snooping around your kitchen and looked in your refrigerator right now, what would I find?
One beer, which I’m about to pop open, a carton of Coconut/Almond Milk, A full vegetable drawer and a bunch of left-overs that I need to pitch out.
If you could sequester yourself for a week somewhere and just focus on your writing, where would you go and what would the environment be like?
I have this vision of sitting at a wooden table on my deck overlooking the water. I don’t care if it’s the ocean, lake, or even a swimming pool. Water is so peaceful to me.
What's the one thing, you can't live without?
My laptop. All of my books and other writing are on my laptop.
It used to be my cellphone, but I'm realizing I spend way too much time playing games when I should be writing. And, I won't actually die without my cellphone. Can't say that about my laptop though. My dog spilled liquid (soup) all over it a few months ago. Fortunately, I had a warranty, but the time it was gone for repair was excruciating. And, I had to pray that I hadn't lost everything. Some stuff was backed up but not all. Fortunately, all my data was saved and I got it back three weeks later. The longest three weeks of my life, lol.
What internet site do you surf to the most?
Google, definitely, and thesaurus.com. I also frequent recipe websites like Yummly and Allrecipes. I’m always looking for something new to make for dinner.
When you got your very first manuscript acceptance letter, what was your initial reaction and who was the first person you told?
When I got my first acceptance letter, I was very green. I screamed, I think, and jumped up and down. Then I told everyone! The first was my family.
Meet the Author
Emjay Haze is a pen name for a wife, mother, and writer of gay romance. She resides in Northern Virginia with her husband, two teenagers, a new puppy, cat, gecko, and several fish. She always loved writing and fell in love with the genre seven years ago after discovering the world of fanfiction. She went back to school to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing from SNHU where she graduated in April, 2015, with a renewed desire of making her dreams of becoming a published author come true.
She has a wide and diverse work history in the fields of travel, hotel management, high-tech communications, web development, real estate, and the nonprofit health care industry where she has held positions such as travel agent, hotel concierge, web programmer, Realtor, account manager, and many, many others, giving her a varied and unique set of experiences that she draws upon in her stories and characters. Her interests include music and pop culture, and she is an advocate for the LGBT community.
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