Second Secret

Zach walked into the erotica department office the next day with a more relaxed spring in his step. He had gone home the previous day and decided that he did want to be the next intern to make it through the year without quitting. After all, all he was doing was editing story drafts, he could use those skills in another job that wasn’t related to erotica.

He sat down at his desk and switched on his computer, ready to take on any challenges waiting in his inbox.

“Good morning,” Becca called out from her desk. “You look like you’ve decided to accept your fate as an erotica department intern.”

That was certainly one way to term it.

“I’m just considering the editing skills and experience I will gain,” he replied. “It’s just editing someone else’s work. The fact that it’s mostly smut doesn’t make much of a difference.”

Becca gave him a thumbs up.

“That’s the spirit. I’ll start forwarding you some applications.”

The contents of the first application had him completely bypassing his determination to stay and he was ready to walk out the door, a mere two minutes after boasting that editing smut wasn’t that different. He eyed up the written text again and sighed. Why was the sex scene so graphic?

“Send it to me instead,” Meghan whispered from the next desk. “I enjoy things like that so I’ll take it on.”

Zach gratefully forwarded the email to her and moved onto the next one which was thankfully not as graphic. Maybe he would develop a stomach for very detailed smut over the course of the year and wouldn’t bat an eyelid over anything.

***

“Zach, could you drop this form off at the secretarial department?” Becca requested later in the morning. “Don’t drop it on the way there, it’s important.”

Zach picked up the form and gave it a once over. It was a set of updated health and safety guidelines that had been signed by everyone in the office. He quickly read it through and signed his name.

“Is the secretarial department easy to find?” he asked.

He had always struggled to find his way around unfamiliar surroundings. University had been a challenge as the campus had been full of different buildings and his lecture halls were very spaced out across the campus. Face blindness was one of his other problems, he struggled to remember the faces of people he didn’t see very often or had only ever met once.

“Remember there’s a map in the lobby,” Becca reminded him. “It’s clearly marked and it’s very easy to find. You can’t go wrong.”

“Don’t go too far and end up in the boss’ office,” Meghan teased him with a wide grin. “There’s probably something NSFW going on in there.”

Zach squinted at her suspiciously.

“What makes you think that?”

Meghan held up her phone.

“According to the internal gossip network, Mr Harper’s latest squeeze walked into his office five minutes ago.”

Knowing how large the company was and how people liked to gossip, Zach completely believed her. The online chat group for his university course had been intended for study help and had quickly become a gossip channel instead.

“I see,” he replied. “I’ll let you know if I hear anything whilst I’m there.”

He realised how dirty that had sounded the moment it was out of his mouth and he flushed with mortification.

“Please do,” Meghan replied with a wink.

Zach marched out of the office with a red face. Did the dirty mind come with the job? Was that going to be him at the end of the year? He hoped not. He always found people who constantly made dirty jokes or related everything to sex very annoying.

He found the plan of the building as promised on the wall in the lobby and quickly found the secretarial department. It was on the tenth floor outside the CEO’s private area. It should be very obvious to find given they were the only two areas on that floor.

Zach took the lift to the tenth floor and stepped out to find the secretarial office right opposite. The plaque outside the open doorway was very helpful and he walked right in.

It was a very open plan office like the erotica department. The frontmost desks were empty and the only people who seemed to be working were the few people sitting at the back of the office. The rest of the employees were gathered around the water dispenser and looked like they were gossiping.

He cleared his throat and no one turned around. This was his idea of a social nightmare.

Maybe he could just dump the form on the nearest desk and leave without anyone noticing him. That was probably out the question given that Becca had instructed him not to drop it on the way. It had to be something that needed to be handed over directly to a person.

He cleared his throat again and waved the form in the air. The motion caused one of the secretaries to notice him and she rushed forward.

“Is that a health and safety form?” she asked.

Zach handed it over and she gave it a once over.

“Thank you for bringing it,” she said pleasantly. “Sorry for the disorder here, we were making bets about Mr. Harper’s girlfriend.”

That was unexpectedly honest of her. Working in an office must be more boring than he had envisioned. Making bets on how long the boss’ current girlfriend was going to last was probably a viable way of making the job more interesting. It felt a little cruel though.

“I had heard she was here,” he replied cautiously.

The secretary looked down at the form again.

“I know the erotica department is always hot on the gossip here. Are you enjoying it there?” she asked.

Zach looked over at the rest of the office and saw to his horror that all the employees who had been gathered around the water dispenser were now looking his way and were obviously listening to their conversation.

“It’s a very… unique department,” he said diplomatically. “I am finding it a little difficult to settle in. Everyone is very nice there though.”

Her face initially showed confusion and then something seemed to click in her mind.

“I see, you’re one of those interns who didn’t realise what they were getting into. It’s been 10 years since that position was created and some things never really change. Do you think you can last the year?”

It seemed like the erotica department interns were well known in the company. He was now even more determined to get through the year and not be the statistic that didn’t make it.

“I’m hoping to-”

He broke off as the sound of a heavy door slamming reverberated throughout the office and he heard the unmistakable sound of someone crying.

“Looks like the break up happened,” the secretary noted. “Ladies, you owe me money.”

Zach turned around to see what was going on in the corridor and saw a very pretty blonde girl rush by with a red face and wet cheeks.

“Another one bites the dust,” one of the other secretaries noted loudly.

Zach didn’t think that was a very nice thing to say about someone who was clearly in distress.

“Is this a regular occurrence?” he asked.

“Extremely,” was the reply. “I’ve learnt that it comes with the job here.”

Zach shook his head and sighed.

“I don’t think it’s very nice of the CEO to go through girlfriends like that and to break up with them so nastily. He could let them go kindly and without tears,” he said. “Maybe it’s to cover up something… he might be gay and this is his way of hiding it.”

He felt a nasty chill down his back as he said the last part and when he saw the doomstruck look on the secretaries’ faces, he knew something was badly wrong.

There was someone behind him.

There was only one person who would invoke the doom filled atmosphere in the office. He gulped and turned around.

Standing behind him as Darien Harper, as he had suspected. Luckily he had the same quiffed hair that he had sported in the photo Meghan had shown him so he was able to recognise him. He was also emnating anger and Zach could feel heavy tension in the air.

His internship was doomed.

“Ladies, do you mind if I borrow the intern for a bit?” the CEO requested. “I think someone needs to teach him not to speculate like that again.”

His deep voice emanated veiled annoyance and Zach just knew that his internship had come to an abrupt end.

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