Fourth Secret

Zach spent most of the work day with his head in a daze. He was still shocked and processing the heavy burden he had agreed to. Even the worst written smut wasn't enough to pull his mind from its panic induced stupor.

He edited with automatic reactions and his brain was very emotionally detached the whole time. He didn't wake from his daze until he was out of the office and was standing outside the flower shop that was around the corner from Harper Publishing's offices.

It was his favourite flower shop as it stood out from the sea of modern and sleek glass fronted office buildings in the city and looked like it had been pulled straight from a country painting with yellow brickwork and hanging baskets of flowers anywhere.

Zach hesitated outside and inspected the bouquets in one of the displays outside. The person who he shared his apartment with liked having a pot of flowers on the kitchen table to make their apartment look more homely. Zach also liked visiting the flower shop so it was a happy deal.

He picked out one containing a mixture of lilac freesias and primroses and walked into the shop. The bell tinkled over his head and the man who had been bent over a flower arrangement in the window beamed broadly at him.

"Zach, you're back again today," Austin said cheerfully.

This particular flower shop was his favourite flower shop because of the person who ran it. Austin was a very happy blond man a few years older and Zach had developed a minor crush on him over the past week. He was able to remember his face with ease as he only had happy memories associated with him.

There weren't many smiley people around in London. His commute to the office involved sitting on a bus with lots of grumpy looking people so finding someone who was always happy had been nothing short of a miracle.

He had picked up that Austin was likely to also be gay, but he was too shy to make the first move in case he was promptly rejected. If that happened, he would be too embarrassed to ever visit the flower shop again and that would mean missing out on a slice of sunshine. His crush would be kept to himself unless Austin showed an interest in him himself.

"I am," he replied and held out the bouquet of flowers.

Austin charged him for the flowers and their hands touched. Zach drew back awkwardly whereas Austin didn't seem to notice.

"How is your internship going?" Austin asked.

Zach had been unable to bring himself to tell Austin that he spent his day reading and editing smut. He had just said his internship involved a lot of editing.

"It's going… fine," he replied distantly.

He had believed he was going to be fired hours ago and now he had an agreement to spend a lot of personal time with the billionaire CEO. It wasn't going fine, but it could be worse. He could have actually been fired for making comments like that about Darien's personal life.

Austin frowned and leaned in to look at him carefully. Unlike Darien's cold evaluating gaze from earlier, Ausin's eyes felt warm and it seemed like he was concerned.

"It doesn't seem like it's fine," he observed. "Is someone bothering you?"

For a moment Zach was tempted to tell him everything, but he couldn't. Telling anyone about what was going on would be telling them Darien was a closeted gay man and he felt like Darien would somehow find out. It was also worth considering that he had only known Austin for a week, he didn't know if he could trust him with a secret like that.

"It's not like that, I just need to think some things over,"he replied and stepped back. "I'll see you another day."

"If you continue to have problems, you can talk to me anytime," Austin added quickly. "I don't like to see people unhappy."

Zach smiled back at him.

"I'll do that. Goodbye."

He walked out of the brightness of the flower shop and back onto the gloomy city street with a heavy heart. He really did have a personal problem that he was unable to share.


The other tenant of Zach's apartment was a girl who had been on his university course and was also doing an internship somewhere else in London. Unlike Zach she had a boyfriend and a blooming social life that meant she was barely at the apartment so he was surprised to find her sprawled out on the sofa.

Emilia looked up as he walked in and took one look at his face.

"Did something bad happen?" she asked in concern. "Did the flower shop cutie reject you?"

Zach placed the bouquet on the table and shook his head.

"I've never asked him out so no, that's not it," he replied.

Emilia flicked her brown hair and looked him up and down. Like Austin, her gaze was only worried, there was no coldness there.

"What is it then? Bad day at work?" she asked.

"Sort of," he replied and changed the subject before she could worry about him anymore. "Why are you here so early?"

Emilia pouted at him.

"Had an argument with the boyfriend," she lamented. "It started out over a disagreement about the perfect amount of ketchup to put on chips and before I knew it, we were in a serious argument."

She sat up on the sofa and patted the seat next to her.

"You could make some popcorn and we can watch some bad movies to feel better. You don't seem happy either."

Zach welcomed that suggestion, but he had also caught her ulterior motive.

"You just want my popcorn," he said with a raised eyebrow.

Cooking was one of the things that he was actually good at in life and it had always made him popular with whoever he was living with. Desserts and sweet things were his strong suit and most people liked sweet things so he had normally got on well with roommates.

"The white chocolate and raspberry one please,"she replied with a cheeky grin.

Zach washed his hands and started the preparations for popcorn. He pulled the always present bag of popcorn kernels from the cupboard and poured them into a pan with oil. He also took out a bar of white chocolate and melted it in a bowl over hot water. When the popcorn was ready he added it to a bowl and poured over the white chocolate before sprinkling crushed freeze dried raspberries on top.

When he carried the bowl carefully over to the sofa, Emilia had already started up Netflix on the television and was scrolling through movies.

"Teen drama?" she asked. "Teenage problems always seem so trivial when you're a working adult."

Zach liked the sound of that. Teenagers didn't have to worry about strange dealings with billionaire CEOs.

Emilia selected the one with the lowest rating and Zach found it was very easy to lose himself in. The acting was awful as was the storyline. By the midpoint, he was laughing along with Emilia and had mostly forgotten about his troubles temporarily.


Darien returned home to an empty and dark house. He might have paid many millions of pounds for an expensive and fashionable house, but he had never felt at home in it.

It wasn't like he had anyone to impress with it either. The only people to ever visit his house were his PA, the housekeeper and the cleaner. His fake girlfriends were never invited. They might get the wrong idea and think he was serious about them if he invited them to his palatial home.

He switched the lights on and unbuttoned his suit jacket. Should he change first or eat the dinner that would have been left in the kitchen for him? He wasn't particularly hungry, but he didn't have the desire to do much either.

As a billionaire, he should be full of things to do and enjoy as he could afford almost anything. Instead he was lonely and had nothing much to do.

His loneliness and frustration at his empty life must be the reason for his crazy actions earlier in the day. His offer to the intern had taken himself by surprise. The only other thing he had done in his life on impulse was to approach a cute man at a masked ball two years ago. That had ended with nothing so he had kept his impulses to himself.

Zach was his type of man in terms of appearance. He was cute and those big blue eyes had bored into his soul. He wasn't going to date him though. He just wanted to learn how to love life, not date an intern, no matter how cute he was. He did bring the cute student from the masked ball to mind, but he couldn't be the same person as Zach had showed no sign of remembering making out with him.

He would have to have a long discussion with Zach about how their arrangement was going to work for the year. As someone who had to have lots of legal dealings, his mind was full of loopholes and legal wording and non disclosure agreements.

Darien was almost certain that Zach would keep his mouth shut about his secret. He knew his type, the person who would do anything to prove they were a good person. There was still that small possibility that the intern would let it slip so signing a legal contract as soon as possible would benefit him.

When that part was done, he could focus on learning how to live his life with a happier mindset. Darien went to bed thinking of the happy future that Zach could provide for him.

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