“We often become what we believe ourselves to be. If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. When I believe I can, I acquire the ability to do it, even if I didn't have it in the beginning.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Whether or not they are aware of it, Alec Rowland and Ed Piper are searching for something more; they are reaching out and end up attracting each other. Their tryst is more than a one-night stand and they both feel its impact. But the time to act on it wasn't right for them, especially for Alec. Instead of acknowledging the unique quality of their time together, they fall into past destructive patterns; Alec rejecting the possibility of having more, Ed wanting more but expecting rejection. Willingly or not, they have taken the first step; Fate, ignoring their short-sightedness, continues their momentum.
When the man they each thought of as just a quick “roll in the hay” becomes someone in a significant place in their lives, it's quite a shock. Ed takes it better than Alec does because he's out and proud with nothing to hide. Alec, on the other hand, has fabricated a life where he's straight and has kept being gay a well guarded secret. From his reaction, Ed quickly figures out that Alex is not out at work; Ed wants to let Alec know he won't say anything about their encounter, but Alec keeps avoiding him. When Ed finally gets a chance to talk to Alec alone, his reassurance doesn't help. Alec, with his delicately balanced farce of a life, is so paranoid that he is not reassured at all. Hiding the sexual tension between them becomes increasingly more difficult, especially for Alec, and puts an enormous strain on their working relationship. Throughout it all, Ed tries his best to be professional, doing nothing that will cause Alec concern. Alec, on the other hand, is in danger of crumpling under his conflicting feelings, not only because of his attraction to Ed, but his fear of being discovered, losing face, and destroying all he has worked for. Alec decides to make Ed pay for being “inconvenient” and gives him impossibly hard tasks taking up an inordinate amount of time, all in an effort to force Ed out. Ed doesn't crumple under the pressure as Alec expects, but rises to the task every time. Ed is determined to hold his ground, get the experience he needs, and move on.
After weeks of avoidance, Alec makes Ed a proposition. He wants to have sex with him to get it out of their systems. Ed is hurt and appalled by Alec's callousness, but he realizes leaving the team now would be too suspicious. The only way to stand up to Alec is to stick it out. Alec hates being rejected and is furious with himself, not for being rejected, but for letting his guard down. Ed has caused him to become acutely aware of the loneliness and isolation in his life and has him wishing, almost hoping, that it could be different. Like it or not, the seed has been planted; it's up to Alec to smother it or give it room to grow.
Jay has done an excellent job of taking ideas that aren't necessarily new, such as an office romance, and making it so much more. The well-written story is packed with a myriad of emotions, clearly evident through the reactions of her characters. I have to admit taking a while to like Alec since he was so cruel to Ed, who was such a wonderful, authentic person, willing and able to love and be loved. I began to change my mind about Alec when I realized the abuse he had endured from his father about being gay. Alec sacrificed his entire life trying to live up to his father’s expectations at Alec's expense; doing so never ends well. If you enjoy reading about successful lawyers, deception, sympathetic as well as unsympathetic parents, and a happy ending, then you may like this story. Thank you, Jay, for such a wonderful, hard-earned love story.