Darren Fording works as a Senior Timetabling Officer for his local college. When Max Sheldon arrives to take over as Acting Registrar, Darren finds himself consumed by lust for his new boss and making the kind of decisions he as a stuck-in-his-ways administrator has never made before.
When Darren initiates a full-on kiss during a meeting with Max, the enthusiasm of the Registrar's response takes him by surprise. Max is reluctant to pursue a relationship with an employee, but Darren is equally determined not to take no for an answer. Can he prove his worth to the man he's beginning to love and show him he's a dab hand at educational politics as well?
Office life can be full of surprises. In my time, I’ve worked in offices within insurance, IT consultancy, and with architects, accountants and, yes, at colleges and universities too – where Who Moved My Holepunch? is set. I’ve even been a Timetabling Officer myself, which could be really rather terrifying, especially when something goes horribly wrong. I’m absolutely sure some rooms used to disappear regularly from my list of buildings and never return … Then again, geography has never been my strong point so maybe I just got confused now and again. Or there might indeed have been somebody out there with a large mallet and a destruction fixation – you never know.
Anyway, a great deal of timetabling confusion certainly happens here in my story – though I couldn’t possibly comment on exactly how accurate the scenario with the Inspectors actually is for fear of future reprisals from the innocent (say no more!...). So Darren finds he has a lot on his plate with his job – and also even more on his plate with the sudden arrival of Max, his new boss. It’s true what they say – love can happen anywhere and often when you least expect it.
Thank goodness then for Darren’s trusty holepunch to get him through the day. I’m a great believer in the essential value of coloured paperclips myself, but Darren has an entirely different kind of obsession. And how exactly can a piece of office equipment, however useful, help to teach our hero a valuable lesson in life? You’ll have to read the story in order to find out …
In the meantime, here’s an extract from Darren’s rollercoaster working day to whet your appetite:
In the corridor, everything was quiet, most students having gone home at four-thirty. The few evening classes the college offered wouldn’t start for another couple of hours. Funny how quickly the bustle and sense of purpose could vanish. Darren hated the long summer vacation when nothing at all was urgent. He liked to live his working life at a run.
He was pondering on what kind of projects could be useful for the summer, when he turned the corner into the reception area and all but stumbled over Max Sheldon, the acting registrar, who was standing next to the coffee machine just about to take a sip from one of their large polystyrene cups.
The next few seconds was inevitable. To Darren, it all seemed to happen in slow motion, but, sadly, not slow enough to give either of them the chance to change anything. He moved to his left and Max moved to his right. It was like dancing, but without the music, the romance or the rhythm. It brought the two of them into direct collision and the coffee spilt sideways right over the registrar’s jacket.
“Oh heavens, I’m so sorry,” Darren said with a moan, at the same time flapping at the stain, as if he could wipe the last few seconds entirely away simply with the power of thought. “I didn’t realize you were there.”
“No, I didn’t think you did,” said Max. “Usually, it takes a couple of weeks for anyone to hate a registrar so much they’d sabotage his best suit.”
“Really? I thought it was only a couple of days,” Darren replied, then glanced up just as Max grabbed his wrist to stop his pathetic attempts at putting things right.
It was then that it happened. That completely weird thing Darren had only ever seen in films or read about in those soft-porn novels he used to buy and had long since abandoned in favor of real life, such as it was. A frisson of warmth on his skin where Max’s hand touched his arm that was more than just the heat of his fingers, and a sudden lurch in his gut he couldn’t blame on the tuna bagel he’d had for lunch. He swallowed hard as his gaze aligned with Max’s, then blinked as the registrar let him go as if he were on fire and took a step back.
“I’ll get a cloth,” Darren said, surprised he sounded so normal, before he took the few short steps to the visitors’ cloakroom at a brisk trot.
It was a relief not to hear any footsteps following him.
At the basins, he took a deep breath, stared in the mirror with his fiercest expression and told himself softly, but in no uncertain terms, “For goodness’ sake, man up.”
At the same time, the door swung open and, in the mirror, he could see the registrar appear behind him just as the words of advice left his lips.
Damn it, Max had to have heard him.
Max coughed. Darren couldn’t be sure, but he might have been swallowing a laugh. So much for his own professionalism then. Day one of the new acting registrar, and already, Darren had received a gentle warning, spilt coffee all over the man’s suit and now looked like an idiot in the men’s room. There was his chance of promotion gone for a while. Not that there was anywhere else to go after senior timetabling officer, however, apart from the mental health refuge.
Oh well, might as well go and book that place right now, he thought.
Who Moved My Holepunch? by Anne Brooke is now available at Amber Allure.
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