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Distracted and Encouraged

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Distracted and Encouraged

Chapter One

Glancing at his watch, Jensen Ackles swore under his breath. He figured he basically had time to bolt from the parking garage to the elevator, pray the damn thing was working correctly, get to his office and just glance over his notes before his first meeting of the morning.

The day had started out wrong for the young advertising executive. He’d gotten up late because his boyfriend had shut the alarm off and had forgotten to wake him up before he’d left for work. Then the coffee maker had picked that morning to die and he’d cut himself shaving. Construction on the way to his office had also made the already frustrated man even more so and by the time he stepped into the elevator, he was ready to snap.

The meeting that morning was the final one to confirm the design on a new park and recreation area on the other side of town. As one of the firm’s top architects, it had been dropped in Jensen’s lap and should’ve been a feather in his professional resume if he didn’t end up killing the owner of the land who had shot down nearly every design he’d submitted right from day one.

He’d heard that his new client was hardnosed and difficult to work with, given the man was a perfectionist, but Jensen had been taught to never judge a book by its cover. Except in this case the cover was very much like the book and the man he’d been working with for the last eight months gave new meaning to ‘stiff’, ‘difficult to work with’ and was more than a perfectionist.

Stepping into the elevator with his briefcase clutched in one hand, his portfolio case stuffed under his arm, Jensen was swearing under his breath when his keys and cellphone both hit the floor and so did his temper. “Goddamn it!”

“Good morning, Mr. Ackles. Or should I ask how bad of a morning is it?”

Unaware that he wasn’t alone in the elevator had Jensen’s eyes shooting up even as he was kneeling down to pick up the dropped items, silently praying his phone hadn’t broken since it was already his second replacement since he’d bought the damn thing less than a year ago.

Frowning when all he saw was a blur, Jensen realized his wire rimmed glasses had slid down to the end of his nose like they tended to do if he wasn’t constantly pushing them up. He did so now and once they were back in place he stared at the scarred and battered work boots before letting his eyes move up the faded denim coveralls all the way to the name tag of who he now recognized as a janitor he’d seen around the office for the last couple months.

“It’s a really fucking bad morning so far… J.T. And if I’m late for this meeting it’ll get even worse,” he replied, easily standing up only to blink as he realized the janitor had a good three inches on him. At 6’1” it was odd for Jensen to have to look up at anyone. Then he found himself getting lost in deep hazel eyes that seemed to be mixed with varying shades of golds and blues. “This final meeting,” he continued, tearing his gaze away from the man’s mesmerizing eyes, “with the client from hell can make or break my career here.”

“Is he that bad?” the janitor asked while nudging the mop and bucket he had with him to the side so it didn’t get close to the clean slacks of the up and coming architect. He knew of Jensen Ackles, he’d often seen him around the building or in the elevator, but had barely spoken to the man other than every Thursday morning for the last couple months. “Your client?”

Jensen’s lips curved into a slow smirk, fingers running through his still damp, wavy dark blond hair in a useless attempt to make it look like he hadn’t basically showered, shaved and bolted. Which was exactly what he’d done. “The absolute worst. Nothing I’ve drawn up or suggested has been close to being perfect enough for his dream project. I’m about ready to toss him and his uppity Texas butt down the hall to Liz. Maybe he’d prefer the hot brunette type of architect or something.”

“If this guy is more interested in a bra size than actual skill then maybe you should,” J.T. replied, reaching out to catch the portfolio case before it could slide out from under Jensen’s arm and hit the floor. “You’re the best in the firm… or so I’ve heard.”

“The best what? Best at being an architect or best at being a socially defunct geek because I don’t socialize or party like the rest of the staff here?” Jensen winced as he heard his own tone and recognized the bitterness that had been welling up inside him lately. “Sorry. Just ignore that. I haven’t had coffee, my night sucked, and so far my day isn’t starting off any better and… oh, no. Please God tell me what I think just happened isn’t what just did?” he asked when the elevator suddenly gave an odd sound and jerked with enough force that only a pair of strong hands kept Jensen from falling forward. “Are we stopped? Did this goddamn elevator just break down… again?”

“Looks like,” J.T. confirmed with a low grunt as he went to the control panel, pushing a button just to check the override but nothing happened. “I’ve been telling the head of maintenance that this elevator needed a good going over or something since it’s been breaking down pretty regularly lately.”

Jensen was fighting a huge ass panic attack right then, letting the back of his head bang off the wall of the now unmoving elevator while trying not to notice how small this damn box actually was with both him, the broad shouldered janitor, and the mop bucket thing all pushed inside.

“It breaks down every damn week!” he snapped, frustrated, and when he glanced at his watch to see the time he finally gave up. He let his briefcase and portfolio drop with a harsh string of curses that included everything from his current client to his absent boyfriend, his damn alarm clock and now the fucking makers of useless elevators that seemed determined to drive him into a bottle of booze or get him fired. “The hell with it! I’m done! I’m done with the client from hell! I’m done with worrying what people think of me or that my goddamn boyfriend is too wrapped up in his own project to notice anything else going on in our lives, or more specifically my life! I’m done--”

“You’re hyperventilating, Mr. Ackles,” J.T. said quietly as he turned from the elevator controls to watch the upset man for another moment before stepping closer. “You do every time this happens lately. Would it help if I said I’m sorry you’re stuck in here with me?” he asked quietly, voice soft with just a hint of a drawl dropping just a notch lower as he knelt to carefully pick up the dropped case and portfolio before placing them to the side. “Would it help to talk about what’s bothering you until this old thing starts working again?”

“With my luck this’ll be the time it doesn’t start moving again and no one will look for us and I’ll end up a pile of bones in an old elevator and…” Jensen’s body had slumped back against the wall, his hands running through his hair with the frustrating urge to yank it, and his green eyes closed to avoid seeing the walls he knew would be closing in on him now. A low chuckle broke through his panicked haze. “Laughing at me right now, in the state I’m in, will either get you punched or killed so I’d watch your next step.”

Kneeling fully on the floor of the unmoving elevator which was now making some very uneasy sounds that were only making the on edge architect even more nervous, the janitor looked up slowly at Jensen. “You should be a writer considering the imagination you have,” he said calmly, not in the least bit phased by the seeming threat. “We’re not going to die. You are not going to be a pile of bones and of course someone would come look for you,” he reassured the man whom he’d been noticing the last few weeks seemed less and less confident and that was something J.T. didn’t understand. “You’re the firm’s Golden Boy or so the rumors say.”

“Yeah, not so much anymore. Or at least not since the last month or so.” Jensen wasn’t sure why he was saying this to a janitor or why it was so much easier to say not only this but other things he recalled telling the man every time they’d gotten stuck in this tin can lately.

Usually Jensen was closed off. He’d been raised to cover his true emotions so people couldn’t see the scared boy inside the calm, cool professional. He even had a hard time talking to his boyfriend at times, especially lately since his job was keeping him distracted. Talking to J.T., even while trapped in an elevator in desperate need of some routine maintenance, seemed easier and it also worked to distract him from the thoughts of something snapping and them plunging to their deaths… even though logically Jensen knew they’d only climbed two or three floors from the parking lot.

“Don’t pay attention to the noise, Mr. Ackles.” J.T.’s voice brought Jensen back. “What happened to make something change?” he asked curiously. “What can I do to help keep you calm until someone gets this thing moving again?”

Jensen bit his lip at that loaded question. He opened his eyes just enough to look down at the man kneeling on the floor in front of him, staring back evenly as if daring him to change this little habit they’d seemed to have gotten into. “Distract me?” he asked quietly and felt the same hard hit to his chest like he did whenever the young janitor’s smile blossomed fully complete with dimples.

“With pleasure,” J.T. replied with a bright smile, letting the fingers of one hand trail up the wrinkled leg of pants he knew were normally pressed to such a crispness that it actually scared him. “You really did get up late. There isn’t a crease to be seen in these slacks,” he said sarcastically.

Jensen snorted, tensing when something outside the elevator made a noise that he really didn’t like but then glanced back down at the feel of long fingers loosening his belt so they could have access to the snap and fly of his slacks. “Blame my distracted boyfriend. He shut off my alarm and went to work but forgot to wake me up,” he muttered, not sure if he was angry by that or just frustrated. “I know he’s been working just as hard as I’ve been, and I know his project is just as important to him as this one is to me, but… sometimes I miss him being home at nights to talk to. Especially now,” he sighed.

“Why now?” J.T. asked curiously as he made fast and easy work of loosening the slacks enough that he could reach in and bring Jensen’s cock out into his hand, fingers light when they feathered over the length and he heard the soft murmur as the man slowly began to relax back against the elevator wall.

The first time this had happened had been an accident, or so the janitor told both himself and a guilty Jensen afterward. J.T. had known the man had a boyfriend, he knew they’d been dating seriously for over a year and he wasn’t one to come between that… until that first time the elevator had stopped working and he’d watched the calm, cool and collected Jensen Ackles break into a shaking mess as his phobia of enclosed spaces unexpectedly overwhelmed him.

Of course he supposed there had been other ways to calm the man down. He’d tried talking to him but the attack had come on so suddenly and so hard that the new janitor had to do something a bit more… extreme to get Jensen’s thoughts on him and off of his fears.

Because he felt kissing was a bit too far to go, he’d dropped to his knees easily and had the shaking man’s attention the moment he had his cock in his hand. “Nothing more,” he’d murmured at the wary, confused look being sent his way. “Think of it as a distraction until we get out of here. Talk to me while I blow you if you want… or can.”

“Asshole,” Jensen had managed to throw back at that mild challenge while vowing that this would only happen this one time. He loved his frustrating jerk of a boyfriend and wouldn’t betray him. He’d made that vow and thought he could keep it… until the next week when it seemed the elevator Gods had it in for him because every Thursday he’d end up running late for some reason, would run into J.T. in the parking lot elevator and the damn machine always broke down on this day.

This Thursday, however, was an especially bad day for it since Jensen knew he had that meeting. He also knew his boss was looking for a reason to yell at him or try to fire him, so getting stuck in this box with a hot as hell janitor who had lips that Jensen would go to hell before admitting were almost as hot as the man himself, was just was not a good thing.

Biting his lip at the first feel of those plush lips closing over the head of his cock nearly had him groaning but he managed to hold that back. He did let his fingers reach out to run through thick, dark, wavy hair that brushed the broad shoulders that the denim coveralls covered.

Head falling back Jensen muttered a soft oath while trying to remember what he had been asked earlier because this time the feel of the hot, moist heat of the mouth slipping up and down his cock in combination to the fingers that had slid inside his opened slacks to find and gently massage his balls, already had him a trembling mess.

“My… my boss… he hired his daughter as an intern a couple months back,” he began tightly, voice dropping lower as he began to relax fully without even thinking about it. “J.D., he knows I’m gay. He knew it when he hired me cause I was open about it, but this girl… this 20-something girl who thinks she owns the world because her Daddy owns this firm came onto me one night when I was trying to finish this latest design.

“I was polite. I… damn, you are so hot doing that, I told her I wasn’t into girls and that I was dating a guy. But she kept pushing and pushing until finally I told her to back the hell off or else I’d be filing a sexual harassment suit.” Jensen’s fingers were curling tighter into the long hair he had a hold of and eased his grip as he mistook the low grunt he heard as pain from pulling too hard. “Two days later, J.D.’s in my office and he’s griping because I ‘hurt his little girl’s feelings’ and that it might ‘look better for my career if I… played ball with her, if I wanted to finish not only this account but… any others’.”

Hazel eyes lifted while J.T. worked to not lose his concentration on blowing Jensen; it was harder now as he took this news in and realized what had suddenly been behind Jensen’s sudden change in demeanor. Letting his tongue slip out to lick over the slit on the head of Jensen’s cock he could taste the sweet and salty flavor and knew the man was getting close.

“Since then it’s pretty obvious my skill and reputation isn’t enough to keep the bastard from firing me and… my boyfriend has been so distracted with his own problems and stuff that I haven’t been able to talk to him. I’m not sure if I even should.” Jensen gasped, struggling to keep his hips from moving. But when he felt a fingernail rake up the sensitive nerve on the underside of his cock at the same second a gentle hand pressed up behind his balls, his hips jutted forward and the next thing Jensen knew, he shouted and then felt himself come with a moan of a name that both men knew was right.

J.T. had locked his lips tight around the head of Jensen’s cock once he was sure he was close and moved the fingers of his free hand over the slick cock he’d just been sucking on while giving heavy balls a final squeeze, pressing the spot he knew on instinct would cause a reaction. He wasn’t disappointed.

Watching Jensen climax just from a quick blowjob in the stuck elevator would always be the hottest thing for J.T. and he’d miss it once it was time for him to move on; which if things worked out, would be soon. That was why after he felt Jensen’s orgasm was at its end and he’d pulled off with a wet pop after carefully tucking the man back inside his clothes so it wouldn’t look too obvious at what had just happened, he stood with easy grace for a man so tall and cupped Jensen’s face between calloused hands to smile into his dazed face.

“Yes, you should talk to your boyfriend. And don’t worry about your ass of a boss. Those things have a way of working out one way or another,” he said and gave a soft smile as he placed a light, almost chaste kiss to the corner of Jensen’s mouth. The kiss was timed perfectly because just as J.T. pulled back, the elevator suddenly gave a hard jerk before it began making noise again. “See? I told you someone would get it working again before you turned into a pile of bones.”

“Smart ass,” Jensen muttered, cheeks heating from the look in deep hazel eyes that spoke of the desire of the other man, but a simple hand to the center of his coveralls had him nodding in understanding and stepping back. “If I get fired for being late I’ll remind you of that.”

“You won’t get fired for being late.” J.T. was certain of that. He bent down to hand Jensen his briefcase and portfolio. “Mr. Ackles?” He saw the small smile he always did when he called Jensen that but chose to stay serious as he watched the elevator climb to the floor below the one Jensen needed. “I know I might be speaking out of turn as only a janitor but… don’t let anyone make you doubt yourself. If you weren’t good enough, this client from hell never would’ve insisted on you as his architect and wouldn’t have pushed you so damn hard for what he knew would be your best. Don’t ever forget it. I’ll see ya around.”

Jensen had been trying to regain his composure while making sure he looked as okay as he could considering  he’d basically thrown on clothes that morning and then had J.T. disheveling them, when he felt the elevator stop and heard the doors open just as something the man said hit him. “Wait. What…” he started to ask only to see J.T. was already wheeling his cart out the door and the doors were closing. “Damn.”

Taking the short time he had left to will his nerves back down, Jensen slid his fingers back through his hair to try to make it look presentable and replayed those last words spoken to him by a man he seemed to sense he’d never see again. He wondered if it was remorse he was feeling considering he’d just started to get used to these weekly break-downs. Then the door opened and he had no more time to wonder about anything other than keeping his job.

“The boss has been stalking the office looking for you,” his secretary said as soon as Jensen stepped out. “Luckily, your client is running behind due to some construction on Madison and Main so he isn’t here yet but you have about five minutes to soothe J.D. or else someone else might be finishing this account,” she warned grimly.

“It’s not my damn fault the elevator in his damn building keeps breaking down with me in it!” Jensen replied as he bolted down the hall to his office. “Fix the damn elevators in this place and maybe I wouldn’t have been stuck in it!” he snapped before his furious employer could jump down his throat. “I have the latest plans drawn up with all of his demands highlighted and pointed out on the blueprints. If he’s not happy this time, then give the damn asshole to Liz because I’m done trying to please him!”

J.D. Morgan turned from where he’d been stalking the cluttered office to glare at Jensen. “You knew this meeting was important. If he doesn’t like this design after nearly eight months of you wasting his and my time then the client is more than likely going to take this project to another firm across town!” he shouted furiously, eyeing the man with a scowl. “And now you dress like a bum when coming to work now? I should fire you for—”

“Funny how I was your best designer up until I wouldn’t put out for your precious little girl, J.D.” Jensen was frustrated, he was nervous, and knew he was crossing a lot of lines but while he was prepared to deal with his hard to work with client, he was not willing to be screamed at by his employer when they both knew what his problem with Jensen suddenly was. “You try to fire me over anything but my inability to please a client and I will nail your ass with sexual harassment charges since we both know that’s what it is! And-”

“You little…” J.D. started to reach out as if to grab the suddenly back pedaling Jensen when a low cough was heard from the door. J.D. was quick to turn on a totally different exterior as he turned to face the client in question. “Mr. Padalecki, I’m so sorry you had the hassle of traffic this morning but I assure you that this meeting will be very… productive.” He shot a frowning Jensen a warning scowl while motioning to a table. “Jensen has been hard at work with some of our very best new young designers and I think they’ve…”

Jensen had been rolling out the blueprints on the board when he heard this. “Excuse me?” he started to say, temper and fury now outweighing the nerves he had about this design being shot down. “I’ve…”

Jared Padalecki leaned in the door to the office to look between the designer and the head of the firm. The tension between them was easy to see even if he hadn’t heard and seen what he had before letting his presence be known. Straightening to his full height of 6’4”, he removed his leather jacket and took his time in hanging it up on the coat rack in the corner of the office before also choosing to remove the Stetson hat he usually wore to keep his long, thick dark hair out of hazel eyes. Hazel eyes that were usually light and mixed with flecks of golds and blues when he was happy; right then they were tinged with more gold as he leveled a look to a scowling J.D.

“I think you meant to say that Jensen has been working hard to make me a design for my park that suits all my needs,” he remarked in a tone heavy with a Texas accent, but he dropped it to a softer, more casual drawl as he stepped closer to where Jensen was standing near the design board with one hand clenched into a fist out of sight of his boss. “Show me what you made for me this time, Sugar.”

At 29, Jared had taken over the head of his family business of amusement and nature parks. When he did, he had his own vision that he wanted to follow and had done so without care of who he pissed off with his sharp, one track minded demands.

He knew people found him difficult to work with. He knew that most people in this firm and others in the city had refused to work with him. And that was fine with him. He’d gone into this new project, a large park and nature reserve to be built on land he’d bought outside of San Antonio, knowing exactly who he wanted to design the plans. It was then just a matter of making it happen since he knew how the designer in question felt about mixing business with pleasure.

Normally the little pet name irked Jensen, as did the way the man always seemed to be a step too close to him whenever he stood near him to glance over the complicated and intricate designs for both the park and the nature reserve. Today though, with the way J.D. was glaring and with what Jensen suspected had been about to happen if Jared hadn’t stepped in the door when he had, he was a little more willing to allow both.

Feeling the hard muscled chest pressing against his back as Jared stood to look over his shoulder, he considered giving a slight elbow in reminder to watch his manners only to go rigid when J.D. began speaking again directly to his client.

“Mr. Padalecki, Jared… if you still find any fault in this latest design, I’ll apologize now. I fear Jensen has been having some… personal difficulties that I wasn’t aware of before giving your project to him.” J.D. scowled at Jensen’s frown and started to step closer as if to put a hand on either the blueprints or the designer only to find his hand knocked away by Jensen. “Jensen, if I could have a word with you in my office?” he asked tightly.

“No, he’s busy explaining this blueprint to me. So go away, J.D.,” Jared spoke up, eyes still moving over the impressive design. “Or, if you won’t go away, then go sit down and shut up until I’m ready to talk to you.”

Not used to be spoken to like he’d just been, it took J.D. a moment before he finally snapped his mouth shut and moved to sit down at the table in the office.

Jensen hadn’t meant to shove the hand away but he knew if J.D. had touched him right then that the man would’ve ended up bleeding and that wasn’t something he wanted to happen… yet. Now he was fighting not to smirk at the quick and effective way his egotistical employer had been dismissed by someone he knew J.D. thought of as arrogant and spoiled.

Swallowing the lump in his throat and wishing desperately for a cup of coffee or alcohol to settle his nerves again, Jensen lifted a finger to touch a spot in the center of the design. “I took your latest line of critiques as well as the things you’ve mentioned more than once when I did this design,” he began slowly, hating that Jared could make him so nervous when he’d presented considerably bigger designs to much larger clients. But this one mattered to him for more than just keeping his job. “I have some drawings for the center statue you wanted at the front and the center of the park. They’re rough, and certainly not final, but it’ll give you an idea of what fits in the scheme of the blueprints,” he said while holding his breath as Jared stepped to the side so he could look at the full design a little closer.

When Jared Padalecki stayed silent, eyes raking over the design, Jensen cleared his throat and continued explaining. “Um, here the path runs the full scope of both the park and the reserve with plenty of spots for benches or picnic tables so people can rest. I also marked a spot where I thought it might be nice for a little playground for kids since it’s sheltered by trees and…” Slowly Jensen was gaining confidence, especially after he thought he saw an actual grin curving Jared’s lips as he moved his hand over the blueprints that Jensen had been pouring his heart into for the last three weeks.

“Mr. Padalecki isn’t interested in trees or playgrounds, Ackles,” J.D. hissed from behind them. “His family business is high tech amusement parks that make him money with rides and food! I told you to focus on clearing that land for bigger rides and--” J.D. was disgusted by what he was seeing as failure and the possible loss of a major account.

Jared had been eyeing the various marked spots on the blueprints, knowing those were the spots he was meant to focus on and he was trying to remind himself to appear cool and serious. It was hard when every ounce of him was doing backflips internally as he took in the newest design and knew that this had been what he’d been pushing Jensen so hard to achieve.

Every design had been beyond great, had been perfect. Every design that he’d shot down actually would’ve worked for what he wanted except he knew in his heart that the designer had been holding back for some reason. Now as he listened to Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s hard voice belittling both the man and the design, he suspected he knew the cause of not only Jensen holding back on his skill but also the change in behavior these past months.

Hearing Jensen gritting his teeth and feeling his whole body go rigid, Jared straightened up to glance behind them both at the head of the firm. “My family business is in those types of things, that is true,” he began slowly, fingers carding back through his hair in a way that he did when on edge and deciding how best to handle a situation. “However, this park is my project and not part of Padalecki Amusements, Inc. as a whole. That means, what I want for this park and the accompanying nature reserve is more casual, more… simple so people can experience nature instead of technology. I explained that to my architect at our first meeting. You had no right to tell him anything given that you were not included in those meetings.

“Also, since you seem to be so damn insistent on getting under Jensen’s skin today as well as on my last damn nerve, let me make one other thing perfectly clear to you, J.D.” Jared stepped away from Jensen and more toward the scowling J.D. Morgan, hearing a soft voice speak his name but choosing to ignore it for the moment. “You didn’t give this account to him. You weren’t given an option but to assign my project to Jensen because I demanded him.

“I refused to work with any of those other so-called up and coming young designers as you called them earlier. I refused then and I will refuse now if you get it in your head to either try to remove Jensen from this project as head designer or fire him for whatever burr crawled up your tight ass suddenly,” he went on in a voice that showed his disgust with how the man was acting as well as treating someone as talented as Jensen. “I came to your firm because I wanted him to design for me.” He jerked a thumb back at Jensen, refusing to look at the man because he knew if he saw the expression on the man’s face then he would punch J.D. right on his ass.

“And that’s why he’s wasted both your time and my money designing useless crap for eight months!” J.D. had just about had enough of this arrogant ass.

He’d been reluctant to take his project despite knowing that the Padalecki name would certainly increase the reputation of his firm in San Antonio. He’d heard all the stories and rumors about the youngest son who had been given the responsibility of the business when his father decided to move to Europe with his Mistress. Jared Tristan Padalecki has a reputation in the business world as hard, arrogant, self-serving as well as demanding and a perfectionist asshole. He also had the rumors swilling around him that he might be gay.

J.D. gave lip service to equal opportunity and had hired Jensen even after the handsome young man had admitted that he was openly gay. He’d really only hoped to be able to use his desire for success to provide arm candy for his daughter once she joined the firm.

Once Jensen refused his daughter’s advances, once he threatened to file that law suit if she didn’t stop bothering him and refused J.D.’s own orders to play ball or else he’d be finding his ass on the street with no referral from his firm, the older man was now tired of dealing with both men and was willing to lose the huge profit some stupid park might bring in.

“Is that what you think?” Jared’s lips curved into a slow smile, amused by this as he sat in a chair at the table and casually swung his denim clad legs up so his scarred work boots hit the table. He didn’t miss the low hiss from the architect behind him. “You think he wasted my time? You think I was dissatisfied with all of those other well thought out, well designed blueprints and that was why I refused them? J.D., I guess what my grandfather said about you when he heard which firm I was heading for was right. You are nothing but an arrogant, homophobic bastard who can’t see talent when it’s right in front of you.

“I didn’t turn those other designs down because they weren’t any good. I turned them down because I knew Jensen could do better. And he has.” He glanced back with a slow smile to see Jensen’s eyes had widened but it was the too pale cheeks that warned him that he’d allowed other things to keep him too distracted as of late and Jensen’s confidence had paid the price for it. “I could’ve greenlighted the first damn design he showed to me but I knew, and I knew he knew, that he could do better. So I kept turning them down and being a hardass.

“That design right there? That’s the design that I knew he had in him and that’s the one I will green light for my project but only so long as Jensen remains as the architect for the duration.” Jared sat up to meet the hard stare of the older man. “I will not work with you. I will not work with anyone else. I also want it put in the contract that Jensen gets full credit for the design. I’m willing to give credit to your firm in a small degree but the design is Jensen’s and if you try to take that from him because he ‘works’ for you then I think it might be time for him to quit before you fire him. I’m pretty sure any other firm in this city would snatch him up.”

J.D. glared at the young Texan for a long moment. He knew if he ruined this deal, Padalecki could ruin him. He wasn’t used to being the one backed into a corner but knew he had been and expertly done it seemed. Any way he moved now would look like he was lashing out at his designer in a way that could have a lawsuit brought on to his firm.

Finally coughing, he suddenly smiled while extending a hand as if nothing was wrong and he hadn’t just been insulting his star designer in front of a client. “No, of course I wouldn’t dream of replacing Jensen as the designer for your project, Jared. He’s my best designer and I’m glad to see that you saw that raw talent in him like I have and… huh?”

A hand wrapped tightly in his tie to yank him closer to a still smiling Jared, but the temper sizzling on the surface could be easily seen. “You are a two-faced, lying, weasel of a man who hasn’t seen anything in this man but what you think you and your talented staff can steal out from under him or use him for!” he growled in a low, tight voice, hearing as well as feeling a hand on his shoulder this time when Jensen finally stepped closer to touch him. “Fine, I won’t punch him in his face for being a jackass but I’m not promising it won’t happen anytime between now and when the park opens, Jensen.”

Letting go of his grip on the tie, he stepped back from J.D. but kept his place between the older man and Jensen. “I want this design. I had my lawyers draw up a contract that you can have your people go over but I’ve been assured it’s standard and you should have no problem with it.” He pulled a folded set of papers out of his jacket to hold out to a stunned J.D.

“My lawyer is waiting for your call if you want to go over anything with her while I stay here and have everything explained to me. There’s a clause in the contract where I can request small changes but nothing my architect would have serious issues with I’m sure.” Jared glanced back just in time to see Jensen roll his eyes and mutter something under his breath that he wouldn’t be too sure about that. “Read it, bitch to my lawyer, then bitch to me while I sign it, but I want it signed by end of the business day today because we break ground the end of next week.”

Swallowing his next comment, J.D. gave the contract a once over to see that is was very close to a standard contract with just a few clauses that he supposed he could live with. “I don’t see there being any problems but I will go over it. If you want to stop by my office before you… leave, it should be ready to sign,” he said before stomping out of the office, slamming the door behind him.

Jensen had been holding his breath during this near confrontation. He knew J.D. would try to make his life hell as it was because he refused to date or be arm candy for his daughter. Being backed into a corner like he had been wouldn’t ease the tension any and he had to wonder if maybe he shouldn’t just resign and hope he could find another job in the city.

Blowing out a breath, he decided to play it by ear and see what happened later in the day since he knew his boss wouldn’t say or do anything so long as the client was in the building. “Okay. So since you finally agreed to one of my designs… I’m choosing to ignore that you could’ve approved any of them these last eight months. Come here so I can go over it with you fully so you can be sure it’s exactly what you envisioned it to be and that you understand everything,” he said, having to push his glasses back up again to see the design and sighing when he once again felt the hard body stepping up behind him. “I guess we’ll have to have that talk on personal space again?”

“What’s that?” Jared smiled but then let himself be led around the blueprint step by step until Jensen was certain he understood everything about it and that everything worked for him. “Well since I think I’ve taken up enough of your time and you probably have to do actual work to make this blueprint work or something, I’ll just head for Morgan’s office and sign a contract,” he said finally, reaching for his Stetson and leather jacket. “I know I’ve been an ass to work for or with, and I won’t say I won’t be during this project, but I just want you to know that I look forward to seeing you help me make that plan a reality.”

Looking at Jared as he stood with his head on the door, Jensen merely nodded. “I should have the final draft done tomorrow if I work through the night or…”

“Don’t work through the night, Jensen.” Jared paused in leaving to look back and could easily see the exhaustion on the rugged face as well as the shadows that had returned. A cheap little blond stuck her head in but had immediately backed out again after seeing Jensen wasn’t alone. “The final draft can wait a day or so. Go home. Celebrate that you actually got a plan approved by me.”

Jensen did consider that a win… unless he thought too much and then he figured he would get pissed off. For the moment, he’d take the win, but still frowned at the thought of going home to an empty house since he knew his boyfriend was probably still too busy to join him.

“Don’t brood, Jensen. I promise by weeks end all will seem a lot better,” Jared offered with a wink that made Jensen chuckle. “I’ll call you if I have another thought to add to the statue in the entrance,” he called while leaving.

“Joy,” Jensen returned good naturedly since he knew it would take at least a week for his client to actually think up something to want to change… he hoped.

The rest of the day passed quickly for Jensen. He did do some redraws of his sketches, adding a couple things that he now thought would fit the feel of the park better. He ignored the repeated visits by his boss’ too pushy daughter until she had the audacity to actually crawl on to his lap and kiss him, tongue and all, and Jensen reacted on pure instinct when he stood up at the same time as he shoved her away.

“Get the hell away from me!” he shouted, furious that even after telling the young woman that he was gay, that he was in a committed relationship, that she still came onto him and was bold enough to kiss him. “I’ve told you and J.D. that I’m not going to be used. I’m not your type and even if I was straight, you would be the last woman I’d be interested in. Now get the hell out of my office and—”

A hard slap from a hand complete with razor sharp nails had Jensen’s head moving but it was her accompanying words that had his temper sizzling.

“You work for my father! And if you want to keep this fancy office and that fancy new contract with that hot ass cowboy than you’d better be prepared to get used a lot, pretty boy!” she screeched, furious as his refusal when she was used to getting her way with anything she wanted. “I’ve told Daddy I want you and what I want, I get so—”

“Not from me, bitch!” Jensen was furious. He had a brief second to run his options before he grabbed what little he had in his drawers, dumped it in his briefcase, rolled up the blueprints that he still considered his and stormed past the screeching woman down the hall to her father’s office. “I will not be a whore for your daughter!”

J.D. was still going over the contract that hadn’t been ready to sign before Padalecki had left. It could’ve been but he decided to make the cowboy wait since he hadn’t like his attitude, or how he’d talked to him earlier, or how he seemed to have been defending Jensen’s talent to him.

Looking up as Jensen stormed into the office to make that declaration; he leaned back in his chair to tap the contract. “You will if you want this project with Padalecki,” he said smugly, seeing the way Jensen’s face paled. “I could hold his arrogant ass up in negotiations now or force him to work with another, more talented designer and--”

“Did he sign?” Jensen suddenly demanded, seeing the contract on the desk and grabbing it without thinking. Not seeing a signature of either man, he knew what was happening and how it would play out. “He hasn’t signed. He won’t sign shit now,” he said and tore the contract up, seeing the rage on J.D.’s face as the man shot to his feet. But Jensen no longer cared.

The words of J.T. the janitor played in his head from that morning, the softly whispered encouragement he’d always managed to give each time they’d run into one another and slowly, finally, Jensen thought he understood them.

“In my contract it states that any unused design is still mine to retain so… I’m taking my design and walking out this door. You can say you fired me or that I quit, but if you try to blackball me with any other agency in San Antonio or the entire goddamn state of Texas, I will sue your ass and your daughter’s for sexual harassment,” Jensen stated in a tone that was ice cold, glaring at his now shouting former boss. “You basically said to a client that you think I’m worthless and have no talent, I know what you feel now and only since I refused to play your games did the truth come out. Fuck you, J.D. I can do better because I am better.”

Jensen left the office without looking back and only once he was away from the building and pulling into the driveway of the home he shared with his boyfriend did it start to sink in what he’d just done and how it could affect everything he had.

Not seeing the old beat-up pick-up in the driveway or garage made him a little sad but he wasn’t really surprised. He was struggling with making his suddenly shaking hands stop shaking as he tried to unlock the front door and not drop anything when suddenly he nearly fell forward when the door was unexpectedly pulled open.

“Son of a bitch!” Jensen yelped in his surprise, feeling everything he’d been trying to keep from falling drop when he went to catch himself, only to feel strong arms wrapping around him as he was caught and brought against a hard muscled chest.

“Hey Sugar, long time no see.”