"How do you think the date went last night?"
Kyle Williams winced. Nora, his assistant, was being nosy again, as usual. "I don't know, probably well, I imagine. It's none of my business anyway."
Leaning against his desk, she lowered her head to whisper, "Of course it's your business who he dates. Plus, I'm willing to bet it didn't go well. He's been going on a million dates the last few months, and none of them have warranted a second one."
"How do you even know that?" He scrolled through the Excel file he had opened. Christ, this was going to be a long day. Why couldn't his clients be more organized? He never understood how a business could let itself run so inefficiently when it came to paperwork.
Nora's eyes gleamed. "Carson's assistant told me. Secret PA society."
There was a time when Kyle appreciated the news and tidbits Nora provided him about Carson, but now, it was all just starting to feel that much more pathetic. It was like everyone in the office knew about his hopeless, completely unreciprocated love for his best friend.
Everyone except the guy himself. Carson was the brightest man he knew, but not when it came to relationships.
Kyle was pretty certain Carson had no idea about his feelings, and he'd like to keep it that way, thank you very much. Carson didn't need to know, especially when Carson would never return his feelings back.
He may be in love with his best friend, but he wasn’t an idiot. He was rational. Practical.
"You guys need to stop gossiping about me and focus more on these files. Jesus, how can a business function with receipts these disorganized?"
Nora folded her arms together. "But your love life is so much more interesting than work. And you know, we omegas--we need to stick together."
"What love life? My love life involves two men only: Ben and Jerry. And a spoon, of course. Can't forget the spoon," Kyle deadpanned.
"That's because you let work run your life. You're just as bad as Carson. You're hot as fuck--you can have any alpha you want. You don't need to stick to your tub of ice cream every night." She winked at Kyle. "You can be getting a different type of cream instead."
Kyle groaned, giving her a scandalized look. "You're the worst. Like, honest to god the worst."
Throwing her hands up defensively, Nora grinned. "I'm just saying. If you're not going to make a move on Carson, that's fine, there are plenty of alphas in the sea. But you actually have to go out there, you know."
"I'm fine. My love life is fine. I don't need an alpha," Kyle retorted, focusing his attention back on his screen.
"I've never met anyone more in need of a fucking than you," Nora said candidly.
Thank goodness her voice was low. "All right, all right, that's it. I think we both need to get back to work," Kyle said, shooing her along. He loved his relationship with Nora, but sometimes, she tended to cross the line a bit, especially when it came to his personal life.
"You're no fun," she said, pouting. She straightened up, though, moving away from his desk. "Lunch later?"
Kyle fought a sigh. He really didn't want to rehash this with Nora at lunch, but knowing how relentless she was, he didn't have a choice. "Yes, yes. Lunch later. Send me the files from the Mercer project!"
Nora wordlessly waved him off, walking away and closing Kyle's office door behind her.
Kyle shook his head, trying to get Nora's words out of his mind. She wasn't entirely wrong. He probably did need to get laid. It had been a while--a long, long while since he'd been with someone.
Sure, he dated some. He wasn't a complete shut-in. His dates just never went anywhere long enough to get to the good stuff. Every time he got to know an alpha, he couldn't help but compare them to Carson, and each time, they fell short in comparison.
It was a vicious cycle.
Maybe it was time to move on. Most alphas Kyle knew were bisexual, but Carson had never given any indication that he also liked men. He dated exclusively women, and in all the years Kyle knew him--and they'd known each other practically since birth--Carson had never once hit on him. Never once shown any interest in him.
To Carson, Kyle was just a friend. Nothing more.
Kyle exhaled, raking his fingers through his hair in frustration. He had a lot of work to do. He couldn't afford to be thinking about Carson now.
"God damn it, Nora," he muttered.
Most days, his feelings for Carson remained at bay, like a dull ache he'd gotten used to a long time ago. But on days like these, it was so much more. It consumed him, and it was difficult for him to bury the feelings away.
Nora was right. It was time to move on. There were plenty of other alphas out there. He hadn't found one who could compare to Carson, but he also hadn't been looking very well. He needed to squash that small, tiny, dumb part of him that kept hoping one day, Carson would see him as something other than a friend.
It wasn't going to happen.
His thoughts were interrupted when the door opened without warning. Sighing, Kyle closed his Excel sheet. "I swear, Nora, if this is about Carson again, I'm gonna--"
"Me? What about me?"
Kyle's eyes flew up. It was Carson, in the flesh, looking as mouth-watering as ever. "Hey, sorry, I thought you were Nora."
Carson was wearing one of his patented tailored suits, cut so close and so well to his body. Kyle had to make sure his mouth wasn't watering, because damn. The fabric only accentuated Carson's muscles, his thick, broad shoulders emphasized by the cut of it.
"What were you guys talking about? You gossiping about me?" Carson was smiling, his eyebrows raised almost comically.
Kyle's heart felt like it was pounding out of his chest. Trying to keep his voice even, he said, "You wish. We were just talking about the Mercer project. We're missing files, and good thing you’re here, because I was hoping you'd be able to help."
"Oh--yeah, of course," Carson said.
There was a flash of what looked like disappointment in his eyes, and Kyle fought the urge to pinch himself. He was looking into things again, and he needed to stop. "Anyway, what brings you here?" Kyle asked, hoping to get himself under control.
"What, I can't drop by to say hi to my best friend?" Carson sat on one corner of Kyle's desk.
Kyle could smell Carson's scent, a mix of pine and spring and something so distinctly Carson. It was heady, and Kyle had to force himself to look away. He took a swig of water from the bottle on his desk. "I guess," he said. "Though, you're a big shot now and everything. You sure you should be mingling with lowly ol' me?"
Carson reached out, pinching Kyle’s arm lightly. "Fuck you, don't say that," he said, frowning. "I'm not a big shot, I'm just the same guy as before, you know?" He'd been promoted to a vice president role three weeks before, and Kyle couldn't be prouder.
Yes, Carson's father was one of the co-presidents of the company--Kyle's father was the other--but Carson deserved every bit of success and accolades that came his way. He was hard-working, innovative, and he wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty.
"I'm kidding," Kyle said, rolling his eyes fondly. "It's a joke, Cars."
"You're not upset, right? About the promotion?"
Kyle looked at him, confused. "No? Why would I be upset?"
"You deserve it just as much as I do," Carson said, earnest.
Shaking his head, Kyle touched Carson's arm. "I didn’t even apply. You're perfect for the job, and I'm so incredibly proud of you, you fucking doofus." Kyle smiled softly. "Besides, you know our dads--they're trying really hard, but sometimes, they can still be a bit conservative."
"It's bullshit," Carson said vehemently. "Such bullshit. You should be leading this company with me. It's what we were born to do. We're supposed to do this. Together."
Kyle's heart fluttered at Carson's words. Together. He loved the sound of that. It was too bad Carson meant together for the company, and that was all. Their fathers built Williams and Wood Financial, an accounting and financial services firm, from the ground up. They'd planned on having their first-borns take over the company. It would have worked, too--it was too bad Kyle wasn't an alpha.
Imagine his father's disappointment when he'd been born an omega.
It was entirely possible that was still the plan, who knew. It wasn't like omegas couldn't own property or businesses. They could. Omegas could do anything these days, but their fathers were still a bit old school in their thinking. It had been easy to promote Carson. He was an alpha--a true born leader. No matter how hard Kyle worked, his dad still only saw one thing: he was an omega.
"It's fine. You know how our dads are," Kyle said, trying curb his sadness. Sometimes he wondered if he'd have an easier time climbing the corporate ladder somewhere more liberal and current, but he loved this company. Everything he'd done in his life all led up to this, to working for Williams and Wood, and Kyle wasn't sure if he could easily give that up.
"It's not fine. You should have been promoted right along with me. You've been working so hard, and it kills me that our dads aren't rewarding you for it," Carson said steely.
Kyle shrugged his shoulders. "It's not like I'm down in the trenches here. I'm just a step below you. It's fine. It just takes a while with them." Kyle was his department’s director, and for the most part, he liked his job. He liked the people he was working with. A promotion would be nice, he wasn't going to refute that, but he wasn't as impatient about moving up as Carson was.
"I'm going to bring it up the next time I have a meeting with them." Carson really wasn't letting this go, and while Kyle appreciated the gesture, it also gave him a headache.
"No, don't. Please. Let me fight my own battles, okay? I don't need you surging in like I'm some kind of damsel in distress," Kyle said firmly, hoping he'd get his point across. Carson was hard to reach sometimes when he got into one of his crusade modes. Kyle tried to lighten the mood. "Also, don’t lie to me, Carson. You’re here because your assistant kicked you out, didn’t he?"
"He did, yes, but don't think I don't know what you're doing, Kyle," Carson replied, his eyes sharp. "We'll talk about this more later."
Kyle could deal with later. "Fine, fine," he said. "You still haven't said why you're here."
"It's like you don't want me around sometimes, I swear," Carson said, smirking. "You mean you don't like my stunning personality?"
"No. Now out with it, Wood." Kyle tried to hide the smile threatening to form on his lips.
Carson chuckled, low and smooth, and Kyle shuddered. Fuck, Carson was sexy. He hated that Carson had this much effect on him. Luckily, Carson was as blind as ever to Kyle's reactions to him.
"Nothing. I really did just want to say hi," Carson said. "I feel like I haven't seen you in forever. You haven't come around after work like usual at all." He said the last part almost accusatorially, and for a moment, Kyle felt guilty.
He hadn't been avoiding Carson, per se, but he also hadn't been putting himself in a position to spend all of his free time with the man. He was learning some self-preservation. It was a slow process, seeing as he and Carson were usually attached at the hip, but he was learning.
"You're busy," Kyle responded simply. It wasn't a lie. Between work running late and Carson's multitude of dates, Carson was always busy.
"Not too busy for you. Never too busy for you. You know that. I would have made time."
Kyle swallowed the lump in his throat. He wished Carson didn't say things like that to him. He did it all the time—Carson was too easy with his compliments, and it killed Kyle. It made it so much easier for him to pretend, to feel hope that maybe, just maybe, Carson felt the same.
"When? In between dates? Come on, Cars," Kyle said. His words sounded more vicious than he'd intended. He could only hope Carson didn't notice.
"I don't know, but I would have made time," Carson insisted.
"Fine," Kyle said. "Let's hang out tonight, then." Kyle said the words before he could think about them, and he mentally beat himself up for offering. The plan was to stop spending so much time with Carson, not to give in and hang out with the man.
Carson looked at him sheepishly. "I have a date tonight."
Of course he did. Kyle sighed, unable to keep it in, and turned back to his computer. He should feel relieved--it meant he wouldn't have to spend time with Carson, but all he felt was tartness in his mouth. Some other omega was going on a date with Carson, and again, Kyle was left in the dust.
"But we can hang out after? It shouldn't run long, it's just dinner," Carson said, insistent.
Kyle waved him off. Like he wanted to spend time with Carson after a date. What if Carson hooked up? There was no way Kyle would be able to handle having Carson in his home smelling like sex--smelling like someone else. "It's fine, don't worry about it. We'll figure out another time, yeah?"
"But Kyle, I--"
"For real, we'll figure it out. We have dinner with the family in a couple of days anyway. We'll see each other then." Their families had a standing dinner together every second Thursday. "Don't forget to bring dad that bottle of brandy from England you bought him."
Carson opened his mouth like he was going to say more, but he closed it right after, nodding. "Right. Okay. I'll see you on Thursday?"
"I'll see you on Thursday, Cars, go," Kyle said. Then softer, "Have a good date tonight, yeah?"
"Thanks, Kyle." Carson stared at him quietly for a moment. “See you.”
Kyle closed his eyes when he heard the click of the door, relief flooding through him. Part of him felt guilty for the intense relief he felt when Carson left--after all, Carson was his best friend. He should want Carson around all the time.
Until he could get a handle on his feelings, though--until he could successfully move on from Carson, his interactions with the man were always going to be strained.
He took a deep, sating breath. It was time. He needed to get over the guy. Quickly. He needed to stop waiting around for something that was clearly not going to ever happen.
Carson wasn't interested in him. He didn’t want anything but friendship with Kyle.
Kyle needed to accept that and stop hoping.
They were friends. That was all they were ever going to be.