[identity profile] noelleleithe.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] noelleleithefic
Title: Room With A View
Author(s): [livejournal.com profile] noelleleithe
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: I don’t own anything here except my own words. No copyright infringement is intended.

Luke Grimaldi commanded attention wherever he went, but all he cared about Monday morning was the Starbucks on the corner next to his building. He had an assistant at work who brought him coffee, but he enjoyed the five-block walk from his apartment building on Park down to the office on Fifth, and he liked having his first cup along the way. A smiling young barista started his preferred drink as soon as he pulled open the door, and he smiled back and left her a tip even more generous than the usual.

He sipped his latte, one hand dug into the pocket of his long wool coat, fingers chilled despite his insulated leather gloves. A late cold snap had cut through what had seemed to be an early spring, and Luke's breath steamed white in the air as he walked. More than once, he saw appreciative eyes watching him, some even from men he might have approached in a bar. He ignored them all, as usual. He'd been asked if he was a model or an actor more times than he could count. It had long ago lost any shine.

He smiled at the doorman who nodded as Luke stepped into the revolving door of the office. Grimaldi Shipping occupied a narrow but tall building a few blocks down from Central Park, tucked between a high-end designer clothing store and a boutique hotel. Luke smiled at various nameless employees and greeted a few he recognized as he made his way to the elevators. He rode up alone, which was unusual but not unheard of, pulling off his gloves and scarf and unbuttoning his coat as he went.

The phone on the desk outside his office starting ringing as he approached, and he smiled at Bethany as she answered it. She lifted a hand in greeting, and Luke walked on into his office, set his coffee on the corner of his desk, and stripped off his coat, stepping over to hang it on the hook near the door.

He'd just gotten settled into his seat and was bringing up his computer, which Bethany booted up each morning so it would be through the security steps by the time he arrived, when his phone rang. He glanced at it to see it was on the direct outside line only a handful of people knew, and answered accordingly.

"Grimaldi Shipping, this is Luke."

"Good morning, son." Damian's cultured, lightly accented voice filled his ear. "I would like you to meet me for lunch today. We have some business to discuss, away from the office."

Luke frowned, swallowing his sip of coffee and watching his email load. "Sure," he replied. "Any place in mind?" He had a feeling he knew, but he always asked anyway.

"The St. Martin. Twelve-thirty, and don't be late, Luciano."

Damian hung up before Luke could point out that he hadn't been late for any business meeting in well over a year, and that because of a broken elevator. Luke set a reminder on his phone, which even he would admit was the main reason for his newly discovered punctuality. "The wonders of modern technology," he murmured as he started working his way through his email.


Luke walked into the hotel's bistro at 12:27 by his phone and greeted the maitre d with a nod. The man straightened immediately. "Mr. Grimaldi, very pleased to have you join us today. Please, follow me."

Luke did, finding Damian ensconced at his favorite table, next to the window overlooking Fifth Avenue. The boutique hotel had been Damian's New York base for years, and Luke had given up wondering why he never simply bought an apartment. He suspected Damian had connections to the ownership that yielded him his posh suite— with full maid and concierge services—more cheaply than he could have bought or rented a comparable apartment.

Luke gave the maitre d a smile as he took his seat across from Damian, whose critical gaze ran over Luke, taking in his appearance, as usual. Luke sat calmly, and Damian soon gave an almost imperceptible nod before reaching for his napkin and laying in his lap.

"You're on time, Luciano," Damian said, a note somewhere between joking and mocking in his voice. "I believe that may be three lunches in a row."

Luke shrugged, picking up the single menu and glancing down the list of items even though all were quite familiar to him. "Five, actually," he said in a bland tone. "But who's counting?"

Damian was silent for a long moment before reaching for his water glass, taking a sip and lowering it back to the table. He straightened slightly, as if shaking off their exchange. "I must talk to you about Grimaldi Shipping, Luciano. As I told you some months ago, I will be taking an extended trip to Malta, and as it happens, I will need to leave sooner than expected. You and I must spend the remainder of the week preparing you to take over for me while I am away."

Luke blinked in surprise. "You're leaving that soon?"

Damian almost smiled, but his eyes were hard. "Yes, it seems matters in Malta cannot be left to go any longer. I had hoped to have more time with you before putting this weight on your shoulders, but I must."

A server approached then, and Damian paused long enough for them to place their orders, Damian having not needed the menu for quite some time unless new items were added. The chefs were always happy to accommodate any of his special requirements, of which there often were many, which was part of the reason Luke kept his orders as simple and straightforward as possible.

The server having left with their orders and Luke's menu, Luke leaned back in his seat, the tips of his first two fingers and his thumb resting on the stem of his water glass. "I don't think there'll be that much involved," he said, holding Damian's gaze. "I've spent the past two years learning the business from the inside out. I've been in on dozens of client and board meetings, and everyone in the company knows that you've been preparing me to take the reins. Other than making sure I'm up to date on everything that's current, what's left to learn?"

Damian laughed then, the sound condescending, and shook his head. "You have very much left to learn, son," he said. "What I can teach you in the next week should be enough for you to keep everything running on an even keel until my return. But do not expect it to be easy, even then. You are bright and well-educated, but I believe you will agree that you do not have the same level of interest or aptitude as I."

On that, Luke couldn't argue. He could understand and run a business, even one as complex as Grimaldi Shipping, but he wasn't a prodigy of any kind, and he didn't love the work. It was fun, sometimes rewarding, and often interesting, but it just hadn't captured his attention.

Luke sighed and leaned forward, resting his arms on the edge of the table. "So what's on the agenda?"

Damian gave the nearest to a genuine smile that he ever offered. "Paperwork, I'm afraid," he said. "We must prepare documentation allowing you to operate as my proxy on any matters that may arise, in the event that I am unreachable, which will be likely from time to time. Most day to day operations will not be a concern, but we must prepare for as many eventualities as possible. And there exists a possibility that some personal business may need attending to as well. My assistant will handle most things, but some may require written approval. I have already set Carol to work gathering the necessary materials for us."

Luke still didn't see a problem. He'd done all of those things from time to time, albeit with Damian on hand in case anything went wrong. Nothing ever had. He guessed there'd be some kind of power of attorney paperwork to sign, but that should be it, right?

Their food arrived before he could ask more questions, and Damian switched to his version of small talk, which from the day Luke had started work at Grimaldi Shipping had consisted of quizzing Luke on various aspects of the business. Luke answered by rote between bites of shrimp pasta, filling in names and numbers easily memorized and just as easily forgotten when no longer relevant.

Near the end of their lunch, Luke saw a server approaching, carrying a pitcher of water to refill their glasses. Luke glanced at him, then found himself doing a classic double-take and staring at the man. Tall, fair, dark-haired, with crystal blue eyes. He didn't look at Luke or Damian, lifting the pitcher to refill Damian's glass, and before he could stop himself, Luke blurted out, "Noah?"

Noah jumped, Luke jerked in reaction, and what happened next seemed to be in slow motion. Luke's knee hit the underside of the table, the sharp pain nearly unnoticed as he watched the goblets on the surface sway. Water splashed from the pitcher onto the table as Noah pulled it back, reaching for Damian's glass with his free hand. He didn't quite make it. The goblet toppled onto its side, water and ice sluicing out across the few remaining inches of table and over the edge, right into Damian's lap.

The word that left Damian's mouth was one Luke didn't recognize, despite his years of study of both Italian and Maltese, but its meaning was clear. Damian leapt to his feet, shaking his trousers to knock off the ice and some of the water, but he was still soaked from his waist halfway down to his knees.

In the time it had taken Damian to move, Noah had set the water pitcher down on the next table and pulled out the towel he had tucked into the waistband of his black apron. "I am so, so sorry, sir," he said, stepping forward with the towel held out in one hand. "Please let me—"

"Silenzju!" Luke cringed at both the tone of voice and the language. Damian only slipped into his native tongue when he was particularly emotional, which usually meant furious. Noah flinched back and shut up. Luke stood up and was about to intervene when the maitre' d came scurrying up.

"Mr. Grimaldi! I am so very sorry about this. We will of course pay for your dry cleaning bill and any permanent damage that results." He turned a glare onto Noah. "Mr. Mayer, your services will no longer be required. Please collect your things and leave the premises immediately. Your final paycheck will be mailed to you."

Luke's mouth dropped open in shock. "Sir, that really isn't necessary. It was my fault as much as it was—"

"Thank you, James," Damian cut him off. "I will return to my suite to change and send my suit down with the valet." He shot Luke a dark look. "Luciano, I have matters to tend to this afternoon. I will see you at the office in the morning, bright and early."

With one final curt nod to James, Damian turned and stalked out of the restaurant toward the private elevators at the rear of the lobby.

Luke turned back to James to protest again, but the man had already beckoned over another server to clean up the table, and Noah was nowhere in sight. Luke looked around and caught a glimpse of his dark hair at the edge of the kitchen, where it looked like he was putting something on a shelf.

Luke strode in his direction, stopping just outside the entrance to the kitchen. "Noah, I—"

Noah didn't stop moving. He tossed his apron onto the counter and yanked at his tie. "I'm fine," he ground out. "I have two more jobs, they'll keep me going until I can replace this one." He did look at Luke then, eyes hard. "It would help not to have a bad reference from this one."

It was all Luke could do not to reach out and touch Noah wherever he could. "Noah, this is all my fault," he said. "Let me make it up to you. I—" Inspiration struck. "I was just thinking that what I really need is a personal assistant, someone to take care of the things that I don't have time for, or to be honest, that I'm just bad at. I could hire you. It wouldn't be full-time, I don't have that much stuff, but it would pay better than this, I'm sure, and…."

He trailed off at the hard look in Noah's eyes, then flinched as Noah took a step toward him, fists clenching at his sides. "I don't take charity," Noah ground out. "And I'm not a whore."

"It's not…. No!" Luke almost shouted the last word. "I swear, Noah, it would be a legitimate job. Nothing questionable, totally aboveboard. I don't…. I'm not…." He sighed, all the fight going out of him, his gaze dropping to the floor. "I'm not out at work," he murmured. "No one knows, especially not Damian… my father." He lifted his eyes to find Noah looking at him like a puzzle he couldn't quite figure out. "And I really do need the help. Picking up dry cleaning, making sure the housekeeper gets paid, getting things fixed around the apartment. Maybe buying groceries so I have something other than coffee and cheese."

He attempted a smile, and gradually, a small one appeared on Noah's face.

"So," Luke said, standing up straighter. "I guess you're free this afternoon now, so why don't you come for an interview? Like I said, totally legit. I'll even check your references… although maybe not from here." Noah's smile grew a bit. "Can you come over at three?"

Noah checked his watch in a manner that made Luke think he'd done it out of habit more than intent. Noah's eyes lifted back to meet his, brow furrowed over those brilliant blue eyes, and he bit his bottom lip. Luke had to fight once again not to reach out, pull it free, run his thumb across it.

"You don't need to decide about the job right now," Luke said, keeping his voice low and soft. "Just come for the interview, and we'll take it from there. Okay?"

Slowly, Noah nodded, but before he could say anything, the manager stepped out of his office.

"Mayer," he said, his voice less strident than it had been a few minutes earlier. "Can I speak with you a moment?"

Luke reached into his jacket, pulling out his wallet and digging into it for a business card. "Here," he said, handing it over to Noah, who took it automatically. "Just say you have an appointment with me."

He gave one more small smile before turning and walking back through the dining room. The maitre' d tried to intercept him, but he ignored the man and didn't look back. He'd never much cared for the food there anyway.


It took a little insistence—and a ten percent increase on Luke's first salary offer—but one week later, Luke had a new personal assistant in the person of one Noah Mayer, film student and part-time barista. For a guaranteed maximum of twenty-five hours a week "and I'm not washing your underwear" (amused, Luke pointed out that he already had a laundry service for that), Noah would run errands, keep track of household bills, handle any maintenance or repair issues that might arise with Luke's apartment or seldom-used car, and generally do whatever else needed doing that they agreed on.

Noah had dressed the part for the interview, in a pristine black suit, light green dress shirt, and green-and-black striped tie, and Luke had to use a pretty hefty portion of self control to do no more than shake his hand. Noah looked like a classic movie star, and Luke definitely appreciated it, even though he truly preferred him in the jeans and snug t-shirt look he'd first seen in the club where they'd met. Not that Luke said anything of the kind to Noah. He'd promised Noah a legitimate job, and making any kind of move on him would flush that right down the toilet.

And thing was, he liked Noah. He seemed to be genuine, down-to-earth and hardworking, reminding Luke of his mother's family, which he visited back in Oakdale now and then. His grandmother and step-grandmother, Lucinda and Emma, were different as night and day but always made him feel welcome, like he belonged there. His half-siblings seemed to worship the ground he walked on, which he didn't think he'd ever get tired of. His mother's second husband, Holden, was harder. He had a straightforward way of talking, and looking at you, that always made Luke uncomfortable, but at the same time, it made him want to tell all his secrets. Like his biggest one, the one Damian could never know, unless Luke wanted to lose everything.

Not many people knew Luke's secret. In a city of eight million people, the odds that any random fuck in a back room would cross paths with his father was miniscule, and even then they'd probably be more likely to blackmail Luke with the information than out him. That had almost happened once, but Luke had calmly pointed out that the son of a Republican member of the state assembly probably had just as much to lose as Luke did.

Noah was the first guy in years who'd turned his head for more than a quick fuck. Luke had no problem taking repeat business from like-minded men, but it never went beyond the bedroom, and he told himself he liked it that way.

Noah was different. Yeah, Luke still wanted him. Who wouldn't? He was gorgeous, all long limbs and broad shoulders and blue, blue eyes, and he'd been a fantastic fuck, responsive and pliant, making some of the sexiest sounds Luke had ever heard. Luke didn't quite understand what drew him in for more, when he'd already gotten so much. He wanted to fuck Noah again, sure, but for once, he actually wanted to spend time with him, too.

That didn't happen for the first few weeks. It took a lot of coordination and planning to set things up so Damian could oversee matters long-distance and Luke could handle the day-to-day operations. By the time Damian left, ten days after their ill-fated lunch, Luke had spent well upwards of a hundred hours in the office. Things calmed down a little after that, without Damian's overbearing manner, which, Luke admitted silently, was exacerbated by Luke's automatic heels-digging-in reaction to being ordered around.

By the time Luke could cut back to something approaching normal business hours—less than ten hours a day, at least, and weekends generally off—he'd almost forgotten what life had been like before. He hadn't been to a club in nearly a month, had barely been home except to sleep, and he'd barely glanced at the lists Noah left for him each day, noting what he'd taken care of and what he planned to do the next day. He saw Noah a few times a week, always at the office, where he'd bring Luke paperwork or checks to sign, usually dropping off something for him to eat at the same time. Considering Luke was spending most of his time living off coffee and the pastries that always seemed to find their way into any office, the occasional sandwich and piece of fruit was certainly welcome.

Luke had no idea how many hours Noah had been working, since he hadn't had time to even attempt to keep track. But when he dragged his tail feathers home on Friday, the end of the fourth week since he'd met Noah and three weeks since he'd started work, he stopped and looked around.

His apartment stayed clean, thanks to his housekeeper, and most of his regular bills were set up on automatic payments so he didn't have to worry about the power getting cut off or anything stupid like that. But something looked different. He stepped further into the living room, but it still took him a few minutes to realize that his furniture had been moved. Not that it bothered him, particularly, but his sofa had been turned at an angle, and the overstuffed chair and ottoman set moved similarly, so that all the seats pointed more directly at the television. The media components seemed to have been rearranged, too, much more neatly than the haphazard setup he'd had before, where as long as everything was plugged in and working, he was happy. The random pile of remote controls was gone, and in its place was a single gadget, about the size of a small tablet computer, with a slip of paper underneath it. He pulled it out.


Hope you don't mind that I took the liberty, especially considering I did it with your money. The new remote should work on all the equipment, so you don't have to dig around looking for the right one all the time. The old remotes are in a box in the top of the coat closet, in case you want them back. But give this a shot. I think you'll get used to it pretty quickly. If you do, there are add-ons that let you control things like the lights, too!


Luke blinked, lifted his head to look at the TV, and blinked again before looking back down at the contraption in his hand. A button at the top left said "watch TV," so Luke tapped it, and a second later, the television came on.

Luke grinned and tapped the screen again, watching the TV shut itself off. Shaking his head, he set the remote down and headed toward his bedroom, shedding his clothes and dropping them into the laundry hamper. Boxer-clad, he padded over to the kitchen and stopped again. The counters were clear, except for the coffee machine and a neat stack of mail sitting on the edge of the island. He'd authorized Noah to open anything that looked like a bill or payment and handle those, and to pass along those that appeared time-sensitive, like invitations he'd received over the previous few weeks. Those came pretty regularly, mostly things like gallery openings that were less social events than thinly disguised networking.

What remained were a handful of personal letters and cards, which were always few and far between, most of his friends preferring electronic means of communication. He'd gotten two postcards from friends off vacationing in warmer locales, a brief note from his mother, and an envelope addressed with the cramped, messy writing he knew was Ethan's. He smiled at the note inside, written with a 9-year-old's enthusiasm and his spelling skills, but as he got to last line, his smile slipped away.

"Mama said it's your birthday soon," Ethan wrote. "Can you come home then? We could go horseback riding and swim in the pond."

Luke bit his lip as he set the note back on the island with the other letters. Even if he could get away, which was impossible with Damian in Malta, what good would it do anyone? He'd spend a few days with people he barely knew despite their relationships, and he'd come right back here, back to his life.

He looked around the kitchen, sleek and shining, devoid of warmth and personality.

Some life, he thought.


Saturday morning, for the first time in weeks, Luke slept in. He woke only long enough to stretch and roll over, curling more comfortably into his Egyptian cotton sheets, smooth and cool against his bare skin. His dreams were aimless, unremarkable and pleasant enough, and when he finally dragged himself into consciousness, he felt more rested and relaxed than he could remember, even before Damian announced he was leaving.

He stretched again, slowly, luxuriously, and settled against his pillows, blinking at the ceiling. Light filtered in from the window along the wall opposite the bed, which was covered now by the series of sliding fabric panels some designer had insisted were all the rage two years earlier, when he'd moved in. Luke didn't much care. He liked that they blocked the light enough that, on the rare occasions he slept in, he wasn't awakened by the morning sun streaming in.

He turned his head to check the time, but just as the 9:47 registered, he realized he smelled something burning. No, not burning; brewing. Coffee.

Who the hell…? As quickly as the thought formed, he answered it himself. It had to be Noah. He had no way to know Luke was home; he'd been up and gone no later than eight every morning for weeks, earlier on weekdays. And Luke had told him to help himself to whatever food or drinks he wanted, although Luke would almost bet that Noah had rarely gone any farther than a cup of coffee in the mornings.

Rolling up to sit on the side of the mattress, Luke ran a hand down his face, then scrubbed it through his hair. He needed a long, hot shower and a cup of coffee big enough to drown in. Some food wouldn't hurt, either. Maybe he and Noah could go grab some breakfast? They'd barely had a chance to talk since Noah's first couple of days on the job.

Pushing to his feet, Luke grabbed his robe from the back of his closet door and pulled it on, tying the sash before stepping out of the bedroom and heading down the hall toward the kitchen. He stepped around the corner and stopped, staring.

Noah stood with his back to Luke, stretching up to snag a coffee mug from a high shelf, the move pulling the sweater he wore far enough up to expose a couple of inches of smooth, pale skin above the waistband of his jeans. The jeans fitted him perfectly, hugging his ass and thighs, folding down at the hems over the tops of his sneakers, the denim there worn thin enough that a few spots had started to fray.

Luke swallowed to try to moisten his suddenly dry mouth. "Hey."

Noah jumped and half turned, the mug he'd had half a grip on spinning out of the cabinet and just missing Noah's shoulder on its way to the floor. Luke winced as the ceramic crashed into the tile, sending pieces flying out in all directions. Noah recoiled from the impact so close to his feet, and considering the way Luke's heart was racing, he could just imagine the suprise Noah must be feeling like right then.

"Shit." Noah spat out the word and dropped into a crouch, reaching for a piece of the mug. "Shit. Sorry, Luke. Jesus. I just, I didn't know you were here, and—"

Luke stepped forward to cut him off. "It's okay, Noah," he said, but Noah interrupted him.

"Don't come any closer!" he said, holding up a hand to ward him off. "There are probably shards of this everywhere, and you're barefoot. Let me get it cleaned up."

Luke paused, unsure how Noah had time to even notice that Luke didn't have on any shoes, but then he nodded and backed away. "I'll put on some slippers."

He was back down the hall and into the slippers he almost never wore but that sat under the edge of the bed on his side anyway, right where the housekeeper always left them. He walked back to the kitchen just in time to hear Noah curse under his breath again, then stand up and step over to the sink, dropping a pile of ceramic pieces on the counter next to it before turning on the water and sticking his hand under it.

Luke frowned and stepped over to Noah's side. "Did you cut yourself?"

Noah shrugged. "It's not bad," he said. "Probably should've used a wet paper towel or something. See, it's almost stopped bleeding already."

Automatically, Luke reached out, taking hold of Noah's hand and turning it so he could see the cut. It took a moment for the warmth of Noah's skin to register with him, and at about the same moment, Noah drew in a long, deep breath. Luke brought his other hand up to brush across Noah's palm, next to the small cut, and Noah's breath came back out in a rush, ruffling Luke's hair.

Luke looked up to find Noah's face inches from his, eyes dark and so blue, and without pausing to think, he lifted onto his toes far enough to press his lips to Noah's.


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