The following is an excerpt from Cherry Pickett’s Boardroom Omega. You can read more about the book here.
As the clock struck one, Percival breezed back into his office, not quite slamming the door behind him. He heaved a heavy sigh as he slung himself down into the plush of the incredibly expensive leather executive’s chair, the glow of the three monitors dominating his desk already too much for the headache threatening the rest of his afternoon. The sun blazed in through the windows behind him; the papers he’d tossed down on the desk fluttered as the air conditioning rattled to life. He rubbed at his temples, then resigned himself to looking at spreadsheets and emails for the rest of the day. Better than conferences or video calls, he supposed, given the mood he was in.
The morning had been lost to budget review meetings and the third-quarter sales report and strategizing how to break the bad news to shareholders next week. That had been followed by an infuriating working lunch with the board, in which every last one of them—dusty old alphas—had vetoed the input of their actual omega employees about harassment in the office. Instead, they’d voted to move ahead with some tripe they’d drafted, free of input from silly and irrational omegas. Then they’d spent the rest of the luncheon in a self-congratulatory circle jerk, and Perce had been very glad to get away from it, to escape to the relative quiet of his own office.
The entire situation was enough to make him see red, but there wasn’t much more he could do without outing himself as an omega, and he doubted that would accomplish anything beyond getting his contract summarily terminated.
Of course, there was nothing in the contract about him needing to be an alpha or not being an omega (that wording was six kinds of illegal). Being alpha was usually assumed, though. Everyone knew omegas didn’t have the spines, the brains to occupy the upper echelons of the corporate world. They were good for brewing coffee and greeting potential clients and scheduling appointments and that kind of shit.
It honestly bothered him that he felt had had no choice but to hide it, that if he said anything, he’d risk being dismissed. It was even more maddening, because he didn’t even have to try that hard—he took his vacation strategically and otherwise made sure he stayed on top of his heat-suppressant dosing and that was it. It wasn’t like omegas were expected to wear skirts and heels and full-face makeup (small mercies), so it was often hard to know without directly asking someone. Most people were open enough about it; he wasn’t direct about it and nobody had ever thought to ask.
He knew he would have been treated differently if anyone knew. Aggression, confidence, even ruthlessness were desirable traits in an alpha. In an omega?
They would have told him there was something wrong with him. But it was just naturally how he was—competitive to a fault; confident to the point of arrogance; calculating and precise.
In short, it was all fucking bunk, and he would have loved to give the rest of the brass what-for about it, but he did like his job and he didn’t particularly want to be unemployed. And if he outed himself, he’d be virtually unemployable, so there was that.
There were days when it bothered him more; today was most certainly one of them. If the headache hadn’t been brewing even before he’d arrived at the office this morning—he’d been teetering on the edge of one for the past three days—then that meeting alone would have given him a migraine.
He rubbed absently at the back of his neck, sighing. He didn’t want to make up an excuse to leave early, but he debated it as he stared at the words dancing around on the page. This was going to get bad, and fast.
The beep of the intercom almost startled him out of his skin. He stared at the phone console for a second, then reached over and answered the line. “Yes, Michael.” He peered through the half-turned blinds at his secretary’s back. Michael was a diligent worker, a positively bubbly omega who sometimes grated on Perce’s nerves.
Like now, as he chirped, “Your one o’clock is here, Mr. Warwick.”
Perce didn’t remember having a one o’clock today. He glanced hastily toward the printer, where he’d left his agenda, but he supposed it didn’t matter. He tried not to sigh. “Send them in.”
“Right away, sir.” Michael hung up with a click, and Perce plucked up his agenda at last, scowling at it.
The office door swung open, just as Perce was computing what a meeting with Lunex would entail. He bit his tongue against the reflexive fuck that rose up in his throat. The last person he wanted to see was—
“This way, Mr. Cohen.”
Perce looked up in time to see Jake Cohen clap Michael on the shoulder, then bustle by him into the office. Michael stepped out, closing the door behind him. Jake lifted the coffee cup he was carrying, as if in greeting, his unruly auburn curls bouncing lightly, his hazel eyes sparking as his gaze landed on Perce. A grin soared across his face. “Hey Percy,” he said as he plopped right down in the chair on the other side of the desk.
“Percival. Perce if you must” was about the only thing he could think to say.
“Aw, what. We used to call you that all the time in high school.”
“And I hated it then,” Perce fired back, managing to screw a smile to his face, even though he knew he probably looked like he was trying to murder Jake with his eyes alone.
Jake took a sharp breath. Perce looked down at his desk. “Besides,” he continued, forcing himself to school his face, “that was fifteen years ago. I’d have hoped we’d have matured at least a little.”
Jake snorted, and Perce jerked his head up. Jake shook his head, his curls flying again. “Same old Perce,” he snickered, then sat back in his chair, crossing an ankle over his knee. “Fifteen years, huh? How ya been?”
“Well,” Perce said, gesturing aimlessly at the room they were sitting in—corner office, lots of light, piles of paperwork, three screens.
He was important, clearly.
Jake rolled his eyes, like he was taking it all in. “Chief Operating Officer of the second-largest energy company in the state—looks good on ya.”
“Hm.” Perce lifted his brows. Was that a pass? He’d never been able to tell with Jake. “With that in mind, what brings Lunex’s executive director to my office today?”
Jake sipped noisily on his coffee, and Perce wondered how much he’d have to pay Michael to keep his mouth shut if they had to drag a body out of here.
Jake set his cup on the edge of Perce’s desk, waving a hand absently. “Oh, y’know, Johnson figured we should talk—er, Rick. Real swell guy, you know—”
“Yes,” Perce said tightly, because he really was going to murder Jake. “I know my own boss, thank you.”
Jake gave him a strange look, glancing him up and down. Then he shook his head. “Anyway, Rick approached me—we were at some conference back in the summer there, he comes up and starts talking about how great Lunex is, how we’re doing such interesting things.” He knitted his brows, smirking at the carpet. “You and I both know what that means.”
“Hm.” Perce sat back, fiddling with a pen. He needed to take something for this damn headache. Maybe some water. He was probably dehydrated—too much coffee, too many late nights. And he’d have to talk to Michael about the thermostat—it was too hot in here.
How hadn’t he noticed that before?
Jake clapped his hands, startling Perce out of his reverie. He leaned forward. “So, you know, guess he figures we’re a bit of a threat to Utopico here, and he wants us to hash out the details of nullifying that threat.”
Perce curled his lip a little. Rick was like that; Perce had never seen the logic in it. Why spend billions acquiring another company, even if they had good tech or lines or systems? As far as he was concerned, a company like Lunex had nothing they couldn’t clone and improve.
No, he preferred to crush their enemies under his heel.
And it would be particularly satisfying to crush Jake Cohen and his little space-faring start-up. God, Perce had been waiting for this kind of opportunity for years now—since the last time Jake had humiliated him, back when they were still in high school.
They’d always had something of a rivalry; Jake was a jock, but he was also smart, which was infuriating. Perce had always been rather willowy and not particularly good at sports, excepting tennis, but he’d excelled in several areas—mathematics, engineering, that sort of thing.
Unfortunately, so had Jake. So they’d competed there, and they’d competed on the tennis team as well, and Jake was infuriating because he’d repeatedly won, and half the time, Perce felt like Jake didn’t see him as competition, as a threat, and that burned at him.
If anything, Jake had treated him like he was a friend. That was when Jake even took notice of him existing.
If there was anything worse than losing repeatedly to your rival, it was losing repeatedly to a rival who didn’t even see you as good enough to be a rival.
So, no, Perce really would have preferred his own tactics in this case.
But Rick wanted them to negotiate, so …
“So he gave you a number,” Perce surmised.
Jake sighed. “Ah—not really. Just sort of pussyfooted around the intention, you know?”
Perce frowned. That hardly sounded like Rick. Worse, it meant Jake would be in his office infinitely longer.
His sweltering office. He tugged at his collar. Why the hell was it so bloody hot in here? It hadn’t been this bad this morning. “I take it you’ve brought me some numbers then.”
“Yup.” Jake pitched a manila folder on his desk. Some of the graphs fluttered out, and Perce lifted a brow at the auburn-haired alpha, gave him as much side-eye as he could muster.
Of the two of them, Jake had certainly come out worse for wear on the opposite side of thirty. He still had that curly mop—unlike some alphas Perce knew, who were barely thirty and balding—but he was wearing thick, square-frame glasses, and he’d most definitely lost his high school jock physique. Everything about him was softer, rounder, and Perce forced himself to look down at those graphs, open up the folder as Jake jerked his head up.
“Give me the spiel,” he said offhandedly, trying to feign disinterest. “Two minutes.”
A chuckle. “Generous of you,” Jake said, and Perce sank his teeth into his lower lip, trying, desperately, to find something to cling to, some piece of data he didn’t like, something that wasn’t adding up.
“Lunex isn’t just another space exploration company,” Jake started.
“Heard that before,” Perce muttered, turning over a couple of sheets.
“We’re into exploiting resources. We’re particularly interested in Titan. We think we could solve the energy crisis that way.”
“Really,” Perce murmured. Utopico had looked at that, and they’d determined it wasn’t an option.
“We’re looking beyond too, at other resources, at 16—hey, are you okay?”
Perce blinked and looked back at the other man. “Yes. Why?”
Jake tilted his head. Concern was written all over his face. “You’re just … really flush.” He gestured to his own cheeks.
“Ah,” he managed, glancing away. “It’s a little warm in here.”
Jake blinked. “Really?” he asked. “I didn’t think it was that bad …”
He still had his jacket on. Technically, Perce did too, but the difference was that Perce was too warm, flushed and on the verge of sweating, and Jake looked … normal. Cold, even.
He tugged at his collar again, then reached over and hit the intercom. “Michael.”
“Yes sir. Is everything all right?”
“What’s the temperature in here?”
“The thermostat is set to a balmy 72 degrees, sir, just like always.”
Perce met Jake’s gaze. “Thank you, Michael,” he said, then let his finger slide off the button.
Jake tried a tepid smile, his brows tenting upwards over his glasses. “Are you sure you’re okay?” He asked. “You look like you’ve got a fever—”
Perce almost yelped, like the idea had pricked him.
A fever. A headache. A …
He glanced cautiously at Jake, who was still watching him. Perce inhaled through his nose, trying to calm himself.
It didn’t work, not when his tongue rolled up against the roof of his mouth of its own accord, and all he could smell was alpha.
He looked at Jake again. He shifted slightly, grimaced with the realization he was wet.
Fucking hell. How was he going into heat? This was insane; he’d never had a breakthrough episode, never gone into heat so suddenly, with so little warning. He always had about a week’s worth of symptoms, and he planned his heats meticulously so that he wouldn’t ever run into this situation.
Well, not this situation in particular—Jake Cohen sitting across from him, looking at him like that, and Perce’s higher reasoning was leaving him rapidly.
“I … guess I do have a bit of a fever,” he offered finally. He felt like he was coming unglued. He wanted, badly, and Jake was just … sitting there.
“Oh.” Jake looked worried. “Are you sick? Coming down with, like, a cold or something? Should you be at work, should you—”
“Probably should go,” Perce offered, and Christ, he was going to crawl over his desk into Jake’s lap if the alpha didn’t get a goddamn clue.
Jake reached blindly for his coffee cup, the folder of scattered graphs. His eyes were glued to Perce, even as Perce stood and moved around the desk in one fluid motion. He paused in front of the alpha, prepared to apologize, to say they’d have to reconvene at another time.
Instead, he found himself leaning in, grabbing at the lapels of Jake’s jacket—the alpha hadn’t worn a tie, which was maybe strategic, because just a few minutes ago, Perce would have been ready to choke him with it.
Jake’s eyes were wide, his smile frantic, almost pleading. “P-Perce?” he managed, and Perce practically growled at him, barely held himself back from attacking Jake’s rosy lips.
“Fuck me,” he said, watching Jake try to process that. The alpha blinked a couple of times, waving a frantic hand.
“Bend me over the desk and fuck me, alpha,” Perce snarled, and Jake dropped his coffee; it splattered all over the carpet.
Neither of them cared. Jake was too busy staring at him, and Perce was too busy leering at the alpha, heart pounding, because, holy fucking hell, had he really just said that? To Jake Cohen, of all people? At the office? It was dangerous, stupid, and why did he want it so bad he ached?
“Holy shit,” Jake breathed, “you’re an omega.”
Perce couldn’t think of a coherent reply, so he straddled the alpha’s thighs instead. Even he wasn’t sure what his intent was—was he going to pin Jake down, just in case he bolted, or … ?
The gentle, almost hesitant touch of Jake’s hands to his hips was reassurance he didn’t know he needed. He reached past the alpha, grabbed at the back of the chair as whatever the hell had possessed him to be so bold almost deserted him. He glanced down at Jake, who was just looking up at him, eyes wide behind his frames, and Perce caught a faded glimpse of himself in the reflection of the glass—blue eyes blown wide; straggling wisps of blond hair trying to stick to his forehead, sweep into his eyes; his lips parted, glistening.
He blinked and tried to focus on Jake. Jake, whose grip on him was steadier, more confident now. Jake, who was getting bolder, fingertips sliding under Perce’s jacket, pressing heat through his shirt, right up against his spine and climbing higher.
He inhaled deeply through his nose, tilted his head back, and said, “Is that a problem?”
“No,” Jake breathed, “no problem.” Shock had left his tone, something like reverence replacing it, and Perce gritted his teeth against the furious crash of blood raging through his ears, ringing.
“It’s just,” the alpha continued, his fingertips pressing down—Perce wasn’t sure if it was pain or pleasure, but it made him arc, back bowing into the touch. “I always thought you were an alpha.”
“A lot of people do,” Perce told him. “And I like it that way.”
“Does your assistant know?”
“The guy sitting at the desk just outside your office there. Does he know?”
“Ah—no, Michael doesn’t know.”
A pause. “Do you want him to know?”
Perce glanced down at the alpha. “Not … particularly, no.”
Jake nodded a couple of times. His hands fell back to Perce’s hips, then slid away entirely. “Does anyone here know?”
Jake looked up at him, sucked in a breath. “Then maybe … the desk isn’t a great idea?”
Perce blinked a couple of times. Jake almost sighed. “I mean, if you’re like … super married to that idea, got some kind of kink, then we can work with that, but …”
“Why are you making sense?” Perce snarled, then swung away from the alpha, stalking over to the desk. He jabbed at the intercom button, glowering at Jake as he did it. “Michael.”
“Yes, Mr. Warwick?”
“Clear the rest of my schedule and hold my calls.”
“I have an appointment I’d forgotten about, and I have to step out. I don’t think I’ll make it back to the office today.”
“Of course, sir.” The other omega twisted around in his seat. “Should I see Mr. Cohen out then?”
“That won’t be necessary. We’re both headed downstairs anyway.”
“Of course, sir. Will that be all then?”
“Yes, Michael. Thank you.”
“My pleasure, Mr. Warwick.”
He released the button, then slowly straightened up, still holding Jake’s gaze. “Now what?”
“Well, I guess we’re leaving. So … your place or mine?”
Perce lifted his brows. “You have a place here?”
Jake grimaced. “Well, more like a hotel room—I got a couple of meetings in Houston this week; then it’ll be back out to Denver.”
“My place then,” Perce said, dragging his wallet out of his desk, his keys. “I’d rather be there than whatever hole in the wall you booked.”
“Hey man, they just finished remodeling the Ritz.” Jake was on his feet. “But I figured you’d wanna go back to your place anyway.”
“Hmph. And why’s that?”
Jake tipped his head, smirking a bit. “I mean … you gotta have some omega instincts, right?”
Fuck you was on the tip of Perce’s tongue, but then, that was what he was trying to do. Still, to imply that he wanted to go to his own home, not Jake’s hotel room, because he was an omega and omegas were supposed to nest or something, was equally ridiculous. Perce had never done any of that in his life. He was pretty sure it was all a myth. Like the idea that all omegas were spineless people-pleasers. (He never entertained anything more sinister than that—that it was something about him in particular.)
“I’m just thinking about your budget, Jacob.”
“I’d hate to see the bill for extra cleaning after multiple days of a heat-induced romp.”
Jake’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh, this is a multi-day offer? Should I call over and cancel the room?”
“Don’t get presumptuous,” Perce huffed, and then he happened to glance down at the carpet. “Speaking of extra cleaning fees.”
Jake followed his gaze. “Er. Sorry?”
Perce shook his head, then opened the office door, ushering Jake ahead of him. “Michael,” he said as he passed the desk.
The other omega glanced up, then frowned. “Is everything all right, Mr. Warwick?”
“Yes—Mr. Cohen upset his coffee on the carpet. See that the cleaning staff swings by with the carpet cleaner while I’m out.”
“Of course, sir.”
“Thank you. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
With that, he turned on his heel and followed Jake to the elevator.