Customer Service (ebook preview)
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A young man who hates working at the mall gains a new appreciation for his job and the untapped opportunities it presents him.
“Have a good day, sir.”
Dylan’s forced smile appeared effortless, a trick the young man had perfected during the seemingly endless hours spent slaving away at Gregor’s Sporting Goods. The older man he’d just rung out had given him the creeps, but you’d never know that just by looking. The man had obviously been flirting with him; Dylan caught the eyes drifting down towards the front of his pants more than once. He’d been tempted to call him out, but he knew it wasn’t worth the effort. The handsome young man didn’t mind the attention, he just preferred it came from women.
It was one more annoyance that came with the job. If Dylan had his way, he’d be outside using the equipment instead of hawking it indoors all day. It was torture to stand in the front of the store, under the hum of the fluorescent lights and chill of the air conditioner, watching the bright, summer days pass by just on the other side of the glass. Dylan longed for the simpler times of his childhood when he could spend his days running around with his buddies, exploring the local woods or swimming in the river or camping out under the expansive, star-peppered sky.
But college wasn’t going to pay for itself, something he was well aware of having just completed his freshman year. Even in a Midwestern nowhere town like his an education didn’t come cheap. If that meant he spent his days holed up selling sports equipment to little leaguers and workout gear to their overweight parents, so be it. The constant exposure only cemented his determination to not end up as one of the mindless locals he saw wandering the mall like zombies. It started with the old folks in the morning, doing laps around the massive temple of retail, then came the stay-at-home moms with their strollers and screaming children, before the inevitable flood of teenagers in the evening.
It was hard for Dylan not to judge them. Even though he was still technically a teenager himself for another year, he’d never shared the same interests as his peers. He wasn’t one for parties or hanging out at the mall, even before he was forced to spend all his time there. He liked to spend his time outside, playing whatever sports he could get his hands on. It didn’t matter what it was, so long as he was active and using his body he was happy.
And it showed. With youth still on his side, Dylan’s athletic, six-foot frame was covered in lean, defined muscle. His shoulders were broad, his waist was small, and he had a round, perky rear that, despite his relative modesty, he liked to show off in his fitted chinos. He wasn’t overly arrogant, but he also wasn’t above flirting or subtly flexing his pecs against his tight polo if it meant a local mom would commit to a sale. His boy-next-door face, with its bright blue eyes, dimpled smile and shaggy brown hair, usually sealed the deal if his tight body alone wasn’t enough.
His impressive build, coupled with his relatively unassuming personality, meant Dylan turned heads all over the mall. He was a rarity; a handsome, quiet jock with none of the testosterone fueled antics that were so off putting in his peers. He would have been a true catch, but due to his work and school schedule he’d never had time for a steady girlfriend. Not that it stopped the horny nineteen year old from sleeping his way up one concourse and down the other. He wasn’t the kind of guy to intentionally leave a trail of heartbreak in his wake, it was just that, as with sports, he liked using his body. And, as many of the ladies who worked in the mall found out, he had plenty of it to use. He did his best to prevent hard feelings, but Dylan knew there were more than a few women in town who’d like to see him taken down a peg.
“Hey man, I’m takin’ my fifteen,” Dylan called over to the older man at the other register when he’d finished ringing up the man with the roving eyes. Mark was a stocky, former meathead only in his early thirties, but as far as Dylan was concerned that qualified as elderly.
The burly man winked, his round, full face split by a broad smile. “She better be older than that!”
Dylan sighed and shook his head. “You never get tired of that joke, do you?”
Mark shrugged, running a hand over his buzzed scalp and flexing a bowling ball bicep in the process. “I’m an old man….I gotta live vicariously through you young studs.”
“Remember, YOU called yourself an old man this time.” Dylan laughed and smiled on his way out, but internally he dreaded the thought of winding up like Mark; a burnt out jock on his way to middle age still working at the mall. But that wouldn’t be him, he told himself. He had a plan to escape. He was going to school and working on his career. This was just a temporary arrangement, a necessary step. He wondered if Mark told himself the same thing when he was his age.
Dylan pushed the melancholy thoughts from his mind and set a timer on his phone. He only had fifteen minutes of freedom and he didn’t want to waste them being depressed when they could be much better spent flirting with the cute blonde barista at the other end of the mall. He gave himself a once over in a store window, puffing out his prominent chest and giving his perky cheeks a quick flex before making his way down the crowded line of stores. They hadn’t hooked up yet, and he hoped to change that.
Tess watched Dylan approach the small coffee stand with the patient, hungry eyes of a cat waiting to pounce on its prey. Like most of the women who worked in the mall, she’d initially been sucked in by the athletic stud’s tight body, chocolate brown hair and boy-next-door face. It also hadn’t helped that unlike most of her customers he was always polite and friendly, but before Tess could make a move she’d been warned off by Jill. Then Sarah. Then Tamika. Then Laura.
They all had the same story: Dylan was a “nice guy” with a body that was as impressive as it looked, but the story always ended the same. As soon as he hit it, he was equally quick to quit it. To his credit, Dylan wasn’t one of those guys who then badmouthed his hookups or bragged about how many women he’d been with, but something about the jock’s attitude rubbed Tess the wrong way. She started to see through his friendly veneer and recognize his behavior for what it was. Once she really started paying attention she noticed that he didn’t seem to have any female friends to speak of. The only way he knew how to relate to women, or how to view them in general, was as a potential conquest. He wasn’t simply being nice because it was his nature, it was a means to an end.
Or so Tess assumed. She’d never had an in-depth conversation with the handsome young man before, but after learning of his history she had no desire to. She’d been burned by guys like Dylan before. She wasn’t going to let it happen again. More than that, she was ready to make sure it didn’t happen to any woman again.
It was a long game, waiting for the all the pieces to land in place. Not only did she have to gather all the proper ingredients, she needed to wait for the proper celestial set up. If the moon was out of phase, or if the stars weren’t aligned just so, it could be disastrous. Tampering with the forces she parlayed with was not to be taken lightly.
Now, it looked like her patience had paid off. She’d conducted the ritual the night before, grinding the ingredients down to an undetectable powder, and the heavenly bodies were all in the right positions. There was only a brief window. If she didn’t cross paths with the young man soon she’d have to start all over or take it as a sign that she wasn’t supposed to go down such a road.
Tess was prepared for either outcome, but she’d be lying if she said she didn’t feel a satisfied thrill at the sight of Dylan’s approach. Fate had spoken in her favor, it seemed.
“Hey Tess,” Dylan waved as he approached the counter, giving his solid arm a subtle flex in the process, a charming grin on his face. “How’s it goin’?”
Tess’s smile was as warm and friendly as ever. “I mean, it’s a gorgeous day out and we’re working in the mall, so….”
“Exactly,” Dylan said with an exaggerated sigh. He rolled his shoulders and stood so that the large pecs accentuated by his polo were thrust forward. “You much of an outdoors person?”
She nodded, looking Dylan up and down as she ran a thin hand through her short blonde hair. His growing smile told her he thought she was flirting when really she was just committing his appearance to memory. It was a mental “before” picture that she could later compare to the looming “after,” whatever that turned out to be. “Sure am. My folks always took us camping growing up. Hiking, kayaking, tubing…you name it. They were a bit hippy. You want your usual?”
Dylan laughed and nodded. “I wish my folks did that. Their idea of an outdoor activity is watering the plants or standing by the grill.”
Tess kept Dylan talking so that he wouldn’t notice when she slipped the small packet of powder into his drink. Even she didn’t know exactly what it was going to do. It was supposed to flip his internal wiring, making him attractive, and attracted to, other men, regardless of whether they were straight or not. Beyond that, she had no idea. These kinds of magic could be capricious at best. If nothing else, she was confident the changes would be dramatic.
“Here you go,” she said, handing the drink over. When Dylan immediately took a nervous sip she fought back a triumphant smile.
“Oh man, this is better than usual,” he said, looking down at the iced coffee.
“Guess I’ve got the touch,” Tess shrugged.
There was an awkward pause before Dylan responded. “Hey, so I was wondering if you wanted to…” He trailed off, losing his train of thought mid-sentence.
Tess leaned forward on the counter, raising an eyebrow. “Wanted to….?”
Dylan blushed and gave his head a quick shake. “Whoa…sorry…totally spaced out there for a second. Guess I need this more than I thought.” He quickly raised the cup, taking another sip.
“You were asking me a question?”
“I was?” Dylan blinked, searching his memory for what they’d just been talking about but coming up empty. “Huh. Guess it wasn’t that important.” He was interrupted by a sudden beeping from his pocket. “Ugh…” he groaned. “Time to head back. Thanks for the coffee!”
Tess finally let her smug grin show as Dylan walked away, watching the fit young man’s tight, perky rear fade into the distance. “Would’ve been fun,” she sighed to herself.
Dylan knocked his coffee back in a few long gulps on the way, surprised by how good it was. He hadn’t just been polite when he told Tess it tasted better than usual. There was a smooth sweetness that the bitter brew usually lacked and he could already feel the rush hitting his system. He clearly needed it. Standing there talking to Tess, he felt like he was forgetting something, but he couldn’t put his finger on what, exactly. He told himself the same thing he told her; it must not have been that important.
He tossed the empty cup in the trash and gave his phone another look, dreading the remaining hours of his shift. “Hope this goes quick,” he muttered.
Dylan was surprised by the sudden shift in his mood when he returned to the store. Instead of dreading the next four hours, the increasingly cheerful young man felt a giddy excitement, like he did right before hitting the field for a big game. He chalked it up to the caffeine coursing through his veins as he strolled lightly through the doors.
“Someone seems like they’re in a better mood,” Mark laughed, his broad frame leaning against the register, his burly arms flexed across his chest. “That was a quick one, even for you.”
Dylan shrugged, a smirk forming in place of his usually annoyed expression. He looked his coworker up and down slowly, his eyes lingering on the protruding lumps formed by Mark’s meaty chest pressing against his polo. “Maybe I’m just happy to spend time with you.”
The big man let out a loud laugh and shook his head. “Ohhhh, no. Sorry, pal. Just ‘cause you finally ran outta women in this mall doesn’t mean you’re gonna get any of this.”
“Maybe I was going to give YOU some of THIS,” Dylan said coyly as he turned away and flexed his perky rear. He was glad that Mark couldn’t see the confused look on his face. He had no idea why he’d said or done any of that. He’d intended to tell the other man to shut up, or make a joke about Mark being old and jealous, not do whatever that just was. “I’m going to work the floor for a bit,” he called over his shoulder, catching himself as he added a purposeful bounce to his step.
He was still puzzling it over while he sought out his first customer. Normally Dylan hovered to the side and let the shoppers come to him. It was less work that way. If they had a question or needed help they could ask, otherwise it was one less thing for him to do. Now, without fully knowing why, as soon as he saw the man idly browsing the racks of summer clothing he headed straight for him.
“Can I help you with anything?” Dylan flashed his boyishly charming smile as he approached, looking the other man up and down the way he just had with Mark. He appeared older, at least middle-aged, with a beefy, sturdy build and thinning, salt-and-pepper hair on top of his square face. His faded red t-shirt hung loose over a brawny torso, but Dylan could see the outlines of a solid chest lurking underneath, and the man had a set of powerful, hairy arms sticking out through the sleeves. His lower half seemed just as thick, with a wide, round ass and meaty thighs filling out his cargo shorts.
“Just browsing,” the man said, flipping through a rack of button up shirts. “I’ve got a fishing trip coming up and the wife wants me to look good.”
Dylan felt his smile spread. “Well THAT won’t be hard,” he chirped, his stomach dropping as soon as he heard the words. He’d said it before he even realized he was speaking. The man smiled awkwardly, further confounding Dylan as the embarrassed young man started to regard the stranger as handsome. Hoping to deflect the attention from what he’d just said, he pulled one of the button down shirts off the rack and held it up. “This material is made to keep you cool if you’re going to be out on a boat in the sun all day. But the best part is the way it hangs…it’ll make your chest look GREAT.”
This time it was the man’s turn to slowly look Dylan up and down. He seemed genuinely surprised, and a little uncomfortable, by the athletic young man’s behavior. “I, uh, don’t really know if that’s a priority,” he said flatly.
“Please! You’ve clearly got it,” he nodded towards the man’s chest, “you should flaunt it. Your wife’ll love it! Better yet, have you thought about one of these?” Dylan felt like he was locked in the backseat of a runaway vehicle as he turned towards another rack. He could hear himself talking and feel himself moving, but he didn’t have any control, like another driver was behind the wheel. He eagerly pulled out a bright red tank-top and held it up. “With arms like those,” he said, mortified as he reached out and actually touched the other man’s girder-like biceps, “it’s a cuh-rime to keep them covered.” Dylan cringed at the way he’d drawn out the word “crime” just as much as he did the toss of his head as he said it.
“That might be a little, uh, much for me.” It was clear the older man didn’t want to be rude, but he had no idea how to respond to Dylan’s obvious flirting. “One of these should do just fine,” he said, taking a button down and quickly walking away.
Dylan’s heart raced as he stood rooted in place, feeling utterly humiliated. It wasn’t until the man left that he realized how desperate he’d been to see him in the tank-top. He’d actually been picturing it, the mental image of the beefy older man’s bare, hairy arms causing his cock to throb. His mouth watered as he imagined the patch of furry chest hanging exposed at the top, and the solid gut pushing out the front. “What the fuck is with me today…” he muttered under his breath, trying to shake the fog from his head. He’d never flirted with women customers like that before, let alone other men.
Mark’s booming voice interrupted his frantic thoughts. “Yo, Dylan, a customer needs help over in shoes.”