I’m reeeally excited to share today’s blog birthday guest post because we have the whole cast of characters from Anna Zabo’s Takeover series with us for an interview!
Also a HUGE thank you to Leah from Small Queer, Big Opinions for brainstorming and helping coming up with questions to ask the gang! (Also go and check out their blog! ;))
Hello, everyone! We’re super excited to have you with us today!
Everyone looks pleased, even Eli, except for Fazil, looks a little shy.
Michael says, “It’s good to be here. Thanks for inviting all of us.”
For background, Sam Anderson is the CEO and owns S.R Anderson Consulting. His partner, Michael Sebastian works for Sundra Networks, where they met. (Takeover)
Eli Ovadia and his husband Justin White both work for Sam. Eli is the CFO, while Justin is Sam’s assistant/mentee. (Just Business). Because this is Pittsburgh, and everyone knows everyone else, practically, Eli dated waaaay Michael back in college. Justin worked as a barista for Brian before Sam hired him.
Fazil Kurt is another employee of Sam’s. His husband is Todd Douglas. (Due Diligence) who works for Rob.
Rob Ancroft is the founder and CEO of CirroBot, a robotics firm. His partner, Brian Keppler (Daily Grind) owns and runs the coffee shop, Grounds N’at, that’s located below Sam’s office.
And that’s how everyone knows everyone else.
Let’s start easy to get warmed up. 😉
What do you love most about your job?
Sam jumps right in. “That it’s mine. That I’m the boss. I love fixing things, and I enjoyed that about my previous jobs, and while owning your own company is daunting, I don’t have to put up with bullshit anymore.
Eli huffs a laugh. “We just have to put up with you.”
Sam looks taken aback. “Eli.”
Justin pipes up “Look who’s talking, Mr. Walking Innuendo.”
Fazil’s concerned look breaks into a grin. “He’s got a point, you know.”
Eli shrugs. “I was joking, Sam. The best thing for me is that you all put up with me, and I know that’s trying at times.”
Sam rolls his eyes. “Please, you’re easy to put up with.”
Justin snickers and Eli gives him a Look, but Justin ignores it. “Um, for me, it’s the challenging work and that I can be myself.”
Fazil nods. “I think that’s what we’re all saying. Not to butter Sam up, but he made an environment that lets us not worry about, you know, being real. And he supports us, even when things go south.”
All of Sam’s employees nod, and Sam looks a little chuffed.
Rob rubs his chin. “That kind of makes me want to work for Sam.”
Brian rolls his eyes. “Except you do the same thing, for your employees, really.”
Todd clears his throat. “He’s right, you do. I’ve been on both sides of that—working for a place that didn’t, and now working at CirroBot, and it’s night and day. Not looking over my shoulder, wondering if Im going to get passed over for promotion ‘cause I have a rainbow flag in your cube… it lets me focus on my life and gives me the energy to be creative at work.”
Now Rob looks a little embarrassed. “It’s just the right thing to do, you know?”
Michael nods. “It really is.” He pauses. “I suppose what I like best about working now is being able to mentor and grow newer employees—giving them the space you all talk about to be themselves and enjoy what they do at work so they can go home and enjoy what they do at home.”
Speaking of home…
Work-life can be very hectic for y’all. What do you do to relax?
Eli smiles and Justin smacks him in the shoulder. “Stop thinking so loudly.”
“But flogging you soundly is relaxing.” Eli has his legendary grin.
Michael pinches the bridge of his nose. “This is why we can’t have nice things, E.”
Eli shoots him a look. “I have very nice things, Michael.”
“Right, so I’m going talk over that lot,” Rob says, waving at Eli and crew. “And stay out of the bedroom. Certainly, that’s one way, but I rather enjoy gardening too. There’s something about digging in the dirt and making things grow that’s soothing and satisfying.”
“He’s out there a lot in the summer,” Brian says. “My dad helped him build the garden. And I like it because I get to cook.”
“And also take photographs,” Rob chimes in.
Brian laughs. “You’re out there just as often with a macro lens!”
Rob nods to Todd. “What about you two?”
“Well, Fazil’s in a pinball league,” Todd says.
“I’m in a pinball league. It’s fun. Sometimes I get too into it.” Fazil laughs. “And both Todd and I also like table-top gaming and roll-playing games. We have a group over like every other week because we have a decent sized house.”
Todd nods. “And I like to read. I’m also getting into biking, thanks to Rob over there.”
“Oh yes,” Rob says. “We do have a pretty nice group of cyclists—including Justin.”
“We also have a pretty large group of amateur chefs, secretly including Eli,” Michael says. “It’s one of my favorite things.”
“There’s secretly a lot of things Eli likes to do besides sex,” Justin says. “He’s just embarrassed about it.”
Eli is a little red. “It’s not embarrassment. It’s… oh never mind.” He pauses, as if collecting himself. “Yes, I do like to cook. And read. We have tickets to the Penguins, and I adore going to games.”
Justin nudges him and whispers something into his ear. Eli scrunches up his face. “That is very personal, Just.”
Justin shrugs. “But you love it.”
Eli lets out a breath. “I do. Which is not something I expected.” He straightens in his seat. “Sometimes I’m the cantor at my local shul.”
“Oh wow,” Michael says. “That’s awesome, Eli!”
Eli waves the words away. “We haven’t heard from Sam.”
Sam chuckles. “I’m kind of basic. I like running. Then chilling on the couch.”
“He likes old movies,” Michael says. “We put in a theater in the basement so he can watch his black and whites.”
Sam just shrugs and smiles.
In a hypothetical situation where Brian’s place was closed and you needed coffee, where would you go and would you get the same as you usually do or something different (because Brian obvious does it best)?
“Ack!” Brian doesn’t look pleased. “I mean, it happened once, but we try not to close, except for holidays.”
Rob pats him on the back. “Well, here’s the thing. If Bri’s shop was closed, he’d still make me coffee. And maybe even something fancy because we have one of those over the top machines in our house.”
“That’s not fair,” Justin says.
Eli takes Justin’s wrist. “That’s totally fair. Let them be happy with their coffee.” He pulls Justin off the chair he’s occupying and onto his lap. “Justin makes me my coffee in the morning on the weekends. When we’re out, we usually try to go to local shops and chains before the national ones.”
Justin settles in on Eli’s lap. “I have a list of preferences. Eli pretty much always gets an Americano with cream. What I get depends on the shop, but it’s usually a cappuccino drink. There’s this place up north of the city that makes its own syrups and they have this peanut butter one that’s awesome, for instance.”
“You know, you two are too damn cute,” Michael says. “Sadly, I do actually frequent other coffee shops besides Brian’s, since I don’t conveniently work above it.”
“Sorry,” Brian says.
Michael grins. “Not your fault. There’s a couple places downtown I hit—local ones. And I usually just get a latte or black. Nothing fancy.”
“Well, when Brian was closed that one time,” Sam says, “I went to the shop across the way and got a cappuccino and heartburn from worrying about him, so I hope he doesn’t close unexpectedly.
Fazil pipe up. “Yeah, same, actually. I’d go to one of the other local places and get, like, a simple drink.”
Todd nods. “Same. I mean, Brian is the best and I love the fancy drinks he makes better than anyone’s, but there are a ton of other local places that are decent, too.”
You live in a hockey town. Do any of you like to watch or go to games? If so, who’s the most involved when you do watch them?
“Eli has season tickets,” Sam says. “So he’s the most involved, always.”
Eli tightens his hold on Justin, but merely shrugs in response.
“Eli’s always been involved,” Michael says. “He made me go to the game where Mario came back.”
“I did not make you, Michael Sebastian.” Eli sounds indignant. “As I recall, you were just as excited.”
Michael holds up both hands. “Okay, yes. I was. I mean… Mario! It was thrilling.”
“Now I get to go,” Justin says. “Which is fun. Except when the Penguins forget how to hockey.”
Michael looks rueful. “I do miss going to games with Eli, though. Sam and I go sometimes, but not enough to warrant season tickets.”
“We could get a package,” Sam says. “I enjoy going to games, but really, it’s Eli, and you who are the superfans. The rest of us are not nearly as… passionate.”
Rob laughs. “So true. I didn’t even watch hockey before I came to this town.”
Fazil nods. “Yeah, it’s fun to watch, but…” He gestures to Eli. “Eli wins.”
The other guys agree.
Not so much a question, as it’s a request: Please tell us a funny story about something that happened in the office.
Eli shoots Sam a look. “Don’t you dare.”
Sam ignores it. “So we decided to prank Eli once.”
“Once,” Eli says.
Fazil is trying hard not to laugh. So is Brian. Rob looks bemused.
Justin shifts. “I suddenly feel like this might be a bad place to be sitting.”
“Well, yes,” Eli says. “Since you were in on it, my love.” There’s both amusement and something darker in Eli’s voice.”
“I helped too,” Michael said. “Just so you know, E.”
“Mmmhmm. I know. I have a tally.” Eli smiles.
Sam clears his throat. “Anyway—we completely reversed Eli’s office. Mirror image. Including his files. And he tried to play it so cool and not lose his shit.”
“He lost his shit,” Justin says. “Ow! Hey!” He jerks a little away from Eli’s head. “Did you bite me?”
Eli rolls his eyes. “I did not lose my shit.”
Michael laughs. “You totally did. Until you started cracking up with the rest of us.”
“I hate having my stuff out of place. But I have to give you all credit—that was exceptional. Everything was exactly where I like it… just on the opposite side of the room.” He huffs. “And after a little bit, it was very funny in reality.”
“Nothing like that ever happens in my office,” Rob says. He looks at Todd. “And that’s not a challenge.”
And lastly some rapid fire questions to close this:
You all go out together, who is the one *not* offering to pay the bill?
“Fazil and me,” Todd says.
Fazil nods. “Eli, Sam, and Rob are always fighting over the bill, so we just… stopped offering. ‘Cause they’re not gonna let us pay anyway.”
“Most of the times, I can expense it,” Sam says.
“Not really,” Eli replies. “Because I’m the one who does the company taxes, and many of those dinners can’t be expensed.”
“He just secretly likes treating people—and beating Eli to the punch,” Michael says.
“Which is why I usually tell the server at some point before we order that he should bring the check to me,” Rob says.
Eli peers around Justin at Rob. “Are you sure you’re not a Dom?”
Rob laughs. “Pretty sure I’m not that kinky, Eli.”
Who’s the most cranky when they’re hungry?
Pretty much everyone says, “Eli.”
“Yes, okay. I’ll give you that,” Eli says.
Who is the best dancer out of you all? Additionally who’s the least talented dancer?
“Rob and Brian are the best,” Fazil says. “They took classes.”
“So did Sam and Michael,” Justin says. “Tossup, there.”
“I would be the worst,” Eli says. He gestures to his leg.
Justin cups his face. “Not true. You’re absolutely amazing at slow dancing.” He gives Eli a quick kiss, and Eli’s smile is gentle and genuine.
Rob clears his throat. “Next?”
Who’s the most susceptible to fall for an April Fool’s joke?
Michael raises his hand. “Surprisingly, me. And these assholes know it.”
Who has the biggest sweet tooth?
There’s a chorus of “Rob.”
Rob shrugs. “What can I say? And hey, once more, I beat Eli at something.”
Eli snorts. “You are so very much a Dom.”
Books in this series:
Anna Zabo writes contemporary and paranormal romance for all colors of the rainbow. They live and work in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which isn’t nearly as boring as most people think.
Anna grew up in the wilds of suburban Philadelphia before returning to their ancestral homelands in Western Pennsylvania. As a child they were heartily disappointed to discover that they couldn’t grow up to be what they wanted (a boy, a cat, a dragon), so they settled on being themself whenever possible, which may be a combination of a boy, a cat, and a dragon. Or perhaps a girl, a knight, and a writer. Depends on whom you ask. They do have a penchant for colorful ties and may be hording a small collection of cufflinks.They can be easily plied with coffee.
Anna has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, where they fell in with a roving band of romance writers and never looked back. They also have a BA in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University.
Anna uses they/them pronouns and prefers Mx. Zabo as an honorific.
Genre: Contemporary Orientation: Bisexual Orientation: Gay Pairing: M/M Publisher: InterMix Queer Books Unbound 3rd Birthday Extravaganza! Tag: BDSM Tag: Friends to Lovers Tag: Guest Post Tag: Interview Tag: Office Romance Tag: Part of a series Tag: Second Chances Anna Zabo Daily Grind Due Diligence Just Business Takeover Takeover series