The guys at the office haven't quite been the same for the last couple of weeks, since just a few moments of not being the fun girl who plays along with your jokes about boob size and doesn't act like making less money for the same work is no big deal is enough to shift the way people treat her. It also got out that I knew about the whole bet about who could get me in bed first, and given how the climate for that has changed just in the last few months, everybody is treating me like a live hand grenade. It's kind of sucks, both because I'm not that kind of woman (and even if I were inclined to be, I wouldn't want that reputation following me to another job) and because it's getting me shut out, not just in terms of being sociable with my co-workers but in that they seem to go out of their way to not help me in the office, even in places where there's no competition. It's dumb to sideline me, because I'm a damn good salesman no matter how I'm shaped, but guys will do dumb things where women are concerned.
One of the things that makes me pretty good at this stuff is that I have a pretty good memory for names, faces, and other details, and whatever changes the Inn made to my brain to make me interested in having sex with guys, it didn't affect that. So, when I arrived home tonight and saw a guy at the building's from door, seeming to take a step toward the intercom and back off about a dozen times, I didn't do the comedy bit where I didn't recognize someone from the original Joy's life, ignored him, and then had to improvise an excuse later. I'd seen this guy on Joy's phone, her social media, etc., and knew he must have come looking for her. So I just went for it, walking up and asking him what he was doing here.
He turned around, flustered but recovering quick. "Lookin' for ye, obviously! My God, ye look incredible!"
I could do with some of that. I walked up with my arms outstretched for a hug, but he instead took my hands in his and gently seeing them down between us so that we were looking each other in the face. It was excited than it sounded, and gave me a moment to examine this Iain Mackinnon - Joy's boyfriend when she checked into the Inn - up close and personal.
He's cute - not super-tall (I was almost eye-level with him, although I admittedly had four-inch heels on) or super-cut, but solid. There's a hint of auburn to his brown hair, which also takes the form of a beard that's very well-maintained, a precise 3/4" at every spot. Nice hazel eyes, sexy Scottish accent, dressed in the tech-guy outfit of flannel-patterned shirt and khakis, except obviously very nice ones. He smells kind of nice, too, a subtly sporty cologne. Maybe a little more millennial-hipster than what I would have called a really impressive man in another life, but I'm starting to think that maybe a guy being a little less obviously alpha isn't so bad.
I take all that in and ask if he wants to come in. He says yes, and I kind of make sure I swing my butt a little as he's a few steps behind me. It's been a few weeks for me and both Joy's diaries and what Shayla has said about how she's talked about guys in the past seems to indicate he was a heck of a lover. I unlock the door, and we're chatting about my messed-up car as he enters and Treena just freezes while emptying the dishwasher. I smile kind of big - it's almost a reflex when Treena and I have to out on a show for a third party - and say "look what I found downstairs!"
"Wow, this is a surprise! It's good to see you, Iain!"
(I mentally file away that it's pronounced "ee-un".)
"And ye as well, Treens! Still puttin' up with this one?"
"I am, and she does not make it easy sometimes. In fact, if I could just steal her a moment..."
She doesn't wait for a response, dragging me into her bedroom. "What the fuck are you doing?"
"Nothing! I saw him downstairs, recognized him from about a million pictures on Facebook, and figured it would be better to say hi than act like we'd never met."
She stared hard at me at me, deciding I wasn't trying to spin it. "I suppose that makes as much sense as anything. It's just-- He really loved Joy, okay? They should have been married by now, and if you try to take advantage of that and hurt him..."
"Jeez, threat understood! Calm down!"
I turn around and walk back out into the kitchenette, asking if he'd like something to drink. He points at the espresso machine, saying he's still jet-lagged, so I start that up.
"So... Just here for a visit, then."
"Aye. Google's talking about buying out a company the family's invested in, so I came out to talk terms because my Dad's all not doing that well and the tech stuff isnae really his forte. So I'm in San Francisco, and I figure, it's only a short hop down here, might as well see what Joy's up te." He did an exaggerated little pause. "So, what are ye up te?"
"Oh, you know, getting my real estate license, connecting folks with little pieces of California heaven."
"Not really, kind of..." I'm going to say playing the field but Treena shoots me a look, and I try to think of something close to the truth. Joy may not have kept in touch with Treena before she died with everyone thinking she was Brian Meeks, but she did try to keep things going with Iain as long as she could via text and email. But while letter-writing used to be visited pretty romantic, it's not nearly enough to sustain something long-distance the days, and she broke it off not long before the end. "Kind of harder to start again than I thought."
"You managed to find someone, though, right?" Treena interjected.
"Thought so, but... Well, she ditched me just before this trip. Just like ye, she felt I was spending too much time on the business, not enough time with her. Can't say I blame her."
"That's... I'm sorry to hear that." I meant it; he seemed like a nice enough guy, and while I can't say I've ever been so rich that a girl who noticed me because of that success started to get annoyed at the work it took to maintain it, I could relate on a smaller scale.
"Well, it's gotten me thinking about what to do different in the New Year, but in the meantime, it kind of leaves me going to this Christmas party on Saturday stag, and I was wondering..." He eyed me expectantly.
"Oh, I don't know... I mean, sure, I'm always up for a good party, but--" I couldn't think of a real reason aside from Treena murdering me, but that seemed like enough.
"Don't worry, it's mostly a work thing. Just, y'know, figured I'd be nice to spend time with you rather than spend time talking about who's not there."
"Well, sure, if that's all it is..."
"Great! I'll email you all the details." An alarm on his Android watch went off, and he made his apologies. "I really was just flying down here between meetings, I'm afraid. But don't worry, when you get to London on Saturday, you'll have my complete attention!" And then he was out the door.
That last bit, as you might imagine, had me and Treena in a bit of stunned silence before Treena told me I couldn't do this. But, c'mon, this guy's obviously kind of down (despite his cheery demeanor) and looking for a boost from his ex Joy, and right now, I'm the only Joy there is. And let's not forget that I've had kind of a rough go of it lately - getting away from it all with what everyone assures me is a pretty good guy isn't bad for me, either.
Now, to make sure Joy's passport hadn't expired...