This is a weird one.
Remember those "special" episodes of your favorite TV shows, where suddenly one of the characters would have a very close friend who had an Issue, and the characters struggled to understand the Issue, and then the close friend would disappear forever? Remember how for years the only time you ever saw gay characters on TV was when they were featured in Very Special Episodes, as spokespeople for Issues like tolerance or (most likely) AIDS?
Prompted by a gauntlet thrown down by Mallory Klohn, and inspired by the stylings of Helen, whose writing knocks my socks off, this is a sort of po-faced satire wherein Mary Sue Straight Girl becomes Queer as Folk's guest for...
A Very Special Queer as Folk.
Maybe she was naive, or unobservant, or just plain self-absorbed, but for the whole first week, Valerie didn't even realize her new boss was gay.
She should have figured it out way sooner, but he didn't come off like any gay guy she'd ever known. He wasn't, like, queeny or anything, he didn't gossip with the clerical staff and call it "girl talk", he didn't make big exaggerated faces when cute guys walked by.
He looked great and dressed really well, but it was a PR firm; all the executives dressed well. He seemed really easy and confident, and maybe that was what threw her off, because she'd never met a gay guy who wasn't a total neurotic mess.
Still, it wasn't like there weren't big hints. There was the phone conversation she overheard, bringing a stack of photocopies into his office. He held up a finger indicating she should wait, so she just stood lurking awkwardly in the doorway while he talked.
"Next time he comes in, I'm going to have him-- right over my desk, I am. Oh, you think. I will, I'll call you right after-- no-- well I have to do it now, don't I. Just for you. I bet you-- come on then. I bet you a thousand quid. I didn't think so. No. Right. Okey-doke. Bye."
Val just figured he had to be kidding around because he was smiling really big, which he didn't seem to do all that much, and because of the 'okey-doke'. He didn't seem like the type of person who'd actually say 'okey-doke'. She thought it was just talk, like the guys she hung out with in college. They'd had a ratty jump rope kicking around their shared squalid apartment, and there'd been all these jokes, pedophilia jokes; they could be really sick sometimes. She used to do a lot of standing around with her hands on her hips, rolling her eyes and saying "You guys..."
"Did you do a set in color?" he asked when she gave him the copies.
"I need one set in color," he said, handing the originals back to her. He wasn't rude exactly, but he was brisk, and he never called her sweetie or tried to jolly her into anything. Straight, right?
"No problem," she said.
The woman Val was filling in for must have been the fidgety type, Val thought at first, because there were all kinds of random office toys in the top left hand drawer of the desk. Squishy stress balls. One of those metal interconnected ring things that looked like a sphere or a flower or a basket depending on how you contorted it. Flexy plastic frogs that jumped if you tapped their butts. A magnetic sculpture thing made of a zillion little metal balls.
Then her new boss came over on Thursday and leaned against the side of the desk. "You getting the hang of everything?" he asked, and opened up the top left drawer. He got out the flower-sphere-basket thing and started playing with it. He had nice hands.
"I think so," she said. She'd been fishing around in her purse, and now she was trying to kind of shut it and put it aside without actually losing track of what she'd been doing, which was counting her money.
"Great," he said. Flower, basket. Then he dropped the ring thing back into the drawer and grabbed the stress ball and stretched it like state fair taffy. The office toys were definitely there for him. "Any questions?"
"Um, no, I think I'm on top of everything." She'd had questions on Monday and Tuesday, like what was the code for the copiers, and how long was okay to take for lunch, but he'd brushed her off then saying he was busy, and in the meantime she'd gotten the office coordinator, Mary, to tell her what she needed to know.
"So why're you sitting here making faces?" he asked.
"Nothing, just, like, a personal thing," Val said. He raised his eyebrows and she ventured on, "I still get mixed up on the exchange rate now and then. I kind of blew my budget at lunch yesterday. Didn't realize how much I was spending."
"Where're you from, anyway?"
Mary had already told him that when they did the introductions. "This is Valerie Milburn, she's from Atlanta. She was the PA to one of the VPs at Coke. Ms. Milburn, Stuart Alan Jones." She'd said that with a kind of flair, the way a game show host would say 'A New Car!'
Later Val walked with him to a meeting and heard him introducing himself, and realized that Mary had just been saying his name the way he said it himself. She figured he threw the Alan in there to make up for Jones being such an ordinary name. Or something.
She'd called him "Mr. Jones" but he'd said, "Stuart" back, smiling. Great smile. Somehow he managed to look smug and almost shy, both at the same time. He was thin, trim, taller than her even in her chunky heels, with short curly hair. Dark blue eyes with dark long lashes; why did guys always have the best eyelashes? He'd focused on her for a second and then just as quickly whipped away to do something else, and Mary had showed her where to find the keys to everything.
"Yeah," he said now, "dollars and pounds. I had that problem when I went to New York. C'mon, I'll take you to lunch."
So she went with him to lunch, a pricey little cafe. It was the first time she'd actually spent with him, not just around him, and she got the impression that he was a really nice guy. He didn't make a big deal out of it, like hanging on every word she said or anything, and some of it was just that he didn't stare at her tits; that part of her judgement embarrassed her, later. He mostly concentrated on his salad, and looked around while she spoke as though he wasn't listening, but then he'd cut in with a quick relevant question and she'd keep talking, reassured. It was interesting, involving in a weird way. It made her want to say things to make him respond more, made her cater to him a little.
She wound up telling him why Manchester: she'd been looking to move and thinking about England for more than a year, and then her college roommate offered her the last six months of her lease on her Manchester place for like a quarter the actual cost. Andersen Consulting had offices all over, and she'd been temping through them for a while now, so they'd been able to find her work here, no problem. She had a good track record with them. She got a glowing recommendation from the guy she worked for at Coke.
And then a little more than she'd intended about why leave at all: bad relationship, and the breakup dragged on forever while they searched for new apartments, and they kept bumping into each other and then a friend mentioned Robert maybe wasn't as sick of her as he kept saying, or even over her really, and asked if she'd thought about having an intervention or something. Right, she'd thought numbly, because in the real world, waiting at your car for you to get off work just to hassle you about kennelling the dog, which how did he know about that anyway-- that wasn't actually normal.
"Sounds like a cunt," he said of Robert, and she almost choked laughing. It was great, she liked people who didn't fuck around. She felt free to be a little more blunt herself, a little more truthful.
After the table had been cleared, but before they finished their drinks, he said, "That's brave, moving here like that."
"Well," she tried to be modest, "it was time for a change."
"I've thought about that," he said, almost like in confidence, "moving down London, or maybe New York."
"Why don't you?"
"Maybe I will," he said, and flashed a secretive smile at her. Like they were kindred spirits or she'd inspired him or something stupid like that.
So she'd been really flattered and kind of turned on in a pleasant, tickly, not-too-insistent way. Near the end of the day, he said, "I've got these notes need typing up, it'd be great if you could handle this today." And sure, she got that he'd probably been nice to her at lunch mainly to get some extra work out of her, but she didn't mind. Most bosses wouldn't even bother with the being nice part. She billed by the hour anyway.
He left at six; Val stuck around to type up his notes. He had awful handwriting that shifted from print to lopsided cursive randomly. It was sloppy, but readable, so it didn't take all that long.
When she went to leave, it turned out he hadn't actually gone yet. He was playing pool in the cool conference room, the one with the pool table, the couch, the wet bar, the TV and the stereo, where the "creatives" all sat around bullshitting and called it "brainstorming". One of the things she kind of liked about Stuart was that he didn't call it that. She one time heard him call it wanking off for money. The top guy in the office, Burton, heard him and everything. That was impressive.
He set up a bank shot and missed it. And then took another one, a perfectly clear shot, and missed that too. Val came into the conference room and said Hi.
"Are you waiting for someone?" she asked, and then regretted it, because it sounded like a come-on.
"Yeah," Stuart said, taking another shot. He scratched. His expression was blank, but a careful sort of blank. Up until pool, he'd been, like, perfect at everything she'd seen him do. Even at lunch, picking at the dregs of his salad, he'd been elegant about it.
"Can I play?" she asked.
He stood back from the table. "Go ahead."
Valerie grabbed a cue and chalked it up. She pocketed two balls and then missed a third on purpose, just so as not to piss him off too much. She set him up for an easy shot at a cluster of striped balls in one corner.
Stuart hit one in, but it looked like a slop shot, accidental. He already seemed faintly annoyed, so she didn't tease him about it. She got the feeling that he was one of those guys who had to be good at everything, or else he wouldn't bother with it. That was probably why he only shot pool after hours, when everyone was gone and couldn't see him screw up.
His cellphone rang and Stuart put the cue aside to answer. "Finally," he said into it, and then laughed, "Shut your face." He waved goodbye as he left.
Val wondered if that was his girlfriend on the phone. She'd already looked at his emergency info sheet and saw "single" checked with a huge black mark, but he might have a girlfriend. She wondered if that would stop her from making a play for him, if she got the chance. She thought maybe not.
Friday he handed her a dry cleaning ticket. "The address is on the back," he said.
"You're kidding, right?"
"It's a chance to get out of the office," he said. "Take a long lunch if you want."
"If it's so great, why don't you do it?"
"I thought I'd do you the favor, you ungrateful twat," he said with a brash smile, tucking his chin down and eyeing her distinctly. He looked really good when he did that.
"So is this a thing where you dump all your shit jobs on the temp?" she asked. "Or does Sandra actually do this for you all the time."
"All the time."
"Jeez, were you nailing her or what?" she asked. She was sort of joking, sort of flirting, either way figuring he'd appreciate her bluntness.
But he laughed explosively and said, "Yeah right," and something in his tone clicked it for her like the other stuff hadn't, quite.
"Oh, you're gay," she said. She sounded a little scandalized-- it wasn't at him, it was at herself for being so clueless, but he gave her a hard look and said,
"Oops," in a way that bordered on vicious.
"Sorry, sorry," she muttered, and because he'd laughed at some of her jokes at lunch the day before, said, "So I guess I'm not going to be able to catch any breaks from you by sticking out my tits."
"Nope," Stuart said. "Don't let that stop you, though, I'm sure there's a few blokes around here would appreciate it." He opened up the drawer and thumped one of the frogs to make it jump against the side and tumble in again.
"Here," she picked up the dry cleaning ticket, "I'm taking my Get Out of Office Free pass now, because I feel stupid, okay, and I actually appreciate it and everything."
"Mary can give you directions if you need them," he said, sculpting the little magnetic beads.
Valerie took off. When she came back later, way later, there was a shitload of work piled up on her desk. She had to stay after hours to get it all done, but she did it anyway, even though it was a Friday night.
Monday he had dictation for her, on microcassettes. It was on top of all the other stuff she ordinarily had to do, but it wasn't so bad. Her boss at Coke had been the worst letter-dictator ever. Really slow and he kept saying "strike that" after she'd already typed out his mistakes.
Stuart's dictation was swift and flawless. His accent made everything sound sexy. English accents were automatically classy to Val's ears, but Stuart's Irish inflection was something else again.
Still, he was gay and all. She quit mooning over him, which she only now realized she had been doing for that first week. There were other guys, after all. Across from Stuart's office there was James Farley's office: James-not-Jim, who was, after Stuart, the best-looking guy there, and smiled at Val whenever he walked by. Val got friendly with James' PA, Lily. They started having lunch together. She was around Lily's desk sometimes when James was around. Stuff like that. James was married, but whatever.
She overheard Stuart on the phone again, talking about blowing someone in the back room of a club, and it was bizarre to hear him talk like that and know it wasn't just talk.
He took her out to lunch again, after she stayed really late to help pull together a big quarterly accounting report. He didn't say that was why, just came over and played with the magnet sculpture and asked her where she wanted to go. She felt like he must be okay with her again, after that. They talked, and every couple of weeks he'd buy her lunch on the company dime. She had to fill out the expense reports and file them, but it was still a free lunch.
He was a pretty good boss. He was really demanding and he bitched a lot if she didn't do everything just like he wanted, but she'd worked for prima donnas before and he wasn't all that bad as prima donnas went. She still thought he was sexy and liked being around him, so it was all good.
Val tried to do that guy-watching thing with him at lunch a couple of times, that straight girls were supposed to be able to do with gay guys. But Stuart wasn't like Wes back home, who'd only ever said things like "So fine!" and "Girl you know it's true." For one thing, Stuart would now and then say, "Had him." If she raised her eyebrows or asked, he'd elaborate shamelessly. Wes had never told her about stuff he actually did.
Once he said he'd had some guy and she frowned, "He's straight, he's married, I met him."
"So?" Staurt grinned. "He's good at sucking cock, for a straight bloke."
That was weird.
And then the other problem was that Stuart wasn't all that good at looking, or more like, every time she tried guy-watching with him, he'd focus on some guy and look at him intently, the guy would look back, Stuart would murmur "Oh yes" and take off.
When he came back to the office, he looked especially fantastic, and that was when she figured out part of the thing with him: he always looked extraordinarily well-laid. Take that away, and she wasn't even sure he'd be all that good-looking. His curly hair tended to kind of stick out weird now and then, and sometimes he looked older than he really was; she couldn't believe she'd actually thought he was better looking than James at first. It was just that he always had that good-sex sheen to him. People who were getting a lot of action looked way more attractive and relaxed than plain old frustrated people, who always looked stressed out and pinched by comparison.
Val was starting to get that pinched look herself. English guys seemed to think she was easy just because she was American, but she wasn't. She'd never done much aside from Robert, really. That was part of the problem, why he thought he practically owned her, because even though she wore a D-cup and had done a little stripping one summer, he got her technical virginity when they were both 17 and they'd been on and off forever since then. She really needed to get with some other guys, but they all seemed like such assholes. Robert was an asshole too, or like Stuart had said that one time, a cunt, but he was the asshole she knew.
Stuart noticed her staring at James or something, he must've, because one day he came by and made flower-basket-sphere shapes and said, "You fancy him?" with a jerk of his head toward James' office.
"Sort of. Yeah," she said. He'd just give her a hard time about it if she lied anyway.
He gave her a slow smile, like he was thinking something over, and said conspiratorially, "He likes redheads."
"So? It's not like he's going to leave his wife or anything."
"Maybe not," Stuart said, "but the toilet down those stairs on the left side is almost always empty."
"I'm not like that," she said.
"Why not?" he asked with a negligent shrug.
She couldn't take it as an insult, because Stuart was like that. And now that he'd said it, she found herself kind of wondering why not. Really. Why not?
The next time she had her roots done, she asked her stylist, "Can we change the tint a little too? I'm thinking of going more red."
"What shade?" Gretch asked. "Pippi Longstocking red or Nicole Kidman red?"
"Maybe more like Scully from the X-Files red." James had an X-Files mousepad.
Gretch said, "What season?"
They went with strawberry blonde. When she came into the office the next day, James looked at her a bunch more than usual.
Stuart said, "It looks good."
Val quit trying to do any kind of guy-watching with Stuart. There was also no point trying to talk to him about anything remotely girly, like decorating or Princess Di. He'd roll his eyes and claim he had phone calls to make. Usually it was one of those phone calls where suddenly he was smiling huge and casually talking dirty. Sometimes she thought, wow, the phone had to be smoking in the hand of whoever was on the other end of the line.
The other end of the line came in looking for Stuart one evening. "Hiya. Where's Sandra, still on leave?" he asked her. She knew right away he was the phone call guy. He looked like the kind of guy who'd make you smile really big, the kind of guy you wanted to eat up with a spoon, pack into your luggage and take home to meet your mom.
"Yeah," she said, "I don't think she's even had the baby yet. I'm Valerie."
"Oh right," he said, like he'd heard all about her, but he was faking it, she realized as they shook hands. That was kind of lame, she'd thought that she and Stuart were friends, and she knew they didn't just talk about sex. "Vince," he went on, waving a hand at himself dismissively. "Is he busy?"
She used the speakerphone to tell Stuart he was here.
"Send him in," Stuart said, "I'm nearly through here."
They left a few minutes later, Vince in the middle of some story that sounded partly amused and partly anxious. Stuart made a face and elbowed Vince in the ribs.
"Yeah, but his mouth was okay, right?" he was asking. "And it would've been the least he could do."
"God, I just wanted to get rid of him," Vince laughed.
She saw Vince around a few more times, and got a pretty good idea of what the deal was. Vince was the kind of guy who'd offer to carry your books home after school. Stuart was the kind of guy who'd dip your braids in the inkwell. Except gay, but anyway. It was pretty obvious after a while that if Stuart'd had books, Vince would've carried them, and if Vince'd had braids, Stuart would've dipped them in ink. And neither of them ever would have figured the other one out in a million years.
They weren't sleeping together, she could just tell. And they were guys, which automatically made them stupid about that kind of thing, doubly stupid because they were both guys. Val thought about saying something to Stuart about it, because the redhead thing was working out really well for her. James had started standing there playing with the office toys in her desk a lot, and taking her out to lunch.
"I really should be getting back to the office," he said once, "I've got a ton of work. But I just want to stay and talk all day, you know?"
"Yeah," she smiled.
But her advice to Stuart would've been to quit macking on every Y-chromosome in sight, and she couldn't see that going over too well, so she didn't say anything. Besides, here she was making time with James in the usually empty downstairs bathroom, up against the wall in the handicapped stall. So she didn't really have room to talk.
Stuart came out to her desk and juggled the stress balls and said, "How is he? Is he nice?"
"He's really sweet," she said.
"I mean nice-- is he a good shag?"
"Uh. Yeah," she said, feeling herself blush.
"Excellent," he said approvingly.
She felt awesome for the rest of the day. She felt like the sexiest girl on earth.
A few days later she brought some phone messages to Stuart's desk. He pounced on one and said, "Hang about a second" and read it.
"Brilliant," he said. "Book me a flight to London for next Thursday. Nothing before ten, mind."
"What's it for?" Val asked.
"Strategy and consulting for some TV adverts," Stuart said. "Get right on that, go go go."
She set it up and made his hotel reservations and ran it all past him, and then had to call back and change the hotel because he wanted to stay on the top floor.
"I don't like hearing people walking up there over me," he said.
"This hotel has like forty floors. That's a long elevator ride," she pointed out.
"Long enough," he agreed with a smile. She shook her head and changed the reservations.
It was a hotel kind of day, she thought later, in the bathroom with James, as he panted into her ear, "We could get a room."
"That'd be good," she said.
Lily wouldn't talk to her all day the next Monday, even though she'd been tactfully looking the other way the whole time Val had been going for James.
Tuesday Lily broke down and they had lunch and Lily said, "Don't you think it's going a bit too far?"
"What's wrong with far?" Val asked, angling her head down and smiling, a little smug, a little shy.
"He's married. They bought a house," Lily said.
Valerie ran her hands lightly through her strawberry blonde hair, and said, "Nothing to do with me."
Lily frowned, "It's affecting his work, too. He was supposed to go down London to do some consulting, but he's been so distracted, they pulled him off the account. That's serious, Val. You could cost him his bonus, you could cost him his job."
"I'm not holding a gun to his head," she said.
Lily said, "That just makes it worse."
Later that afternoon Stuart strode by her desk talking on his cellphone. She needed his signature to finish off the travel arrangements, so she followed him into his office.
"Yeah, but why not, it's not even a week," he was saying, tilting his chair back. "You'd only have to take three days-- no-- what do you mean, short notice, I've been saying for months you should come with me next time. Christ, are you ever going to go anywhere? That doesn't count. For work doesn't count. Not for your shit job, it doesn't."
He let his head fall back and stared at the ceiling and said, "Fine, just... fine. Forget it." He hung up and tucked his phone away and muttered at her, "What."
"Vince?" she ventured. Maybe she should tell him what she thought after all, even if her quit macking advice was ringing more hollow every day James went down on her in the bathroom.
He glared at her. "No."
"Um... just need your signature," she said, sliding the forms across his desk.
He signed, and she grabbed the papers and took off.
Vince came around late that afternoon, all blue eyes and sticking-up hair and stooped shoulders, looking confused and apologetic. Val just wanted to give him a big hug. But then, she always wanted to give him a big hug, and maybe blow him for good measure, so that he could be the one with the good-sex sheen for a change. He was just that kind of guy.
When she buzzed Stuart he came out of his office with his briefcase, shuttered, walking fast. Vince gave him some keys and said, "Thanks, I mean, for letting me use the car," and Stuart cut him off with,
"Fine, anytime," walking past without looking at him. Vince smiled like he thought it was all okay and fell in step beside him. Stuart had the same blank, wary expression Val had seen when he'd been losing at pool.
There weren't many things he was bad at, but he was really terrible at this. She should say something, come up with something better than knock off the horndog routine, but what did she know, maybe Stuart was better off. It wasn't like relationships ever worked out right anyway; you could start out writing a guy's name over and over again in your notebook in big bubbly letters, happy just thinking about him, and somehow wind up printing it in the blank on a restraining order.
Or a birth certificate, she thought the next day when she checked the calendar and realized she was overdue. Shit. She bought an EPT on the way home from work. It turned blue.
She told Stuart before she told James, out of some kind of romantic comedy instinct: you tell your gay friend first, and he helps you figure things out.
But the list of things Stuart was bad at kept getting longer, because figuring things out was on there too, it turned out.
"First Sandra, now you," he said. "Maybe it's the desk."
"Not funny," she said, "this was so the opposite of planned, you know?"
"It's unfortunate," he shrugged. "Is it Farley's?"
"Of course it's his, how many guys do you think I'm sleeping with?"
"Right, because I care," he said. "Haven't you lot ever heard of condoms?"
"Thanks so much," Val answered.
"Make him pay for an abortion," he said. "If he gives you any shit over it, tell him you can sue. Technically he's your superior, so it's sexual harassment."
"I'm not gonna sue him, jeez," she said. "I don't even know if I'd be able to-- do that."
Stuart gave her a dubious look, and said, "They've got benefits and things for single mothers, but I doubt you'd be eligible. I expect you'd have to go back to the States."
"That would suck," Val said. "I guess I should tell him so he can help me decide."
Stuart smiled unpleasantly. "Oh yes, definitely tell him," he said.
James went white when she gave him the news. "I knew it," he groaned.
She doubted that, since it'd been his idea to do it that one time even when they didn't have protection.
"I knew this was going to go bad," he said. "Why did I ever buy a house, God, I'm fucked. Shit. Did you tell anyone?"
"Just-- um, no."
"Just who?" He grabbed her arms.
"I called my mom and told her." Val couldn't even remember the last time she'd called her mom.
"Don't tell anyone til we figure out how we're going to take care of this."
"I'm not getting an abortion," she blurted.
"Fuck," he said.
She started laughing. Cursing with an English accent still sounded really weird to her.
James' face was totally different, strained and harsh. She could see what he'd look like when he was older; not so good. "What're you laughing about, you stupid bitch? If this gets out my career is over."
"Fuck you," she said, like she didn't even care. It seemed like what Stuart would say.
"I'm finished. That Jones bastard already got my best account."
"Fuck you," she said again, more insistently. "Your best account? I'm talking about having your fucking baby, okay?"
And then she put it together, and felt clueless all over again.
"Were you supposed to work on TV stuff in London?" she asked.
"Yes," he mumbled into his hands, pressed hard to his face, rubbing his cheeks briskly. "I've been working on the client for months to get in on that shoot... that fucking poof's been trying to get a piece of it every step of the way. I knew I'd lose it if I didn't keep my teeth sharp. And I let it slide anyway. God. Valerie..."
His head was against her collarbone, pressing too hard, and then he was kissing her neck, and she put her arms around him. The damage was already done. One last time, and that was it, because she might be clueless, but she knew she had to end it after he called her a stupid bitch.
"Let's get a room," she said.
She waited until after work the next day. Her face felt hot the whole time she was sitting there at her desk thinking it over.
Stuart had his briefcase, keys in hand, on his way out when she stood up and he saw her.
"So this thing you're flying down for tomorrow," she said, "that was supposed to be James' work."
He looked at her, really looked at her. She realized he hadn't ever really looked at her maybe at all, before.
"Nominally," he said. "I won the business. He convinced them to let him head up the account because he's so much more reliable. Being a family man and all."
"You're such an asshole," she said.
"What'd I do?" he asked, not innocently at all.
"You told me-- you told me to dye my hair," she said weakly.
"I told you he liked redheads," Stuart said. "If you'd bothered to open your eyes at all, you'd've known that anyway. His wife's a redhead. Lily's a redhead."
"You said, about the bathroom."
"The downstairs toilet? I tell everyone about that," he said, looking smug, not shy at all. "Mostly so they'll know to stay away. I didn't mind to let you use it, though. The storage closet down there's almost as good."
She couldn't come up with anything else, because it hadn't really been anything he'd said or done. It was the way he was, that made her wonder why everyone wasn't like him, why she wasn't more like him. Doing whatever she wanted, to hell with the consequences or who it might hurt. He made it look so natural and effortless, so totally fantastic.
But she'd been stupid to fall for it, because she'd seen Stuart with Vince, so she knew it wasn't really all as great as he made it seem.
"Fuck this, I'm quitting," she decided, because she couldn't imagine ever being able to stand being near him again, just wanted to throw something at him and scream. Instead she said, "You're a dick. And you know something. You're not half as good looking as you think you are."
"Don't have to be," he retorted easily, lifting his chin. And it was true. Even with everything she knew, he was still really sexy.
"That friend of yours is way better looking than you," she pressed on regardless.
Severe miscalculation. Not only was he not pissed off, his mouth curved up at one corner in clear amusement. "You'd think so," he said.
She had no idea what that was supposed to mean. This wasn't working. At. All.
Last chance. "He's not too swift, though, is he?" she asked. "I mean, I even heard you say on the phone one time, just for you. But you're still going to London on your own."
His eyes narrowed, smile folding up and disappearing instantly. Score. It was a brief rich moment of him staring at her resentfully. She enjoyed it. A lot.
"Fuck off," he said.
"Gladly," she answered, pulling her bag over her shoulder, stepping toward the door. "Oh, and Mr. Jones?" She timed it so the door would shut behind her just after she said, "You suck at pool."
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