Authors: Jennifer James
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by Jennifer James
Cover art by LFD Designs
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work, in whole or in part, in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
Published by Decadent Publishing Company, LLC
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For Ty and Sue Brown-Moore, two of the sexiest MMORPG playing geeks I know. Your story helped inspire this one
Puffy red hearts and streamers hung from every easily reachable surface in the office. Cindy, our in house self-appointed activities director, loved to decorate for the holidays. I imagined party store managers salivated at the sight of her car in the parking lot. A pink stylized Cupid represented with the hint of wings, fat baby belly, and bow and arrow made out of a gel substance, clung to my cubicle’s name plate. The sight of Cupid next to my name, “Abby Fine,” brought some of my breakfast up so I ripped the thing off and threw it into the garbage. A splash of cold coffee, a crumpled Post-It, and a few old papers on top helped me feel even better.
Take that you rotten, flying little monster. You’re lucky I can’t shove one of those arrows up your nether regions, buddy
Cupid had shot me in the ass once before, and I’d jumped on the carousel only to discover a witch’s wheel after I’d bought my dress, garter, and blue lingerie.
When I’d finally caught on—my sister sent me a text message—every guest in the church met my shell-shocked stare with looks of pity. Public humiliation and I are good buddies. It started with my first big high school dance. My date for junior year Homecoming, Chris Anderson, got up close and personal with my dinner when I barfed on him. Perhaps formal gowns and I tripped some kind of cosmic switch. I don’t wake up in tears anymore, but my chest ached this morning, a bruised spot to prove I’m still hurt.
Charlie and I dated for three years. One would think that’d be enough time for me to know my fiancé. Hell, who was I kidding? I obviously didn’t know my sister Courtney, either. Charlie bowled me over. And bent me over. Probably right after my sister.
My happily-ever-after Valentine’s Day wedding ended with me eating cake with my grandma and her boyfriend.
Kinda pathetic when your grandma’s sex life is better than yours.
After work, my big jetted tub awaited me. A long bath, bottle of wine, a gory movie like the
My Bloody Valentine
remake, and a pint or three of Ben and Jerry’s summed up plans for this year’s epic Valentine’s Day. Alone. And loving it.
I can lie to myself if I want, okay?
Private drunken carb comas don’t hurt anyone. So I’d be in bed by 9:15. A year ago, I found myself abandoned in the back of a church. I don’t cry prettily. My nose turns red, eyes puff up, zits erupt all over my forehead. I watched
the other day and noted the remarkable similarity between my ruined make-up and Brandon Lee’s.
I’m entitled to a little hatred of pink hearts and candy. True love, roses, romantic comedies,
(well, pretty much all the Disney princesses to be truthful)…garbage.
I refused to be pulled in again. My heart couldn’t bear it.
I heard Cindy headed my way, talking in her sing-song English nanny accent. The woman sounded like Mary Poppins on speed to me. Every sentence ended as a question, words tripping over each other in their haste to leave her mouth. Cindy could make a fortune as a voice over artist for radio commercials, as the person who tacks the disclaimers on in five seconds at the end of the spot. Although, sound modification on her voice would be necessary. Whatever, they’ve got the technology.
She’s nice enough, I guess, but I’d lose my small well of patience if we engaged in a verbal sword fight. We’ve worked together for a while, and I’m pretty sure her heart is in the right place, but I’d left my social skills at home.
I got up from my desk, grabbed my TARDIS mug, and made a beeline for the coffee room. At three or four feet wide and five long, it was little more than a converted closet. If she didn’t catch me at my desk, I wouldn’t have to find a way out of the office “party” tonight.
The cup is huge, sixteen ounces, and here I wanted more coffee before nine a.m. The swig of liquid left in the bottom still smelled heavenly, the aroma of trapped French roast reaching my nose when I took a big sniff. The inhalation helped clear my head. Moping solved problems for pharmaceutical companies with stock in antidepressants, not me. Time to shake it off.
My phone buzzed against my hip, and I pulled it out. A text message from my sister.
Getting married in Vegas today
I had a flashback to last year, when I’d paced the back of the church in wait of my maid of honor and groom. Courtney and I have never been close, but we’re sisters. My assumption Charlie needed help with cold feet or to get ready was about as wrong as it got, but at the time I’d still been under a rock.
It took a minute or so for the text to sink in. When my brain came off AOL’s dial-up speed, I dropped my new iPhone 4S on the floor. My breath caught in my throat and burned through my chest. After I cleared the tears from my eyes, a nice big crack ran from one side of the screen to the other.
Special super strong glass, my ass
“Son of a bitch.” I bent over to pick the phone up and used my fingers to rub carefully under my eyes so mascara didn’t get smeared all over my cheeks. Would I ever catch a break?
Why didn’t they leave me alone? Hadn’t I been hurt enough? Courtney didn’t need to mark her territory. If Charlie didn’t want me, then he didn’t want me. The betrayal hurt but it put an end to our relationship before the wedding. Months or weeks before would have been preferable—days even—but this way I’m not married to a cheater. A nice slow spread through the rumor mill was better than being humiliated in front of pretty much everyone I knew on the planet.
Although, if I’d paid attention, I would have noticed my fiancé and my sister liked to play “hide the pickle” before my big day. I guess this was their version of a shout out. It did avoid messy verbal conflicts. The lump in my throat felt like a golf ball, but I swallowed and used one of the little brown napkins on the counter to dab under my eyes. I was fine. It didn’t matter. Better to be broken up with before you’re married. Even at the eleventh hour, right?
Sure, sure it is.
Mumbling through the lyrics to Beck’s
seemed appropriate. Tom Walker, IT department hottie, strolled through the door. He looked at me strangely—probably because of the song I hummed.
Once upon a time, he’d have been the type of guy to hit my body’s hormone radar. No longer. Beautiful men exist to destroy women. I wonder if their parents were given a manual the day they were born.
Teach your son to use his charisma and sex appeal to get laid! Fill out the coupon on the back for a FREE supply of condoms for the first five years of his sexual adventures. Dads, you can brag to all your buddies about your son’s sexual exploits. And moms, don’t you worry, with our special patented never-breakable rubbers, Nana is a nickname reserved for after the big church wedding and “I do’s” are exchanged
These days, I possessed the sex appeal of tenderized chicken breast, pulverized nice and flat without anything left to interest him. My beauty routine consisted of salon visits to maintain my eyebrows, get the danger zone waxed, and making sure my face is washed and properly moisturized. Some mascara before work, and I’m golden. I should have gone with waterproof today. Oh well.
He paused and looked at my phone, at my face, frowned, and continued on to the coffee maker. Tom poured fresh coffee into my mug with a grin before he refilled his own. Black lettering with the words
Don’t ask me to fix your computer. The computer’s fine. You’re the problem
. was printed across the front. I slid my cup down the counter until it was next to my phone.
“Hey Abby. You a
fan?” Tom indicated my mug with one long finger.
“Yep.” My voice cracked.
“Don't you think we could all use some anti-plastic now and then?”
“For what?” I sniffled. My stupid nose always runs when I cry.
“You know. Plastic monsters. In the sewers.”
“Oh.” I dabbed under my eyes again and took a deep breath. “I guess so.”
He stepped closer to me and picked up my phone. “Wow. I heard Siri was a bitch, but nobody told me murder was the answer.”
“Who?” I took the phone back and shoved it into my pocket. Our gazes caught, and he stared at me with his arms crossed over his chest. The biceps filled out the upper arm area enough to strain the seams of his shirt. Not that it mattered. Consumption of college interns for breakfast and their moms for lunch kept guys who looked like Tom big and strong. The wavy dark hair, strategic stubble, and gray eyes part of a package guaranteed to pulverize the will of the unwary. “Oh. Yeah. Siri.”
Lucky for me I maintained full security systems for machinations like Tom’s. The battlements are manned and the drawbridge secured. No way anyone can breach the walls. We’ve known each other for about five years, and if I’m honest, I’ve done my fair share of ogling him. He’s quiet around the office, but I bet it’s part of his disguise. Page three of the Sexy Geek Seduction Techniques pamphlet surely gave instructions for undercover infiltration to gain the confidence of an unwary populace.
“How do you like it? Sweet and sugary or with a little harder edge?”
“How do I like what?” The ghost of a smile played with the edges of his lips. It caught me off guard, and I smiled until my heart fluttered. I stopped smiling and looked away, glad my early warning systems still worked.
“Your coffee. Cream and sugar or black?”
“Oh. Cream and sugar. But not a lot at this time of day.”
“So you like it sweet, but not until later.”
“Right.” He dumped in half and half from the community pitcher and handed me the sugar. I shook some in without regard to how much I used, stirred the liquid, and took a sip.
“So why not sweet in the morning?”
“What? What are we talking about, exactly? And why are you in this part of the building? Isn’t IT over there somewhere?” My hand waffled around in the air, and I turned to leave the room. He made me feel…unsettled. As if I needed to go and check my hair for stray strands or teeth for pieces of broccoli.
“Coffee.” My tone bordered on dubious. He leaned his hips against the counter, took a sip from his cup, and regarded me with his eyes half closed. Tom’s eyelashes formed a thick fringe so dark it looked as though he wore mascara. Not sexy at all. Absolutely not. “You take yours black.”