Her Halloween Treat, p.10Part #1 of Men at Work series by Tiffany Reisz
could literally make a bed. And it was such a beautiful bed, beautifully crafted, beautifully situated in a room beautiful enough to deserve such a bed. Hard to believe this cabin was the very same dump her family had lived in during all her summers from age eight to eighteen. Chris really could work magic. For a couple hours last night he’d made her sadness magically go away. It came back but for a while it was gone, and that was quite a trick. And it was almost Halloween, a season for tricks and treats and a little dark magic. Maybe Kira was right. Maybe she should give it another shot with Chris. Even if they didn’t have sex again—although they probably would if last night were any indicator—she did like hanging out with him. She felt like a kid again with him. Like as long as Chris were around, she’d be okay. And being okay after a bad breakup was the only kind of Halloween treat she wanted right now.
Joey picked up her phone and wrote a message to Chris. Hey, it’s Joey. Thanks for last night. It was pretty amazing until I fucked it up. Will you let me buy you lunch to make it up to you? I’d love to see Timber Ridge, anyway. If not, I understand. I might not want to see me, either.
Without sending the message, she put her phone back on the nightstand next to the wineglass they’d both drunk out of. She looked at it and smiled. Last night had been pretty spectacular. She couldn’t believe Chris had that side to him—that commanding, dirty-talking, wicked side. Still waters run deep, right? That’s what that saying said? Turns out still waters run deep and dirty sometimes. And now that she’d finally seen that deep and dirty side of Chris, she really wanted to see it again. If he didn’t mind. If he wasn’t pissed at her for her little breakdown she had postsex. Only one way to find out. She hit Send on the message. While she waited for a reply, Joey climbed out of bed, took a quick shower and threw on her clothes.
When she returned to the bedroom, she had two messages—one from Chris and one from Kira.
The one from Chris read, I remember two people fucking last night. I don’t remember anybody fucking up. Lunch sounds great. The Green Owl at two?
Joey replied with an immediate, See you there.
Kira’s text simply read, Just how magnificent a cock are we talking here?
To which Joey replied, It’s a lot like Mount Hood. Big, lovely and you want to spend a long time on it. Except you don’t want Mount Hood blowing its load and you do want Chris... This metaphor broke down really quickly.
Then Kira wrote back, I think this Chris guy fucked your brains out.
To which Joey replied, If my brains didn’t alert me that I was dating a married man, I’m better off without them.
* * *
“I’M GOING TO have to kill you, you know that, right?”
Chris stood up straight and clasped his hands behind his back. He’d seen this coming.
“I understand. I don’t make a habit of telling anybody what I do in my private life, but considering, you know—”
“That it was my bedroom? In my bed? And my sister?”
Chris would have preferred to have had this conversation at Dillon’s house or his own house. Somewhere a little more private than Dillon’s twenty-fifth-floor office with his administrative assistant sitting just outside the doorway. As it was a modern office building with an open floor plan, there was no privacy.
“I hate open floor plans,” Chris mumbled.
“Nothing. Keep yelling at me. Quietly.”
Chris stood opposite Dillon’s desk and kept his voice low. Maybe he should have worn a suit, too. This wasn’t Portlandia in Dillon’s law firm. This was Wall Street on the West Coast. His was the only beard on the entire floor.
“Did I mention the part about my bed in my house yet?” Dillon asked.
“Yeah. Although to be fair, you haven’t paid me for the bed yet, so technically the bed’s still mine.”
“I will cut you a check. Then I’ll kill you.”
Dillon groaned and ran his hands through his hair. Funny how nothing changed even as everything changed. In high school, Dillon had been homecoming king their junior year before he got outed. He looked like a Backstreet Boy then and now. Although he’d lived in Portland all his life, Dillon wasn’t about to turn into a lumbersexual just because it was the fad. No flannel—silk ties and suits for him. No man bun—he’d rather die. No beard—why hide such a handsome face behind so much hair? Since high school the only thing that had changed about Dillon was the part in his hair and the balance in his bank account. Corporate law had been as good to Dillon as starting his own contracting company had been good to Chris.
“You know this could ruin everything, right?” Dillon asked. “Joey is not a fan of being manipulated. You sleep with her and then offer her a job working for us? She’s going to feel manipulated. I don’t blame her.”
“It just happened, I swear,” Chris said. “I was going to talk to her about the job and then...things. Things happened.”
“You usually have more self-control than that.”
“Not around your sister.”
“I wish I hadn’t heard that.”
“Dillon...did you consider she might want to stay at her old job?” Chris asked, desperate to get off the subject of the naked things he had done to Joey last night.
“I know she wants to stay at her old job. I don’t want her to stay at her old job. I want her back here working for Lost Lake Village Rentals.”
“I do, too.”
“Well, that’s probably not going to happen now that you had to go and fuck it up by, you know...fucking.”
“So you’re not mad I slept with her? You’re just mad that by sleeping with her I might have ruined your business plan?” Chris asked.
“She’s an adult. I don’t care who she sleeps with. I’m not Dad. I’m not her keeper. None of my business. Except now it is literally my business. Joey is the single most perfect person to manage Lost Lake Village Rentals and I need her to do it. I can’t trust anybody else with it.”
“I looked, I swear. I had interviews with almost fifty candidates. Two of them seemed okay until I looked at their Facebook pages. Why do people even have Facebook when they want to remain employed?”
“I like to post Nirvana vids on my MySpace page.”
“MySpace doesn’t exist anymore.”
“Damn, where are all my vids going, then?”
Dillon walked over to Chris and put his hands on his shoulders. “This company is my baby. You don’t trust your baby to a stranger. You trust your baby to someone in your family you know and love and who is a marketing genius.”
“I’ve never met a baby who needed marketing.”
“My baby does if it’s going to get off the ground.”
“You have a weird baby.”
Dillon dropped his hands from Chris’s shoulders and walked back to his desk. Chris had come straight to Dillon’s office first thing this morning. He didn’t have to be at Timber Ridge until eleven, and as much as it went against the grain to kiss and tell, he knew he had to in this case. He and Dillon were business partners now. Dillon had sunk his entire life savings and his fiancé’s into this dream. Lost Lake Village Rentals didn’t exist—yet. But it would in a few months if they could get Joey on board. Ten cabins that ringed the famed Lost Lake on the northwest slope of Mount Hood. Ten cabins for nightly, weekly or monthly rent. Ten barely livable cabins Dillon and Oscar had bought with their nest egg and hired Chris to turn into rustic palaces. And somebody had to manage the cabin complex and somebody had to market them and somebody had to live in one of the cabins year-round to troubleshoot guest issues. And that somebody had to be Joey because only Joey had the marketing expertise, the bookkeeping acumen and the personality to deal with the cabin guests. Chris could handle broken pipes and leaky roofs and turning dumps into dream houses but he was not a people person unless he was sleeping with that person. Bu
“Sit.” Dillon pointed at the chair across from his desk.
“Are you going to kill me in that chair?” Chris asked.
“Do you think I should?”
“I probably would in your shoes.” Chris took a seat and knew it might be his last. Dillon had a nice office—all leather furniture and an ebony-stained floor polished to a high shine. If he was going to die somewhere, he was happy to be dying on nicely maintained white-oak flooring. “In my defense, you told me to woo her. You told me to plant a seed—”
“I meant ‘plant a seed so she’ll think of moving back to Oregon.’ I didn’t mean plant a seed in...you know. Her...her lady garden.”
“This has officially become the second most awkward conversation of my life.”
“What was the first?”
“The one I had with Joey last night after—”
“Good. Or not good if you’re killing me.”
“Not going to kill you. But you are going to fix this.”
“How am I supposed to ‘fix this’? There’s nothing to fix. I’ll tell her about the job. She’ll say ‘yes,’ ‘no’ or ‘let me think about it.’ And that’s it. She’s an adult. You can’t make her do something she doesn’t want to do.”
“If she says no because she thinks I’m offering it to her out of pity because of the breakup or you’re offering it to her because you slept with her, then I’m not going to be happy.”
“That’s not much of a threat.”
“Do you want me to be unhappy? Do you? Bad enough you broke my heart in high school. You want to do it again?”
“I’m going.” Chris stood up.
“You remember when I kissed you at the ski lodge?”
“Me, neither. I chickened out. But I wanted to.”
“Was that the night we took ’shrooms on a dare?”
“So you do remember.”
“How did we survive our senior year?”
“Sheer dumb luck, man,” Dillon said.
Chris stood up, leaned across the desk and slapped Dillon on the arm. “It’ll be okay. Even if Joey says no, we’ll find someone for the job.”
“I know.” Dillon nodded. “I just remember how it was, the three of us hanging out at the lake all summer. Those were good days. No jobs. No money. Just all of us being stupid kids and not caring about anything. I want a little of that back, you know?”
“I know. I’d like that, too. Minus the drugs and the no money.”
“I’m having lunch with Joey. I’ll tell her more about the company. If she sounds interested, I’ll mention the job.”
“I want my sister back from the middle of the ocean.”
“Maybe she likes living in Hawaii.”
“What does Hawaii have that Oregon doesn’t?”
Chris leaned over and glanced out the window.
“Overrated. Now go. Get my sister to move back. Sweet-talk her if you have to. But not that way.”
“Whatever way you did last night.”
“Don’t want to hear it. Just go.”
Chris started to leave, then he stopped in the doorway of Dillon’s office. He turned around, raised a hand and pointed at Dillon.
“I didn’t actually break your heart in high school, did I?”
“Okay. Good. I’d feel bad if you were in love or whatever with me back then and I was that clueless.”
“You were my best friend, that was it. I wasn’t even that attracted to you. No offense.”
“None taken. I wouldn’t have crushed on a slacker like me in high school, either.”
“It wasn’t that.”
“What was it?”
“Dude,” Dillon said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “You wore a chain wallet.”
* * *
CHRIS DROVE FROM Portland up to Timber Ridge and in traffic it took an hour and a half. He didn’t mind the drive, although it gave him a little too much free time to think about last night, about Joey, about what happened after and whatever happened this morning that made her text him. He hadn’t expected the text. Not for one second. Not after she’d cried after the sex and said the rebound plan hadn’t worked.
But really...had he expected it to work? He’d been through breakups before. One good night of sex with a friend or stranger wasn’t some kind of silver bullet that could kill the pain. Joey’d been with this guy for two years. The only thing that might make her feel better was if Chris took that silver bullet and shot this Ben guy with it.
He allowed himself to enjoy that murderous fantasy before remembering he’d never touched a gun in his life. He was a lover, not a fighter. Although it was tempting to make this Ben guy eat shit over what he’d done to Joey. Who did that? Who lied for two straight years to his own girlfriend? And this wasn’t a little white lie like saying he was a high school football star when actually he was second string. No, this fucker had a wife. A real live wife living with him in LA and at no point had he bothered to tell Joey that. That was sociopath behavior, lying like that. And lying for that long. Who did that? And more, who did that to Joey? Joey was the kindest girl he’d ever met in his life. She’d looked out for Dillon like some kind of tiny adorable bodyguard during his senior year when things got so bad. And although she was a freshman when Chris was a senior, Joey always helped him with his English homework because he’d been so fucking terrible at anything that involved writing papers. She hadn’t mocked him for it, either, hadn’t teased him about his bad grammar and spelling. All she’d said was, “Well, you’re so good at math it makes me sick, okay?”
Of course he’d fallen in love with her right then and there. He made her sick, she said, and it was the nicest thing any girl had ever said to him. What straight guy with half a brain wouldn’t fall in love with her? And now that he knew what she was like in bed? How giving she was? How passionate? How much fun she was during sex? Oh, my God, he was five minutes away from falling in love with her again.
He yanked that thought back, took the keys out of its hands and called in a designated driver. Go home, Brain, you’re drunk on lust.
When he pulled in for coffee in Government Camp, he checked his phone, and found he had a new message from Joey.
I can’t get over how beautiful the cabin is now. You’re so talented it makes me sick. Sorry. Just had to tell you that.
His heart stole the keys and hopped into his truck, grabbed Joey and started off toward the sunset. Then his heart swerved hard, ran off the road, hit a telephone pole and exploded into a fireball.
JOEY DROVE UP to Timber Ridge early. She told herself she wanted to see the famous lodge, see if it had changed any since the last time she’d come here several years ago. That’s all. It had nothing to do with being particularly eager to see Chris again or anything. In fact, she didn’t want to see him again. Her heart raced and her hands felt a little shaky. These were classic symptoms of terror, yes? Yes, of course. She was scared and fear was bad and since she was scared and fear was bad that meant she wasn’t looking forward to seeing Chris again already.
And this was why Joey was a marketing genius—she could sell lies to herself.
Except today she wasn’t buying.
Joey wanted to see Chris. She absolutely wanted to see him again. Old friend. Dear friend. New friend. All that. But...
Did she want to see him again...naked?
Her Halloween Treat by Tiffany Reisz / Romance & Love have rating 5.5 out of 5 / Based on44 votes