Her Halloween Treat, p.14Part #1 of Men at Work series by Tiffany Reisz
us. He slapped his hand down on a beam and said, ‘Now this is good old-fashioned craftsmanship. They sure don’t build stuff like they used to.’ The carpenter next to me leaned and in said, ‘Let’s not tell him I replaced that beam last week.’”
Joey laughed as she stepped into the shower, doing her best to keep her hair out of the stream of water. She didn’t need to rewash her hair. Thankfully Chris had good aim—in several ways. He went completely under the water, however, and with her hands full of shampoo she scrubbed every particle of stone and old fireplace dust out of his near-blond hair. Then he returned the favor but soaping up his hands and washing his semen off her stomach and breasts. It didn’t take long but he seemed to linger over the work.
Chris held her by the waist and kissed her under the hot water. She saw him looking down at her wet body and shaking his head.
“What?” she asked.
“I was just thinking that you are definitely worth the trouble.”
“Am I trouble?”
“Not really. Just...Dillon’s going to kill me. He told me that this morning.”
“Why does Dillon even care? He’s getting married in ten days—on my birthday, let me remind you. I should be killing him.”
“He’s going to kill me because I was supposed to talk to you about something and I didn’t talk to you about it because, you know...”
“We had sex instead.”
“It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.”
“What’s the thing you’re supposed to talk about?”
“It does matter.”
“Okay, it does,” Chris said. “But I can’t tell you.”
“Because I promised I wouldn’t try to make you stay.”
“Stay in Oregon at Lost Lake.”
“Why should I stay at Lost Lake? I have a job, you know, and it’s not in Lost Lake.”
“He wants to hire you for a job.”
“Dillon wants to hire me? I’m not a lawyer.”
“Not at his law firm. At Lost Lake Village Rentals.”
“Never heard of it.”
“It doesn’t exist—yet. Dillon and Oscar bought a bunch of houses out at Lost Lake, old cabins, and they hired me to fix them up. We’re going to rent them out.”
“I’m an investor, too.”
“Interesting,” she said. “So what’s the situation?”
“Eight out of ten cabins are now in good shape. The other two will be done by spring. Since now’s about when people start getting sick of the weather and start booking their summer vacations, we need a property manager who’s also good at marketing, who knows the vacation market and who can run a website and deal with people. We need someone we can trust. So...you basically.”
“So Dillon’s going to kill you because you fucked me instead of offering me a job?”
“Right. I was supposed to talk to you about it. I didn’t do that. Now Dillon’s pissed at me because he thinks you won’t take the job because we’re sleeping together. You and me, not me and Dillon.”
“That’s ridiculous. I wouldn’t turn down the job just because you and I are sleeping together,” she said. “And I’m truly flattered that you both think so highly of my skills.”
“So you’ll take the job?”
Joey laughed and kissed him. He was so cute with water dripping off his hair and beard she couldn’t help herself.
“Worth a shot. But we can keep fucking, right?”
JOEY HAD HER first sex regret with Chris later that evening while driving to dinner. She regretted not eating something after all the sex she’d had with Chris that afternoon. Nearly seven o’clock and her stomach felt like it was trying to eat itself she was so hungry. Next time she would plan things out better. In the future when picking sex over food, they would take the time to eat after. Had to keep up their strength, after all.
Dillon had asked her to meet him and Oscar at a brewery near his office that evening and she hoped and prayed that it was one of those micro brewpubs that also served food. Lots and lots of food. When she arrived, Dillon and Oscar had already gotten a table. They waved her over and Dillon stood up and embraced her.
“Welcome home,” her big brother said as she fell into the comfort of his arms. “You’ve been gone too long and I hate you.” He felt the same—annoyingly taller than she was. And smelled the same—way too expensive cologne. But the smile on his face was different than the old tight, stressed-out fake smile he used to wear. Tonight’s smile was broad, genuine, happy. And she had a feeling it was all thanks to the man sitting at the table next to him.
“Hawaii is as close to Portland as Portland is to Hawaii,” she said as she pulled out of the hug to smile up at him. “And I hate you, too. Can I meet your fiancé now as I already like him better than you?”
“Jo, this is Oscar, the love of my life until he gets old and wrinkly. Oscar, Joey, my sister, who is currently the bane of my existence. Which is only fair as I was hers for a couple years.”
“Twenty-five years,” she said. “Hi, Oscar. You are way more handsome than Dillon. Are you sure you don’t want to hold out for someone hotter?”
“I heard his sister was taken,” Oscar said as he stood up and dropped his napkin neatly on the table. She couldn’t fault her brother for falling for Oscar. He was over six feet tall, dark-skinned, dark-eyed and wore a suit better than James Bond. “So second best, it is.”
“Oh, I like him,” she said.
“Hands off,” Dillon said. “I mean, after you hug him.”
“My pleasure.” She reached out and hugged her brother’s too-elegant fiancé, and the hug he gave her in return felt like family already. “It’s so wonderful to meet you finally.”
“And you, too.” Oscar let her go and they sunk comfortably into their chairs, friends already. “Dillon said the wedding would only officially be on once we met and I had your approval.”
“Are you nice to him?” she asked, pointing at Dillon.
“His well-being is my number-one priority,” Oscar said.
“What’s your number-two priority?” she asked.
“Awesome,” she said. “Mine, too.”
“We both love food and Dillon, and not in that order,” Oscar said. “Is the wedding on?”
“You have my blessing.” Joey lifted her glass of ice water in a toast.
“Whew,” Dillon said. “Thank God. I didn’t want to have to ask for our deposit on the ballroom back. Weddings are expensive, Jo. Don’t have one.”
“Well, you don’t have to worry about that,” she said with a sigh as she picked up the menu. “I sent Ben packing.”
She glared at him.
“I mean...sorry.” Dillon tried to look sympathetic. He failed but she appreciated that he tried. “I’m sure you...miss...him...maybe?”
Dillon glanced over at Oscar, who hid his eyes behind a menu.
“I know you both know Chris and I are...seeing each other while I’m in town. You don’t have to pretend you don’t know. And I know he told you I broke up with Ben.”
“Not to give you relationship advice you don’t want or need...” Dillon began.
“I knew that but was coming.”
Oscar snorted a laugh.
Dillon cleared his throat. “But...a little advice from a man who has had way too many rebound flings.”
“How many are we talking?” Oscar asked, his eyes narrowed.
“Hush and read your menu,” Dillon said. “But the thing with rebound guys is...your rebound guy should be someone you’d never have a real relationship with. You save the good ones for real love. Like I did.”
“You two are getting married in eleven days. Why are we talking about me and Chris?” she asked. “Can’t we talk about you two? Wedding stuff?”
“Boring,” Oscar said.
“So boring,” Dillon agreed. “At this point we want to talk about anything but the wedding.”
“Not even to tell me why you’re making all of us dress up? And why you’re having the wedding on my birthday? Hmm?” She winked at Dillon so he’d know she was kidding.
“That’s my fault.” Oscar raised his hand, gave her an appropriately apologetic look. “I told Dillon I’d always wanted a Halloween wedding and he said yes before mentioning that was his sister’s birthday.”
“I didn’t think you’d really mind,” Dillon said.
“I’m turning twenty-six, not six. And I can think of no better way to celebrate my birthday than by partying at your wedding. But...”
“But?” Dillon said.
“But I still better get a really good present.”
“I knew I should have married the sister,” Oscar said. “A woman after my own heart.”
Dinner passed quickly in a haze of good conversation, food and seasonal IPAs. She and Dillon ordered pumpkin-flavored beers while Oscar stuck to water and wine. All went well until Dillon asked the one question she didn’t want to answer.
“So what happened with you and Ben?”
“We broke up,” she said, then took the last bite of her gluten-free brownie she’d gotten for dessert. She wasn’t allergic to gluten but for some reason every single dessert on the menu was gluten-free. No explanation except she was definitely back in Portland.
“Can I ask why?”
“You’re being nosy, dear,” Oscar said. “If she wants to talk about it, she’ll talk about it.”
“I really don’t want to talk about it,” she said.
“Do I need to kill him? Just answer that question.” Dillon reached out and grabbed her hand. “I really want to kill someone.”
“No one is killing anyone,” she said, pointing at him and at Oscar. “I already heard you threatened Chris.”
“Why did he threaten to kill Chris?” Oscar asked her. “He’s pretty. I won’t allow it.”
“Ask him.” She nodded at Dillon, looking sheepish.
“I love you, man, but if you start killing handsome guys, we’re going to have words. There aren’t that many of us around,” Oscar said.
“I just threatened him a little.” Dillon held up his fingers only half an inch apart. “I gave him a job to do and then he screwed up the job.”
“He didn’t screw up the job. He screwed the sister,” Joey said to Oscar.
“That is not true.”
“It is true,” she said. “I was there. Screwing happened.”
“No, I mean, I didn’t threaten to kill him because they’re a thing. I don’t care they’re a thing. They can be a thing all they want wherever they want whenever they want in any depraved manner they want. I assume it was depraved? I always got that vibe from Chris.”
“Mildly depraved,” she said.
“Thought so,” Dillon continued. “But...I need her to run Lost Lake and she won’t, and that’s all Chris’s fault.”
“Not his fault,” she said.
“Really? Then whose fault is it?”
“Nobody’s fault,” Joey said, sitting back in her chair. The brownie, which had been the size of her head, was now reduced to the size of her hand. She surrendered. But she’d probably take it home with her.
“I refuse to believe that,” Dillon said. “Everything is always somebody’s fault.”
“Then it’s my fault.” Joey shrugged and sat forward. Maybe she wouldn’t surrender to her giant brownie quite yet. “I can’t quit my job. It would be like letting Ben win.”
“Ah...” Oscar nodded at Dillon. Dillon nodded at Oscar.
“Stop nodding,” she said, attacking her brownie with a second wind. “I can see you two nodding.”
“So it’s Ben’s fault?” Oscar asked.
“You might as well tell us,” Dillon said. “You’re going to tell me eventually, anyway.”
“He’s married and he didn’t tell me.”
Dillon stood up. Calmly.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“Hawaii. I need to kill someone.”
“Sit.” She grabbed his jacket and pulled down. He sat.
“He was married and didn’t tell you?” Oscar sounded horrified. Dillon looked too angry to speak.
“For two years,” she said. “Two years we dated. Maybe one year total if you count all those trips he took to LA. He worked in the Oahu and California offices. I thought it was just work stuff taking him back and forth. He’s a VP of Operations so it made sense.”
“Is that allowed? VPs and marketing managers dating?” Oscar asked. It was a fair question.
“Not technically, but we didn’t work together. I have my own boss and didn’t answer to Ben for anything. We justified it that way. I didn’t think for one second he had a wife back in LA. Until I went to surprise him on the way here. It was bad.”
“I can’t even imagine.” Oscar shook his head. “I’m sorry. Truly.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that.” She smiled at her brother’s future husband and knew Dillon had found one of the good ones. “But that’s why I can’t take the job. I can’t quit now. If I quit, Ben wins. He gets to keep his job and keep his secret and keep doing what he’s been doing. At least if I’m there, I can make sure it doesn’t happen to someone else. All I have to do is mention ‘Ben’s wife’ at a staff meeting one day and everyone will know.”
“Sweet, sweet revenge,” Dillon said. Joey rolled her eyes.
“This isn’t revenge. He did something horrible to me, and I refuse to walk away and let him win.”
“I understand the feeling, Joey,” Oscar said, “but you know you can’t police the man for the rest of his life. Eventually he’ll get another job or you will and he’ll lie to as many women as he wants, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“I know. I know.” She raised her hands. “But you know Ben is at home right now hoping and praying I’m mad enough to quit work. That’s his dream. He knows I can make his life hell when I go back to work. Quitting would be playing into his hands. It’s exactly what he would want. I can’t give him what he wants, not after what he did to me. And his wife, too. God, that poor woman. I hope she strangles him.”
“If she won’t, I will,” Dillon said.
“No, you won’t. You’re getting married and you can’t get married in jail,” Joey reminded him. “You’re going to focus on Oscar, on the wedding, on finding me the perfect birthday present to make up for you two stealing my birthday. My favorite color is red. My shoe size is seven. My ring size is six and a half and diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but emeralds and sapphires are also on very good terms with most women. And that is that. No more talk of Ben or Chris or me. Tell me about the wedding. That’s an order.”
* * *
AFTER DINNER, SHE kissed both Dillon and Oscar goodbye and
Her Halloween Treat by Tiffany Reisz / Romance & Love have rating 5.5 out of 5 / Based on44 votes