Her halloween treat, p.9
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       Her Halloween Treat, p.9

         Part #1 of Men at Work series by Tiffany Reisz
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  “Fine. Just tired. Lots of traveling. Jet lag and all that.”

  Chris walked to the couch and found her wrapped up in a wool blanket, her knees pulled to her chest, a cup of tea clutched tight in her hands.

  “Want me to light the fire for you?”

  “No, it’s okay. I’ll go to bed soon.”

  Chris didn’t know what to do, what to say. He sat on the end of the couch, not too far but not too close.

  “Do you...feel weird about—?” It was as far as Chris made it in his question before Joey’s head dropped to her knees and he heard the unmistakable sound of tears.

  “Fuck, Joey, what’s wrong?” He moved in closer, terrified to touch her when she was so clearly upset and yet desperate to be near her.

  “I’m sorry.” She choked out the words between soft sobbing breaths. “It’s not you, I swear.”

  “What is it?”

  She raised her head and rubbed tears off her cheeks on the corner of the blanket.

  “It’s really over.”

  “What is?”

  “Me and Ben.”

  “Yeah, I assumed it was.”

  “No, you don’t get it. I’ve never cheated on any guy in my life. I wouldn’t. And you and I had sex. And since we did, that means I know it’s over, because I wouldn’t have sex with someone else if it wasn’t. I guess... I guess it just hit me that it’s over over.”

  “You want it to be over, right? I mean, he’s married.”

  “Yes, I definitely don’t want to date a married man. I don’t. But for two years I didn’t know he was married. For two years he was just my boyfriend. Mine. All mine. I thought.”

  “You lost a lot here. You lost your boyfriend and you lost your whole vision of who you thought he was.”

  “I’m just so stupid. How could I not know? Of course he was married. He never wanted me to come to LA? Never? Not once? Like what did I think that was about? He thought I’d break up with him because the traffic’s so bad? Seriously—what was I thinking?”

  “I dated a girl for two years without meeting her parents. It just never worked out time-wise with our schedules. It wasn’t like she secretly kept her parents chained up in the basement. You just took him at his word. You wanted to believe you were dating an honest man. You wanted to believe the best in someone. That’s not stupid.”

  “It feels stupid. It feels like I’m stupid.”

  “You aren’t. You’re a good person who got lied to. We all get lied to. My ex cheated on me two months with her new boyfriend before I figured it out.”

  “Two months is not two years.”

  “But she lied to me, and I believed it. You just dated a really good liar.”

  “His poor wife—she must hate me.”

  “If she’s a good person, she hates him, not you.”

  “Unless he lied to her.”

  “That’s not your problem. Their marriage is not your problem.”

  “No,” she said softly. “I’ve got my own problems.”

  “Work?”

  She nodded.

  “He’s the VP of Operations at the airline. He’s not my boss but he is a boss. I can’t...but I have to go back. I can’t let him win. He should quit, not me. I shouldn’t be the one who has to give up her job because he lied.”

  “Yeah, he should quit. It would be the only honorable thing he could do.” Not for one second did Chris think this asshole Ben would quit his job just so Joey could keep working there with some comfort and dignity. A man like that didn’t know the meaning of the word honor.

  “I’m so tempted to call HR on him. You know there’s a rule against bosses dating underlings. We ignored it because he wasn’t my boss, but if I told them, it would get him fired.”

  “Do that. Definitely.”

  “It would probably also get me fired.”

  “Okay, maybe don’t do that. But you should think about, I don’t know...”

  “What?”

  She looked at him with hope in her eyes. Hope and sorrow and enough of both to break his heart and shut him up. Now was not the time to offer her a new job. Now might be the worst time in the history of all time to offer her a new job.

  “You should think about yourself,” he said. “Just take care of yourself while you’re home.”

  “I will. Thanks, Chris. You’re the best.”

  “Thank you. I know.”

  That got a little smile out of her.

  “I’m going to go to bed,” she said, sipping her tea before setting the half-drunk mug down on the coffee table.

  “Good idea. I’ll just, um, get my boots. Left them upstairs.”

  He stood up and she smiled at him. He wanted to touch her, caress her face, her hair, something. But she seemed so distant there on the couch wrapped up in her blanket, her body hidden from him, her face wet with tears.

  In the bedroom he pulled on his socks and work boots, found his white T-shirt and underwear. He tossed the condom wrapper and straightened the sheets a little so Joey wouldn’t have to when she came up to bed. With a pang of regret he looked at the bed where not twenty minutes ago he was buried deep inside Joey and they were having the best sex of their lives. At least, it was some of the best sex of his. What he wouldn’t give for a time machine. He’d go back twenty minutes—no, two years—and somehow stop Joey from dating this asshole who’d broken her heart so badly. But that was a childish dream for a grown man. Then again, one dream of his youth had come true tonight. No one could fault him for hoping for another dream come true.

  He went back downstairs and Joey was still on the couch. Waiting for him to leave? Probably.

  “Hey, I left my number on the nightstand,” he said. “Call me or text me or something. I won’t take it personally if this was, like, just a one-night thing. But I do want to hear from you. Tell me you’re okay or something. Okay?”

  “Okay. Thank you.”

  Thank you? That’s what he got after such a sexy, beautiful night? Thank you?

  “You can tell your friend now that you did what she suggested. Then maybe she’ll get off your back.”

  “She will. I’ll tell her I did exactly what she told me to. Too bad it didn’t work.”

  “Yeah,” Chris said, forcing himself to smile. “Too bad.”

  6

  “‘TOO BAD IT didn’t work’? That’s what you said to him?” Kira half screamed the words into the phone. Joey had to hold it out away from her ear to preserve her right ear’s hearing.

  “Well...yeah.”

  Joey winced. She hadn’t even gotten out of bed before her phone started ringing. Kira, of course, wanted all the details on her night with Chris. At first Kira had been thrilled. Joey had done something naughty for once in her life. She’d slept with a supersexy guy right after meeting—well, re-meeting him—and it had been all that any woman could ever want sex to be. Exciting, sensual, erotic, safe, orgasmic and just good old-fashioned dirty. She should have stopped her story before the end, before she said something incredibly stupid and Chris had left her alone in the cabin, which was actually the last thing she’d wanted.

  “You had mind-blowing sex with a hot handyman with a beard and you said, ‘Too bad it didn’t work’ after? Do you know there are over one million words in the English language? There are more words in English than there are in French and German combined. And any of those one million words would have been better than those words. You could have said, ‘I like bacon-powered ghost boat parades,’ and it would have been a better sentence than that sentence you laid at the feet of that beautiful man and his majestic cock.”

  “I didn’t say it was majestic. It’s a dick, not a bald eagle in flight. What I said was that his cock is ‘magnificent.’ And...can I ask something? Did ‘bacon-powered ghost boat parades’ really come off the top of your head? Or are you on some sort of drug I need to know about?”

  “Joey. This isn’t about the ghost boat parades. This is about you and Chris and his magical cock.”

&n
bsp; “Magnificent. Not magical. It didn’t do any tricks. He didn’t pull a rabbit out of it.”

  “He gave you not one but two screaming orgasms in the span of one hour. Sounds like magic to me.”

  “I’m really not a screamer. It was more like two ‘incredibly loud moaning orgasms.’ And it was closer to forty-five minutes.”

  “Can I have him if you don’t want him? I’ll take a pretty Portland boy with a beard.”

  “No, you can’t have him. He’s in Oregon. You are not.”

  “Fuck LA for a man who said he’d eat your pussy for the next six months. I’ll move to Oregon for that. I’m packing my bags right now.”

  “No, you aren’t.”

  “What if I was?” Kira asked, her voice finally calm again. “What if I did come to Oregon to hang out with you until the wedding? Hmm? What if I did meet this Chris Handyman of yours and he and I hit it off? Would you mind that? Would you mind if he and I got in his big diesel pickup truck and drove off into the sunset?”

  “It’s Oregon in October. You won’t see the sunset. You’ll see the fog set. Although that is really pretty.”

  “You’re not answering my question. Would you mind if I came to Lost Lake and went out on a nice dinner date with your handyman and took him back to my cabin and found out just how handy he is? Answer me.”

  Joey didn’t want to answer that question. She didn’t want to talk about Chris anymore. Not when she lay in the bed they’d had sex in, on the sheets that still bore the slight warm and spicy scent of his skin, with the wineglass they’d shared still sitting on the nightstand.

  “No. I would not like that. But I also wouldn’t stop you. He’s single. You’re single.”

  “He shouldn’t be single, not if he’s that good in bed.”

  “He’s that good in bed. And it didn’t work. As soon as he left to go to the bathroom after... I just couldn’t keep it together. All I could think about was how two years of my life were officially over. I didn’t get dumped because he found someone better or because he got a job somewhere else or something. The last two years of my life have been a lie. It might as well have not even happened. It’s all a waste. Two years, down the toilet.”

  “Look, I know breakups are hard. And they’re ten times harder when somebody lies or cheats. I know. I’ve been there. But Ben was not your whole life. You have a job you love that you kick ass at. I was there before you were. I know how much we were making. And I know how much more we made after a year with you in charge of marketing. You’re a marketing genius and we all know it. Whether you stay or not, you have two years of work experience, two years of contacts, two years of successes, to put on your résumé. You have friends—me, for example—and what more do you need than me? And you live in fucking Honolulu, Hawaii, so close to the beach you can see actual whales from your apartment window. Can you really tell me that’s all down the toilet? Really? Go look. Go look in the toilet and tell me if you see any whales in it.”

  “Kira...”

  “Go. Look. For. Whales. In. Your. Toilet. Right. Now.”

  Joey laughed. It was the first big good laugh she’d had all day. She needed that.

  “I don’t have to look. I can tell you there are no whales in my toilet.”

  “See? It wasn’t all a waste, then. And you can stop feeling sorry for yourself any minute now. Ben lied to you. He cheated. That makes him a cheating liar and cheating liars are not worth all the power you’re giving him. He doesn’t deserve the right to taint the past two years of your life when you and I both know that you had a pretty damn good two years.”

  “I did. Yes. I absolutely had a good two years.”

  “Good. Thank you. I needed to hear that. If you flush the past two years down the toilet, you flush me, too. And I don’t want to be flushed.”

  “I won’t flush you.”

  “I can’t tell you how relieved I am to hear that. Now, we need to figure out what to do about your handyman.”

  “He’s not my handyman. He’s my brother’s handyman. And he’s probably not Dillon’s handyman anymore because everything on the cabin is done. He’s doing other jobs this week.”

  “Anywhere close by?”

  “Timber Ridge, I think he said.”

  “What’s that?”

  “A hotel-lodge-type place near the top of the mountain, really pretty inside. And it’s right at the top of the mountain. Great view. Great skiing. Nice place.”

  “Maybe you should go skiing. Maybe bump into Chris.”

  “I doubt I’ll find him on the ski slopes.”

  “You’ll find him somewhere up there, right? He left his number?”

  “He left his number.”

  “You could use that number to meet up with him.”

  “And do what? I tried what you said. Get over one guy by getting under another. I did that. I did it hard. It was awesome. And...it didn’t work.”

  “Try again.”

  “Kira.”

  “I’m serious. You know the old saying—if at first you don’t succeed, fuck that guy again.”

  “I don’t remember that old saying.”

  “It’s before your time,” Kira said.

  “Kira, I love you. I do. But I don’t think playing around with Chris’s feelings is a good way to help me take care of mine. It’s not really fair to him.”

  “Did you ask him?”

  “What?”

  “Did you ask him his opinion on this? Isn’t he older than you?”

  “Yeah, he’s twenty-eight.”

  “So he’s an adult.”

  “Right.”

  “Okay. Then text him. Ask if you can have lunch or dinner with him. Have lunch or dinner with him. Ask him if he’d mind being your bed buddy until you come back to work after the wedding. He might say yes. He might say no. But that’s his call, not yours.”

  “You really—”

  “Do you like him?” Kira asked, and for the first time in their entire conversation she sounded one hundred percent sincere. “Chris, that is. Do you like him?”

  “I’ve always liked him. He used to protect Dillon. They were best friends in high school. Dillon got outed and Chris broke at least one nose trying to keep Dillon from getting jumped in the parking lot. Chris was a tough twerp back then. I was always scared he’d get hurt trying to keep Dillon from getting hurt. That’s a real friend who will break a nose for you.”

  “I’d break a nose for you, JoJo.”

  “I’d break a nose for you, too, KiKi.”

  “Don’t call me that.”

  “You called me JoJo.”

  “Are you going to text Chris and at least talk to him about last night?”

  “Yes, I’m going to text Chris. I don’t want him thinking for one second I regret what happened.”

  “Then you can call me anything you want.”

  “I’ll call you tonight after I talk to him. How’s that?”

  “That’s perfect. Now go jump that pretty bearded handy boy before I do.”

  “I’m hanging up now.” And Joey did.

  For a few more minutes, Joey lay in the bed, the bed Chris made with his own hands. She couldn’t deny it was kind of sexy, that he
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