August 2006 - ISBN 978-1-59426-604-1
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Author's backlist: Robin Slick
It had to be the most uncomfortable plane ride I'd ever taken in my life. I was wedged between fellow employees Christopher Oates, who stared moodily out the window, and Benjamin Morris, who wore headphones and laughed out loud non-stop while watching The Forty-Year-Old Virgin.
"Kick him for me, will you, Justine?" Chris whispered.
"I'm considering worse," I said. "How dare he be happy? This is the flight from hell. Turbulent weather and crying babies for ten hours straight."
"And a giggling idiot," Chris said, scowling at Ben.
"Yeah, but we shouldn't be so hard on him. Poor thing. Away from his wife for seven whole days."
Chris snorted and I laughed. But, it was true. Ben was the only one with an enthusiastic reaction when we first got the news.
The three of us were New York investment bankers headed for Buenos Aires. The powers that be in our company had decided to send us to our office there for a week as part of a new training program.
"Oh, wow, thank you for this amazing opportunity," gushed Ben.
"Actually, I'm hoping that one or all of you decide to stay on in Argentina a bit longer," said our boss. "We could use people of your experience and work ethic."
Chris and I exchanged looks. A week away from New York and our clients and our lives there, sprung on us out of nowhere, did not exactly make us ecstatic. We were obviously not as adaptable as our pal Ben.
At one time, my heart would have raced at the thought of a week in South America with Christopher Oates. I really thought I felt sexual tension, or at least some sort of strong attraction, between us. What's weird is that I was usually never wrong about those things. I mean, I would look up to see him staring at me, or we'd accidentally brush against each other in the hallway, and I guess I was crazy to think I felt sparks. One time after I swore I felt downright heat coming from him I did something totally uncharacteristic: I asked him if he'd like to have a drink after work.
"A drink? With you?" He seemed horrified. "Um, no, I don't think so. It's never a good idea to fool around at the office. Didn't they teach you that in college?" While I reeled from what I thought was a pretty humiliating comment, his next move was to ruffle my hair like I was his ten-year-old kid sister.
And he walked away, leaving me confused altogether.
I decided that I would never look him in the eye again unless I had to, and would only speak to him if absolutely necessary. And if he, God forbid, ever so much as came within an inch of me, I'd stick out my foot and trip him.
It had taken a lot for me to work up the guts to ask him out. I'd recently broken up with my boyfriend, or should I say, I'd been abandoned. Michael was an actor who abruptly decided to relocate to Los Angeles. He never asked if I would consider going with him and, after I got over the initial shock, I had to admit I would never have gone anyway. Additionally I'd been ignoring signs of how self-absorbed he was throughout our relationship. Still, I was hurt and suffered a bout of insecurity following his departure, which was magnified when Chris turned down my offer to go out for a drink.
What was I, an ogre?