The cabbie continued to weave through downtown Manhattan and I looked out the window, praying for a miracle and hoping to hell Preston meant what he said and wouldn’t fire me. I needed my job now, more than ever, and yet, remembering his warm arms wrapped around me sounded really good right now.
I leaned my head against the window, settling for a cold piece of glass against my cheek.
“Could have been worse news,” Emma said handing me a glass of wine and sitting on the couch next to me. “They can help him. That’s something.” Her voice was soft and soothing and yes, she was right. Slowing down the process was better than nothing.
“Yeah, I know.” I drank my wine in one long, long gulp.
“Holy hell, girl. Slow down, you’re making me look bad,” Emma said.
“Can we talk about something else?” I just needed to let everything sink in and talking about my dad right now was not something I wanted to go into.
“Of course,” Emma poured more wine into my glass and took a swallow of her own. Her long brown hair was in a messy bun on the top of her head and since she had taken her contacts out for the evening, she shoved her dark rimmed glasses up her nose. “How about we talk more about Mr. Sexy turning out to be your boss? I still can’t get over it!”
Yeah, that was a doozy. “Not just my boss, Preston is the owner.”
“Still calling him Preston, huh? Not ‘Mr. Strauss?’ ” Emma teased.
I smiled. It was such a laid-back name. Not nearly as intimidating as John Preston Strauss. The man oozed self-assurance and all his alpha male swagger and charm had worked on me. There was no denying it now. Problem was, I couldn’t figure out how to move on from here.
“He’s different. Like there’s different sides of him. Last night I saw the dominant aggressive side and today it was like talking to a playful frat boy.”
“God, I love frat boys.” Emma sighed and swirled her wine glass. “He seems honest though. And he could have let you get away but he didn’t.”
“Don’t start with that.”
“What? All I’m saying is it’s kind of romantic.”
I groaned and took a sip of wine. The idea of kids and house and doting husband had always been my end goal. Hell, part of me still wanted that. But for me, that particular table had turned, stranding me at the corner of Crap and Oh-shit Street.
Several months ago I had encouraged my best friend Kate to go after Adam. He had nearly hit her with his car and borderline stalked her but I had never seen Kate so at peace. Somehow, Adam had broken through all her walls and made the light shine through my best friend. If Kate’s anxiety had a cure, it was Adam Kinkade.
While no one deserved happiness more than Kate, the idea of “happy endings,” was long gone from my list of possibilities. Emma, however, tended to like the elaborate romance idea, though she’d never admit it. Her collection of Nicolas Sparks’ movies were a dead giveaway.
“I’m over the romantic thing. I’m honestly wondering if it even exists.” I wasn’t trying to be negative, just realistic. My parents were an amazing example of love and commitment. Kate and Adam were well on their way to sunshine and rainbow town. A place that was lost on me.
Reality trumped any fictional desires of happiness that Brian hadn’t managed to destroy. Moving to New York had been my first step in letting go of the idea that love, marriage, and babies were my happily ever after. My family was struggling, and that was my focus.
Besides, relationships apparently weren’t my strong point. I had dedicated the last two years to a guy who, not only didn’t see forever when he looked at me, but also left me feeling little better than a fool. And while I never did anything with my ex-boss, Tim, he threw, not only me, but my parents under the bus. Trust, men, and emotions didn’t go together. Not in my world.
“If I ever meet the boy that did this to you I’m going to bitch slap him,” Emma said, as if pulling my thoughts out of my mind.
“He’s not worth it, trust me.”
“Yeah, well, he and his skanky lady can just rot in Chicago together. You have bigger and better things going on.”
Emma’s encouragement did help. While I kept the details about my parents’ financial situation to myself, she obviously knew about Tim going to jail and the scam, as well as Brian and Grace. But she was right. I did have a good thing going here. Well, better than what I had going in Chicago.
I always wanted a career of my own in business or finance. I had moved up quickly at the hotel and was making decent money. I was also in the greatest city in the country and had good friends and great parents. I was better without Brian. I knew that. But the residual crap left over from a cheating ass**le ex-boyfriend and thieving felon for a former boss really shook my confidence. I always thought I was a great judge of character, now I had a hard time trusting my judgment on what to order for lunch.
“Okay, enough about this.” Emma clapped her hands. “Tell me more about today. After the one-night stand.”
I smiled and told her what Preston had said earlier.
“And you turned him down?”
“There was nothing to accept.”
“You said he asked you to dinner.”
“Yeah, but I couldn’t tell if he was serious or playing a game. And either way, it’s not a good idea. What if we go out, and it doesn’t work, then he fires me? Or worse, I am stuck needing a job that reports to a guy who I have a ‘history’ with? Talk about awkward.”
“Good point. I think powerful men like that always have an agenda, but Meg, he wouldn’t have asked you in if he didn’t at least like you a little bit. He could have his pick of women and he called you.”
“Thanks a lot,” I grumbled.
“You know what I mean. You’re hot and you’re funny and I’m sure you kick ass in the sack.”
“I just don’t get it. He offered dinner, then somehow turned it around on me. Like twisted my words and made me feel like I was the one who was approaching him with something.” I shook my head.
“Yep, that’s called the Jedi-Mind-Trick.” She took a drink of her wine. “The douche 2.0 version is the worst.”
I smiled. Preston wasn’t mean, or an ass. Well, kind of…but not in an overly assy way. I pinched my nose, even my thoughts were sounding lame.
“Do you like him?”
I considered that for a moment. He was irritating. Intense. Handsome. Sexy as hell and the way he moved his strong body so fluidly over mine was something out of a Greek god training manual. He was definitely rocking some good aspects. But, a single fact remained that I couldn’t ignore.