Carl twisted his mouth in apparent consideration, and I began to worry I’d insulted him. I wasn’t used to being consulted on large accounts; Richard was more of a delegator, leaving me to deal with prep work like charts and graphs rather than formulating strategy.
“Where do you think we can best incorporate that information into the follow-up pitch we already have?” Carl asked.
“In my opinion,” I began, clearing my throat nervously, “it should be the first thing you emphasize. It will show him that you respect his company and also make for a smoother transition into the points on expansion.”
He shook his head slowly. “Watson-James is known for tradition. Cohen probably met with them when he realized our approach was future focused. Great catch, Kristen. You may have saved yet another account, keep it up.”
I tried to hold back the beaming smile that was threatening to creep across my face as I handed the folder back to him. “Thank you Mr. Stansworth, let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you.”
I left Carl’s office feeling more confident in my job than I ever had while working for Richard. Instead of treating me like his inferior or some prop, Carl treated me like his peer. I had to admit that I’d learned a lot from Richard—mostly by figuring things out on my own—but I had a feeling that working with Carl would be far more hands on. I couldn’t help but think that, although I’d earned my new position at Waterbridge-Howser through hard work, my new career success wouldn’t have been possible had I never met Vincent.
As I approached my desk I felt my phone vibrating in my pocket. I pulled it out to look at it and my stomach did a flip when I saw who it was from: Vincent. We’d been seeing each other for a few weeks now, but I still found myself getting excited every time I heard from him.
All work . . . I’m ready for some play, still on for Skype at 7 your time?
I was relieved to know that he was thinking about me despite how busy he must have been with the launch party. My earlier jealousy was starting to seem irrational—if Vincent wanted casual sex he could have it. It certainly would have been easier than dating, but he was cutting time out of his schedule for me. He was adjusting.
I typed a response. It’s a date, but there might be a little work involved.
Only for you. Talk later.
I smiled as I put my phone away. Vincent might have been a bad boy once, but it seemed that things were changing.
On my way home, I ran across Kurt, who was on his way to pick up take-out from a Chinese restaurant nearby. We exchanged a few pleasantries. I told him I worked for a wealth management firm and he told me he worked security. I wasn’t sure what that meant exactly but it wasn’t hard to imagine him being a bouncer with his height and muscles.
When I got inside the apartment, the air was hotter than normal. Riley was laying on the couch as usual but in her work clothes, her bag next to the coffee table. It looked like she plopped down as soon as she made it inside. Must’ve been a hard day at work.
“Yeesh, why is it so hot in here?” I asked.
“The air conditioning is busted and it’s like ninety degrees outside. Thank goodness for global warming and summer, right?” Riley replied, eyes closed and back of her hand resting on her forehead.
“I feel like we should be getting a tan in this heat. Are they going to fix it?”
“Yeah, I called the landlord. He said other people complained and he has a guy already working on it.”
“That’s good news.” I slipped out of my shoes and put on some slippers. Moving on, I asked, “Did you go to work today?”
“I was feeling well enough to go in around noon. But I’m definitely sleeping early tonight. My head’s still congested.”
“I’m glad to hear you’re better.”
“How was your day?” she asked.
“Nothing too exciting. I had a meeting with my new boss. Carl’s much better than Richard—who by the way is starting to be a pain in the ass. He thinks I stole Vincent from him.”
“I saw you hold a poisonous spider.” Her hand leaped from her forehead to point at me. “You definitely deserved Vincent more than he did.”
I shrugged. “He doesn’t know that though. And I’d like to keep it that way.” I dropped my bag beside the kitchen table.
“So, other than work.” She straightened herself on the couch and brushed her strawberry-blonde hair behind her ears. Her blue eyes looked at me carefully. “How are you doing?” she asked delicately.
I leaned against a kitchen chair and shifted my feet. “I’m okay. It’s been on my mind but I feel a lot better and safer since Monday. Vincent’s been out of town but he’s checking up on me regularly, which is nice.”
“That’s good to hear, Kristen. I’m really happy for you. It sounds like Vincent really cares about you.”
He’d been unexpectedly supportive since I told him about Marty. Any other guy would’ve probably made an awkward excuse to avoid me and I wouldn’t blame them. Most people were busy battling their own problems; they weren’t going to fight somebody else’s—no matter how good the sex.
“I think I really care about him.”
She smiled. “As you should. How did things go at his place?”
I felt my cheeks blush. “It was good. He made dinner for us. I found out what an awesome chef he is.”
“A great cook as well? God, I’m not even going to lie to you, Kristen. I’m so jealous.”
I laughed. “Thanks, I guess.”
“So.” Her eyes turned wicked. “Did you get some action?”
I smiled bashfully and tried to look away from her curious eyes.
She beamed and pointed her finger at me again. “I knew it.”
I recounted the rest of the night at Vincent’s place to Riley, only leaving out the most intimate details—which were the ones she wanted to hear most. I could trust her not to tell anyone, but I didn’t feel ready to have a detailed discussion about my newly invigorated sex life. I was still trying to wrap my head around it. After over two years without sex, I’d just had it three times with nipple-pierced bad boy Vincent Sorenson. Blindfolds and multiple orgasms? What could I make of that?
Besides being the best sex of my life.
Riley seemed satisfied with the rundown even without the graphic details. I knew she’d probably prod me again about it later and I’d end up telling her more.