Tanner Wright’s smirking face flashed into my mind. I could hear the pop of electricity as our fingers touched. I could smell the faint hint of ozone in the air. He had won the Douchebag of the Century Award, hands down. I had never met anyone so cocky and full of himself.
Fine, he was a hot billionaire with a big bulge in his pants, but did he have to pull me into his silly little game?
I was completely innocent in all this. It would be remarkably unfair to kick me off the team just because of Tanner’s actions.
Turned out, Stan felt otherwise. After he parked the car in the underground garage and the others were headed toward the bank of elevators, he asked me to hang back.
“What was that all about back there?” he asked with an air of accusation to his tone.
“I have no idea what that was, Stan,” I said, huffing at him. “Probably just another rich asshole jerking us around. Isn’t that the way this works? We’re management consultants. We get jerked around by rich assholes then bill them a thousand dollars an hour for it?”
“It was more than that,” Stan said, rubbing his chin as he studied me with narrow eyes. “You’ve never met him before, have you?”
“Never had any contact with him at all?”
I knew where this was going. I’ve never been one to bite my tongue and I was too good at my job to fear losing it, so I spread out my hands and gave it to him straight.
“Look, Stan, if you’re thinking about bouncing me off this project because Tanner Wright is a flirt, you can forget it. You need me on this team. Nobody knows the digital side of telecom like I do. I’m a consummate professional and you know it.”
“I know you’re a professional, Candice,” Stan said with a sigh. “I’m just not so sure about Tanner Wright.”
I didn’t even bother going up to the office. I knew Juliette was already up there telling anyone who would listen how I disrupted the meeting by flirting with Tanner Wright.
She wouldn’t tell the whole story, of course.
Her version would undoubtedly have me oohing and goohing at him with my tits hanging out.
By Monday, I’d be fodder for the office gossip mill.
I’d be branded as the junior consultant who almost killed a ten-million-dollar deal because she couldn’t resist flirting the bad boy billionaire.
It would all be a lie, but it wouldn’t matter.
The only saving grace was that it was after five on Friday afternoon, and most of the Goldman employees would already be headed for home.
It was little solace.
I caught a cab and made it home around six. I held it together as I rode the elevator up to my tenth-floor apartment. I hurried down the hall and unlocked my door.
The moment I stepped inside and locked the door behind me, I fell to my knees and began to sob.
The hard, crusty shell that I wrapped myself in every day to face the world was left cracked and broken outside my door.
In here, all alone, it was just me, Candice Marie Carlson, the insecure farm girl from Nebraska who was doing her best to get ahead and hold it together in a cruel and unfair world.
Candice Carlson, the girl who was sitting on the floor in the dark with her back against the door to keep the world outside.
Candice Carlson, the girl who cried herself to sleep many nights because the emotional armor she wore to battle the demons of the world was so heavy that it squeezed the emotions out of her like a juice press.
Candice Carlson, the girl who was hard as stone on the outside, but soft as marshmallow on the inside.
I put my forearms on my knees and rest my head on my arms.
I sat there and cried until I had no more tears to give.
It was amazing what a good cry does for the soul. It’s something men will never understand. The weight of the world can be bearing down on you like a Mac truck, but sit on the floor and sob like a baby for an hour and suddenly, all is right with the world.
Or at least as right as it could get at that moment.
Throw in a microwave pizza, a pint of mint chocolate chip Haagen-Dazs, and half a bottle of chardonnay, and suddenly the world is a beautiful place.
At least the world inside my apartment.
I was more than a little drunk as I ran myself a hot bath and prepared to soak for an hour or two. As the tub filled with steaming hot water, I lit several candles and turned off the lights. The aroma of cinnamon and wildflowers wafted on the air.
I closed and locked the bathroom door. Call me weird, but I can’t take a bath or a shower with the door open. Guess I’ve seen too many movies about silly girls who take showers when murderers were lurking around.
I know, I’m a psychiatrist’s wet dream. Oh well.
I set my iPhone on the counter and told Siri to play some Van Morrison to set the mood. I stripped off the sweats that I’d changed into after my crying jag in the foyer, and stood naked in front of the mirror to put up my hair.