I love, love coworking spaces. When I was just starting out, I used to work at cafes and felt guilty the entire time. It didn’t feel right, hogging use of their table for hours in exchange of two cups of coffee, and I felt even guiltier when cafes started offering sockets and USB ports. Every time my device’s battery ran low, I struggled with an ethical dilemma: to charge or not to charge. And most times than not, convenience shamefully won over my principles.
So you could just imagine how happy I was when coworking finally became a thing. Finally, a place in which we could legally pay to hang out for hours, make use of their Internet and charging stations, and oh, did I mention they had free coffee and tea, too?
The first one to open in our neck of the woods was Associate, and the place occupied the entire penthouse of a low-rise building downtown. I signed up the first chance I could (lifetime rates at $150 per month, duh!) and hit the jackpot since Associate quickly established itself as the best in the business, with its fancy rooftop deck, full-serviced kitchen, exercise studio, and relaxation room.
The place operated Mondays to Saturdays, and being the cheapskate that I was, I occupied one of their tables for about fifty hours a week. At the start, there were only about a dozen of us, but by the time Associate celebrated its first year of business, there was rarely a table left unoccupied and the place had become a thriving social hub for everyone from freelancing artists to wheeling-and-dealing Internet enterpreneurs. Even our local influencers dropped by frequently to have meetings at one of the function rooms, and in those days Associate always got a little livelier as most members tried to one-up each other on any number of things. Just watching them interact with each other was pure fun, and I always ended up scribbling several pages’ worth of notes that would eventually find its way to my scripts.
None, however, proved as exciting as the day Ioniko Vlahos started “working” at Associate.
Ioniko was, in a word, perfect: jet-black hair, piercing green eyes, and chiseled and sculpted all over. He looked like he was born to kill in handmade Italian suits, and his deeply bronzed skin instantly made everyone’s fake tans look like an embarrassing joke.
He was so darn sexy that the word ‘sexy’ itself felt inadequate, and every time he dropped by, the amount of horniness in the air would reach impossibly awkward levels. Nowadays, no one made a fuss anymore when the ladies’ shower room smelled distinctly like cum, and no one even batted an eyelash when we’d hear a barely stifled moan from here and there.
At the beginning, the women would swarm around him constantly, flirting and hitting on him, and I heard he even got propositioned once or twice. It was only when Kat, the woman who managed the place and was often found manning the reception counter, casually let it drop that her big brother was an old-fashioned Greek that all the fawning stopped…and it started.
At first, I thought I was imagining things.
I was, after all, worse than ordinary, a 27-year-old bespectacled workaholic who cared so little about her appearance that she didn’t mind leaving the house without taking a shower.
I never wore makeup and had my hair up all the time so I wouldn’t have to drag a comb through the occasional knots. The only reason people didn’t think I was a social misfit was because Korean fashion had claimed global domination; I could now leave the house in hoodies and sweat pants and still have my outfit considered as stylish.
So I was that kind of person, and Ioniko being another kind of person, you could see why I had to think I was imagining things.
There were times when I would be on my desk, tapping away on my iPad when I’d feel his gaze on me. Times when I would browse the latest magazines on the racks and I’d feel his eyes following every unconscious sway of my hips. Times when his stare would just burn so effing much that my body couldn’t help reacting, and I’d start tingling and aching all over. Times when I wanted to forget all my inhibitions and be just like almost every other girl at Associate and pleasure myself while imagining it was his fingers stroking my flesh.
There were lots of times that it almost felt undeniable he was staring at me, but even so. Every time I felt he might be staring at me, I simply told myself nope.
Just nope, nope, nope.
Could he really be staring at me while I was waiting for his sister to issue me a replacement card at the counter? Nope.
Were those his eyes digging holes into my back while I was chatting with Wyatt? Nope.