Soon she was switching jobs, being transferred from the hotel in Palm Desert to the corporate office in Honolulu, in what felt like the snap of her fingers. Once she was gone, she cut me out of the rest her life. Instantly removed from Facebook and Instagram, emails bounced, phone number was switched. It’s like she never existed when she was making sure that I never existed.
And yet here I am, existing, barely, about to start a new job of sorts in the same office where she works. Hopefully five years was enough for her to forget me so that we can start over.
The Kahuna Hotels corporate office takes up the entire tenth floor of the high-rise. It’s interesting to finally be able to see where these people work. When I used to work for them in Palm Desert, I always pictured the head office as some zany loosey-goosey zoo on the beach, with the CEO surfing the waves in-between taking conference calls. Even though it was corporate and the head of the company, things seemed to run a little slower on their end.
But now that I’m here, it looks clean and modern, lots of white with faded watercolor art on the walls, and the occasional teak furnishings.
The receptionist, however, is only borderline professional. When I give her my name and tell her who I’m here to see, she eyes me up and down, very slowly, pausing at every corner of my body. It’s both flattering and unnerving, especially the way she raises her brows at the end. I can’t tell if she’s impressed or disappointed but it’s something.
Then, when I sit down in the lobby to wait, she spends the whole time staring at me, deadpan, even as she’s typing something. I have the sneaking suspicion she’s typing something about me but I’m not sure what it is.
Finally, she answers a call and after she hangs up, says, “Mr. Rocha? Desiree will see you now. Office just down there to the right.”
I get up quickly, happy to get out of there, and take stock over my sweat situation. The AC in here is helping but a few strands of my hair are sticking to my damp forehead. The receptionist was probably tweeting about the sweaty monster in a suit she now has to work with.
I head down the hall to the door and then take in a deep breath.
You got this, I tell myself. No different than the start of any game.
“Come in,” says a voice.
I open the door, my smile already plastered on my face as I finally meet Desiree.
Except that there are two people in the office.
Desiree, the tiny, older Japanese woman with a flower clipped in her hair, and Nova Lane.
God, even her name in my head sounds sexy.
It doesn’t help that she’s only gotten even sexier over the years.
Nova is still stunning and completely unique to any woman I’ve ever met. Her mother is Bahamian (or was it Barbadian?), her father Northern European, so she has high cheekbones and the roundest, cutest cheeks you’ll ever see on a woman. Then she has these pouty lips that I know for a fact are expert at sucking dick (specifically, my dick) and these dark, beguiling bedroom eyes that tempt you with all the dirty things she wants to do to you. Her body is both lush and strong and oh so soft. I once told her she had skin like mocha cream but that resulted with her hitting me upside the head for how inappropriate it is to compare her skin tone to food, but I do have to say her skin still positively glows.
And she’s here.
Sitting right in front of me, dressed in a sleeveless black dress and sandals, staring at me with total condemnation.
Something tells me five years weren’t enough.
“Mr. Rocha,” Desiree says, getting to her feet and extending her hand across her desk. “It’s so nice to finally meet you.”
“Likewise,” I tell her, and wince when I realize my palm is sweaty. “Sorry, it’s really hot here.”
Desiree laughs and luckily doesn’t look put out that she shook hands with a wet orangutan in a suit. “You’ll get used to it,” she says, then nods to my clothes. “And you’ll learn pretty fast to leave your blazers in the closet. Please sit.”
All this time I’m both trying to look at Nova and also avoid the dripping disapproval in her eyes. She visibly stiffens as I sit next to her.
“Now, I take it you two know each other,” Desiree says, looking back and forth between us with a gentle smile on her lips, obviously clueless. “So we don’t have to get into the introductions. But perhaps you should get me caught up.” She looks at me. “Kessler, Mike spoke very highly of you and insisted you were the best person to take over his job.”
Only because he’s a huge hockey fan, I think. But of course I wouldn’t dare tell them that.
“Considering our circumstances, we didn’t have a lot of time to figure this out,” she continues. “Of course we would take Mike’s word and recommendation but there’s a lot we need to work out, hence why this position is just for three months. Already I really appreciate the fact that you were able to pack up and move here on such an unbelievably short notice, especially when you have a son.”
“You have a son?” Nova squeaks, brows raised to the ceiling. It’s the first thing she’s said to me and I can’t blame her for looking so shocked. When we were having our affair, I was very adamant how against marriage and children I was.
Times, do they fucking change.
“I was happy for the opportunity,” I tell Desiree, ignoring Nova because I’m not about to open that can of worms right here. “And Hunter is very adaptable.”
Nova’s eyes go wider, as if the mention of his name made him real. She folds her arms and sits forward, eyes focused on the wall. She’s done acknowledging me.
“That’s excellent,” Desiree says. “But of course, you ended up leaving Kahuna Hotels in Palm Desert not too long after Nova did. You went to work with the Rockstar Collection, which, as you know, are our competitors. What prompted that change?”
I shrug, feeling a trickle of sweat at the back of my neck. “I wanted to challenge myself.”
Desiree goes on, prompting me to talk more about my role over there, what I did, what I wanted for myself. I answer her questions but I’m incredibly aware that Nova is sitting next to me this whole time, making my answers sound a bit stiff and formal.
I’m starting to wonder why she’s in this meeting at all when Desiree says, “Nova reported to Mike when he was here, so in this situation she’ll be doing the same to you, Kessler. I assume that won’t be a problem. It was like that back in Palm Desert, wasn’t it?”
“No,” Nova says quickly, her tone sharp and steady. “Kessler and I were equals.”
“Ah,” Desiree says, and I do the same inside my head.
I think I know why Nova still hates me so much, and it might not have anything to do with our little tryst back in the day or me breaking it off because of my commitment issues.
I think I might have just stolen her potential job out from under her.
I turn my head and give Nova an apologetic smile, realizing that if I don’t try and smooth things out now and really empathize with her, the next three months might just be a living hell.
But she takes one look at my smile, then another look at the sweat on my forehead, and her eyes narrow into a look I know all too well.
The look that tells me I’m dead to her.
Okay. So it looks like the next three months are going to be a living hell after all.
It’s definitely fucking hot enough.
“Okay, we’re out of ear-shot now,” Kate says, looking over her shoulder as we hurry down the street. “Can you please tell me what the fuck is going on with you?”
I look behind us as well, as if I expect to see Kessler or Desiree, or, hell, Roger, following me. There’s so much going on right now in my head I’m not even sure what to process.
But no, it’s Kessler Fucking Rocha taking up the most space in my frontal cortex.
“I don’t even know where to begin,” I mutter as we take a right down the street toward Lucky Belly. “Do I tell you about how Roger slept with a hooker while we were in Vegas?”
She gasps and slaps me across the shoulder, her dark hair flying. “Shut. Up!”
“Suffice to say, we broke up. But then I find out that not only did my beloved boss quit on me, leaving me totally unmoored, but that I’m not getting his position.”
“Oh fuck nuts,” she swears. “I’m sorry, I totally thought you were going to get it.”
“Uh-huh. And there’s more fuck nuts to come. That tall, burly sweaty dude you saw in reception? He’s the guy who stole my promotion.”
“I knew he was too sweaty for his own good,” she says, squinting. “Though if he invited me to have a naked sweat session with him, I definitely wouldn’t turn him down. If you know what I mean.”
“I always know what you mean, Kate. And you might take that back in a few minutes…actually, no, it’s you, you never take anything back.”
“No takesies backsies,” she says with a nod, opening the door to the restaurant for me. “Whatever I give, the world is free to keep.”
“Right,” I say, stepping inside. As usual, there is a huge lineup for lunch. Originally I was just going to get George’s ramen to go and get something along with it, but I’m in no hurry to go back to the office. “We’re eating here now, by the way.”
Kate shrugs. Linda, the office manager, handles the phones while Kate is at lunch and Kate has no problems coming back late. She says Linda always takes two pieces of cake during any office birthday celebration and apparently Kate considers that to mean war.
“So is that all?” she asks as we’re seated at a booth.
“No.” I sigh noisily and rest my head down on the menu, closing my eyes. “That tall sweaty burly man…” I pause. “Is…”
“What?!” she screeches.