Once I'm through the front doors and in the elevator, a sense of relief sets in, knowing I escaped the madness, unscathed, even for just today. The kinds of days that feel like they're forty-eight hours long are going to give me premature gray hairs, and I didn't sign up for that deal.
I grab my phone from my coat pocket and type out a quick message to Layla, needing an inventory update on our wine stash.
Me: Vino? Is there any in the kitchen and is there enough to cure a bad day?
Layla: Hold, please.
Cue the Jeopardy music as she stops to taste test whatever we have.
Layla: We have wine—should be enough to make you feel better, but that depends on how bad your day was.
As much as I like the idea of forgetting about my day by swimming through an entire box full of cheap wine, I know I can't get blitzed on a work night. Unlike Layla, I can only handle a few glasses, or I'll wake up with a horrendous hangover. Layla just stays awake all night, and the hangover never hits her. I'm beginning to wonder if that's key to drinking responsibly.
I was about to respond to Layla's text, but my phone slips from my palm as a hand grabs my elbow from behind.
Why tonight of all nights? I can't take any more today. "Stop, asshole! I have pepper spray!" Does yelling this phrase really work? From what I can see, the nearby pedestrians don't even bother to look over. Nice to know.
The problem is, I do not own pepper spray, but I'm hoping whoever has a hold of me will let go in fear of getting sprayed by my invisible weapon.
"Is the pepper spray inside your phone or your empty water bottle?" he asks. That voice—I recognize his damn voice, so I drop my arms and release my nut-kicking stance that wouldn't have done much to the assumed perpetrator hiding behind my back. I'm slow to turn around, feeling less-than-eager to face the idiot who thought it would be smart to grab my arm while I'm alone on a city street.
"Shit, I'm sorry," he says, leaning over and grabbing my phone from the pavement. "You're smart to have a solid case on this thing. I break more iPhones than I can keep track of. There's not a scratch on yours."
"You're lucky," I tell him. "You would have been buying me a new one if there was."
"Fair enough," he replies. "But all is well."
"What do you want, Wesley? Oh, and you're welcome for not attacking you. I don't think you want that pretty face of yours getting messed up so I wouldn't keep grabbing people from behind."
"In all fairness, I was yelling your name, but I guess you didn't hear me."
"Nope, I didn't. The traffic is loud, as I'm sure you can tell."
"Okay, well now that I have your attention, can I ask you for some help?" He has my attention for multiple reasons at the moment, and I'm not sure which one requires help.
"It's tempting, but I'm pretty sure I can't help you," I tell him, scratching at the skin beneath my nose.
"Look, I'm in a lot of trouble with this campaign, and if it leaks anywhere, my career is over."
"I'm sure someone will overlook your troubles to drool at your modelesque features," I tell him, unfazed by his plea and reason.
Wesley rolls his eyes and stares up toward the darkening sky. The silence lasts longer than a natural pause, so I consider walking away, but one stupid part of me is itching to find out what he will say next. I'd also like to tell him he looks like an idiot, but I'll hang onto that confession for a bit longer.
"My attorney is working on a retraction, but that guy you work for seems like a real dick," he says.
"I wouldn't go with the word 'real,' but he is a dick, yeah."
"When did you start working—" A bus speeds by us, drowning his words out with the loud rumble. "How long—" Another bus.
I check my watch, for no reason other than to be a jerk to the jerk who was a jerk to me earlier. A stereotype might dictate that certain types of models appear as if they never have time for anything, but I don't like to categorize anyone into a type, so once again today, I will try not to judge. I am getting better at being less judgmental. Although, I imagine when Wesley Moon needs something, he probably thinks everyone should stop what they are doing and help. He had a confident strut when he walked in this morning, and then he was snippy, but I wasn't helping much either.
"I didn't hear what you said," I tell him.
"Can I buy you a quick drink so we can go somewhere quieter?"
I glance at my watch again. I'm a busy woman, and there are bottles of wine waiting for me at home. Pursing my lips to the side, I look up at his tall stance, finding distress in his eyes and stress lines parting his forehead—that can't be good for a perfect face. My God. Why do I become soft around needy men? It's like I have a gift for attracting this type of man. Except, these men seem to need attention when in reality they only want to gain full control, which then causes me to feel needy. "I don't know. I should get home."
"Sure, yeah, I understand," he says. "Thanks for the heads up today. I'll be more careful when the next job comes up." He's giving me puppy dog eyes—he can't be serious. Did his pupils just get bigger too, or is it just my imagination?
No, I don't need this in my life.
I am happy without drama.
I am happy with nothing but my career.
No, no, I'm not. I'm bored, and I'm lonely, and my roommate is my only friend, and she's not the greatest.
"Wow, you're really milking this situation for sympathy, huh? Fine, one drink, then I have to get home to my couch—the poor thing has been alone and waiting for me all day. I need to feed and warm it up."
"First, I'm not 'milking' anything, but thanks for the jab. Second, I don't want to keep you from your—ah—couch, which is why I simply said, 'I understand.'" Wesley raises a brow as if he needs to appear confused by my statements, but I know better. I'm familiar with the game.
"Yeah, that's all you said out loud, but it's apparent you are proficient in talking with your expressions too. Let's go, pretty boy." The poor guy has no clue how much worse his day can get.
He sighs but doesn't argue as he places his hand on the small of my back to lead the way toward wherever he has in mind.
"The place over there," he points to the corner of the next block, "is quiet until later hours, and it's close by so I won't need to keep you from your couch for too long."
"Good, I like quiet. Plus, I can rest knowing the staff will hear you scream if I need to use my pepper spray."
He doesn't respond, but I'm sure he "fears" me like most men do when I use my threats.
We enter a small, modern looking bar with empty booths and plenty of free stools at the bartop.
"Sit wherever you'd like," the man behind the bar says.
I take the lead and sit in front of the bartender, and Wesley takes the seat beside me. "What can I get you to drink?" Wesley asks.
If he's buying, I'll skip the wine. "Captain and Coke," I tell him. "Oh, and with a cherry, please."
"Two Captain and Cokes, hers with a cherry," Wesley tells the bartender, who is staring at us curiously for longer than necessary
"Maybe he recognizes you," I whisper.
"Maybe," he says, cocking his head to the side as if he's trying to figure out if he knows the bartender, possibly.
"What did you need to ask me?" I cut to the chase while helping myself to two cardboard coasters from behind the bar. I slide one over to Wesley and place the other in front of me.
"How long have you worked at Virtual Generation?" he asks.
I sigh and look up at the ceiling, using my fingers to count. "It's been three full days now."
"Shit," he says. "I didn't realize you were that new."
"Yup, and so far it's the most amazing job I've ever had."
Wesley shakes his head and runs his hand down the side of his face. "If that's the case, you may want to consider a career change."
"Already on it," I tell him.
A couple of minutes full of silence isn't awkward like I would have expected, and Wesley seems more down to earth than I originally gave him credit for earlier. There's a mirror in front of us, but he's more interested in the game on TV. That's a good sign.
The bartender places our drinks down and drops a cocktail straw in each of our glasses, giving Wesley another sidelong glance.
"Why wouldn't you read the fine print on the contract?" I ask Wesley, pulling his attention away from the TV and the bartender.
"The milk thing has gotten so old; I figured it was a boilerplate type of contract for another milk distributor. It never crossed my mind that someone would want to use me of all people for a breast milk ad." I don't know why, but I find it attractive that he's speaking about the subject maturely after witnessing the behavior from the other men in the office.
"Do you think it's because you have a nice set of man boobs?" I lift my glass and push the straw to the side to take a quick sip. My question might need a moment to soak in, anyway.
"Wow, you're not quitting today, huh?"
"I'm just saying … when you're a model, you do things you don't always agree with, right?"
"How does that relate to man boobs?"
"It doesn't. I was just stating a fact."
"You're a funny one," he groans before downing half of the amber liquid in his glass.
"Yeah, but I'm not the one sitting at a bar with a milk mustache."
Wesley drops his glass and covers his mouth, realizing he never cleaned that crap off his face, which has probably dried like cement over the last few hours. I've been trying my best not to laugh or give him a funny look for the past twenty minutes, but it was my way of paying him back for scaring the shit out of me on the street.
However, it occurs to me, he must be so self-centered that he probably thinks people have been staring at him because of his good looks, rather than the fact that he's sporting a sweet milk mustache. That's cute and sad. "I'll be right back," he says.