I wanted to laugh when the car flashed at us in the carpark, but I didn’t. He couldn’t afford his rent, but he did have an expensive car? Of course. What did I say about that ‘bad boy’ vibe?
It had a backseat, but no back doors. Amelia folded the passenger seat and clambered in, making the suspension bounce when she heartily sat down. She grinned at me, thoughts going on behind her eyes that I felt I was supposed to understand. I set the seat back and got in. The ceiling was low, like any typical sports car, but there was plenty of leg room.
Tyler pulled his door shut, looking down at his phone. He continued to fiddle with it in his right hand, while his left hand, with the seatbelt, missed the receiver about four times until he scowled down at it and clicked it into place.
“Do you know where it is?” Amelia asked.
“Sort of,” he replied. He had brought up a sat nav on his phone and handed it back to her. “Maybe you should put it in, just in case.”
I heard the faint vibrations of her thumbs on the screen. “What voice do you use?” she asked.
“Sally,” Tyler replied.
“Sally The Slut? Good God.”
He grinned, a sudden crack in his still face. “She’s sexy.”
“No, she sounds like a slut.” She put on an overly sensual, moaning tone. “‘Turn right in two hundred yards, mmm’.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t listen to that.”
“You women, so competitive.”
She continued fiddling with his phone. “Can’t I put on one of the male voices?”
“The only good male voice is the American one.”
“He sounds like he’s talking through his nose.”
“No he doesn’t.”
“Sally The Slut or American Nose-Man?”
“How about,” Tyler said, reaching back to snatch his phone off her, “we listen to your sexy voice giving the directions instead?”
She leant against the back of his seat. “Sounds good.”
“But not in my ear.”
“Don’t you like that?” she whispered.
“I might, Zack doesn’t.”
She chuckled her tinkling laugh and I couldn’t help but grin as well. She tried to tickle his neck and he squirmed, slapping her hand away.
“Sit back and put on your seatbelt.”
“Oh pfft, if you didn’t drive like a maniac.”
With a subtle movement of his leg and a turn of the key, the car growled to life. He revved it a couple times, looking over his shoulder at her.
Hers clicked into place and I quickly did mine as well. He revved it one more time just to annoy her, but the roaring power of the engine gave me a nervous knot in my stomach.
Tyler must have picked up on it because his smile was gone and he gave me a glance. “Sorry,” he said. “I am a good driver really.”
His hand held the wheel tight, but I knew whatever control you had over the steering meant nothing once the tyres lost their grip.
We rumbled smoothly out of the carpark and I forced my breathing to slow. The sickness of a rising panic attack faded with it. Now would have been an embarrassing time for one to strike.
There was a short silence, which was probably my fault. I thought Tyler would be the type of man to turn on the radio, but he didn’t. I leant an elbow against the window, head against my fingers, and watched the streets going past… and still couldn’t help tossing him some glances. I watched the muscles in his forearm when he changed gear, his hands on the wheel, the subtle movements of his legs. His handsome profile as he concentrated on everything outside.
The silence broke when Amelia gave the first directions. It was as if they were straight back where the conversation had left off, and there had never been a pause.
“That’s your best sexy voice?” Tyler asked.
“You don’t get to hear my best.”
“I did last time I was babysitting downstairs.”
He braked at some traffic lights. “If you’re threatened by another woman’s voice that’s okay, just admit it.”
He still managed to make the car rev again when we started moving. “It’s okay to be competitive, but you already scored a hot husband so I don’t know-“
“I’m being competitive? You’re the one trying to show off his car.”
He yelped with laughter. “What? I’m not even.”
“Yes you are.” She leant one arm on the back of his seat, one on mine. “Vroom vroom.”
He laughed again. It was such a good sound, rolling from his throat. “I’m not. I’m just a bad driver, you got me.” His eyes moved to me for a quick glance. “I really doubt you care about my car. You’ve probably got a Lamborghini, haven’t you?”
I smirked. “No comment.” What a guess.
“See, I knew it. Rich cunt.”
“Ty!” Amelia squawked.
He had known me little over an hour and already called me a ‘cunt’. I liked this man. I grinned at Amelia, but she clasped a hand to her forehead regardless.
“This is what I am,” Tyler said. “If you want to hire me, better you know now.”
“I’m quite sure we can handle your language skills,” I replied.
“I’ll find a gag for him,” Amelia said.
He chuckled. deneme bonusu veren siteler “Kinky.”
We were out the edges of town and at my company’s headquarters not more than thirty minutes later. It was a sprawling complex, and I enjoyed the look on Tyler’s face as he took it in.
“So how many weeks do I need to learn my way around?”
Amelia directed him past three carparks. “Left, left! You missed it.”
“What the fuck is this labyrinth?”
“Turn around, up here. Turn around.”
We parked next to Zack’s car then made our way inside. It was time to do a little tour on the way up to my office. He trotted along behind us, listened to everything, and didn’t have many questions. Sometimes he smiled, sometimes he frowned. I suppose there was a lot to take in.
Amelia and I went over a few more things with him in my office, then I sent him off to see where he would be working with her. The door shut to leave me in near silence and I flipped through the pages of his portfolio again.
He had been honest enough to give me a copy of his police record. In some ways it was identical to Zack’s. Except it seemed, Tyler had been arrested more. Assault. Drug possession. Assault. Disorderly conduct. Aggravated assault. Speeding.
The only conviction was the speeding. The man hadn’t spent a day in jail.
Of the two most important ones – drug trafficking, and manslaughter – there wasn’t a sign. Just like Zack.
There was something else in the pile and I pulled it out. Something medical. Did he have some health issues I should know about? Apparently not. I was quite sure the dog-eared bit of paper had got caught up in there by mistake.
Well, that was good to know.
What I hadn’t known about the company was how many ties it had to the military. That came as a shock. There were these confidential vibes going on. Amelia was only telling me half the story about everything, and scolded me if I pushed it. Okay, I needed to initiate. Fine.
My first two weeks were very uneventful. Amelia was my boss more than Darren. It was what I had been afraid of ever since the first time she offered me something. We needed to work out some sort of professional relationship.
In the end we settled into this teacher-student dynamic. I was under-qualified, I really was. My job seemed, essentially, a glorified internship. I knew nothing of what went on there. But Amelia wanted me, and she would teach me.
She put all this work to study in front of me. It was daunting, but she had nothing but smiles.
“It won’t take you long to pick this up,” she said. “Trust me. I know how smart you are.”
It might have been the most meaningful compliment I’d ever received. Regardless, it dawned on me just how much I needed to get my arse in gear.
“How did you learn all this stuff?” I asked her.
“I’ve been around it all my life. I only recently took over management from my father.”
I flipped through some papers. “I don’t want an office job. I thought you wanted me for hands-on stuff.”
“Don’t worry. We’ll have you in the labs soon enough.”
Zack told me that they were giving me my first month’s pay ahead of time, so I could sort out my rent and whatever else. I checked my account and almost threw up. What the fuck was that money? What the fuck was this salary? I’d be earning what, 60k a year?
I called him up. There must have been a mistake.
“Tyler,” he started into my ranting, but I didn’t stop.
“I don’t want your charity, Zack. I feel like a spoilt child. Let me fucking earn my pay. Don’t do this to me.”
“Tyler,” he said again. “That’s your salary.”
I had to sit down, staring at my computer screen. My voice lowered. “Zack, I’m not even qualified for the job yet.”
“But you will be.”
“What the fuck?”
“It’s not what you know, Ty. It’s who you know.”
He hung up on me as if he wanted those words to rattle around in my head.
When I wasn’t studying in my own brand new office, I was running around as Amelia’s assistant. I got to travel all over the complex. Messages here, deliveries there. Knocking on a door. They’re not here? Ah, shit. Do you know where they are? The what wing?
I bumped into Zack in a corridor one time, looking dapper as normal in his suit. He had a massive grin on his face. He seized me in a growling hug and I burst into laughter. I wasn’t expecting that.
“Is everything good?” he asked.
“Yeah, everything’s great.”
“Give this to Lia for me,” he said, and pecked my cheek.
I just stood there for a moment. Okay. Sure. I gave Amelia a big sloppy kiss when I got back to her office. She cackled and shoved me away.
“I have something to show you,” she said. She took some keys from a drawer and I followed her.
We went through corridors, down some stairs, then took an elevator. Even further down. I realised we were going underground and felt strangely claustraphobic about it.
I was expecting there to be some high-tech security measures like in the movies. Fingerprint and eye scans, the like. It was sadly disappointing, but Amelia did use a swab and a couple keys to get us through some doors.
“Welcome to the labs,” she said.
I stood in silence to take in what I was seeing.
There was busy production work going on down there. A mess of electrical wiring all over tables.
Drones. They were making drones.
I didn’t see much of Darren for the first month or so working there. I was always busy, and so was he. I was there early, often stayed late. Collapsed into well-earnt sleep when I got home.
His face was on my mind when I went to sleep.
Why? I wasn’t quite sure. Probably because I liked his face. His cold stare did something to my stomach and I wanted to feel it again. Life, if anything, had become very routine the past few weeks, and I wasn’t used to behaving such a mature and organised adult without any breaks. I wanted some little twinge of excitement again.
It was also the mystery. I didn’t really know who he was, but he was such close friends with Amelia and Zack. I’d got a few things out of Amelia – she’d known him since childhood, and their families were friends.
He was older, yes, but not that much older. First half of his 30’s. 32, I thought? How was a man like him running a company like that? She said something about inheritance. It still made no sense to me. Surely he was young enough that the people he was inheriting it from must still be around?
That day at the restaurant, in just a few hours, I’d felt like I was making a new friend. Someone Zack and Amelia were introducing me to. He’d been right there next to me, in the passenger seat of my car. And I had insulted him. Jesus Christ.
It had faded from that. He was back to being some distant CEO of the company, and I only got glimpses of him here and there, heard his faint voice when he was on the phone to Amelia.
Was I crushing on him? Way out of my league.
When Amelia had an errand for me to run that involved him I might’ve been a bit too eager to do it.
“He’s in a meeting,” she warned me. “Just knock, and if it’s not a good time you can go back again later.”
I followed her instructions on how to get to the conference room, but still ended up having to ask someone for directions. I didn’t attend that area of the complex very often, and everything looked the same.
Peering in through the window of the door, sure enough, there was Darren. He was standing and talking to a handful of men and women seated along a table. I could hear the low tones of his voice even though the room was moderately sound-proofed. I waited for a pause, not wanting to interrupt. My opportunity came as he leant his fists on the table and stared down at some papers on it. I rapped my knuckles on the glass.
His head shot around with those reflexes, then his face lit up. There was no mistaking that – he was happy to see me. Probably because I was about to give him a short respite from what looked a boring meeting. His hand beckoned me to open the door.
“Tyler,” he said as I peered inside. “What is it?”
“Amelia sent me.”
He looked back at the table. “Please excuse me a minute.” He was so swift out the door I nearly didn’t have time to step back and let him through. “What is it?” he repeated.
“She told me to give you this,” I said, holding up a memory stick. “And to tell you that ‘everything’s on it’.”
His fingers almost snatched it from mine. “Everything?”
“Everything. Also to check your emails.”
He studied me. I purposely stared into his eyes. Yes, there it was, the tingle. How did he do that?
“How are you getting on?”
“Good,” I replied. I think I only breathed when I looked away. “Lia’s working me hard.”
He chuckled. I loved how the breath hitched in his throat. “I hear you’re making a lot of progress.”
“I’d hope so.”
Darren glanced through the door’s window then gripped my shoulder. “Thank you for bringing this, but I have to get back.”
“Yes, of course.”
With a smile and nod of his head he disappeared inside the room. I walked away grinning like an idiot.
The next week Amelia left me in her office to answer the phone while she was in a meeting. I sat on her chair, spinning in circles, drinking tea, and reading through a thick report someone from the labs had compiled for me.
The first time the phone rang it was someone below, and I was actually able to answer their question because a piece of paper about it was sitting on the desk. Then an hour later it rang again. I was still perfecting my boring office phone voice.
“Hello, Tyler Andrews speaking. Missus Keane is in a meeting, may I take a message?”
“Tyler,” his voice said.
I leant an elbow on the desk. “Hey, Darren.”
“Who is Lia seeing?”
“A certain Mister McMillan.”
“Oh, right.” There was a pause. When he spoke again it sounded like he was trying to hold in a slight laugh. “You’re good with computers?”
His tone drew the chuckle out of me. “Yes.” A simple desktop was nursery school compared to what I’d been doing recently.
“Had a bit of an accident in my office.”
“Computer blew up.”
“Spilt coffee on it.”
We both snickered and I clasped a hand over half of my face. Even company CEO’s did stupid everyday stuff.
“Do you want to come take a look at it?” he asked. “If she’s got you busy watching the phone then don’t worry, send someone else.”
Well yes, I was supposed to be watching the phone. “No, don’t worry.” She’d be back soon. “I’ll come.”
I was standing in the corridor outside my office with Zack laughing at me when Tyler turned up. He was dressed in a white shirt and jeans, with what looked a small toolbox in his hand.
“IT repairs,” he declared, which sent Zack into another guffaw.
“This man,” he said, shoving my chest. “We’re talking with a client in his office and what does he do?” He mockingly mimicked my swinging arm movement which had sent the mug flying.
Tyler chuckled. I rubbed my brow. It had been an interesting day so far.
“That certainly sealed the deal,” Zack continued.
“Thanks for your support,” I said.
“You know what it’ll be now. ‘Ah yes, Darren Sörensen, the man who spilt’,” he nearly burst into laughter again, “‘scolding hot coffee all over me!'”
I buried my face in my hand. Yet couldn’t help grinning. I’d made a spectacle of myself. The crackle and spark from the computer had made it even better.
“I’m gonna go see to him,” Zack said. “Tyler, fix his PC.”
I led Tyler inside my office. Zack and I had unplugged everything from the tower and laid it on its side with the case off, trying to see the worst of the damage. It looked a mess.
“Jesus Christ,” Tyler said, looking at the coffee-stained papers on my desk, the pile of paper towels we had used to try and mop it up. “What do you drink from? A super-sized mug?” He knelt beside the computer and opened the toolbox. “What happened exactly?”
“It spilt all over the back of the desk, and sort of came down like a waterfall,” I replied. “If he had just been sitting a little more to the left, more would’ve gone on his lap and less on the computer.”
Tyler flashed me one of his charming grins. “Well, I think your power supply’s fucked.”
“Can you salvage any of the important parts?”
I picked my mug from the table. “I’m going to get another coffee, as I didn’t get to drink this one.”
He was already dismantling things, and chuckled. “All right.”
“Do you want one?”
I paused at the door. “How do you like it?”
“Half milk and a lot of sugar.”
“How much is ‘a lot of sugar’?”
“Wow. Just go get me a fucking coffee, Darren.”
He was so brash and I loved it. It was a refreshing change from humourless, dreary conversations full of big words and numbers. When I returned he was sitting cross-legged, internal computer parts laying on the floor all around him, like some dissected carcass. He wiped things down with a cloth.
Could someone look so cheerful doing something so simple? His smile was infectious. I leant against the desk and watched him for a few minutes, making small talk about what Amelia had him doing. As if her ears were burning, the office phone rang and I picked it up to her voice.
“You’ve stolen my assistant.”
“Yes, I’ll give him back soon.”
“What happened to your PC?”
“Hasn’t Zack already told you?”
She giggled. “Oh dear. I suppose I’ll hear soon. Give Tyler back in one piece. Bye!”
Tyler was carefully taking something apart with a small screwdriver, and he smirked.
“She’s very fond of you,” I said.
“She has me on a leash. She’s wanted to boss me around for years.” He reached for the cloth. “And I’m strangely okay with it.”
My private phone vibrated in my pocket and I tutted. I wasn’t getting any peace today. My face fell as I saw the name calling. I considered leaving it to voicemail, but that would likely make things worse. My thumb slid across the screen and his voice barked before I’d even put it to my ear.
He was angry about something, clearly, but I didn’t know what it was. I couldn’t get a word in sideways until his initial rant was over. My mind desperately tried to piece together every fragment of information, so I could sedate him somehow, before he got any louder.
He got louder anyways, as if my very voice grated on his nerves. I glared at the wall while he kept repeating numbers at me. Tyler was silent and looking down. He must have heard everything. I began to pace the office as the phonecall became more and more heated.
“I don’t know,” I growled into it. “That was Marcus. I had nothing to do with that transaction… Shifting the blame? What am I? Twelve?”
I didn’t want to be taking that call right then, but what could I do? I couldn’t take it in the corridor, and I wasn’t throwing Tyler out.
“I’m not picking up the pieces for him. No. I’ll lose out on a million then. I don’t care.”