Angela groaned. Morning light spilled across her bedroom through blinds she’d forgotten to close the night before, warning her that it was closer to lunchtime than breakfast. A dull ache pulsed at her temples. She scrubbed grit from her eyes with the heels of her palms, sliding out of bed and grumbling when her feet touched the cool hardwood of her bedroom floor.
Her apartment was functional, but little else. A one bedroom space on the second floor of a historical home, the bedroom held a bed and dresser and nothing else. The living room was more furnished, with an entertainment center, bookshelves, lamps, even a rug under the couch, but it all screamed temporary – Even now, two years after she’d moved there.
Angie shuffled her way into the kitchen, finger-combing tangles out of her hair. The phone rang just as she reached for the fridge. She muttered to herself, turning to answer.
“Hello?” She yawned, pressing the backs of her knuckles to her mouth.
“Angela, where are you?” The words on the other end were a sharp whisper.
Angie blinked, brow furrowing. “Susan?”
“Please don’t tell me you forgot about the meeting this-“
Angie shrieked, slamming the phone back down on the hook. How could she have forgotten? She’d written it down on every calendar she had, and set the alarm on her phone… She slapped her forehead.
“I left it at Lauren’s! Stupid, stupid…” she hissed to herself, scrambling to get into her clothes. She twisted her hair up with one hand, jamming a hair stick through it with the other. She grabbed her keys from the shelf, slamming the door behind her.
She was late.
The conference room was empty, save a lone old man at the head of the table. Angie cringed, biting down on her lower lip as she gathered the courage to face him. She closed the door behind her, muting the click of the latch with her hands.
“You’re late.” The man at the table never even looked up from collecting papers, shuffling them into a neat stack, tucking them away in his briefcase. “So late, in fact, that you missed the entire presentation.”
Angie swallowed. “Dad, listen…”
“If you don’t take your job seriously, I hope you realize how that reflects on me,” he continued, moving around the table at a weary pace, stacking the empty paper cups that sat scattered across it. “Do you know how awkward it is for me to sit here with shareholders, trying to assure them how successful this next ad campaign will be, when my advertising director isn’t even able to appear for a meeting? A meeting that’s been scheduled for a month, at that.”
Angie sighed, shoulders sagging. “Dad, I’m sorry. I had a hard time last night, left my phone at Lauren’s and didn’t have-“
“Angela Addison Pierce! You are a twenty-eight year old college graduate!” he snapped, glaring. “When I gave you this job, I expected better from you. This is not some college job you can skip out on just because you were out late partying with friends! Not only is this a solid career, it’s a job that demands full participation from the person holding it. If you can’t support your job, then this company will not support you.”
She paused. “Are you threatening to fire me?”
“I don’t make threats, Angela. You’ve spent your entire life with me, you know that,” he said, snapping his briefcase closed.
Angie’s jaw tightened, her gaze falling to the floor. “Yes, sir.”
“I’ll have notes on the meeting left on your desk for you to review in the morning,” he informed her, almost emotionless. “I expect you won’t have any problem catching up.”
“None at all,” she replied coldly, giving a stiff nod as she left the conference room. Her hands clenched to fists at her sides, her stride long and deliberate. It took a great deal of restraint not to slam the door behind her when she reached her office. She didn’t have time to fume before the phone on her desk started ringing.
Angie sighed, dragging her feet on the way to her desk, dropping limply into her chair as she picked up the phone. “Silicon Cluster, Inc., Angela Pierce speaking.”
“Angie! There you are, God…”
“Mom?” She leaned back. “Why are you calling me here?”
“We couldn’t find you!” her mother scolded. “I called your phone four times before Lauren answered it. She said you’d left it at her apartment. She was all in a panic, she’d been by your apartment and you weren’t there. Why did you leave without telling her?”
“Mom, please. I thought that – Oh, never mind. I’ll tell you about it when I’m not afraid Dad will stomp in here to breathe down my neck.” Angie rubbed her eyes, squinting at the mascara and eyeliner that rubbed off onto her fingers.
“Well, that’s Martin for you. How long are you going to be in your office today?”
Angie glanced at the clock. It was almost noon. Her stomach protested the time with a low grumble. “Actually, I haven’t had breakfast yet. I wouldn’t mind some company, if you feel like leaving home.”
“Oh honey, you know I’d never turn down lunch.” Her mother laughed. “I’ll meet you at that little corner bistro at twelve thirty.”
Angie smiled. “Alright, Mom. I love you.”
“You better, kiddo!” came the response on the other end.
Angie stifled a laugh and got her purse out of her desk.
* * * * *
“Did he really say that to you? Ugh! I should have divorced that man years before I did.” Rebecca Cline-Pierce leaned back in the wrought-iron chair on the bistro sidewalk, regarding her daughter with a frown.
“That’s not very nice, Mom,” Angie chided, slathering another piece of bread with butter before she sank her teeth into it.
“Nice or not, it’s the truth,” Rebecca muttered with a sigh. “I worry about you, honey. I worry about what this job is going to do to you.”
“Sometimes I worry about it too,” Angie mumbled. “I mean, I appreciate everything Dad has done, but sometimes I want to be… well, I want to be Angela Pierce, self-made woman. Not Martin Pierce’s daughter, who tried for a year to land a job before daddy finally took pity on her.” She rolled her eyes.
Rebecca patted her arm. “I don’t think anyone thinks that of you, dear.”
“I’m pretty sure they do,” Angie said sullenly. “Until recently, I was the youngest one in the office. There’s plenty of people under me that are jealous that I got the job before they did, and I don’t even know if I want it. Sometimes I feel like I’m losing myself, Mom. All work, no play. I don’t know when the last time I went out with Lauren was, before last night.”
“You need to call her, by the way,” Rebecca half chided. “I told her I found you, but she was still all a-pieces after I did.”
Angie frowned, holding a hand to her mouth, not wanting to speak with her mouth full. “I know, I feel horrible now. I left because Jason was there, he saw me and I sort of freaked. I thought Blaine was going to go back to the club and tell Lauren I left, though.”
Rebecca arched a brow. “And who is Blaine, exactly?”
Angie made a face. “A gentleman that I met last night, mother.” She lifted her bread to take a bite, pausing with it poised before her mouth. “Certainly isn’t bad to look at, though.”
“Oh, do go on!” Her mother laughed. “Did you get a phone number?”
“Mom!” Angie protested.
Rebecca shrugged. “I’m just asking! Have you even been on a date since you split up with Jason?”
“When am I supposed to have time for it, Mom?” Angie sighed. “And no, I didn’t. I mean, I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t crossed my mind. The whole dating thing, that is. But I don’t want to be that girl that goes hounding good-looking men for a phone number, just because they bought you a drink once. I want to be the one pursued, this time.”
Rebecca tilted her head thoughtfully. “What kind of drink did he give you?”
“A cosmopolitan,” Angie said, cramming the rest of her bread into her mouth.
“Did you try tying the stem on the cherry into a knot with your tongue? Sometimes that helps.”
Rebecca laughed. “I’m just playing, sweetheart. Though I do wish you’d be a little more aggressive. I want to see you happy, but I also want to see you settle down. I’m getting old, you know. I’d kind of like having grandchildren.”
Angie cringed. “I don’t know if I even want a boyfriend right now, much less kids. I don’t even know what I’m doing with my life. I didn’t want to be in this job forever, maybe not even this city. But then I look back and I see I’ve already been working for Dad for five years. It’s been three years since you sold the townhouse, two since I moved out on my own, and I still don’t even have furniture for my apartment.”
“There’s nothing wrong with any of that, baby girl,” Rebecca soothed.
“Maybe not, but it feels like I’m creeping up on 30 and still waiting for my life to begin. When you were my age, you were already married and had two kids.” Angie shook her head.
Her mother laughed. “And a husband that was gone the whole time. It was almost like he was cheating on me with his company. Listen, Angie, I’m not trying to pressure you. I’m just trying to tell you that you can do a lot better than I did. It might take some time, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Just don’t forget that you won’t be young enough for a family forever.”
“I know, Mom. Believe me, I know.” Angie sighed, pushing herself up from the table. She cast a glance to the skyscrapers that loomed overhead. “Listen, I gotta run back to the office and get some things to work on over the rest of the weekend. I appreciate you having lunch with me, though.”
“It’s always a pleasure to have a meal with one of my girls.” Rebecca smiled. “Just remember. If you see that young man again, you’d better get his number!”
Angie rolled her eyes, wiggling fingers in a wave goodbye as she started off down the city street.
* * * * *
There was a mountain of paperwork to be taken home. Angie didn’t know how the paperwork piled up so fast, but everything from internet ads to radio spots had landed on her desk. Half of them she wasn’t even sure were within her jurisdiction. Saturday had slipped away, Sunday evening had come, and she’d barely made a dent in the work she’d brought home. Her laptop bag still brimmed with jobs she’d have to oversee.
She rubbed her eyes, dropping another paper to the growing stack on the couch beside her. The clock on the wall said it was nearly ten. She couldn’t remember if the clock was fast or slow. Stifling a yawn with the back of her hand, Angie pushed herself up, picking her purse up off the floor. There was a coffee shop that stayed open late around the corner, and something caffeinated was calling her name. She jammed her feet into the sneakers she’d left by the door, scuffling out as soon as she’d jostled her purse to make sure her keys were in it.
The city cast a warm glow against the clouds overhead. Lights above the sidewalk kept it almost as bright as daytime, but being out alone set Angie on edge for some reason. She made her way down the street at a quick pace, relaxing when she rounded the corner and saw the coffee shop’s lights on. Bistro furniture still sat out front, though the tables were unoccupied. Bells jingled when she opened the door and it made her smile, as it always did.
There were still a few people inside, sitting at tables here and there, laptops or books blinding them to the rest of the world. One barista swept the floor, another lounged behind the counter. Angie inhaled deeply, making her way toward the counter. The barista behind it straightened.
“Just a mochaccino, please. Biggest you’ve got,” Angie murmured, digging her debit card out of her purse, tossing it to the counter. Her eyes wandered while she waited for her drink, gaze drifting across faces until she saw one she knew. All of a sudden, she felt rather self-conscious about the t-shirt and denim cutoffs she wore.
Blaine watched her intently from where he sat at a table, newspaper spread out before him, cup of coffee close at hand and still steaming. He looked at her in a way that made her uncertain he remembered who she was.
“Hi,” she squeaked out, awkwardly.
He didn’t reply, turning his stare back down to the newspaper on the table before him. Swallowing, she took her drink, stuffing her card back into her purse as she crossed the room.
“I didn’t expect to see you here,” she continued, blowing on her coffee.
Blaine looked up, startled. His eyes swept her over another time, raising both brows. “I didn’t know you were in the area,” he replied. “You look… different, out of that little black dress.” He fumbled over his words, substituting clumsiness for every bit of casual grace he’d held the night before.
Angie offered a nervous grin. “Is that a bad thing?” she asked, sipping her mochaccino.
“No, not at all,” he replied a little too quickly, pushing his chair back to rise.
Angie held a hand out to stop him. “No, no, don’t get up. I’m just grabbing a drink. I’ve got a million things I need to do before work tomorrow, I just thought I’d stop and say hello. Like I said, I didn’t expect to see you.”
“Well, I live just around the corner,” Blaine said, folding his paper. “Are you just passing through, or…?”
Angie shook her head. “No, I live just a few blocks away from here, actually. I’ve never seen you in here before, though.”
“Or maybe you have, and before the other night, I was just a nameless stranger that was easily forgotten,” he suggested, amused.
She half smiled. “I know it’s late notice, but would you want to get breakfast or something tomorrow morning? Before I head in to work?”
Blaine cringed. “Mornings and I don’t get along. I’ve always been a night owl. Assuming your job’s a 9 to 5, that’s a bit too early for me.”
“Is that a no?” She crossed her arms, mindful of her coffee.
“No,” he managed, haltingly. “It’s more of a how about dinner, instead?”
The corners of Angie’s mouth twitched into a smile. “Only if you don’t mind having to come get me after dark. I get the feeling I’ll be working late tomorrow.” She sat her things down on the table, digging in her purse to retrieve a business card and a pen. She scrawled a number on the back, shaking it to dry the ink before she slid it across the table. “Here’s my card,” she offered. “Work and cell number on the front. Home number on the back.”
He took it without looking, turning it over several times before he tucked it into the pocket of his dress shirt. He pulled the pen out of her hand, writing on the top corner of his newspaper. He tore it off, handing it to her with a sly sort of smile that sent pleasant tingles down her spine. “I’ll call you later,” he said. “Have a good night.”
Angie grinned at him, clutching the torn paper in hand, scooping up her purse and drink without another word. She felt his eyes on her as she walked to the door and she added a little extra swing into her hips for good measure. She waited until she was halfway home to look at what he’d written.
Blaine Moreau, 836-8335.
— Keep reading: Chapter Three