I stretched my hands over my head and yawned. Everyone else had already filed out of the meeting room but my legs were asleep and my brain was halfway there. I overslept and had to rush like mad this morning to make it on time for the meeting between some members of my section. I didn't even have time to dry my hair so the top of my shirt was soaked through. And it was light blue. I had a dark blue stain around my neck and it's still there.
We were discussing which ads we were going to submit for a chocolate company's 50th anniversary special. These types of meetings took forever as some people are extremely protective and passionate about their ideas. And by some people I mean Martin I-Am-Better-Than-All-Of-You-Combined-So-Lick-My-Feet Cornly. The dude always has to get at least one of his ideas be the ones given the green light. I mean, there's nothing wrong with wanting to be successful and top dog and all but there is a limit. Whenever something of his does get picked, he makes sure to rub it into anyone's and everyone's face. When his designs don't get picked he bitches and moans like there's no tomorrow and is convinced that he's being targeted or bullied or some bullshit. I honestly don't know which is worse.
Today he was going to be gloating. He began the second our boss Samantha left the room and everyone ignored him except for his ever faithful groupies. He had five of them and all of them annoyed the shit out of me. I couldn't stand to be in the same room with any of them without wanting to put a bullet through their heads within five minutes. My limit was one minute with each of them.
I rolled my head back and groaned. I was not going to tell Carson, but going out to drink last night may not have been the best of ideas. I was still hungover and with Martin on the loose, who knows when I was going to snap. The good thing about going out was meeting Tim though. He was really cute in an adorable sort of way, but he wasn't really my type. I felt that he would make a good friend though, and I kind of needed that. Sure I had people I hung out with those instances I decided to be social (read: Carson decided I needed to be social) but Carson's the only one I would really call a friend. The others were Caron's friends and I had never really gotten past the point of being 'Carson's best friend' to them. And don't even get me started on the disaster that was Dan.
I groaned and stretched one more time before finally getting up and making my way out of the meeting room. As soon as I stepped out of the door, I almost crashed right into Samantha.
"Sorry," I immediately said out of reflex. "Are you alright?" She looked frazzled.
"Y-Yeah, actually no. Could you do me a favour?"
"Yeah, sure, what's wrong?" I was getting a bit worried. Samantha was usually the epitome of calm, cool, and collected, so something really had to be wrong if she was behaving like this.
Samantha handed me a folder, explaining, "My wife is about to give birth so I would be beyond grateful if you could give these to Mr. Stone for me. It's our submissions for the chocolate ad."
"Holy shit, congratulations! You go be with your wife, I'll give these to him."
"Thank you so much, Jack," Samantha said, taking me by surprise by pulling me in for a quick hug.
Just as she ran off, I realized something. "Wait! Who's Mr. Stone?" But Samantha was already gone. "Well, fuck."
I looked around to see if anyone could help me but there was not a single person in the hallway. Let's hope that delivering the submissions wasn't too time sensitive.
I quickly walked through the halls, looking for at least one person who may know who this Mr. Stone character was. Unfortunately, the first person I ran into was Martin.
Taking a deep breath to prepare myself, I made my way up to him. The sight of him made me grimace. With his designer clothes, fancy watches, and Italian shoes that he could only afford because mommy and daddy were loaded along with professionally styled black hair, too white teeth, and cocky, arrogant, I-Am-Holier-Than-Thou attitude, he was pretty much everything I hated. What sucked was that he was a pretty talented artist.
"Hey, Martin?" I called out, kind of hoping he wouldn't hear me and then I'd have to find someone else. But once again, the good kind of luck was not on my side.
Martin spotted me and grinned, flashing those ridiculously white teeth that I am convinced he bleaches thrice a day. "Jackie, here to congratulate me?"
I forced a smile, resisting the urge to smash his face into the wall, "Oh sure, yeah. Anyway, do you know where I can find a Mr. Stone? Samantha wants me to deliver some files for her."
Martin laughed and I felt my eye twitch in irritation.
"You're not really up to date are you, Jackie?"
"Just tell me where to find him, Martin. And quit calling me Jackie, one too many syllables there."
"Oh, no need to be so grumpy. Mr. Stone's the new big fish."
I blinked, "Huh?"
Martin sighed and shook his head as if he were trying to talk to a toddler while speaking Elizabethan English and expecting the kid to understand. "He's the new CEO, Mr. White's replacement."
I blinked again, "Oh. Well why couldn't you have just said that from the beginning? Jeez. Well, bye, I'm going to go deliver these."
I quickly walked past him without even a thank you. I did not want to spend a second longer with him. I continued to make my way to the elevators since the big boss' office was on the top floor.
As I got on the lift, I joined three other people who were in the midst of a conversation. They were from the communications department. I nodded in greeting, not really inclined to actually speak with them, but when I pressed the button for the top floor, one of the two girls, Janet, pounced.
"Oh my gosh, are you going to see Mr. Stone?"
I nodded, "Yeah. Samantha asked me to give him some stuff."
Kristin pouted, "I wish I had an excuse to go see him."
I frowned in confusion then looked to Toby who rolled his eyes as he filled me in, "The girls can't stop talking about how attractive the new boss is. These two haven't shut up about him since we arrived."
Janet scoffed, "You're just jealous, Toby."
"Right. Let's see how you'd like it if the new boss was a sexy woman instead and all the guys were the ones talking about fucking her. Right, Jack?"
I hold up my hands in defense, "I am not getting into this. Besides, I'm gay."
They seemed surprised and fell silent until Toby pleaded, "Please don't start fangirling over him too. I beg of you."
I chuckled, "I'm not that gay. Fangirling is not my thing unless it is Tony Stark."
"Don't you mean Robert Downey Jr?" Kristin said.
I shrugged, "Is there a difference?"
We laughed, except for Janet who remained quiet and made sure to stand as far away from me as possible while sending me disgusted glances. At least she had the self-restraint to not lecture me on my 'choices'. Well, whatever, homophobes came with the package of being myself and I could deal. I was lucky that no one in my department had an issue with my sexuality. I had come out to them on my first day while others in the company found out through gossip or me telling them offhandedly. Janet was still relatively new and my sexual orientation has long since stopped being gossip fodder considering there were a few other gay or lesbian employees.
Their floor arrived and they left, Janet practically running out, making me laugh. And then it was only me for the last few floors.
When the doors finally opened, I stepped out looking around. I had never actually been to the top floor before and it was definitely something. For one, the entire space was empty. It was just one long hallway with some of our company's projects posted on the walls dating back to our first job in the 1980s.
I walked down the long carpeted hallway and finally reached a rectangular space with a floor to wall length window facing the city, comfortable looking couches, and Carson's desk. The man himself was on the phone, his free hand massaging his forehead, a telltale sign someone was annoying the crap out of him. As such, he hadn't noticed me yet.
I stood to the side of his desk, waiting for him to finish up or notice me, whichever came first.
"…Yes. Yes. Yes, Mrs. Coleson. Well, yes, but… No. No of course not, Mrs. Coleson. I am just trying to say that… Right. Yes, that's true, but you see…" Carson closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. I grinned. Carson was going to lose it.
I heard Mrs. Coleson nattering on until Carson finally put his foot down. "Mrs. Coleson, with all due respect I am going to have to ask you to call again at another time when you have something that is actually of concern to Mr. Stone. He is extremely busy, especially since he has only just finished moving into his office and started to get acquainted with the company. Please take your complaints regarding the plants in the lobby elsewhere. Have a good day, Mrs. Coleson."
Carson put down the phone and rubbed his face, heaving a huge sigh.
"You may get paid more than me, but I do not envy your job at all," I chuckled.
Carson's eyes flew open as he jumped in his seat, screeching, "Holy shit!"
I burst out laughing and when he realized it was only me, he glared hatefully.
"Your fucking face!" I gasped between laughs.
"Shut the fuck up, Jack. What are you even doing here?"
I held up the file and nodded towards the door that undoubtedly led to Mr. Stone's office, "Samantha's wife went into labour so she asked me to deliver the submissions for the chocolate ad to Mr. Stone."
Carson nodded, "Alright. Give me a sec to let him know." I waited patiently as Carson picked up the phone and then pressed a button, waiting a second before saying, "Yes, Mr. Stone? I have Jack from the graphic designing department with the final submissions for a chocolate ad." Carson fell silent for a moment before nodding, "Alright. I'll send him right in." Carson put the phone down and waved me off to the door, "Go on ahead. And don't do anything stupid, alright?"
I pretended to be affronted, "How dare you! And here I thought your were my best friend. I am devastated, betrayed, distraught—"
"Get going, Jack," Carson sighed.
I stuck my tongue out at him and did as told. This time.
I hesitated before opening the door, unsure as to whether I should knock or something. I mean, he was already informed I was going to enter but still…
"Jack," Carson called out with a sigh. "Stop being awkward and just go in."
Without further delay, I pushed open one of the doors and peeked inside before stepping in completely and closing the door behind me.
The room was pretty modern and simple. The floor was carpeted and the walls were dark chocolate brown. One wall was a giant window that overlooked the city of New York, though we were only ten storeys high. It was kind of pretty nevertheless. The room was furnished with a comfortable looking couch, coffee table, office desk, and a couple of chairs for visitors. Sat behind the desk was who I could only assume to be Mr. Stone. He was looking through some papers on his desk, head bent down so I couldn't see his face, therefore unable to verify if he was worth the apparent fangirling. All I could see was that he was blond, hair cut close to his head, and was wearing a white dress shirt, black tie, and black slacks, and he had a pierced left ear. He looked pretty muscular though, more than I personally liked but I guess I could see the appeal.
"Give me just a second," he said without looking up. I frowned. He sounded oddly familiar but I couldn't place just where I may have heard him from.
"No problem, take your time," I replied. When I spoke, his head shot up and I saw his cobalt blue eyes widen in surprise. He continued to stare at me and it was getting a bit unnerving. I shifted on my feet and scratched the back of my neck, "Is something wrong, Mr. Stone?"
That seemed to snap him out of his daze and he shook his head, grinning, "No, no, no, not at all. Jack, was it?" He dropped his papers and got up from his desk, walking towards me.
"Yeah, Jack Gallagher. Welcome to Venditatio." So maybe the fangirling was plausible. He was pretty attractive. Not my type, but attractive nonetheless.
Mr. Stone grabbed my hand into a firm handshake, still smiling, "Thank you. It's nice to meet you, Jack. I'm Cole."
We had stopped shaking hands but he was still holding mine. When his thumb started to caress my knuckles I quickly took my hand back and gave him a questioning look. He didn't bat an eyelash.
"So," I cleared my throat then held up the file Samantha gave me. "These are our submissions for the chocolate ad."
Mr. Stone nodded and walked backwards to lean against his desk, taking the file from me.
"This is for ChocTop's 50th anniversary, correct?"
I nodded, "Yes, sir."
He skimmed through the file but kept looking up to glance at me. I wasn't sure if I could leave or not and was feeling beyond awkward. I know I was not imagining the knuckle caress. And I couldn't shake the feeling that I had met this guy before.
"So, may I ask why Samantha Cosby was not delivering these? I was expecting her."
"Oh, uh, family emergency. Her wife went into labour."
He blinked in surprise, "Her wife?"
I nodded slowly, keeping the scowl off my face. If he went on a homophobic rampage, CEO or not, I will whoop his overly muscled ass.
"Are there other openly gay employees?" he asked carefully.
I couldn't help but cross my arms over my chest and frown, "Is that really any of your business, Mr. Stone?"
"Well no, I suppose not. I was just curious. My last workplace wasn't too fond of homosexuals."
"Uh-huh." I was watching him carefully. "Anyway, is there anything else you need that I'm supposed to do, or can I get back to work?"
He seemed disappointed and a bit confused but nodded, "Yes, you're free to go. I'll walk you out."
I nodded slowly, a bit confused because even though he had a big office, it wasn't that big.
He held open the door for me but was still giving me a thoughtful stare.
"I guess I'll see you around, Mr. Stone. Again, welcome to Vendi. Have a good day."
Mr. Stone nodded and then grinned broadly, "You too, Jack. I hope to get to know you very well. Perhaps you could help me get more familiar with the company."
"Uh," I stalled, not sure what to say. Carson was watching us discretely from his desk looking smug. He knew very well that I hated being the tour guide and socializing.
Mr. Stone was looking at me expectantly and I sighed, "Yeah, sure. Carson knows how to get a hold of me so if you need me… yeah. Bye."
I nodded and walked out of his office intending to go straight to the elevator but Carson's stupid face made me take a quick detour.
"Something funny, Mr. Jones?" I said in my most serious intimidating teacher voice that was inspired by my 10th grade health teacher.
Carson grinned, "Not at all, Mr. Gallagher, or should I call you Mr. Tour Guide?"
"Shut up," I grumbled. "It's not like I could have said no. He can fire me and despite some things, I like my job."
Carson shrugged, "It is a nice place to work at. Anyway, I feel bad for blowing you off last night so I want to make it up to you. Dinner on Friday?"
"Your sister's coming to town," I deduced.
Carson sighed and pleaded, "I'll beg if I have to, Jack."
I smiled sympathetically, patting his shoulder, "Sorry, bud, but I'm having drinks with someone."
Carson whistled low, "Well you move fast. You and Dan broke up yesterday."
"We did not break up," I argued. "We were never dating."
Carson shook his head, "Still a heartless bastard."
I smirked, "You love me. But, if you really want to get away from your sister, you could join me and Tim. I'm sure he won't mind."
"Tim? You're already looking for a new fuck buddy? Jeez, Jack."
"Hey, I'm interested in him as a friend. I kind of need a couple more of those."
"I'm not enough? Are you trying to replace me?" Carson gasped exaggeratedly.
"I'll see you at lunch, Carson," I grinned then leaned over his desk to peck him on the lips. I laughed at his stunned expression. It's been a while since I fucked with him like that. I can't do it often because he gets accustomed to it and doesn't give a good reaction.
"Get lost, Gallagher," he rolled his eyes. I waved and walked down the long hallway, heading back to work.