Less Than Nothing
MY ALARM GOES off promptly at six a.m the next morning, and its safe to say that Im still exhausted. I don have to be at the atelier until nine, but I want to get there earlier. You know…to make up for yesterdays subway incident.
After a few seconds of rolling around in my warm bed, and contemplating quitting my job for a few extra hours of sleep, I finally have the strength to get up. Its still dark outside. The sun isn due to rise in another half hour. All that illuminates the sky are the twinkling lights of the city that never sleeps.
Today is going to be a good day.
It has to be.
First, I treat myself to a long, steaming hot shower. Since its the beginning of October, temperatures are starting to be on the colder side. My body is still getting used to not being in Floridas constant warmth, but my scorching hot showers definitely make up for something.
By the time Im finished in the bathroom, the sun is already out and shining. Seems as though Mother Nature is in a good mood. As I sip my morning coffee, and stare down at all the frantic New Yorkers from my window, I mentally prepare for what insane demands Adrienne will have for me today. Theres less
than a week until the launch party, and three weeks until the line officially drops. I should probably soak in these few moments of bliss standing in my apartment, because theres a good chance Ill be sleeping at the office for the next few days.
After coffee I start to get myself ready, starting with hair. Todays hairstyle consists of a loose, yet elegant bun. I let the two front pieces fall freely down my face. As usual I keep my makeup light, a neutral eyeshadow covering my eyelid, and some clear gloss on my lips. I decide on wearing a dress today—navy blue, and a bit on the tighter side. Its still work appropriate, but showcases my figure more than I thought it would. Oh well.
Eventually its time to head out, and I decide to take my car to work today, to avoid the unpredictability of public transportation. Traffic will probably be a bitch, but Im leaving early enough to accommodate that.
”Goodmorning, Rick. ” I greet security, as I rush through the doors of the atelier. Traffic was heavy, but I made it on time. Barely.
”Goodmorning, Miss Monet. ”
”Please, call me Alex. ” I smile, and wish him a good day before heading up to Adriennes office. Today there are a lot more of her employees scattered across the place.
”Morning, Adrienne. ” I knock on her office door, even though its wide open.
e here. Thank God. ”
Shes standing over her desk, wearing a very stressed expression.
”Yeah. ” I place my bag down. ”Is everything okay? ”
”Nope. Everythings gone to hell, ” she replies.
”What happened? ”
”The first pieces of the fall line came…and everything is all wrong! The fabric isn the one I wanted, and the stitching is a disaster! ” She cries. ”Im going to have to postpone the launch. My career is over. I should probably just take my right of passage as a designer and off myself… ”
”Hey… ” I hesitantly join her behind the desk. ”No one is going to off themselves. We can fix this. ”
”We can . ” She shakes her head.
”We can. Ill go to your warehouse, and sort out the issue with the fabrics. The line is supposed to drop in three weeks. That leaves plenty of time to at least release something. And Im sure well have a few samples to display at the party next week. Everything will be fine. ” I reassure her.
She pauses for a moment.
”You think so? ”
”I do. ” I nod. ”But we have to act quickly. Quickly as in, right this second. ”
e right, ” she springs out from her seat. ”Im gonna text my nephew Ryan and ask him to drive you to the warehouse. ”
”I have a car. ” I answer, defensively. ”That won be necessary. ”
”Yeah, but traffic is insane and you
e new to the city so I can expect you to know the short cuts. My warehouse is all the way downtown. ”
”Aht aht… ” she halts me. ”This is the smart thing to do. ” Her phone chimes, and she looks down at it with a smile.
”He says hell be here in ten. ”
So much for having a good day. I understood that this job was going to be demanding, but I don think Im mentally prepared to spend the entire day driving downtown with a stranger. Especially not after our encounter yesterday.
Suddenly I regret saying anything. Maybe I shouldve just let Adrienne figure this one out on her own.
”Okay. ” I clear my throat, accepting my fate. ”Let me just put my stuff in my office. ”
I spend the next couple of minutes pacing around the floor, trying to mentally prepare myself for a whole evening with Ryan.
Hours of traffic in a small, tight car with an incredibly sexy stranger. Who just happens to double as a douche bag. This ought to be interesting.
”Alexandra! ” Adrienne calls me to my doom from her office. ”Ryan is here. ”
Here goes nothing.
The key to getting through this, is to remember that this is my job. Im getting paid…very generously at that.
This job is keeping you in that high rise apartment, Alex. Suck it up.
”Im ready to go. ” I tell Adrienne, stepping into her office. Once I walk in, the first thing I see is him. Hes leaned up against a wall, arms crossed over his chest. His gaze quickly finds mine and its not the kind of thing where the moment both of us make eye contact, he looks away. He keeps his eyes on me, unapologetically.
Im the one who looks away, heat rushing to my face.
He looks good. Even better than yesterday. His messy, dark hair and sweatpants shows that we aren interrupting anything important for him.
”Ryan, you remember Alexandra, ” Adrienne pulls him by the sleeve, towards me. ”Alexandra, Ryan. ”
”Its nice to meet you, again. ” I smile quickly, in efforts to hide my nerves. My nerves, and the small beads of annoyance that threaten to resurface when I remember what an ass he was. I don think I did the best job, but even still, I feel the impact of his stare, and my body feels as though its on fire.
Sensing my distaste, and likely enjoying my nervousness, a smug expression ripples across his face.
”The pleasure…, ” he reaches for my hand, and shakes it slowly, ”is all mine. ”
We shake hands for an abnormally long amount of time, before I eventually pull away.
”Well, we better get going before traffic gets worse. ” I grab my jacket, and head down the hall to the elevator, and make it down to the lobby before he can catch up. My fingers are still tingling from where he held my hand.
I hate that I do this, but I find myself checking my appearance in the small, compact mirror that I keep in my purse. Just because I don want to spend the day with Ryan doesn mean I can look hot while doing it.
”Am I interrupting something? ” An amused, deep voice startles me. I whip my head around and find him staring at me.
Oh, you know…I was just. checking myself out, because whether I like it or not, I want to look good in your presence.
I shake my head no, and place the mirror back in my bag.
”Lets just go. ”
I purposely let him walk in front of me, because one, I don know where his car is, and two, Id probably forget how to walk if he was behind me.
”This is me. ” He motions to a silver Infiniti truck parked right in front of the building. After unlocking it, he opens the passenger door, to let me inside.
”I should probably apologize for yesterday… ” He starts, once he settles in the drivers seat. The large car suddenly feels very small, both our presences taking up every ounce of space. ”I didn mean to be an asshole. I just assumed you were another one of the women at the office who were obsessed with me. ”
His words cascade upon me quickly, leaving little to no time for comprehension.
”Obsessed with you? ” I turn my head slightly, to face him. His seat is leaned back, while he clutches the steering wheel with one hand. He nods.
”Believe it or not, a lot of Adriennes workers at the office have a thing for me. I thought you were one of them. I didn know it was your office, considering she hasn had an assistant in years. ”
”Oh. ” I say flatly. ”Well, rest assured you won have that problem with me. ”
”Still think we couldve shared the space though, ” he glances at me, a coy smile on his face.
”Maybe… ” I shrug, ”but I don really like an audience while I work. ”
”Neither do I. So it wouldve been perfect. ”
My lips twitch, threatening to fold into a smile. So apparently theres no lack of charm to compliment his looks.
”But your boyfriend probably wouldn be too fond of that, ” he says, and looks at me once we reach a point of standstill traffic. He licks his lips in amusement, most likely feeding off of my nervousness.
Why am I so nervous?
”I don think he would mind. ” I shrug, looking down at my nails. ”Mainly because he doesn exist. ” I look back up, and meet his gaze again.
He pauses for a moment, and looks to be in deep thought. Almost as if hes contemplating whether my singleness is a good or bad thing.
”Interesting, ” He clutches the steering wheel with one hand, while resting the other arm behind his head. The lines of cars in front of us don seem to be moving. Well likely be here for a while.
”So the names Alexandra…twenty two from Florida, and no boyfriend. ”
My mouth falls open in shock, but he quickly remedies my curiosity as to how he knows things Ive never told him.
”Adrienne had your file open on her desk. I started reading it while I was waiting for you. ”
He says that so casually, as if its not a complete violation of my privacy.
”You…what? ” I gasp.
”Relax, I didn even get to the juicy stuff. ” He tries to rationalize. ”All I know is everything I just said. ”
He couldve read the entire file for all I care. Theres probably nothing in there other than my clean record, and stellar achievements. Both of which I hold pride in. Again…my issue lies with his entitlement that led him to open the file to begin with.
With a huff, I sit backwards and relax into my seat. Theres no use in getting myself worked up. With the way traffic is looking, he and I will be spending more time together than I thought. And itd be nice to not spend the time wanting to curse him out.
Sensing my annoyance, Ryan speaks up.
”Ryan. Twenty four, born and raised in New York.
” He says,
”and no girlfriend. Now we
e even. ”
I scoff. ”Okay. ”
Hes single! The voice in my head annoyingly points out, and I quickly push the thought to the back of my mind. I don care. It has nothing to do with me.
The cars in front of us eventually start to move, putting an end to the slow torture that is New York City traffic. Neither of us says anything else for a while. Instead, I look out of the window, marveling at the amazing scenery. Skyscrapers stand tall, piercing through the clouds while the busy sounds of the city band together harmoniously. I love New York.
Especially the bagels.
I immediately feel my stomach start to rumble, and pray for my sake that Im the only person who can hear its vicious growling. With how early I woke up, youd think that I wouldve thought to eat something before I left. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and ironically, the one Im most forgetful of.
”You haven eaten today, have you? ” Ryan glances at me.
Handsome…douche bag…gentleman…mind reader?
”Your stomach sounds like a bulldozer.
” He continues, and before I know it, we
e parked in front of a cafe. I don even have time to feel embarrassed before hes gesturing me out of the car.
”Come on, ” he unbuckles his seatbelt. ”Lets get you something to eat. ”
”No. ” I grab his wrist, urging him to stay put. Im not sure why, but everytime our skin comes in contact, I feel my body light on fire.
”After the warehouse, ” I say and let him go. ”Adrienne is counting on me. ”
”The warehouse can wait. You need to eat. ”
”Im not going to risk you passing out or something. Thats the last thing I need.
” He says sternly.
e going to get out of this car, and you
e going to eat something. ”
This is the longest weve held eye contact without me looking away. I feel the need to protest further, but figure itll be useless because I know that Ill end up inside the cafe regardless.
”Okay, ” I relent. His expression softens, and a smile of victory soon finds his mouth.
Fuck, that is one nice ass smile.
”Cool. Lets go. ”