I head over to the conference room and make myself a quick cup of coffee. I sip the hot beverage of the gods and step back into my office.
And there, sitting on my suede couch—the same suede couch that played such a prominent role in my early Kate Brooks fantasies—is a woman.
Do you see her, too?
She’s strikingly beautiful. A pert nose, full lips, bright green eyes, and aristocratic cheekbones. Her hair is honey blond and long with a slight curl. She’s wearing a conservative white dress, blazer, and heels—something Kate would wear to the office. A string of pearls adorns her long neck and matching earrings decorate her lobes.
“Hello,” she greets me in a warm voice.
My eyes dart from her to the door. Security always calls before letting a client up.
“Hi,” I return. “Can I . . . help you?”
“Actually, I’m here to help you, Drew.”
Huh. She knows my name.
Has she crawled from the sea of my former one-night stands? It wouldn’t be the first time one tracked me down at my place of business. But with me riding the monogamy bandwagon these last eight years, it hasn’t happened for a long time.
“Have we met somewhere before?” I ask—but I really mean Have we fucked somewhere before?
She laughs, though I don’t know why. It’s a pleasant, alluring sound. “Always so clever. I’ve been watching you for a long time, Drew. You never fail to entertain.”
I set my coffee on the desk and face her head-on. “You’ve been watching me for a long time? Yeah, ’cause there’s nothing weird about that.”
“Well, it’s my job to watch you. I’m your guardian angel, after all.”
There’s a lot of crazy walking around New York City. And I don’t just mean the obvious vagrants mumbling around Penn Station or the naked cowgirl in Times Square. Professional dog walkers, bicyclists, and most employees of the sanitation department have several fucking screws loose, too.
You have to be careful with insane people. Getting them worked up isn’t a good idea. So I just nod and try to keep her calm.
“Interesting. You don’t look like an angel.”
“How do you imagine I should look?”
“Wings, halo, blinding heavenly light.”
She winks. “I only bring the halo out for formal events. As for my wings . . . I’m still working on earning them.”
I snap my fingers. “That sounds familiar. To earn your wings, you have to, like, stop me from offing myself, right?”
Her jade eyes round with surprise. “Oh, nothing as drastic as that. If things became that desperate I wouldn’t be doing a very good job. I’m here because you’re starting down the wrong path, Drew. We need to nip your behavior in the bud; get you back to where you should be.”
With a chuckle, I sit down in my chair and roll closer to the phone.
Her head tilts to the side, regarding me. “You don’t believe anything I’m telling you, do you?”
“I’m sorry, but no, I don’t.”
She’s unperturbed. “That’s all right. No one believes at first.”
You’re probably wondering why I’m not getting the hell out of here. I’m a fantastic judge of character, and in this case, I’m just not feeling the psycho vibe. In fact, despite the words that are coming out of her mouth, she seems completely harmless. So I play along.
“For argument’s sake, let’s suspend reality for a second and say that you are my guardian angel. I think I should fire you. You’ve done a shitty job. Where were you when I thought Kate was cheating on me, and I pulled that stupid stunt with the stripper? That would’ve been a good time to show up, kick me in the shin, and say, ‘Hey asshole, it’s not what you think.’?”
She nods sympathetically. “It was difficult to watch you go through that. But I couldn’t intervene. It was a lesson you could only learn by living through it. Kate, as well.”
“But you’re here now?”
“Because I’m about to commit some grievous sin?”
“Because you already have.”
I brace my elbows on the chair, clasp my hands, and rest my fingers against my lips. “You’ve got your wings crossed, honey. I haven’t done anything. I work hard every single day to be a good father and a devoted, thoughtful husband.”
She raises a doubtful eyebrow, reminding me of Kate.
“Thoughtful? Really? Were you being thoughtful when you came to work on Christmas Eve, even though Kate asked you not to?”
I roll my eyes. “This is a onetime thing. It’s not a big deal.”
“It’s never a big deal, Drew. Until it is. Do you think the Grand Canyon was created in a day? No. It happened in increments—one small grain of soil at a time. Tonight is how it starts. Then you’re missing birthdays, basketball games, anniversaries, simple but crucial quiet moments. You mean to make it up to them later, but later never comes.”
I put up my hand. “Hold up—that’s . . . that’s not gonna happen. I would never do that.”
“Just like you would never leave Kate to put together your son’s gifts all alone on Christmas Eve?”