One chance meeting. One sensual night. One big mistake. Georgina “George” Trammel thought she hooked up with a normal rich guy one night at The Bar, but it turns out he’s Alex Brenton, the man who’s about to ruin the lives of many of her coworkers. Their department store employer is being merged with his family’s company, and layoffs are a part of the growing pains to grow the bottom line. Now she has to struggle with the urge to kill him or make love to him, and his advances aren’t helping.
Can George convince Alex to call off the deal, or will their love be the first thing laid off? How will George keep her coworkers from finding out about their affair? Can somebody please get her annoying manager off her back?
The scene was chaotic. Coworkers were strewn everywhere, their bodies twitching and pushing against each other. My own friends were among those most afflicted with the disease, a terrible illness known to many as the dancing itch. It didn't help that we were in a bar,, The Bar, actually, and there was loud music and even louder lights all around us. It was after work, and my coworkers and I were letting off steam after a long day's work at Stacy's Department Store. The Bar was the usual hangout for dancing, drinking, and generally being a public nuisance without the public actually knowing we were a bunch of nuisances.
I, Georgina Trammel, being of sound mind and lazy body, sat alone in one of the cushioned-seat booths watching my friends lumber through the steps of a fast-rhythm song. As I watched them go through the steps like Frankenstein's monster with athlete's foot there was a reason we worked the back room stock and not on a dance stage.
I'd look just the same out there on the floor, and that's exactly why I was comfortable in that booth sipping on a soft drink. Don't get me wrong, though, it's not like I resembled the Frankenstein monster's bride. I did have a few extra pounds I'd been meaning to lose in some dark alley for the last couple of years, but I also had some nice, bouncy brown hair I usually kept in a pig-tail, and a pair of brown eyes I'd heard described as soft but that I considered just mud-colored. Not perfect, but not too bad.
I fumbled for my drink and sipped on the glass until I realized it was soy sauce and spat it out. In my defense the lights were dim in the corner. That's why I didn't immediately recognize the guy as a stranger when he slid into the booth on the seat beside me. "Nice night," he spoke up.
"That's a pretty corny pickup line, Phil," I scolded until I realized Phil was out on the floor swinging to the beat. I whipped my head around to the guy and gave him a closer look. Even in the poor light I could see he had sandy hair, a pair of auburn eyes that dazzled, and had a nice, sturdy build. He was about thirty and wore a nice jacket with suit pants that looked out of place with all our baggy clothes and worn jeans. I also had no idea who he was. "Who the hell are you?" I asked him.
"For you I could be Phil," he teased.
"If you knew Phil you wouldn't be offering that," I countered. "Now spit out your name or get out of the booth."
He held up his hands and flashed a wide grin. "I come in peace. I only wanted to ask you a few questions."
"I won't sleep with you, give you my phone number, or go home to meet your mom," I listed off.
"But you might like my mom," he argued.
"If she brought up as rude a boy as you're being than I doubt it, now what do you want?" I asked him.
He nodded at the dance floor and the bar beyond that. "I just wanted to know if this was a bar where Stacy's Department Store workers came to relax. I'd heard it was."
"You heard right." I gestured to the dance floor. "Most of the people there dancing with two left feet are from the store. They usually come here for a good time before staggering off to their homes, but tonight's a little different."
He raised an eyebrow. "Why's that?"
"They heard the store's had an offer to merge with some big company from uptown and a lot of them might lose their jobs," I told him. "So they're partying together like it's their last night."
"The merger's been finalized?" he asked me in surprise.
"It'd be news to everyone if it has, but we haven't heard that," I answered.
"It'd be news to me, too. . ." he murmured. I gave him a suspicious glance and he sheepishly smiled. "Sorry, just talking to myself about business. Are they sure they'll be, ahem, downsized?"
"Pretty sure. Mergers are good for the company's bottom line, but not for the employees," I pointed out.
"You sound like you have a stake in all of this." He leaned in toward me, I leaned back away from him. "You work for the company?"
I didn't feel like giving him too much info on myself, so I shrugged. "I have a few stocks with them." Which was true, if a bit misleading.
"So are you here alone?" he wondered.
"If you're asking if you can whisk me away without people noticing then I'll tell you I have a great pair of lungs and weight a bit," I warned him.
He raised a mischievous eyebrow. "Really? Any other talents I need to know about?"
"I have other talents, but you don't need to know about them. The only thing you need to do is get up off the seat and-" My friendly warning was interrupted when a commotion arose from the bar area.
One of the Stacy workers had gotten into an argument with our rivals at the Ken Department Store, located a few blocks away from our work, and they decided the most gentlemanly way to settle their disagreement was to duke it out. Ken-worker struck first with a fast blow to the chin that sent Phil, the same one I'd mistaken the stranger for, into the bar. Phil didn't take that lying down, though he got close to ending up on the floor out cold. He swung back at the Ken-worker, who took the blow in the jaw and toppled onto the dance floor. Fighting chaos erupted from the dancing chaos, and Stacy worker fought Ken worker as both sides, tired and exhausted from work, swung slow punches at each other. It was like watching the geriatric boxing championship but without the false teeth.
The dancers who weren't fighters scattered off the floor and several of them knocked into the booth table. My drink, a perfectly good glass of milk, spilled onto my clothes and a plate of food slid off and landed on the stranger's lap. People screamed, lights flickered, and I remembered I'd forgotten to pay my electric bill. The stranger took me by the arm and dragged me away from the scene of the crash and over to the door. Most of my friends had already evacuated, leaving me the lone survivor as the battle raged on.
The guy led me outside and I breathed in the fresh smell of car exhaust and city sewer. "That's a rough place," he spoke up with a laugh.
"You think that's rough you should see us when we play bingo," I quipped. I pulled my shirt out and surveyed the damage. "I'll have to get this milk out quick or the alley cats will eat me alive." The next problem was that my ride was AWOL and I had no other way to get back home to my apartment. There was only enough money in my purse for a tip, and not the eighteen percent gratuity they usually liked.
"My place isn't far off. You can wash up there," he offered. I raised an eyebrow, and he smiled. "I swear my intentions are pure."
"Then how come I smell manure?" I countered.
"Must be the city air." We heard a crash from inside the bar, and police sirens echoed down the road toward us. The man nodded in their direction. "Unless you want to stay here and play twenty-questions with the cops."
"All right, but you'd better behave," I warned him.
"That's a pity. I had planned to seduce you," he teased.
"Flattery will get me to go with you, but not sleep with you," I quipped. I gestured down to my chubby self. "And don't try any funny business. I know how to use this flab."
"Fair enough. I'll try to behave myself," he promised.
"And before you drag me off to the great unknown I have to tell a friend where I'm going," I spoke up. I looked through the crowd and spotted one of my inebriated female friends, Jamie, beside the curb. Unfortunately, she wasn't my designated ride or I could have swiped her keys. I walked over and steadied her. "Jamie, you sober enough to know who I am?" I asked her.
"Santa Claus?" she replied in a slurred voice.
"Did you just call me fat?"
"No, I wouldn't do that to you, Santa." A hiccup interrupted her words. "I've been meaning to ask you for that pony for a couple of decades now." I sighed, rolled my eyes, and gave her a gentle slap across the face. That snapped her out of the worst of her stupor, and her face lit up when she recognized me. "George, what's going on? Is the party over?" George is what everyone called me rather than Georgina. Fewer syllables that way.
"Yes, and I'm going home with a strange man so I can get this milk out of my clothes," I told her.
Jamie raised both eyebrows for my news. "A man? What's his name?"
I opened my mouth to tell her, but I didn't know. "Um, Man?" I guessed.
"This doesn't sound like a good start to a relationship," she scolded me.
I sighed and nodded. "I know it looks bad, but that's why I was telling you where I was going. If they find me in the river, that's the guy you have to describe to the police sketch artist." I gestured to the man, who waved at us. "Got his face down?"
Jamie squinted and her brow furrowed. "Haven't I seen him before?"
"How can you recognize anyone that far away with your beer goggles on?" I muttered.
"Because you smacked the beer out of me," she pointed out. "And I know I've seen that guy's face somewhere."
"Well, hopefully you won't see it splashed across the front pages tomorrow with a picture of me in memoriam," I replied. "Now I've got to go and test him."
"Test him?" she wondered.
"To see if there's some hope for mankind and that he behaves himself."
"Good luck. Call me after the hot make-out session," she requested.
I rolled my eyes, waved goodbye to my friend and walked over to the guy. "I'm all ready to go except what thing. I don't have your name."
"And I don't have yours," he pointed out.
"It's George." He looked bewildered. "Georgina, but everyone calls me George. Easier that way."
"Unless you're me and a little slow. Mine's Alex."
I snorted. "Maybe we should trade names."
"It would cause less confusion to the people we met," he agreed.
"But that wouldn't be as much fun," I protested. "Now where's this place of yours so you can show me how well you behave?"