And here’s the first chapter! It contains some spoilers for Part 1, obviously, so do with that what you will.
“I’m still not sure about this.”
Alex shrugged. “If this is some sort of ruse, it’s far more elaborate than it needs to be.”
“Are you ready to spend the day with Kyle?”
“I can’t imagine I’m really going to be spending that much time with him. I’ll be at work, after all.”
“I thought the whole point of us coming to work for him was for him to spend time with you.”
She sighed. “I thought the point was to do me a favor.”
“I don’t understand why you had to drag me into this. The idea of working for my mortal enemy is unpleasant, at best. And that’s assuming he didn’t trick me into quitting my job so that he could fire me and leave me jobless.”
“Kyle isn’t a criminal mastermind or something, David.”
“Remains to be seen.”
Together, we approached the security desk in the lobby of the building where we now worked. Again, I wished I’d done more to ensure that I’d be able to go back to my old job if this was all a hoax. In what world did someone who’d hated me for nearly a decade offer me triple my salary to do half the work I’d been doing? I mean, obviously he only offered that because he’d do anything to get Alex to come work for him, clearly the first step in his plan to reconcile with her. What happened when she said no? What happened when he realized that there was nothing he could do to fix their past? Was he going to fire me then?
I shouldn’t have agreed to this.
“Ms. Marsalis!” the security guard said warmly, and she and I were both shocked that someone here recognized her. “Welcome back.”
“Thanks,” she replied with a tight smile. “It’s nice to be back. It’s been a long time.”
It had to have been two years at least since she’d been inside her ex-fiancé’s company, although I was surprised she’d been here enough for people to recognize her even if it hadn’t been that long.
“And your guest?”
“Oh,” I said. “David Yearly. I work here now.” I hope.
He consulted a clipboard in front of him. “Yep, I see that here. Welcome to LinkCorp.”
“Thrilled to be here,” I replied, obviously sarcastic.
Alex shot me a look before turning back to the guard. “I assume it’s okay for us to head up?”
“Absolutely. Have a great day.”
We stepped into the elevator, and Alex sighed, so deep and loud that I jumped.
“Last chance to back out,” she said.
“Why are we doing this?” I asked, not for the first time.
Ever since Kyle had offered us these jobs, she and I had gone back and forth, even after signing contracts two weeks earlier. There was no arguing with the fact that this was an amazing opportunity. Kyle’s company was, after all, one of the biggest and best in the country. But given their history, what he’d done to her, and given how he’d treated me since we’d met, all because he couldn’t believe that I could be friends with his girlfriend without trying to sleep with her, I didn’t put much faith in how this was going to go. I didn’t see myself being able to work amicably with Kyle, and I didn’t see a scenario where he and Alex could work together either.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Alex replied, our rote answer. “And because I believe that Kyle is trying to do something nice for two people he’s hurt a lot.”
“I want it noted that Kyle has never hurt me with his behavior.”
“Fine, noted,” she replied.
The elevator doors slid open on the twelfth floor, where Kyle stood waiting to greet us.
“You guys actually came!” he said, seemingly genuinely surprised.
“Well, we signed those contracts,” I replied.
“That you did.” He grinned, definitely at Alex. “It’s nice to see you guys again.”
I wanted to say something back to him, probably something about how he was only glad to see Alex, and couldn’t care less about seeing me. I’d promised her I’d be nice, playing along with the farce that was me and Kyle being friends. He’d never been nice to me, not since we’d met during my freshman year of college, when I’d become friends with Alex, and he’d been every bit the stereotypical jealous boyfriend. I’d never laid a hand on her, didn’t want to, not even now that we’d been roommates for two years.
Of course, they weren’t dating now, not since she’d caught him in bed with a waitress. Hell, she’d had another engagement fall apart since then. The last two years had not been kind to Alex, and coming to work for Kyle didn’t seem like much of an improvement.
“Why don’t I walk you guys to HR?” Kyle said. “You can do your paperwork, and when you’re done there, I’ll walk you to your departments and introduce you to people.”
We followed him down the hallway, exchanging a quick, anxious glance. He certainly seemed like he was looking forward to working with at least one of us.
“How are you doing?” Kyle asked, his eyes on Alex.
“I’m fine. Like I said, I was in a bad place the other day,” she replied. “I’m honestly doing very well.”
“I’m so glad to hear it. You definitely had me worried. Yearly.”
I cringed. “What?”
“You’re going to have to stop wincing when I say your name.”
“You’re going to have to start calling me David.”
“I…will work on it.”
“I bet you will.”
“How are you?”
“I am great,” I replied.
He looked to Alex, and she laughed. “David’s fine.”
“Deane is well,” I answered grudgingly.
It was, of course, the greatest joke the universe had ever played on me, that my girlfriend was Kyle’s closest friend. My kneejerk reaction was to claim ownership, that I’d known her first, but the timeline was sketchy at best, and I didn’t want to be the same kind of guy Kyle had always been. He asked me about her to needle me, because of course he already knew how she was. They lived next door to each other. He saw her more than I did.
“I haven’t seen you around the house lately,” Kyle continued, and I clenched my jaw.
“Are you watching for me?” I asked.
“No, of course not.”
“The dark room that you hide in at home to code and ignore people? Does that have a window that looks out at Deane’s house?”
“It does not.” Kyle laughed. “It’s going to be fun to work with you.”
“Oh, yeah, fun all day long.”
Alex snickered, and I glared at her. “I’m sorry,” she said. “It makes me so happy to see you guys talking to each other.”
“We’ve always talked to each other.”
“It’s been a long time, that’s all.”
It certainly had. They’d gone a year and a half without seeing each other after his fling with the waitress that broke off their engagement. Of course, he and I had seen each other a handful of times, because I spent a decent amount of time at the house next to his. The year and half away from each other had been so good for her. She’d gone back to school, and met a guy who…also turned out to be an asshole, so that might not have been that good. But that relationship had been good until it wasn’t, and she’d been so happy. And she was better now than she’d been immediately follow either breakup, though she’d been at a particularly low point when Kyle had tricked her into agreeing to this. How he always managed to turn up in her life when she was at her worst boggled the mind.
Kyle opened a glass door and ushered us into a sea of cubicles.
“Cathy, I’ve got the new hires for you.”
The woman who emerged from the office against the back wall was middle aged, and I wondered if she hated working for someone so much younger than her. Some of these people had been working for Kyle since he was a teenager, and that must have been a mindfuck.
“I’ll retrieve you guys in a bit,” Kyle said. “And honestly, it was really nice to see you both.”