Crandall was standing in the break room, filling his travel mug with fresh coffee, when the sounds of gossiping surrounded him. He ignored the three women, refusing to acknowledge their sudden presence in the room. He would dump the contents of several tiny plastic cups of half-and-half into his cup and high-tail it back to his cubicle.
“Oh. It’s you.” A sharp voice snarled out of the gaggle. Crandall rolled his eyes before turning around to face the women.
“Who else would I be?” Crandall said. He started to walk past them, but then remembered his promise to Ash. He paused in front of the girl, staring right into her creepy pale eyes.
She met his stare. Something Crandall wasn’t used to. He hadn’t done it on purpose, but he knew he’d developed a look that unnerved a lot of people. Especially people who didn’t know him. Ginger, apparently, didn’t seem bothered by it all.
“Why are you such a jerk?” she asked.
Crandall blinked and looked away. With his gaze over her right shoulder, he considered telling her to fuck off again, but he decided that should wait until Ash had his shot at her. He couldn’t see why Ash wanted to meet this pain the ass, but it wasn’t up to him to censor that desire.
“I just fucking am,” Crandall said. He sipped his coffee, grimacing at it before continuing. “You want to talk with someone nice, that’d probably be Ash.”
She waved a hand in front of his face. “Don’t you dare tease me.” She put the offending hand on her hip and said, “I don’t have to listen to you.”
Crandall snorted and returned to the coffee counter. He ripped open three sugar packets and poured them into his mug. He stirred the coffee and tossed the plastic straws in the trash. When he turned to leave the break room, the girl was still scowling at him. He couldn’t imagine Ash falling for this girl, but it was his right to try. Maybe it’d be entertaining to see her unleash her snotty fury on someone else.
“Hell if I know why, but Ash wants to meet you this afternoon.” He watched her scowl flicker into confusion, hope, and then doubt and anger.
“Don’t you mess with me, Crandall Jacobsen.”
“I couldn’t be bothered,” Crandall said, and then walked past her. She didn’t follow him this time.
Crandall’s desk phone rang precisely at 3 p.m. He hit Disconnect on his desktop and tossed his headset in the corner before answering the offending device. “Yeah?” Then, after a pause, “Yeah, I know. I’ll be right down.”
Before heading to the lobby to meet Ash, Crandall stopped on the second floor. He walked into Ginger’s cubicle, side-stepped a tall, scrawny man talking to her, and said, “Ash is here. Come on.”
The beanstalk sputtered about interruptions, but Crandall had already turned and walked out of the cubicle. If she was as interested as she had said, she’d follow. If not, Crandall wanted coffee that actually tasted good and didn’t leave his stomach acidic and grumbling.
Crandall took the stairs down to the lobby. By the time he hit the landing, he heard Ginger calling after him from the top. At the bottom, as he pushed through the door that let out down the hall from the security desk, Ginger caught up with him. She grabbed his arm. Crandall stopped and spun around raising a fist. Ginger immediately released him and backed away a step. “Whoa,” she said holding up her hands, palms out. “Just wait a second. Huh?”
“Don’t touch me,” Crandall said lowering his fist.
“What’s he doing here?” Ginger asked, also relaxing.
“He invited himself.”
“I’m not in his fucking head.”
“Crandall, please.” She smoothed her hands over her hair.
“I told him you asked about him, so I guess he’s curious.”
“Okay, good. Thank you. How do I look?” She smiled and clutched her hands together, striking some kind of girlie pose that Crandall had seen often enough when they were flirting with other guys. Girls were fucking complicated. Shaking hips, making up eyes and lips, dressing in all kinds of different styles that somehow communicated moods and needs to each other.
Crandall rolled his eyes and said, “Either you like each other or you don’t. The color of your socks will not help you succeed.”
But nothing. Crandall turned and walked down the short hall that would lead them to the lobby, and to Ash.