Now everything’s all fucked up and I had the most awkward ride into work ever with Mike, who insisted I drive because he’d sold his car when he packed up and left.
“And you haven’t told anyone at work that you’re back?” I ask Mike as we step into the elevator. He’s wearing an orange and red Hawaiian shirt today, which makes my eyes burn.
“It’s always better when it’s a surprise,” he says all happy-go-lucky. “Hey Kessler, when you played for the Kings, how close were you to Wayne Gretzky?”
I give him a look. “Gretzky played for them in 1989. Just how old do you think I am?”
The elevator doors ding open before he can answer.
“What the shit?” Kate says, as we walk in the lobby. “Mike. You’re back?”
He holds his arms out. “I’m back, baby” and starts walking down the hall, probably to my office.
“This is a surprise,” Kate says, looking to me.
“Yes, it is,” I tell her. I lean in close to her desk. “Did Nova already come in?”
She shakes her head. “Not yet. But hey, that was pretty big of you man to give her your job. That takes balls. It’s all that Big Dick Energy.”
“She deserves it more and I’m ready for other things,” I tell her. “But Mike is taking her job back. So he says.”
“Oh shit,” she swears. “That’s my one motto in life! No takesies backsies.” She pauses. “And never have sex with a guy with a man bun.” She reads the expression on my face. “What? I had some weird experiences.”
I’m shaking my head at her when suddenly Desiree appears looking flustered. “Kessler,” she hisses. “Is Nova here?”
“I don’t know if she’s coming in today,” I admit. “I texted her this morning but no response.”
“Yeah well I just saw Mike sitting down in your office,” she says. “I might need some help with him.”
“You want me to throw him out? Because after what he said to Nova last night, I wouldn’t mind that at fucking all.”
“It depends,” she says. “I really wish Nova—”
Just then the elevator dings and Nova steps out. Shoulders back, head raised, walking tall in her white blouse and black pencil skirt. She walks in like she owns the damn place, a small smile curved on her lips.
“Good morning Desiree,” she says. “Good morning Kessler.”
“Hey what about me? You think you’re too good for me now that you’re promoted!” Kate yells.
Nova rolls her eyes. “Good morning, Kate.” She looks back to Desiree, brows raised. “But I guess it remains to see whether I’m still promoted or not.”
Desiree’s jaw wiggles. “I was waiting for you, Nova. Come with me. Both of you.”
Nova and I exchange a look of what the fuck is going to happen? and follow Desiree as she marches down the hall.
She marches all the way to my office where Mike is sitting at my desk, already rearranging things and trying to deal with the influx of condoms in all the drawers. “Kessler, you the man,” he says to me, or maybe to himself, as we all step inside.
He looks up at us in calm surprise. “What do I owe the pleasure of having all three of you lovely people here?”
“Mike,” Desiree says, and she licks her lips and I can tell she’s trying to find the right words. It’s rare to see her flustered like this. “What are you doing here?”
“Surprised to see me? I know. I was surprised too. But when you gotta go, you gotta go. That’s the way it was with Patrice. Both ways, in fact.”
“What are you doing here,” she says, pointing at the desk. “At work. In Kessler’s office, which is soon to be Nova’s office.”
He coughs, frowning. “Well, I’m back. Ta-da. Here I am. Ready for business.”
“But you quit,” she says. “You quit without even giving your two weeks-notice. You just left and you left us scrambling to fill your position. Which we did. With two very talented people.” She gestures to Nova and I.
“Aw shucks, I know,” Mike says, taking my pineapple stress-ball off the desk and squeezing it. He has no idea that Nova had to bite on that thing to keep from screaming as I screwed her on the desk. “I feel bad for making you come all this way, Kessler, but surely the company can find a place for you. I’ll probably need an assistant. And there’s always the mail room.”
“Mike,” Desiree says in a warning tone. I’ve heard rumors that she’s good at martial arts and now I’m waiting to see if she’s going to bust out some unsuspecting moves. “You can’t just waltz back in here and get your job back. I’m sorry, but you quit.”
“Kessler was supposed to be temporary.”
“He was temporary because George and I didn’t want to commit to someone you picked, someone we had no prior knowledge of. Now we know he’s done an excellent job but if it had been up to us before you went ahead and filled his position and contacted the poor man and made him and his son move all the way out here, we would have gone another way.”
Mike looks at Nova who just gives him a cold stare.
“We would have picked Nova,” Desiree informs him. “And, as of yesterday, that’s what we settled on. Kessler is taking Nova’s position for a while until we find someone else and he’s ready to move on to other things, and Nova is now the Senior VP of Sales, Marketing and Revenue. So if you want your job back, well I’m sorry, it’s not available. But if you want to apply for a position in the mail room, well, we have your resume on file.”
Mic drop, Desiree.
Mike stares up at us, blinking. Poor guy. From what I heard, he was never this stupid. I really think the porn star did something to his brain, or who knows what was going down in Thailand with crazy drugs and shit. But right now, well he’s a big fucking idiot that just got himself served. I mean, what did he expect?
But of course, now Mike is staring at me, forehead furrowed. “Does this mean I don’t get my house back?”
Oh brother. “Mike,” I explain. “It’s your house. Hunter and I will move elsewhere and I’ve already secured Loan for the next few years out of my own pocket. I really appreciate every single thing you did for me. You changed my life. But now that my life has changed,” I glance at Nova and give her a knowing smile, “I want to keep it that way.”
After that, Mike seems pretty despondent and out of it. Desiree leads him out of my office and over to hers, where they sit down with George and have a talk.
Nova leans back against my desk, arms folded across her chest. “Is it wrong that I feel sorry for him?” she asks.
“Wrong? No,” I say, turning on the AC. “It just means you have a heart, that’s all. But don’t go giving your job away.”
“Phhfff are you crazy? I barely pried it out of your hands, I’m not going to hand it over to him.”
“You know, you didn’t quite pry it from my hands, I gave it to you,” I remind her.
“Yes, in a grand sweeping gesture of love, I know.” She grins. “Are you ever going to let me forget it?”
“Hell no. I’ll be living with you and I’ll be reminding you of it the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night.”
“Wait a minute,” she says. “Who said you’ll be living with me?”
I go around the desk and press up against her, wrapping my arms around her waist. “You did. Last night. You said we could stay with you.”
“I meant last night.”
“Mmmm,” I say into her neck, kissing her softly. “I think you owe me.”
“Oh I see, it was all a ruse.” She laughs. “Part of your elaborate plan.”
“I don’t know how elaborate it was but you were always part of the plan. Even if I didn’t know it yet.” I kiss her earlobe, making her shiver.
“Even when it seemed impossible.”
I pull away and gaze into her eyes. “Everything seems impossible until it’s not.”
She looks up at me through her long lashes. “I guess that’s true.” She then sighs, burying her head into the crook of my neck. “Poor, poor Mike. I wonder if we’ll see him in the copy room. It would be even better if he ended up my assistant. Can you imagine?”
I laugh and she goes on. “He was obviously living in some delusion that his life could go back to normal after all the heartbreak he had to endure but that’s never the case.” She studies my face, pausing at my lips, my nose, my eyes. She smiles. “You’re never the same after you get your heart broken. But if you’re just lucky enough, maybe you’ll find someone to help you pick up the pieces.”
“Even if he’s your level-ten heartbreaker?”
She kisses me. “Even if.”
Two years later
I am a ball of nerves.
Who knew a beach wedding could be so damn stressful?
I kept thinking that a beach wedding in Hawaii would be easy and low-key, especially since we live here, but everyone from Desiree to my mother to Loan told me that weddings were a handful, no matter where you planned it, no matter when you planned it.
And technically I’ve been planning this wedding since the day Kessler proposed, a year ago. It’s just that I’ve been so busy with work—being an executive is no joke—and so wedding planning was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted it at the beach up from my house (well, our house now), with our closest family and friends.
But then I had to factor in the fact that getting my parents and family in from the mainland and Kessler’s family from Portugal was a logistical nightmare, then there was dealing with the press (because with Kessler’s hockey school, he’s back in the NHL picture) and then all the other nitty gritty things like the dress and hair and makeup and food and permits and flowers and vows.