Arrived at the office for 8:15 am—boxes on desk.
Andrei eyed the boxes and rose a brow. The other members of his team were on calls. Ryan looked away from his monitor while offering platitudes.
“Set up your desk.” He mouthed.
Andrei nodded and replied with a thumbs up. He put his bag on his chair and lined up each box, so they seemed aligned. He reached in his back pocket and pulled out his keys with a pocketknife key chain. Andrei had the NUC, and the peripherals unboxed within moments, and not a single package peanut escaped their boxes. Lars watched with heavy eyebrows knit together. Andrei set himself up within the fifteen minutes prior to his shift start with impeccable cable management. The new guy was sitting at his desk, boxes folded together for recycling, packaging contents in the garbage bin, NUC loading as it did its first boot.
Andrei checked his watch and grinned as it showed 8:27 am. Ryan grinned and gave him a thumbs up. Lars scoffed as he moved behind his monitor. Andrei frowned the rejection, but a five-foot-nothing woman tapped him on the shoulder. Short black hair with thick glasses and a pasty complexion that rivaled Andrei’s. She offered a hand. Andrei shook the proffered hand.
“Tina Summers. Your team lead. Any issues setting up?” she greeted with a flat tone.
Andrei shook his head. “No.”
“Good.” She said as she sauntered over to her desk behind Lars, coffee in hand.
Andrei sighed as she got ready and seemed no more interested in him than Lars. Heavy clicking footfalls brought Andrei’s eyes away from his desktop. A tall, statuesque man in a pale navy suit beelined towards him. He moved fast, but his perfectly coiffed golden hair stayed in place. His hair reflected sunlight from all the gel, holding things in place.
“Andrei!” he cheered, breaking up all other conversations as the company owner walked towards the new guy with open arms and an unabashed grin.
Andrei gave a soft sigh but rose to return Ambrose’s greeting. “Amb! I thought you wouldn’t be back until next week.”
Ambrose released him from his embrace. “And miss your first day? Nonsense!” he said as he led Andrei away from his desk. Andrei looked back with concern.
“Umm, Amb, I started today?”
Ambrose nodded, his face as serene as it was beautiful. “Yea, yea, I know. It can wait! We’ve got so much catching up to do!”
Andrei glanced back and caught Tina’s gaze. She was diminutive, but the rage radiating off her was not. He swallowed and looked away, pale as a sheet.
Ambrose led them into his office, and tall windows lined the wall, glass table, and minimalist décor. Andrei sat in the sleek, cushioned chair. Ambrose grabbed two crystal glasses and poured from a delicate crystal decanter.
Andrei put his hand up. “It’s 8:30 am.”
Ambrose pouted. “So?”
Andrei sighed. “I also can’t anymore.”
Ambrose grimaced. “Shit, I’m-”
Andrei shook his head. “It’s fine. Sit. Tell me what’s been up.”
Ambrose put the glasses away and typed on his iPad before sitting down with Andrei.
Ambrose sighed. “It’s so nice to have another vampire here, and you have no idea how dull it has been!”
Andrei scoffed. “What? Duncan can’t keep up?”
Ambrose’s eyes widened, the edges of his irises darkening from their clear, pale green to darker and red. “That asshole? He’s been a stick in the mud for over a decade now!”
Andrei snickered and began imitating Ambrose’s voice, an Italian accent. “You should come with us, Andrei! We’ll have so much fun in America! You’ll be sorry you didn’t join us!”
Ambrose sighed. “Well, it was fun at first–“
“Amb, you know the Scottish drink to die, how could you have thought this would ever work!” Andrei sighed.
Ambrose pouted. “I wanted you as my business partner, but you were indisposed.”
Andrei relaxed his arms and sighed. “I was in a bad place in 1985, Amb. Without Sven’s help, I’d still be in some gutter in St-Petersburg, or worse, the council would have executed me.”
Ambrose looked at his friend. “I’m glad you’re better. Sorry I wasn’t able to help you get there.”
Andrei gave a small shrug.
Ambrose’s face hardened. “I’m sorry I brought you to that.”
“You didn’t-” Andrei protested.
Ambrose looked up, his eyes dark. “Don’t coddle me. If I’d have been a better mentor, you wouldn’t have alcoholism!”
Andrei sighed, his features soft and gentle. “I don’t think that’s how alcoholism works, Amb. Do you realize it’s not a disease? I’m not cured or anything!”
A gentle knock at the door startled them. Ambrose took a deep breath, and his eyes returned to their usual color. He grinned at Lizzie and waved her in. Andrei stood and opened the glass door for her. She glanced at him and mustered a stiff smile as she entered with a tray. She laid the tray on Ambrose’s desk between them and nodded before leaving. Andrei held the door until she left and took his time, watching her leave as he closed the door.
Ambrose held his temple in hand, looking at Andrei with sharp eyes. “She’s a wonderful person, our Lizzie.”
Andrei cleared his throat and nodded. “Yes, quick, efficient–”
“Petite, beautiful and far smarter than she needs to be for her position,” Ambrose added.
Andrei sat down and noted the tray had all the usual settings for coffee with two espresso cups filled. He could smell the gentle notes of the blue Kona beans. He smiled at his longtime friend and mentor.
“It would be a lie if I said I didn’t miss you,” Andrei admitted.
Ambrose let his hand fall. “And I, you. I’m glad you’re better and here.”
Andrei nodded. “It took a decade of good behavior before I got the approval from the American Coven.”
Ambrose grimaced. “You had made quite the mess of St.-Petersburg when you went on that bender in 1762.”
Andrei groaned and buried his face in his hands as he groaned. “I know, I’ll never live that down.”
Ambrose reached over and nudged his friend with a pen. “Come on now. You’re here, and you can start fresh!”
Andrei groaned and straightened up. “About that.” He said as he reached for his cup.
Ambrose leaned back and grabbed his cup. He put milk and sugar in his. “Yes?”
“Not the best form, singling me out and making sure everybody knows you love me on my first day?” Andrei said after groaning in appreciation of his first sip.
Ambrose shrugged. “Why ever not?”
Andrei groaned. “Some of your staff aren’t fans, Amb.”
Ambrose snorted. “Humans, with their petty office politics. I wouldn’t let that bother you. You’re over-qualified for this position as it is.”
Andrei nodded. “Yes, of course. But part of starting fresh for me, is not getting into situations where I would need to be an asshole.”
Ambrose scoffed. “Dude, if they give you trouble, glamour them.”
Andrei sighed. “I’d rather not, I like earning their trust-”
Ambrose’s eyes widened. “That’s a lot of work!”
Andrei scoffed. “As was my mathematics and computing Ph.D., but I did it.”
Ambrose sighed. “Show off.”
Andrei gestured with wide arms to the office. “Me?! I’m the show-off?!”
They burst out laughing.
Ambrose sipped and put his hand up. “Okay, fine, I’ll taper back my love for you, but I better start getting invited to your hangouts with Sven.”
Andrei grinned. “You have to promise not to glamour Natalia, and it’s a done deal.”
Ambrose’s eyes widened. “Who’s that?”
“Sven, didn’t tell you?” Andrei asked.
Ambrose shook his head.
“So, he met someone.”
Ambrose slammed his cup on his desk. “Shut up, that horn dog?! No!”
Andrei grinned. “Yea, yea, I said the same. But she’s lovely.”
Ambrose narrowed his eyes. “I have to?”
Andrei sighed. “Yes, you have to. Sven’s conditions, not mine.”
Ambrose sighed with a pout as his face fell in the cradle of his hands. “Fine.”
Andrei nodded. “I’ll make sure to Signal Sven the good news.” He said as he stood.
Ambrose straightened. “You guys still use that app?”
The older vampire waved his hand with a sigh.
Ambrose’s eyes widened. “Where are you going? I’m not done with you!”
Another knock had both men look back. Lizzie opened the door. “Your guests for 9:00 am are here early, Mr. Arrivelchi.”
Andrei looked back at Ambrose. “Looks like we’re done for now.”
Ambrose pouted. “I expect and invite.”
Andrei grabbed the door from Lizzie and smiled at her. She frowned at him and looked back at her boss. “The Tekken Board room’s ready; I’ll bring them in for you.”
“Thank you, Lizzie,” Ambrose said, eyeing Andrei.
Andrei sighed as she walked away without addressing him or even acknowledging him. Ambrose joined Andrei at the door.
“She’s single, by the way.”
Andrei took a step back. He let the doorknob slip from his hand. “Why is that relevant?” he sputtered.
“Oh, come on, I made you! I know your type, and I KNOW how you’re looking at her now!”
The door closed as Andrei groaned. “It would be both unprofessional and a discredit to you if I started my week by hitting on your assistant.”
Ambrose put his hands behind his hands. “Ah-huh. So, seeing anyone?”
Andrei groaned. “No, and I don’t need to-”
Ambrose nodded. “Ah-huh, enjoying that single life, what with your no glamour rule? In 2020? Doing that online dating thing? Which apps you on?”
Andrei groaned. “None.”
Ambrose nodded. “Listen, you’re on the night shift as of next week. You two won’t see each other after Friday. Why not take her for a drink? See how things go? A single outing isn’t inappropriate between colleagues, besides, not like I’d fire you for it.”
Ambrose returned to his desk to grab his laptop.
Andrei held the door for him.
“Think about it!” Ambrose said as he strolled out of the office to his meeting.
Andrei pouted as he followed and returned to his desk. Tina stood up and walked over.
“Can we have a word?” she asked.
Andrei swallowed. “Yea.”
The two walked to the hallway, where Lizzie’s desk stood empty. Tina sighed and tapped her fingers on her crossed arms.
“So, I guess you and Mr. Arrivelchi go back?” she asked.
Andrei rubbed the back of his neck. “Yea, we’ve known each other since forever.”
Tina nodded. “Oh, yea? Great.”
“So, let’s try to keep social time-limited. Say to before work, breaks, and after work, please? Especially when I have a full cue.” She said, pointing to the board on the wall behind her desk.
Andrei looked. Saw the numbers were red and grimaced. “My bad.”
Tina nodded; her arms dropped. “Yea. I’d appreciate that.”
“I can get on the phones right now.” Andrei offered.
“With what training?!” she asked.
“This ain’t my first rodeo.” Andrei offered.
Tina scoffed. “Fine, you want to hang yourself. Here’s the rope.” She said as she walked back into the office.
Andrei followed her. Took no breaks that day and closed a record number of tickets for his team. He sighed as he shrugged his jacket on. Ryan passed him by on his way out.
“Great stuff today, Andy!” he called as he walked off.
Andrei grinned and saw Lizzie walk out behind him. Andrei picked up the pace and joined her at the elevator.
“Hey.” He said.
“Hey.” She replied with a stiff smile.
Andrei groaned internally as they got in the elevator. They stood side by side and descended to the ground floor. All the while, Andrei deliberated on what to say, a cold sweat breaking on his forehead. The elevator rang as they arrived on the ground floor.
“Bye.” She said with a wave.