After the Morning AfterBy: Lisa G. Riley
This story is dedicated to a.m. wells, whose personality was a huge inspiration when I was developing Sanjay.
Research scientist Dr. Victoria Howell took a soothing sip of white wine and used a graceful brown hand to push a tendril of hair back into the chignon resting on her nape. Sighing deeply, she looked at her surroundings, wondering if she should have even taken the time to come. The French restaurant was spacious and airy with its high ceilings and exposed brick walls, which were sparsely decorated with still-life paintings of breads and cheeses and big, fat purple grapes hanging off bottles of wine. It was one of the best in town, and she was not in the mood for it. Her mind, as usual, was occupied with problems in her lab. Well, one problem in particular, anyway.
His name was Sanjay Banerjee. He was her second-in-command and a brilliant scientist, but one she’d been told by her boss was persona non grata as of noon that day. He’d been accused of theft. Victoria took another sip of wine and shook her head, unable to believe it. Sanjay was many things, arrogant and a pain in her ass for one, but she could not believe he was a thief. She was sure the accusation had been quite a blow to him. She frowned as she thought about what she’d have to go through to replace him. “But what am I thinking about Sanjay for?” she muttered and looked at her watch. Her date was late, which was par for the course. He liked to make an entrance.
Victoria winced, knowing that she was only with Keenan for the sex and the easy-like-Sunday-morning feel of the relationship. They’d met, had started a friendship, and within a couple of months, they were having sex. They were friends who had become lovers. The relationship would go no further than that, and it pleased her to know that they were both fine with that outcome. Her cell phone rang, and she retrieved it from the side pocket of her briefcase. She lifted a brow in surprise when she saw Sanjay’s name in the little window. Wondering what he wanted, she debated answering it. “Not really in the mood for his foolishness,” she murmured. She pressed Ignore.
She looked up after sliding the phone back into its special pocket to find her date standing over her. Her expression froze when she saw that he wasn’t alone. Tall, muscular, and handsome with green eyes and thick chestnut hair, he stood there with a tall, skinny Asian woman Victoria had never seen before. That in itself wouldn’t have been an issue, but his arm was wrapped around her so that his hand rested intimately on her hip. And she was clutching him as if she’d never let him go.
“Victoria, this is Kandra. She’s my new one and only. You’re not going to like this, but she won. Didn’t you, baby?”
Feeling as if she were having some kind of out of body experience, Victoria watched as the woman stopped chewing her fluorescent green gum long enough to grin vacuously in agreement. Keenan then bent his head.
This cannot be happening. Victoria sat in stunned silence as the man she’d been seeing for the past three months kissed another woman as if he were trying to clean her tonsils with his tongue.
When they finally wrapped up the kiss, Victoria thought she should say something—knew it was her turn for a response. Her mouth opened, closed again, opened… “I beg your pardon? Won what?”
Keenan Saphmen sighed with impatience, his green eyes glowering. “I said,” he enunciated carefully as if he were talking to a slow-witted child, “It’s over. I’ve chosen Kandra here. You’re out, and she’s in. I might even marry her.”
Victoria flicked an uninterested glance at the gorgeous, seemingly indifferent woman draped on Keenan’s arm. Her gaze went back to Keenan. “I’m sorry. Did you just waltz in here and announce that I was unknowingly in some kind of…kind of, I don’t know, running for your affections?” Victoria tried to keep her voice down, but she noticed some of the other restaurant patrons looking their way.
Keenan shrugged and brushed imaginary lint from his spotless suit. “No big. It was between you, Kandra, and Gretchen—by the way, have you seen a pretty redheaded woman come in? She was supposed to meet us.”
Victoria just stared in bemusement for a moment, the wholly ridiculous tableau stealing her breath. Finally, after waiting in vain for someone to say “gotcha” and for the smug smirk to leave her lover’s face, realization truly hit, and Victoria laughed without humor and said in as calm a voice as she could, “Oh my, God, you’re serious, aren’t you?”
“Don’t make a scene, Victoria. It’s over.”
Victoria smirked as she pulled cash from her wallet, counted it, and then put it on the table to cover wine and tip. “You’d love a scene, wouldn’t you, Keenan?” She stood and picked up her purse and briefcase. “I won’t give you one.”