The List

By: Tawna Fenske

Chapter One


Simon


“Excuse me? I urgently need more RAM, and I was hoping you could give it to me.”

I turn to see a hot blonde wearing cherry-red lipstick and a black dress tight enough to be a tourniquet. Her tone would be more suited for taking calls at 1-900-FuckMe, and the pointed look she just gave my crotch suggests she rehearsed that line before walking into my shop.

Yes, my shop. I own all twenty-six branches of Hot Swap Computer Sales and Repairs scattered around the Pacific Northwest, though I rarely venture out of the back room these days. The boob-graze the blonde just performed on my forearm is one reason.

“I recognize you from that article in Men’s Health a few months ago,” she continues, moving deeper into my personal space. “‘Meet the young entrepreneur with the mind, muscles, and millions.’ I knew this was the place to come for the best RAM.”

“Actually,” I say, taking a step back, “you first need to determine how much RAM you can handle.”

Her eyes widen and she licks her lips. “Yes,” she breathes. “I think I can handle a lot.”

I point to the other end of the counter. “We’re having a sale on the sixteen-gigabyte HyperX FURY with symmetric heat spreader,” I say, and watch her eyes widen. “Carl over there is our expert. He’ll be to happy help you.”

The blonde gives me a confused look, trying to ascertain if I’ve just talked dirty or blown her off.

It’s the latter.

She seems to realize this as she glances down the counter at the freckled face of my lanky store manager. His exuberant expression and over-enthusiastic wave suggest he will indeed be happy to help her, and may, in fact, be popping a boner behind the counter right this moment.

I’d rather not dwell on that.

But I do soften my tone when I remove her claws from my forearm. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to finish debriefing a new employee. Thanks for coming to Hot Swap.”

I walk away before she can make a suggestive comment about debriefing or ask me what I’ve got that’s plug and play. I know it’s coming. I’ve heard it all before.

But I escape without further incident and duck into the back room where my new hire is waiting patiently between a bank of employee lockers and the foosball table I set up for break-time entertainment. Corey’s a cheerful guy with a passion for technology, an infectious laugh, and Down syndrome. He just finished his first week of employment here through my WorkAbility program.

“Sorry about the wait,” I tell him. “Here’s your first paycheck.”

His face lights up like I’ve just given him the keys to my Mercedes, which makes my heart swell into a big, fat knot. He takes the envelope and grabs my hand to shake it. “Thank you!” he says, beaming from ear to ear. “Sarah’s coming to come get me, and we’re going to Sizzle Pie to celebrate. Now I can buy whatever she wants for dinner.”

Sarah is one of the case managers who run the group home where Corey lives, and as though summoned by her name, she appears at the back door with her car keys in hand. She smiles and greets us both. “Hey, Corey. Hello, Simon. You guys almost finished here?”

“Yeah!” Corey beams. “I got my first paycheck and everything.”

“You earned every penny,” I tell him. “You’re doing great work here.”

I mean it, too. Corey’s one of about four dozen adults with disabilities I’ve hired through WorkAbility since I launched the program four years ago. If I could bottle his enthusiasm and easygoing temperament, I’d sprinkle it on every one of my six hundred plus employees.

From her spot in the doorway, Sarah turns her smile on me. It’s not the fuck-me-silly smile deployed by the blonde in the lobby, but there’s an undercurrent I can read just the same. She’s a sweet girl, intelligent and hard-working, and pretty in that girl-next-door kind of way.

She also has a steady boyfriend, so even if she were my type, that’s a strict hell-no as far as I’m concerned.

“You doing anything fun for the weekend?” she asks me while Corey gathers his things and stuffs them in a big red backpack.

“Just catching up on work,” I say. “Probably hitting the gym or going for a hike on Saturday, then having lunch with Junie on Sunday.”