“Here’s to job insecurity and not knowing if we’re all fired tomorrow!” my best friend Clara cries out with her glass raised high in the air.
The group of us that are out tonight to ‘celebrate’ our company’s buyout raise our glasses with fake and not-so-fake smiles plastered on our faces.
Everyone throws back their drinks and I down my shot of tequila in one gulp. No girly or frou-frou drinks for me tonight.
I need to get drunk.
While everyone else seems to be easily hiding their uneasiness behind their smiles, inside I’m a wreck.
I slam my empty shot glass down on the table and feel like pulling a Thor by calling out for “Another!”
Thankfully the waitress shows up with a tray covered in drinks before I can embarrass myself.
I eagerly grab two more shots of tequila off the tray and Clara shoots me a look full of mirth.
“Looks like someone’s getting wasted tonight,” she smirks.
I just look her in the eyes as I down both shots one after the other.
She tips her golden head back and laughs.
Yeah, she can laugh, but she has nothing to worry about. Even if she gets fired tomorrow, there’s no shortage of accounting positions up for grabs in this city. Viral Marketing positions, however, are a lot harder to come by.
I’ve sent out dozens of resumes, but so far I haven’t had any callbacks. The job market is seriously fierce right now.
Clara’s boyfriend, Mason, comes up behind her and wraps an arm around her shoulder, pulling her into him.
Mason eyes the empty glasses in front of me, then he lifts both of his brows up at me and grins. “You’re riding home with us tonight, Zoe.”
“In that case…” I grin back and grab another shot off the table.
Mason laughs, but shakes his head ruefully.
You know how sometimes you just don’t click with your friend’s boyfriends? Well, I’ve never had that problem with Mason. As soon as he and Clara started dating a few months ago, he instantly became my friend too.
He’s a good guy, and handsome to boot. Tall, with wide shoulders, blonde hair, and a winning smile. He’s like the perfect poster boy for the quintessential All-American hottie. He and Clara make an adorable couple, especially because she’s so petite. Next to him, she looks like a blonde little pixie.
I start to lift the shot to my mouth and Mason says, “Oh, come on, it can’t be that bad.”
My hand pauses in mid-air and I narrow my eyes at him. “Not that bad? I might not have a job tomorrow and I have student loans to pay off. Not to mention I have a cat to feed and she’s a total food snob. She only wants the best, which just so happens to be the most expensive.”
“Bella is a food snob.” Clara bobs her head in agreement.
I glance down at the shot, but just hold it in my hand as the buzz from the last two shots suddenly kicks in.
What I didn’t say, and what no one else knows, not even Clara, is that I’m in a sickening amount of debt. My last long-term boyfriend, Jared, convinced me to add him to my credit cards and then maxed them out behind my back. Since I technically gave him authorization to use them, I can’t pursue legal action against him.
Not that I could find him anyway.
As soon as I found out what he did, he took off. The asshole is probably sipping margaritas on some beach somewhere while I’ve been working my ass off to dig myself out of the hole he left me in.
“Yeah,” Mason says. “But you don’t know for certain you’re going to be fired tomorrow.”
I look up and even Clara narrows her eyes at him in disbelief as we both say, “Have you heard of Bryce Ericsson?”
Then we both look at each other and laugh. We do this occasionally. Sometimes we’re so on each other’s wavelength, we say the same thing at same time.
Mason rolls his eyes, but the corners of his lips still tip up. He’s used to our antics by now.
“Yeah, I’ve heard of him. He’s like a tech guru or something,” he shrugs.
“Tech guru?” I scoff. I may be buzzed, but I still manage to say without slurring too badly, “He’s a ruthless business man with a reputation for snapping up struggling companies and completely restructuring them until they pull in a profit. Then he sells them off.”
I know because right after we found out he bought the company, I looked him up. I couldn’t find much about him as a person, apparently he’s extremely private, but there was plenty out there about his cut-throat business practices.
“Yeah, what she said,” Clara nods her head.
“That doesn’t mean—” Mason starts, but I cut him off.
“The first thing he always does is fire the entire marketing staff so he can bring his own people in.”
After saying that, I have to down the shot I’m holding.
I’m so fucked.
Mason frowns skeptically and pulls out his phone. “I’m going to look this guy up.”
“You do that,” I sigh, and set my empty glass down on the table.
I could do another shot, but I know it would probably put me on my ass. I’m more than half-way to wasted as it is. If I hadn’t been drinking ever since I heard the news the company was bought, my tolerance wouldn’t be high enough for what I’ve already downed.
I glance around at the others that came out to the club with us tonight. The liquor seems to be loosening everyone up. There’s a couple of others from marketing, but they don’t seem to be nearly as worried as I am. Dan is in digital marketing, so he’s probably out with me if the department gets flushed. But Amber is a graphic designer, so she’ll probably just be reassigned.
“Wow,” Mason says, staring down at his phone. “You’re right. His reputation is notorious. Damn. I wouldn’t want to get on the bad side of him.”
I nod my head and resist the urge to pick up and down the other shots in front of me.
“But hey, he’s not bad looking, and apparently he’s single.” Mason looks up and waggles his eyebrows playfully at me. “Maybe you can flirt your way into keeping your position, Zoe.”
“Zoe, flirt?” Clara snorts.
“Wait,” I jolt as his words sink in. “You actually found a picture of him?”
I’ve searched and searched for a picture of the elusive Bryce Ericsson, but only came up empty-handed.
“Yeah,” Mason smirks and then his eyes gleam playfully. “You want to see it?”
“Yes!” Clara and I both say at the same time then giggle.
I move closer to look at Mason’s phone and Clara lifts up on her tiptoes.
“Here you go, baby,” Mason says, tipping his phone down for her.
I swallow back my sigh. If only I had a guy who was as sweet and good to me as Mason is to Clara. I hate to admit this, but sometimes I get a little jealous over their relationship. They’re just so perfect together, and he’s so good to her. If I could design my perfect guy, he’d be a lot like Mason. But apparently Mason is one-of-a-kind. I’ve been dating off and on for over a year now, and I haven’t found any princes yet.
Just frog after frog.
And don’t even get me started on the dick pics.
“Oh yeah, wow. He’s pretty hot,” Clara sighs, and Mason frowns. “But not nearly as hot as you, baby,” she quickly corrects when she catches the look on Mason’s face.
Mason scowls and yanks his phone back before I can get a good look. All I got was a glimpse of dark hair and a smirking smile.
“Oh my god!” Clara suddenly shoots me a look as the song booming through the club changes. “It’s my favorite song.”
She slips out from under Mason’s arm and bounces over to me. Grabbing me by the hand, she begins to drag me toward the dance floor before I can get a better glimpse of the man who has become my number one enemy. “We are so dancing.”
I stumble after her, the buzz from all the shots messing with my coordination. Perhaps it was a bad idea to wear stiletto heels when I planned on doing so much drinking.
The bass of the song pumps through my veins and all the swirling, colored lights illuminating the dance floor are too bright and too dazzling.
Clara pushes her way through the crowd until we’re squeezed in the middle. Then she drops my hand and throws herself into the song. It takes me a few seconds to get into it and find my rhythm, but once I do I get lost in the music with her.
We dance through three or so songs, shaking our butts and rolling our hips, before all those shots catch up to me.
“Hey!” I call out over the booming music and grab her hand.
She stops her elaborate, but fluid, rolling drop of her hips to blink up at me.
“I really gotta pee!”
“Want me to go with you?”
I shake my head and drop her hand. Clara is in her moment and I don’t want to ruin it.
She nods, flips her hair back, and starts shaking her booty again. I can’t help but smile as I turn and push my way through the crowd. It’s been a long time since Clara and I have been out together, and it feels good. I kind of missed this.
I’ve been lonely without my best friend.
Before she hooked up with Mason, we were out five nights a week. But ever since she and Mason have gotten serious, she seems to be turning into a bit of homebody. Always wanting to stay in.
Don’t get me wrong, they invite me to hang out with them all the time, but I can’t stop myself from feeling like the third wheel when it’s just the three of us, despite their reassurances.
If only I had someone…
I cut that thought off before it has a chance to finish as I round a corner and walk into the bathroom.