Teddy waved at Imani Wallace. The job title on the nameplate for her cubicle was Fiscal Analyst Extraordinaire. Right now she was frowning and motioning him over. “I’ve been waiting for you forever,” she said when he arrived.
“It’s not even eight yet.”
“I’ve been here since six.”
He tried not to make a face. He’d known when he accepted the job that Lauren expected her employees to put in long hours, but he wanted to see at least a glimpse of sunlight. Imani wasn’t likely to, at least not today. She rarely headed home until almost seven.
“Is there an emergency, Imani?”
She peered at her screen. “No. But I’ve been pricing out the base model, and the figures are not looking good. Unless we can cut costs, we’re not going to turn a profit.”
“We could raise the price.”
“Uh-uh. We’re maxed out already—your own reports say so.”
Although he knew she was going to say that, he sighed anyway. “Send me the numbers. I’ll see if I can find a way to cut some corners or sub some cheaper materials.”
“Yeah, okay, fine.” Her attention was back on her computer screen.
Teddy navigated to his own cubicle—his nameplate announced Design & Marketing—sat down, and booted up. He’d done as much as he could to brighten the space: reproductions of tourism posters, patterned adhesive paper on the metal drawer fronts, and vintage desk accessories he’d unearthed at a thrift shop. His chair cushion matched the drawer fronts, and the soft glow of a real lamp somewhat successfully battled the overhead fluorescents. A small rug covered the ugly floor tiles, despite it being an annoying trip hazard. He might not have a view, and the air always smelled like floor cleaner, but plenty of people toiled under far worse conditions.
He made his way through the overnight accumulation of emails, most from vendors trying to sell things Reddyflora didn’t need or couldn’t afford. Imani’s spreadsheets had arrived, so he turned his attention to examining them. He didn’t like numbers, at least not when they were arrayed in soulless columns, but cozying up to them was part of his job.
Within an hour, the suite was bustling with activity. Conversations, people walking around, printers spewing paper, phones ringing. It was like the soundtrack of an office, and it made Teddy smile. He could almost imagine himself as an actor in a musical, as if at any second he and Imani and the others might burst into song. Something with clever lyrics about how they were toiling away as they chased their dreams.
Teddy hadn’t noticed anyone come up behind him, and he startled so violently that he almost knocked over his coffee. He spun the chair around and discovered Romeo Blue looking down at him, stone-faced.
“What?” Teddy knew he was scowling and didn’t care.
“Can we speak in my office, please?” As usual, Romeo’s voice was low, his words clipped. As if he refused to spare much energy to speak to Teddy.
“I’m busy right now.”
“As soon as you can then.” Romeo spun and marched back to his office, leaving its door slightly ajar.
Teddy could have followed him; Imani’s numbers weren’t so urgent that they couldn’t wait awhile. But he remained stubbornly at his desk even though he could no longer focus on the computer screen. Romeo Blue. Teddy had googled him once, just for the hell of it—not at all to dispel lingering notions that his coworker was a spy working under a really stupid alias. It turned out that Lenny Kravitz used Romeo Blue as a stage name back in the eighties, and that was more than a little weird since this Romeo resembled a young Lenny Kravitz, albeit with a darker complexion and a different clothing aesthetic. Kravitz probably didn’t wear suits from Zara. And to be honest, although Kravitz was gorgeous, Romeo was even more so, with perfect eyebrows, velvety eyes, and a mouth that—
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