“Nope!” Teddy stood abruptly and grabbed his coffee mug. He needed a refill.
He finished off that cup, visited the depressing bathroom he’d been fruitlessly begging Lauren to redecorate, and chatted briefly with the cute copy-machine repairman before finally knocking on Romeo’s open door and stepping inside. And then, as always when he entered this room, Teddy glowered.
It was a fraction of the size of Lauren’s office, with barely enough room for a desk, two chairs, and a computer stand. Despite that, it was a real office instead of a cubicle. But what truly annoyed Teddy was that Romeo hadn’t even bothered to decorate the space. There wasn’t a single knickknack or picture, and the mismatched office supplies—a black stapler and taupe tape dispenser—appeared to be from the discount bin at Staples. The only touches of personality were the three computer monitors—three of them, for God’s sake—and, of course, Romeo himself.
Maybe Romeo thought himself so decorative that his mere presence sufficed. Or he didn’t want any other objects to detract from his glory.
Also, he smelled like sandalwood, bergamot, and vanilla. Dammit.
“You could put a nice landscape print there.” Teddy pointed at an expanse of bare white wall. “A palm-tree beach or snowy mountains. If you framed it right, it would even look a little like a window, and your office wouldn’t be so claustrophobic.”
Romeo squinted at him. “I have screen savers.”
Teddy didn’t point out that the only visible monitor displayed a massive block of tiny text that was probably programming code. He stared pointedly at Romeo instead, eyebrows raised. “You commanded my presence?”
“I asked you to come talk to me, yes.”
“Here I am.”
“Right.” A flicker of emotion, which Teddy couldn’t identify, crossed Romeo’s face. It didn’t seem like a particularly positive emotion, but then he’d rarely seen Romeo crack a smile. He was probably too full of himself to be caught feeling happy with the peons, ordinary-looking people who worked in cubicles and attempted to put together interesting outfits from resale stores and vintage clothing shops.
Romeo grabbed a tablet—apparently three monitors weren’t enough—and came around the desk to stand beside Teddy. He didn’t quite loom, but compared to Teddy’s five-eight in his Bruno Magli boots with the thick heels, Romeo was closer to six feet. In loafers.
“I put something together for the midrange model.” Romeo tapped at the tablet a few times before handing it over.
The mock-up was rough, but it was clear enough to make out details. There was the vase Teddy had spent so many hours designing: a simple powder-coated steel frame around a cylinder of clear glass, and, in front, a gently curved video screen. He’d worked really hard with other Reddyflora employees to make sure the screen would be durable, affordable, water-resistant, and—most important—attractive. The results were excellent, production costs weren’t as challenging as with the base model, and consumers would be able to program the screen to match their mood and décor. Even when the screen was blank, the vase looked nice. Teddy had made sure of that.
But now he furrowed his brow and enlarged the image. “What the hell is that?” Something dark and bulky was just visible at the back of the vase, butted up against the metal frame. He swiped a few times until the tablet showed the back of the vase. “Is that your unit?” He was too upset to blush over his unintended double entendre.
“But it’s really big!”
“It has to be. It needs to house a processor and battery and USB port, and it needs to be waterproof. Plus there’s the sensor.” He pointed at a plastic prong that extended from the unit into the bottom of the glass vessel.
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