Home > Nothing Personal (Karina Halle)(3)

Nothing Personal (Karina Halle)(3)
Author: Karina Halle

“Uh, huh,” I manage to say, getting confused.

“It’s a bit unorthodox to ask someone to uproot their lives for a three-month temp position but we figured it would be the best thing to do, considering your history together.”

I blink at her. “My what? My history?”

For some reason, anytime anyone mentions some sort of dubious history, I always think back to the time I got taken in by the cops when I was fifteen for tipping cows in a neighbor’s field.

“This isn’t about the cows is it?” I add.

She frowns. “No,” she says slowly. “This is about your work history. Mike knew you worked together for a few years and because of that we thought we’d run it by you. Though I do hope it’s not a problem, because he’s waiting in the lobby.”

Hold the phones. What the hell is going on here?

Does this mean I’m not getting the job?

Who is he?

“I’m sorry Desiree, maybe it’s the jet lag, but what on earth are you talking about? What history? Who is in the lobby?”

“The man who Mike recommended for the job. He’s been working at one of our rival chains for the last few years, same position as you. And before that, you both worked for us in Palm Desert.” She picks up the folder and tosses it to me.

It lands face up with a splat.

The name glaring up at me as if it were carved from a dagger.

Kessler Rocha.

My ex-coworker.

My ex-lover.

My level-ten heartbreaker.

“Kate,” Desiree says, pressing the intercom button on her phone. “Can you show Mr. Rocha into my office now? Mahalo.”

OH.

MY.

GOD.

Chapter Two

Kessler

“First day at work, little buddy. You going to wish me luck?” I ask Hunter while I fiddle with my tie in the mirror.

When I don’t get an answer, I glance over my shoulder at him.

He’s hanging out in the doorway, one finger up his nose, shirtless, even though I just saw the nanny put his shirt on a minute ago.

“I’m afraid of leprechauns,” he says in a quiet voice. I’ve gotten used to having to lean in and really listen because he’s just so quiet but I’m still not sure I heard him right.

“What leprechauns?” I ask carefully.

“The leprechauns who hang out with the pot of gold in the toilet and wishes you luck.”

Ah. I see.

Sorta.

“Well let’s just ignore all that for now. You going to be good while I’m gone?”

He stares at me for a moment with his big blue eyes and as usual I’m struck with the strangest combination of love and fear. Love for him because he’s my child, and that’s becoming more and more apparent every day.

Fear because I have no clue in hell what I’m doing and I don’t think I’m ever going to get any better.

He doesn’t answer. Getting him to talk is like pulling teeth, something I’m trying not to take personally. It’s not me he doesn’t want to talk to, it’s everyone, and I should just understand that he’s quiet for a three-year-old.

“Loan,” I call out, and she appears right behind him, silent as snow. “Hey Loan,” I say, giving her my biggest, most charming smile, the smile that appeared on many sports calendars back in the day.

Loan nods her greeting but doesn’t smile back. I met her only three days ago and she hasn’t smiled once. She rarely talks either, even though I know she speaks fluent English. She and Hunter seem to be well-paired.

“So you think you’ll be okay for the day? I won’t even be there that long. Just a couple of hours to get my office set-up and get myself oriented.”

She stares at me like it’s annoying her that I’ve already asked her this a million times. Is this what it’s like to become a helicopter parent? I barely know what it is to be a parent as it is.

“Okay then, good talk,” I tell her. Hunter runs away from the door and over to my leg, wrapping his arms around it and hugging it.

Well, fuck.

I’m not used to a lot of affection from the little guy either, and this is breaking my heart. “Hey, hey, hey,” I say softly, crouching down so we’re at eye level. “I’m going to miss you buddy. But I’ll be right back.”

“Don’t go,” he says. “I don’t want to be with the leprechauns.”

I really wish I knew where he was getting all of this from.

“You’re safe from the leprechauns,” I tell him, messing up his hair. “Miss Pham will take very good care of you, don’t you worry. She’s a bona-fide leprechaun hunter, isn’t that right?” I glance up at her, and upon seeing her stone-faced expression, immediately look back to Hunter. “And when I get back from work, I’ll bring you a present.”

He swallows as he thinks that over. “Will you bring me a present every every day you go to work?”

“Um, yes,” I say, knowing I walked right into that one. “Every every day.”

He seems to consider this thoughtfully, then he nods.

Whew. Meltdown averted. Even though Hunter is quiet, he can throw a tantrum that rivals Steven Tyler’s vocals.

Now that he’s calmed down, it’s time for me to do the same.

I may look like the picture of serenity in my tailored blue-grey suit and shiny new Audi, but I’m anything but. For one, I’ve only walked down the driveway and I’m already sweating like a criminal. I know that people in Hawaii like to keep it casual and don’t usually wear full suits, even in the corporate world, but since I’m needing to make the right impression, I’m sticking with it.

Just as my shirt is sticking to me.

And then there’s my car, which is pretty sweet, but I’m only leasing her for three months.

That’s all the guaranteed time I have here.

Three months.

Three months that I was only aware of five days ago.

In a life that completely changed six months ago.

I glance back at the house and see Hunter at the window with Loan standing behind him, and for a second I’m reminded of some scene from The Omen of Damian with his nanny. This is what fatherhood is doing to me. I raise my hand in a wave and Hunter wiggles his fingers back at me. At least he wasn’t crying for his mother this morning—it was good to feel wanted for a change.

And frankly, feeling wanted was the reason I packed up our lives and moved us out here for three months. I felt like my career at the Rockstar Collection was stalling. It didn’t matter the work that I was putting into it, once the novelty of who I was wore off, I was watching promotions pass me by.

I needed the pay raise. I was getting on just fine with checks coming in from the NHL and sponsors, even though those had dried up to nearly nothing over the years. But once Hunter was in my custody, I knew that it wouldn’t cut it anymore.

Then I got the call that changed everything.

My old buddy Mike Epson said he did something crazy and he needed help.

Specifically, he quit his job unexpectedly and felt bad about it and thought I would be the right person to replace him.

In a way I can’t believe I said yes. I wanted a new opportunity but to go back to working for Kahuna Hotels after all this time wasn’t the one I was thinking of, plus uprooting Hunter and I from San Francisco and transplanting us to Hawaii looked too big for us to handle.

We’ll see how we do, though with Hunter’s age and all the changes and moves he’s been through lately, he’s taken to Hawaii better than I have.

A lot better.

Look, I grew up in the Yukon. I may have worked in Palm Desert for a few years but that’s a totally different beast than a tropical island in the Pacific. I know everyone would be chomping at the bit to have the chance to move to Hawaii for a job, but honestly I’m approaching this with a lot of caution. I prefer rain and gloom and cold and things that keep to a schedule. Plus, I doubt there’s a single hockey rink on this sweltering rock and, despite everything, hockey is still my number one hobby.

Thankfully, the drive from the house to the office isn’t that long and GPS gets me to downtown Honolulu on time. For a moment I’m almost tricked to thinking I’m back in San Francisco as I stare up at all the high-rises with Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese restaurants dotted in between. But if I look a little closer, the abundance of shorts, Hawaiian shirts, shaved ice signs and lush foliage remind me that I’m not in Kansas anymore.

It isn’t until I’ve parked my car in the parking garage and wiped a bunch of sweat off my forehead en route to the elevator that I start to get nervous.

Now, I don’t usually get nervous. Playing for the NHL for that one year had me wishing for a pair of heavy duty Depends before every game, and after a while my body just learned how to obliterate those nerves (or risk spending the game on the toilet).

But…I am nervous now.

Just a smidge.

Enough that I’m not sure if it’s the incessant humidity that’s making me sweat or that I’m about to start my first day on a job that’s essentially just a trial period.

Who am I kidding? It’s both those things, but it’s also the fact that I’m going to see Nova Lane again.

The moment Mike called and said he was putting my name down for a job, the first thing I thought about was Nova.

Gorgeous, ambitious, closed-off, slightly neurotic Nova.

She was the girl that got away.

Okay, so she was the girl that I cut loose once I realized I didn’t want any commitment from her and that things would be better for us as co-workers if we just stopped having all that hot sex.

Big, big mistake.

It feels like it’s been so long since I’ve been laid, I’ve forgotten what sex is, let alone hot sex. Like it’s the tastiest dish on a menu in a restaurant I’ve been shunned from, probably because I used to treat it as an all-you-can-eat buffet, cutting in line and hogging all the roast beef.

Or so analogies go.

Naturally, things between Nova and I became strained after that. She went from liking me, a lot, to hating me…a lot.

   
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