Mom had talked me into driving up on Saturday. She said she wanted to have some time with just the family, before the other guests arrived. Normally I would have refused, I would have said I was too busy, but now that Rey was coming, two more days didn’t seem all that bad.
I picked up Rey at ten-thirty. She lived in an awful building, in an awful part of town. Maybe I should consider giving her a raise, this didn’t look like a safe neighborhood.
Rey on the other hand looked amazing. At the office she wore black or gray pencil skirts or slacks and white blouses. Now she wore a summer dress, blue with white polka dots. It wasn’t any more revealing than her other clothes, except her arms and shoulders were bare, but I felt my throat go dry.
“Is this okay?” she asked, tugging a little on the skirt of her dress. “I didn’t know what to wear, how formal it’s going to be?”
I swallowed, trying to get my throat to work.
“It’s fine,” I said.
I should say something more, but my mind was blank. I opened the trunk of the car, so she could put her bag in.
“You look great,” I said and regretted it immediately. It was too late, too awkward.
But she smiled up at me. “Thanks,” she said. “You don’t look bad yourself.”
I was wearing black jeans and a dark gray Henley. I’d put my sports coat in the back of the car because it was too warm.
I smiled a little back at her.
When I closed the trunk again I noticed a guy standing in the doorway to her building. He was frowning in our direction and his arms were crossed over his chest.
“Who’s that?” I asked.
“That’s Finn, my roommate.” Rey waved at him. “See you in a week!”
The Finn guy gave a small nod in response. Okay, so he was what, jealous? Suspicious of my intentions? The looks he were giving me were dark enough. Rey lived on the fifth floor. I knew this, because she had once complained about how often the elevator was out of order. So apparently this Finn had thought it worth it to come all the way down here, just to glare at me. Or maybe he’d done it just to get a look at me, so he’d be able to give a good description to the cops, in case I kidnapped Rey and murdered her?
I opened the door on the passenger side for Rey, and when she was settled in and I had closed it again, I turned my head and smiled a little in Finn’s direction. It worked like a charm, he positively bristled.
Okay, so maybe he was jealous. I didn’t know anything about him, but I knew he didn’t own a Lexus, no one living around here did, and I knew he didn’t have a beach house in Chandrila. But as satisfying as that small moment of victory was, when I got in behind the wheel, it had already faded away.
She’d said ‘roommate’, but maybe he was her boyfriend? She had mentioned him a few times before and always called him ‘my friend’, but that could be just for the sake of privacy. Maybe she didn’t want anyone in the office to know anything about her love life. A dark feeling spread through my chest. No, I decided, he couldn’t be her boyfriend. A boyfriend wouldn’t let her go away for a week with another guy, even if it was just as friends, and for moral support, and whatever else she might have told him.
The sun was shining from a clear blue sky. Rey slipped a pair of sunglasses from her purse and put them on.
“Could you… I think there’s a pair of sunglasses in the glove compartment,” I said.
I could reach it myself, but that would put me in too close proximity to her legs, her bare knees. She opened the glove compartment and found the sunglasses. She handed them to me.
“Ray-Bans,” she said. “Nice.”
I shot her a glance. Hers were the aviator kind, with mirrored lenses. Not Ray-Bans.
“Wanna switch?” I said.
She laughed and I felt pleased. I liked the sound of her laugh.
“I don’t think you want to do that,” she said. “I bought these at a gas station.”
“I don’t care.”
It was true, I didn’t. Sure, I bought designer clothes and stuff, because I could and because I wanted people to know I could. But she worked for me, she already knew I made a lot of money and I was much more concerned with making her smile.
“Okay,” she said after a moment. “I can borrow yours, and you can borrow mine.”
I took off my sunglasses again and we traded. It felt oddly intimate, putting on her pair, just as it felt seeing her wearing mine.
“They look good on you,” she said.
I knew it was just something you said, and I knew I was far from good-looking, but I felt good hearing her say that anyway.
“Those look good on you,” I replied.
She smiled. God, her dimples did things to me. All of her did, actually, but she was so cute and her smile made her even cuter. I turned my attention back to the road, because I had to, but also because I was worried I might actually get an erection if I kept thinking about how hot she was.
“So, are there a lot of people coming?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Probably.”
“No.” Pretty much all our relatives were dead and both of my parents were only children so I’d never had any cousins. “My brother is probably coming.”
“You have a brother?”
She sounded surprised. I wasn’t sure why. I’d probably never mentioned Hux to her, but then I hardly ever saw him and there was no reason I would mention him to anyone.
“Is he older or younger than you?” she asked.
“How much older?”
“Five years. Do you have any siblings?”
I shot her a glance.
It was quiet for a few seconds and I tried to think of something more to say.
“But Finn is like a brother,” she said.
So, definitely not boyfriend then. A wave of relief surged through me.
I knew her statement was meant as a positive thing, a way to describe how close they were, so most likely he wasn’t anything like my brother. She wouldn’t want Hux for a brother. I didn’t think anyone would. I certainly didn’t.
“Are you close, you and your brother?” she asked.
She didn’t ask any more questions about Hux, which was a bit of a relief. She’d be meeting him soon enough, so she would see for herself. We talked about other things, work, a new TV series, which I had seen, but she hadn’t, so that subject died down pretty fast.
I’d found her easy to talk to, that was part of why I liked her, but we’d never talked this much about non work related things and I realized that what I had thought of as friendly moments in the office, really boiled down to maybe just a few minutes a day.
The next thing she said hammered that home.
“Should I call you Ben or Mr Solo? I mean, while we’re here?”
I could hear the uncertainty in her voice and I kept my gaze on the road, trying to push down something that felt sort of like disappointment.
“Ben is fine.”