Home > Butterflies in Honey (Growing Pains #3)

Butterflies in Honey (Growing Pains #3)
Author: K.F. Breene

Chapter One

“You wanna do dinner?”

Krista was sitting at her desk bent over a graph. She’d been hard at it so long, the numbers were starting to blur. She didn’t want to go home. All that was waiting for her was an empty fridge, a bitchy cat, and a TV dinner.

Her not-so-new boyfriend, Chet, was standing in the doorway of her medium-sized office, a hopeful smile on his face. He was looking good today. He had on a blue blazer with khakis. His athletic frame took up the doorway as he waited for her answer. He had short brown hair, perfect skin, and deep brown eyes. He was a model once upon a time, but now he was in Marketing. Talk about a fall from grace.

“Oh sorry, can’t tonight. I have to get everything together for the proposal.” Krista pointed to her desk and the neatly stacked papers.

“Alright, no big deal. Well, maybe tomorrow?”

Chet was nothing if not persistent. It was why she finally agreed to date him. And then to don the girlfriend title. And was still with him. She turned him down as much as she said yes, but he was never deterred. “Tomorrow is fine, yeah.”

He hit the door with a smile, gave her a nod, and walked out. He was a good looking guy with a nice body. What’s more, he was nice to her, made a good living, and was grown up. He was a great catch...

She sighed and clutched her lucky mug. It was the same mug she had used in San Francisco. It was the one Sean bought her with the gift card about a million tears ago. When she first got the job working for Tory in Los Angeles, she thought about getting a new mug. After all, that was the deal: with each new semester, a new mug; with each new job, the same thing.

Except for this mug. This one was so lucky, she hated to let it go. It constantly brought her good juju. To prove it, all she had to do was look around. A few years out of college and she had a high paying job with a boss that was trying to groom her for big things, a ladder without a ceiling, and respect from her peers. People actually greeted her by name these days—people she’d never even met! They greeted her with smiles!

Good juju aside, the real reason for keeping the mug was that it reminded her of Sean. He was as big a part of her climb as anything. More so, perhaps. Together they made magic happen, inside of work and out. She just couldn’t let that memory go. She just couldn’t.

And so, her lucky mug shadowed her everywhere. Business meetings, conferences, crossing borders to different states—where she went, her lucky mug went, too. And guess what—no suicide watch needed. It hadn’t tried to jump off a desk once!

Krista sighed again—she was as bad as Mr. Montgomery, her old boss. For sighing, she often got Thump Birds via Skype from her good friend, Jasmine, and rolled eyes from her other BFF, Kate; but they didn’t help. These days she was even imagining her lucky mug sighing with her. That’s how bad it was.

She allowed herself a few stray thoughts solely of Sean. She wondered what he was doing right then. It was too late to surf, but maybe he was running or doing their workout routine on the beach. She wondered if he’d changed in the last two years he’d been away from her. And most importantly, she wondered if he ever thought of her. If he had an easy time moving on. Unlike her.

Kate and Jasmine didn’t have all that much interaction with him, even though they still worked at the same company . They didn’t have to in order to know he was hitting Dexico, her old company, like a falling star. If sales were a batting average, he would be batting 1,000. He had been in the Junior VP position for a year by then and Ray was his right hand man. The two of them were shaking it up.

Under his reign, he realigned the entire Sales team. He cut down the staff numbers, but increased the sales, making the company’s revenue blossom. He roped one big account after another, managing all the sales with his expert eye. Kate once said she was worried about him, that he worked long hours and set overly high expectations. But he always hit his mark.

He was nothing if not ambitious.

Secretly, Krista was happy he worked long hours. It selfishly meant he didn’t have time to find somebody new. She felt bad for thinking it—she really did want the best for him—but sometimes, in moments of pain, she couldn’t help herself. She missed him terribly. There wasn’t a day that went by in the last two years that she didn’t think of him. It was less now than in the beginning, and she seldom cried over him anymore, but he was always there. Sean was the one that got away.

The dad to her bastardized lucky mug.

Krista rubbed her eyes and looked back down at her piles of graphs and numbers. Tory was right, he could wring a person until they pleaded for mercy.

Since the day she started, Tory was in close contact with her and her boss. She was guided and molded, pushed and prodded. Her work ethic was preyed upon and her break neck pace was used to its fullest. Within three months, she was churning out work like she was born into the role. Inside of a year, she was made head of her department, Marketing Analysis, by her boss (Tory hadn’t made the suggestion, but approved it immediately). Krista’s job, as it stood, was basically to meet with everyone to which they outsourced their marketing and validate their data.

To say Krista did her job well would be an understatement.

Where Sean was earning a reputation as an unstoppable force, Krista’s reputation was a giant brick wall. It was rare that she didn’t ask for more thorough information from presenters. She could catch a trick of numbers without batting an eye. In the beginning, she would point it out right away. Learning from Tory, though, she started to set traps with the information and wait to see if the company was trying to pull a fast one, or if there was a legitimate explanation available. Maybe even a mistake or two.

The companies she dealt with often, which numbered about ten, started learning what she wanted to see, and started giving her exactly that. She also got presents at Christmas, and on her birthday. She even got her coffee in pourable containers so she could use her lucky mug. One company got her a mug stand, of all things. It was a heating pad you could put your mug on to keep the contents warm.

Krista worried the heat directly on the porcelain would crack it, so she didn’t use it. She never saw the mug stand again. That was how pampered she was.

Krista felt like a celebrity sometimes. A mean, bitchy, cold-hearted celebrity that gave bad news as often as good.

But still, she felt like a celebrity. Everyone had to be known for something.

Krista saw Marcus and Ben often. Tory wanted to structure them into the Marketing department together since they knew each other so well and fed off each other. They might be out for coffee, or lunch, and come up with a fantastic idea. Marcus was the dreamer, Krista, the do’er, and Ben, the gloss. Once, they even came up with a product idea. Tory laughed himself silly with that one. But it sold. Not a ton, but it did sell.

And they got royalties!

Like she wanted to a million years ago, she finally picked up surfing on the proper California beaches. She headed out to the waves whenever she could. That and running were the times she turned off her brain and just went with nature. Sometimes, when she was sitting out in the ocean waiting for the perfect wave, or pushing her legs to the next mile on the beach, or even doing a new yoga pose she hadn’t quite mastered, she would smell the ocean breeze and feel the sun on her face, and feel close to Sean.

Those moments were probably the happiest moments in that strange new city. They were also the loneliest.

Krista sighed again and brought her mind back to work. She didn’t really have much more to do. It was all just organization. She really could have gone out with Chet. She really could use some sex.

Krista shut everything down. As she was putting away her pens, Marcus sauntered in. Happy to see a face she knew longer than two years of her life, even if not much longer, she leaned back and smiled. “Marcus, just the man I wanted to see.”

“Perfect reception,” he said, sitting down in her visitor chair and stretching out his legs. He worked as hard as she did, but managed to keep his social status alive and well. The Dark Hub, what he called his desk, was in full scale social networking action. There wasn’t much that went on that Marcus didn’t hear about. Beside his paycheck and various boyfriends, nothing changed with the striking fellow.

“I need a dose of gossip. What are my people saying about me?” Krista asked, leaning back and putting her legs on her desk.

“Eh. Same ol’, same ol’. You are a slave driving bitch of a boss, but at least you are the coolest one in the company.”

Krista rolled her eyes. “I still don’t get that dichotomy.”

“They don’t know what working hard is unless they’ve worked for Tory. By the way, he put another trip on our calendar.”

She groaned and closed her eyes. Marcus and Krista traveled constantly. Constantly. She went somewhere at least twice a month, often once a week. Sometimes they were sent just to check on a current client— to hear an idea or go over some data. Lately, he had them checking on other branches, looking at numbers, but only meeting low-level number crunchers instead of the usual high-level idea people.

Tory had something in the works, but damned if they knew what it was. It was big, they were involved somehow, and that was all they knew. Not even Marcus could figure out why a creative marketing person would need to go on all the numbers excursions. Nobody was talking.

“Where this time? I just got back from Texas,” Krista asked, once again rubbing her eyes.

Marcus paused a beat before he said, “San Francisco.”

Krista got a jolt of apprehension. “Which company?” she asked quietly.

Marcus just looked at her, raising his eyebrows slightly. Krista broke out in a sweat and tears came to her eyes.

“Have you talked to him since you left?” Marcus asked. They both knew who he meant.

Krista shook her head. “Not once. What have you heard?”

“I’m still in contact with Judy. How much do you want to know?”

Krista didn’t want to know anything, but at the same time, she wanted to know everything. She figured she should get the worst out of the way now before she was slapped with it later.

“Is he… does he…” She couldn’t finish the sentence.

“Have someone? The rumor is that he was seeing someone regularly for a while. A tall blonde. Beautiful girl. He hasn’t been with anyone in the office since you left, though. Not even an ‘oops.’ But Judy thinks there might be someone outside the office. Probably that blonde.”

Krista nodded. Sean was an outrageously attractive guy. How could she possibly have thought he wouldn’t easily find another girl?

Still, she couldn’t help but wonder—with as close as Sean was to his sister, Cassie, and the fact she’d moved to San Francisco, and that the description was basically hers—could Krista dare hope the rumor mill was just that? Unfounded rumors?

Hope was a dangerous thing.

Krista had to remind herself that it didn’t matter, Sean wouldn’t communicate with her. He meant it when he said clean break. Plus, Jim, her violent ex-boyfriend that showed up in San Francisco two years ago to try and forcefully drag her back to Seattle, got out of prison a while back and turned up at her old house. Abbey had to call the cops because Jim was convinced she was hiding Krista. Sean had said he didn’t want information on her in case he ever ran into Jim. Or so he said. It sounded a little farfetched when she thought about it now.

“Does he—do you know if he ever…asks about me?” she stammered.

Marcus looked at her softly. “He’s never asked Judy directly, but a couple times she was telling others how you were and he stopped to listen.”

She nodded again, a tear overflowing.

“Geegee, you know I love you, right?”

She held back a sob, tears now making black streamers down her face.

“Well, honey, you gotta move on. It’s been two years. If he hasn’t come for you yet, he ain’t gonna, you know? And you have that hot little number looking after you, with another dozen on the hold list. Pick one. Get married. Give Gay Uncle Marcus fat babies. You know?”

She cried harder. It was going to be one of those nights. Marcus came around the desk and hugged her as she cried into his shirt. It had been two long years and the break still seemed fresh. The hurt was so sharp, she wondered if she would bleed out before it healed.

That night she cried herself to sleep with the windows open, listening to the sound of the ocean. She’d be a liar if she said she wasn’t thinking of Sean the whole time.

~*~*~*~

Sean sat at his desk looking out the window. She was coming to San Francisco. She would be here tomorrow. She would be in the same room, breathing the same air, in less than twenty-four hours. Sean’s chest was nearly exploding. He wasn’t quite sure how he felt about it. She had someone else now. She’d had someone else for a whole year. Someone constant. A man that treated her well and bought her things. Sean had seen a picture—the man was attractive.

She had moved on.

“Daydreaming?” Ray asked as he walked in.

Sean startled and looked at Ray. “Just thinking.”

“Are we ready for tomorrow?”

Ray had barely aged in the last two years. Unlike Sean, Ray refused to work crazy hours. He refused to give his free time to an employer. He had a family to get back to at the end of the day. And while Sean had Cassie, she had friends and occasional boyfriends and a life, she was often elsewhere when Sean got home. All that awaited him was an empty house and an occasional unfulfilling lover.

Sean rubbed his eyes. He was tired, on a great many levels. “As ready as we’ll ever be. I doubt they will use us.”

“Then why the meeting?”

Sean looked out the window again. “You know why. Tory is trying to moonlight me.”

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