"A promotion?!" Andie exclaimed.
She sat on a stool, eating from a plate on the kitchen island. A homemade pizza covered a circular tray. It filled up the center space. 4 types of cheese coated on top of sliced tomatoes and the sauce. Other than sprinkles of mozzarella, parmesan and cheddar, the pizza also had bite cubes of feta cheese.
A whole world of flavor exploded in every bite.
"Yes, a promotion." Eve confirmed, sitting across from her best friend. She picked up her can of root beer and sipped. They were having a mini party since Andie was gone for three days. Both girls wore their favorite sleepwear of fuzzy pajamas and yoga pants.
"Holy shi—!" Andie choked. She put down her pizza slice and drank from some water. "We have to celebrate! Let's arrange another picnic. I will make a feast."
A promotion after 5 years of service! Her best friend deserved it. She'd knee anyone who would protest. Not everyone could keep up with a demanding CEO. Eve also dealt with his dates and his family members—something out of her job description.
"I am not being promoted yet." Eve placed the can back on the table. She ripped off a piece of her pizza. Then, she dipped it in marinara sauce. She loved how the feta cheese would burst in her mouth.
Her best friend scowled. "Why not?"
"It's just an option for the future. I need training first."
'Lots of training,' she added to herself and chewed slowly. She had no idea what to expect. Her boss demanded excellence. If she slipped up once, it might trigger him. She wanted to avoid that at all costs.
If she used Evangeline and asked him the details, would that be considered cheating? If Ambryan found out, she could just explain that she wanted to do an exceptional job. He'd forgive that, wouldn't he?
"Well," Andie huffed. She placed her hands on her hips and tilted her head to the side. The light reflected in her stormy blue eyes. "How are you going to train?"
"Sir Hathaway will." Eve answered. She tore another piece. This time, she used both marinara and cheese sauce. The latter had a bit of jalapeno. It brought the pizza to new levels. Maybe next time they'd have more toppings.
"He will…" Andie dragged, cocking an eyebrow. "Teach you?"
Eve licked her bottom lip. She tasted a dash of cheese sauce. "Sort of?"
Her best friend shook her head, scoffing. She shifted her gaze towards her plate. Unlike Eve, Andie enjoyed her cheese pizza just the way it is. She did add a bit of hot sauce sometimes though.
"I don't know which I ship better," she started to say, taking a bite. "Everlee and Ambryan or Evangeline and Ambryan?"
"Neither." Eve choked on a piece. The jalapeno burned in her throat. She closed her eyes as rapid fire spread across her neck. Her hand tapped on the kitchen island, searching for her root beer. She drained all of it in one gulp.
The can clattered on the table when she slammed it down. She panted, catching her breath.
'Evangeline and Ambryan' Eve understood since they would date—but 'Everlee and Ambryan'? As secretary and CEO? Highly unlikely. Because of the five rules, they maintained a pure business relationship. More than that was impossible.
Andie pouted her lips. "Aw, come on. Evryan has a ring to it."
Eve was glad that she hadn't eaten anything yet. Her best friend's statement almost caused another choking incident. It might be for the best that she wouldn't take another bite until the topic changed.
"It sounds like 'everyone'," she groaned. Eh-vree-yan? She flinched when she repeated it in her head. What horrible names they had. At least, horrible enough to not be joint together. It was a sign—a sign that they weren't meant to be.
Unfortunately for her, Andie had the opposite opinion.
"Exactly!" Her best friend blurted out. "And both of your names have 'E' and 'V'. It's perfect. It can work for either Everlee or Evangeline. It solves my problem."
"It is far from perfect," Eve retorted. It was only half the attempt. Her gut told her that Andie wouldn't change her mind. She focused back on the food, taking smaller bites.
"It is!" Andie insisted. She cackled at herself. "If he falls for either one, it's still you."
Ambryan wouldn't be her first choice for her best friend. She had tried to convince Eve to date many times before. Each one shot down because of 'lack of time'. Since she spent so much time with her boss anyway, Andie would just settle for him.
She would skewer him later instead.
"Sir Hathaway is unlikely to fall." Eve snorted. She took another slice and put it on her plate. It now had splashes of marinara and cheese sauce. She used the crust to wipe them off.
"Suit yourself." Her best friend rolled her eyes. "Anything can happen in 9 months. I'll be the one laughing when you wear a ring on your finger."
Cale Fisher sat on a velvet sofa. He had his legs crossed and leaned on the backrest. His thumbs tapped on his phone screen, replying to messages. Golden chain dangled on his teal suit's breast pocket. The accessory coupled with the buttons of his matching vest underneath. A silk black tie hung from his neck.
He wore a serene expression, humming to himself. The world outside of the shop became dark. On the counter beside him, the receptionist had left to attend to a customer inside.
A wind chime jingled from the entrance.
The modelling manager looked up.
He hid his phone and rose to his feet. His beaming smile showed off his pearly white teeth. It stretched his lips so wide that it became hard to see his aqua blue eyes.
"Eve! So good to see you!" Cale squealed, hugging his new model. He pulled away after a second and gripped her upper arms. "I heard you have a date this Saturday?"
"Cale," Eve chuckled. The energy was simply infectious. It even lifted her lips into a smile. "It's good to see you too but it's a meet up not a date."
Before the end of her office hours, Avery sent her an 'urgent' message. It stated that Cale could only help her this evening. The first meeting with Ambryan was only two days away and Cale would attend another event. The makeover had to be done now.
They needed to use their time efficiently.
"Oh, technicalities." Cale folded his hands hard, waving them downwards once. "You and Yan will still see each other. That's what matters."
Eve chose not to say anything else. Her brown eyes swept across the establishment. Whoever did the interior loved gold. Every surface gleamed like newly polished glass. The only colors that stood out were the red velvet coach and the leaves from potted plants.
If she sniffed, would she know what wealth smelled like?
"Where are you meeting each other?" Cale asked, leading her towards the back.
Behind the receptionist's desk, several hallways led to different private rooms. Customers merely browse a catalog for the clothes they want to try. It followed old traditions of tailoring and dressmaking. The use of large dressing rooms was to instantly measure the adjustments.
Every item was altered to fit the customer, believing that clothes worked best when it accentuated a person's figure. The right trim could bring out confidence and make someone feel beautiful.
'All of this… for the meetup?' Eve felt intimidated. Compared to this luxurious place, she seemed as small as a mouse. She had expected something that resembled boutiques and department stores. This was way out of her league.
"I am actually not sure," she finally replied after the initial shock. "I just said to see him in a week."
The appointment today came so sudden. She previously planned to message Ambryan tomorrow. Avery didn't remind her to check out notifications. She assumed there hadn't been any. Her boss was also busy because of the meeting with the board of directors.
Nothing hinted her to reach out—until now.
Cale frowned on one lip corner. He crossed his arms over his chest. "But you have the app now, right? Why don't you ask him? If we'll pick out your outfit, I want it to be appropriate for the occasion."
"I..." Eve scowled.
"Oh, for heaven's sake!" He exclaimed, spinning on his heel. He led her to a reserved room and chatted away. "The both of you should learn that communication is key. You can't date for 9 months and not talk. Since Evangeline can't see him while Eve is working, you'll have to get used to digital talking."
"I do talk to him though," Eve defended, whining a little. "Except it's only as Eve. I can't really ask him about the date unless he does. He hasn't asked anything at all, not even a reservation for somewhere."
The room had a round platform with three mirrors. A curtain hung from a circular beam. She guessed it was meant for changing. A vanity mirror was pushed against the north wall. Studio like lights suspended from the ceiling.
Other than those, the design of the small room catered to lounging for other guests.
Cale sat down on another velvet couch. A coffee table filled with catalogs stood in front of it. His fingers walked across the covers, his eyes searching for the correct one. He yanked it and flipped to the first page.
Then, he patted the spot next to him.
Eve immediately understood and took a seat.
"I know this is new to you, Eve," Cale exhaled sharply. His gaze never left the catalog. "Of course, we don't expect you to chat while at work. It's risky to do so. What you should do, even once every night, is to send him one message. If he replies and you're awake, good. Talk. If not, well, there is the next day."
Silence fell in the room. Only the sound of flipping pages pierced the air. Eve bit her inner cheek. She knew she had to contact Ambryan. Except…, she relied on him to make the first move.
Was that bad?
After a few more seconds, Cale raised his chin and met uneasy brown eyes. His heart softened at the sight. His hands reached for Eve's and patted them. "It will take time but you will get used to it. Why don't you try out the app now?"