I was intrigued. “How do you blow off steam?”
“Uh, okay. Where?”
“There are a few clubs I go to with friends. We toss back a few and dance all night. It’s a great workout. But I guess that’s not your ‘scene’ either.”
“No, not really, but I’d like to be fair. And I wouldn’t mind spending some more time with you, so let’s do this.”
She raised her refilled glass to my empty one, which seemed fitting.
“Are we toasting?” I laughed.
“I think it’s only appropriate that we do. Having little faith in your ability to convert me into a gym rat, I’d feel better if I bookended this experience with some vodka.”
I raised my glass and clinked it with hers. “Cheers, then.”
“To new memories.” She tipped the glass to her lips.
MAYA. The waiter sat us by the window and the steady rush of traffic outside held my attention until Jia spoke.
“So who’s the guy?”
I gave her a blank stare. “Who?”
“I mean the one who had you pressed against the building the other day.” Her lips curved into a secretive grin. “I was having lunch across the street when you came back.”
I couldn’t see myself but I knew I’d turned beet red. Mortifying just wasn’t the right word. “Oh, God. I’m sorry. That was—”
She laughed. “I don’t care. Looked pretty intense, actually. Is he your boyfriend?”
“No. An ex.”
“That’s always interesting. You getting back together?”
I bit my lip and glanced across the restaurant, wishing the server would return so I didn’t have to divulge any of my confused thoughts surrounding Cameron’s reemergence into my life.
Rejecting his advances that day had been easier than it was to push away from his attempts to simply spend time with me. Letting him get close was too natural a reaction. I could almost fool myself into thinking we were young and in love again, that nothing or no one else mattered. Only I had no interest in falling in love with anyone. The mere thought of it scared the hell out of me. So did simply eliminating Cameron from my life again, even though that seemed like the only way to keep myself safe from any potentially painful fallout.
Maybe taking him up on his offer was an emotionally reckless thing to do, but I wasn’t ready to see him walk away again. Plus this could be the shove I needed to get my a*s into shape, and staring at his beautiful body wasn’t a bad way to do it.
I looked back to find Jia waiting for my answer. “We’re catching up, I guess.”
She smiled. “I see.”
“Not like that. I mean, we haven’t seen each other in years, and we realized that we live in the same neighborhood. I guess I’m seeing how it goes, getting to know him again. I’m not really looking for a relationship though.”
“I can see that. Not like work isn’t consuming enough. I don’t really have time for dating either. Serious dating anyway.”
“Seems like you’re doing really well at the company.”
She nodded, but I wanted to know more.
“You’re young to have come as far as you have, Jia. I hope you don’t mind me saying that.” I hesitated as the words left me, briefly regretting them. She was being blunt asking me personal questions though. Plus she’d invited me here, not the other way around, so I might as well see what she was made of. The server came to take our orders, delaying her response, which made me even more nervous.
As soon as he left she spoke. “Not at all. You’re saying what everyone is thinking, and I realize that. It’s not easy being a young woman in this field. Plus if you’re attractive, everyone assumes you’re f*****g your way to the top.”
I bit my lip, not wanting to let on that everyone I’d talked to about Jia had had something to say about her rumored history at the other firm. People were so shallow. Was that what I wanted if I ever managed to crawl out of my cubicle and get promoted? People speculating on the cause for any success I earned?
“I know I’m younger than most of my male colleagues, but I’m not here to make friends,” she said. “This is my career, and I intend to keep it moving forward, no matter what.”
“Me too. I just want to get the job done. But that never seems to be enough.”
“It isn’t. You have to play the game. There’s no way around it.”
My heart sank. She’d confirmed what I’d believed to be true and had refused to engage in for years now. “Don’t you find the politics tedious?”