Valerie strode to the fridge, her stilettos clicking a jazzy rhythm. As she opened the door and poked her head into the cold icebox, she said, “Ky, is Shawn in yet?”
“Not yet. Why?” Water sloshed in Kyler’s cup as she filled it from the cooler.
Junming noted the unfamiliar name in his head. He would ask Kyler who that was later. For now, he leaned back and listened in.
“Send him to me once he’s in.” Valerie closed the fridge door, now with a packaged muffin in her hand.
Kyler chortled. “I thought you said no sex in the office.”
Eyes widening, Junming almost choked on his saliva. “What-”
“It’s not that!” Valerie snapped. The growing shade of red tainting her ears betrayed the sharpness of her voice. “That idiot filed his medical claim wrongly and he doesn’t seem to understand plain English when it’s written in emails or text messages-”
“Oh, there’s no need to explain everything, Val. I understand perfectly.” Grinning like a Cheshire cat, Kyler reveled in the scowl darkening her older sister’s expression. “I’ll tell him that you want him in your office.”
Junming bit back a laugh, his eyes averting Valerie’s glare. Whoever this Shawn was, there had to be some history between him and the bossy manager.
“Ugh. Whatever.” Valerie huffed, blowing a stray strand of hair away from her face. She gripped the muffin and stalked out of the pantry, her heels clacking angrily on the floor.
When she was gone, Junming and Kyler burst out laughing. Through hiccuping breaths, Junming said, “I-Is she always that fun to tease?”
“You have no idea.” As Kyler’s giggles died down, she motioned to the entrance. “Let’s head back.”
“Okay.” Junming trailed her down the corridor. “Who is Shawn by the way?”
“Oh, you haven’t met him yet. He’s one of the ConDuit engineers in charge of developing the RomCon app.”
Nudging Kyler, Junming lowered his voice in a conspiratorial whisper. “And what is his relation to Valerie?”
“He has a crush on her.” Kyler chuckled, the volume of her voice matching Junming’s. “And I have a feeling she kind of likes him a bit too.”
A weight landed on Kyler and Junming’s shoulders followed by a chirpy voice. “The ice queen, Val, has feelings too.”
“Jamal?” Kyler squeaked, her cheeks turning red at the sight of a grinning face planted between her and Junming.
“You scared us!” Junming exclaimed. His heart raced like a beast. The weight of Jamal’s arm on his shoulder and the distance between their faces were going to give him a heart attack at this rate.
Jamal lifted his arms off their shoulders and chuckled. “My job is done.”
“Your job has just started, you know,” Kyler admonished with a twinkle in her eyes. “Or else the ice queen will freeze your heart.”
“Oh dear, I can’t have that.” Frowning, Jamal pretended to ponder on the threat. “I wouldn’t be able to feel anything for my dear colleagues anymore.”
“Stop it,” Junming said between chuckles. “We really need to get started. I have a new assignment.”
“Right! You should go.” Kyler smiled and gave Junming an encouraging push on his back. “Let me know if you need any help.”
As Junming thanked her, he realized how different the work environment in RomCon was compared to his previous jobs. He had grown so used to fending for himself that it became unnatural for him to seek help. Maybe this was the difference between a startup and a large, traditional company.
Settling into his seat, Junming felt even more eager to start his next assignment. He rubbed his hands together. If he could pull this off without a hitch, he could keep on working here for as long as he wanted.
“Let’s go,” he said under his breath to himself.
He turned on his computer. As the circle on the welcome screen spun, he listened to Jamal talk to a client on the phone. Jamal’s tone was soothing, yet professional, and carried a hint of charm that Junming found endearing.
By the time Jamal hung up, Junming had already logged in and opened up the RomCon app. He heard Jamal rustle around before standing up with his bag.
“Going somewhere?” Junming asked.
“Yeah, the client is freaking out. I’ll be back before lunch. Save a spot for me, yeah?”
Junming laughed. “We can’t start without you.”
“I know you can’t.” Jamal’s wink sent Junming’s heart into a frenzied state.
Luckily, the cause of Junming’s heart attack ducked out of the cubicles, leaving Junming to nurse his aching chest. He gave a soft exhale and shook off the pink dusting his cheeks. Time to concentrate on his work.
One request sat in his inbox. He opened it.
Scenario Type: Events
Deadline: Today, 15:59
Budget: Below $20
Venue: Somewhere between my office and my boyfriend’s office
Description: I want to rekindle the passion between me and my boyfriend. We can’t meet at each other’s apartments (we live with family). And we can’t afford a hotel. We’re also busy with work and family matters. I just need an excuse to bring him so close that he will have no choice but to take me in his arms and kiss me.
Junming felt an arrow lodge in his chest. Reading the client’s request reminded him of his first ex-boyfriend. His first love was as painful as what every book and song said about that matter. No matter what he did to revive the love they felt for each other, he had failed. His mother had hugged him for hours as he cried, reassuring him that it wasn’t his fault.
It had been his first bitter lesson in love. Having a wonderful, passionate three-month whirlwind romance didn’t guarantee that it would last forever. Sometimes, the people simply weren’t right for each other. Yet, a small voice in his head would occasionally pop up to whisper that the relationship died because of him.
A bout of sadness washed over Junming. Shaking his head, he vowed he wouldn’t let that happen to this sweet lady who wrote in to RomCon. This time, he won’t make the same mistakes. He reached for the Romance Uncliched manual, pulling it towards himself.
Time to do some reading.
Author's Notes: Speaking of reading, here's another recommendation for you. Check out Psychobott's novel, The Kitty Cat's Mates, if you're into werewolves and poly relationships! Link to the novel is in the description below.
Aha, Shawn, so he has the way to get under Val’s cool exterior 😉
The way Junming is acting around Jamal is so cute, very flustered in a first love kind of way (even though it’s not!). Poor guy really does beat himself up about a lot though… Just makes you want to take him home and feed him ice cream!
Hopeless romantic Yu Junming is over the moon when he lands a job at the RomCon startup as a ConCoct agent. From meet-cutes to ultimate airport runs, he must re-enact surreal romantic scenes to fit a client’s dreams. Sadly, he botches his assignments and learns the hard way that romance needs a dash of practicality.
Despite his track record, he’s soon tasked to help his boss, Grayson Black - a die-hard cynic who dislikes him at first sight - to find love. Through disastrous dates, the two men grow closer and realize there’s more to each other than meets the eye.
Junming fantasizes of seeing even more of Grayson but he also finds himself drawn to Fernanda Morales, a spunky and eccentric undercover reporter who masquerades as a RomCon client. When Fernanda unexpectedly ends up heartbroken after an awful date, she falls for Junming. Pitiably ignorant of her mission to dig up dirt on RomCon, Junming is stuck between two people and a hard place called reality.
(Book cover done by Joanne Kwan: https://tapas.io/dashalutris
Banner done by Frappe7: https://www.instagram.com/frappitto/?hl=en)