“Greetings, Mr. Creed, and welcome back to the ‘Smilesville’ hotel!” an attractive brunette with the name ‘Christine’ on her badge announced jubilantly from behind the reception desk. “We’re so glad to have you here again!”
As she addressed those words of salute, a tall, broad-shouldered figure walked in through the hotel’s main entrance and confidently headed toward the reception area. He was a man in his late twenties, dressed in a long black coat with a wine-colored scarf coiled around his neck. His shaggy ash-blond hair looked slightly unkempt, but the carefully stylized beard adorning his handsome face was an unmistakable sign of a man taking quite some pain to look after him. His whole visage and stature emanated with plenty of self-assurance and manly charisma, which could be easily sensed even by those who had never met him before or didn’t know him too close. His name was Tyler Creed, and even despite his relatively young age, he’d already managed to become quite a habitue at the Smilesville hotel. Thus, every time he honored the place with his presence, it always became a landmark event for the local personnel.
Upon approaching the reception desk, Tyler casually leaned on it with his elbows, arms crossed on his chest. Then, acting on what felt already like an instinct, he pulled out of his coat’s inside pocket his ID, even though the receptionist had not yet asked him for one. After more than forty stays at this hotel, the move was now coming to him rather reflexively than consciously.
“Well I’m glad that you’re glad,” he spoke to the receptionist in his orchidaceous velvet baritone which was so adored by the women he used it with. “And I’m also glad to see you again, Christine. You look just as gorgeous as ever.”
The young girl chuckled shyly, her innately pale cheeks lighting up with some tiny spots of blush.
“Aww, thank you, Mr. Creed!” she replied cheerfully and eagerly took his ID to start checking it against the client database on her computer. “You’re always such a gent!”
Tyler smiled complacently, feeling pleased with himself like he always was in such moments. Whenever he checked in or out of the Smilesville during Christine’s shifts at the reception, he never missed an opportunity to flirt with her like that. However, he wasn’t doing that for the sake of getting her into bed like he would do with most other women to get within his charm range. As beautiful and cute as that young girl was, Tyler considered her way too innocent and immature for the kind of relationship he preferred to have with the members of the opposite sex. Besides, his motivation for being nice to people like Christine actually stemmed from following an entirely different agenda. Being a sales manager in a prominent international company, Tyler had long learned that showing respect to service staff was one of the key elements of every successful business career. Some narrow-minded businessmen would often disregard that simple truth, arrogantly believing themselves to be above such things as mollycoddling some lower-level menials. However, Tyler knew all too well that being rude to a waiter in a restaurant could easily result in this waiter spitting in your plate while you’re not looking his way. Thus, when communicating with any person who could exercise even a measure of control over his daily life and comfort, he always made sure to be a little extra friendly, just to avoid possible complications or potentially earn a few bonuses that could come along with that.
“How was your flight, by the way?” Christine continued maintaining the conversation with him as she slowly typed up Tyler’s ID number into the search field of her database program.
“A little longer than I’d hoped for, but nothing to complain about,” he replied easily. “After all, when you know that there’s your favorite hotel awaiting you at the end of your track, you can’t help but forget about the passage of time.”
Deep down inside, Tyler was just being sly. A trip from the city of New Nevergrimton where he resided to Warrensworth where he was now always took no less than a two-hour flight, and Tyler hated spending more than an hour aboard a plane. He stood at 6 feet 4” and he wasn’t a skinny type of guy either, so sitting in a cramped airplane seat for too long could do quite a number on his knees, thighs and back. On top of that, despite being two times smaller than his hometown of New Nevergrimton in terms of both territory and population, thanks to the recent growth spurt of the local shipping industry Warrensworth had now begun to fall victim to the same scourges the big cities in America suffered from. One of those was the issue of traffic jams. What used to take Tyler only 15-20 minutes to get from the Warrensworth Airport to the Smilesville hotel just a few months ago would now keep him stuck in a cab crawling through the town’s gridlocked lanes and highways for nearly a whole hour. Being a big city boy himself, Tyler was supposed to be accustomed to such things. However, when travelling to a former rural location like Warrensworth, this was something he would hope to take some break from.
“Thanks, Mr. Creed,” Christine said in response to his compliment on the hotel. “I take it that your personal data and credit card info haven’t changed since the last time you visited us.”
Tyler grinned again, already having another smart reply prepared for this question too.
“Well, if you wonder if I have by any chance got married since my last visit here,” he said coyly, “Then there’s no reason for you to worry, sweetheart – I’m still single and, for that matter, open to any suggestions.”
Christine chuckled again, the blush on her cheeks intensifying.
“Please, Mr. Creed,” she said awkwardly, “You’re already making my toes curl.”
The lupine grin on Tyler’s face mellowed out a little.
“Sorry, Christine – I didn’t mean to discomfort you,” he said in a caring tone, “Just wanted to share some positive energy with someone who rightfully deserves it.”
The girl was trying had to fixate on her computer screen, but avoiding an eye-contact with someone so endearing was close to impossible.
“Thank you so much, Mr. Creed,” she said, finally shifting her gaze from the monitor back to the seductive hazel eyes of her favorite hotel guest. “You’re staying here only one night, correct?”
“Unfortunately so,” Tyler replied with contrived regret. “I wish I could remain in this beautiful place just a little longer, but, alas, I have to go to Knoxville for another key account meeting a night after tomorrow.”
Christine smiled sadly and proceeded with her keyboard-typing and mouse-clicking routine.
“That’s really unfortunate,” the girl sounded genuinely upset. “Is there a chance you’ll be coming over again anytime soon?”
“Well,” he began to answer, channeling as much of his inner sweet-talker as possible, “As long as marine business continues to blossom in the good town of Warrensworth like it does now, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of reasons to come over more and more often.”
Once again, Tyler was lying through his teeth. He hated travelling to Warrensworth and other small towns for business – largely because he hated the idea of some upstart micropolises stealing the spotlight away from the great, mighty big cities like his very own New Nevergrimton. Although their company’s office in New Nevergrimton was just administrative headquarters, with all actual business taking place on the outskirts of the country, sometimes he just wished everything was conglomerated in one place so that he no longer had to share his earnings, profit and focal sales areas with those doofus rednecks from Warrensorth and beyond. The only thing travelling to those pathetic industrial towns was good for was hooking up with the local women and then getting laid with them for one night – something Tyler never missed to do each time he stayed in a place like that.
“That would be really great!” Christine responded happily in reaction to Tyler’s prediction about coming back soon and then turned her attention to the calculator lying to the left of her keyboard.
She quickly pushed a few buttons on it and then put the calculator on the desk in front of Tyler, turning it around so he could see the display. The figures on it read “78”.
“This is the price for one night,” she informed him, meaning the US dollar quantity. “Would you like to pay for your accommodation now or when you check out?”
Of course, after forty plus stays at Smilesville the price for one night here represented little news to Tyler. The original fee was actually supposed to be higher – Smilesville was a 4-star boutique hotel, and lately it had been gaining more and more popularity among the town’s visitors due to the increasing flow of incoming travelers. In fact, rumor had it the hotel was about to gain its fifth star in the nearest future. Nonetheless, the hotel continued to make generous discounts for their company and provide some other pleasant cherries on the cake. And, besides, for fairness sake, Smilesville really was worth the money it charged from its guests – it was clean, it was cozy, it had a convenient location, the food in the local restaurants was quite decent and the service personnel was friendly, polite and conscientious… Certainly, compared to other hotels Tyler had visited in bigger cities in the US, Smilesville could seem boring and mediocre. However, for a small town like Warrensworth, its service level even managed to exceed his low expectations. Thus, as much as Tyler wished to remain critical of Warrensworth and everything to do with it, he just couldn’t make himself direct that critique at Smilesville.
“I’ll pay upfront, just as usual,” he replied in a more serious tone and instantly handed her his corporate credit card.
Christine took his card and inserted it into the POS on her desk. Tyler glimpsed at the guest-facing display of the card reader device in front of him, waiting for the moment when the words “Enter your PIN” would appear on it. However, when it didn’t happen for another ten seconds or so, he already knew the POS machine must have frozen. He shifted his gaze to Christine who was also looking intently at the screen on the opposite side of the desk, her face a mixture of disdain and annoyance.
“I’m so sorry, Mr. Creed,” she lamented apologetically. “We have old equipment here, so it tends to get jammed from time to time.”
When a similar glitch had happened about ten visits ago, Tyler had got really worried over it. He always got worried when there was even a ghost of imminence to hang over his money, even if the money was a corporate travel allowance granted to him by his company. He just couldn’t stand the idea of running into roadblocks with some basic daily manipulations like this one, let alone facing additional difficulties because of it. However, the roadblock with the old POS machine had turned out to be imaginary for the most part – all it had taken to clear it was simply a little patience until the equipment had woken up out of its temporary stun. Thus, after well over dozen times of this minor hurdle already emerging in Tyler’s path every time he stayed at Smilevsille, it no longer represented something to cause him any alarm.
“That’s okay, Christine, don’t worry,” he told her in a consoling manner. “It has already happened with me before. As evidenced by practice, it comes back to itself after some time.”
Although Tyler might not have been worried, he still felt a tad annoyed as well. He just hated when things didn’t work his way on the very first try. However, another rule of thumb he’d come to learn over the course of his career of a sales manager was that you could never demonstrate your disgruntlement to anybody, especially women. No matter how handsome, intelligent and interesting you were, nobody loved men who whined and complained too much.
After he proclaimed his easy-going attitude towards the emerged challenge, Christine’s face lightened up a little, though she still looked unhappy with the bothersome hitch.
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” she finally gave up her hopes of getting the machine to start, “Looks like this is gonna take a few minutes.”
Then she lifted her eyes back at Tyler, a newly-found drive glistening in them.
“Would you perhaps like to have a drink while you wait?” she asked enthusiastically, looking to convert this slip-up into another fine gesture toward the guest.
Tyler was surprised with Christine’s inventiveness, but only momentarily.
“Sure, why not?” he took well to the proposal.
“What would you like to have?” she quickly asked back. “We have still water, sparkling water, orange juice, apple juice, champagne…”
Tyler took thought for an instant. Normally, when he was on business trips, he preferred to abstain from having any alcohol until he took care of the actual business he came for. It’s not that he was concerned about the booze going to his head and affecting his efficiency as a sales manager. Being 27 years old and having quite good physique and relatively strong health, he had no problem carrying his liquor when needed. Instead, staying crystal sober until a deal was sealed was more like a matter of ritual for Tyler – an inexplicable superstition which had wormed itself into his mind at some point and had then continued to accompany him throughout his career ever since. Besides, allowing oneself some respite felt much more appropriate and justified after a job was pulled off, not before that. Thus, a drink always tasted better for Tyler on a day when he knew he’d previously done something to deserve it.
However, today wasn’t a typical day in the life of Tyler Creed. It was Sunday evening, the customer meeting he’d come for wasn’t to start until 10 AM of the following day, and, more importantly, he already had plans for tonight. These plans included going on a date he’d been hotly anticipating for nearly a month already. Usually, whenever he was in a different city or town and had an evening like this all to himself, he would just jump headfirst into surfing an online dating app and then hook up right away with the most attractive local woman he matched with. The beauty of doing it outside your home turf was that there was no need for thorough preparations, superfluous romantics or lengthy advances – the only requirement to comply with was to make a spontaneous choice based on another person’s appearance. As long as you remained an out-of-towner to have come for a short business trip, few people would expect you to seek serious relationship or long-term commitment. If someone agreed to go on a date with you knowing that you’re unlikely to stick around, it was almost a safe bet that this someone pursued the same goal as you – that was, hooking up for a quick sex. And the only thing to stand in-between you and this goal was your individual ability to safeguard getting that sex.
Most of the times, Tyler had been very successful at driving that nail home, figuratively speaking. Aside from having good looks, he was also very smart and knew how to use that smartness of his to his advantage. He perfectly played it by the ear and had an unparalleled ability to adjust his pick-up tactics to almost every possible womanly character or to every possible turn of events he encountered. He also knew his way with words and exercised nearly flawless judgment as to what to tell a woman, how to tell it, when to tell it and when not to tell it. Even when he accidentally made a mistake about something he did or said, he always found a way to quickly rectify it and reverse it in his favor. Moreover, he had quite a good sense of humor and could often march his way to victory simply by giving a lady a good laugh with his sparkling jokes and witty remarks. Just like he had a talent for selling his company’s production to customers for more than what it really cost, he had a talent for selling himself to women the same way. And even if later on someone was ever to discover the ‘price gap’ between expectations and reality, Tyler was usually long gone by that moment, with his win already scored and entered into his personal record book.
Of course, even for someone possessing Tyler’s unique combination of qualities and skills, the success of online dating exploits could never be guaranteed. There had been a few times when he’d been flatly turned down by his dates after he’d met them, regardless of the effort he’d put into securing winning them over. Another few times, he’d even been stood up by his dates with no explanations or even apologies to follow. But more often than not, his unsuccessful dates had turned out to be such horrible persons in real-life communication that Tyler simply couldn’t bring himself to spending even one night with them, no matter how hungry for sex he could be. However, none of those times had ever discouraged him from such ventures. If anything, the lack of a guaranteed result made the whole joyride feel evermore fun and exciting. Tyler’s opinion was that the risks to come along with online dating were manageable if approached with sufficient level of intellect and common sense. And with an ego as big as his, he believed it to be something he definitely had aplenty.
However, tonight’s date was an entirely different venture for Tyler. Unlike all the previous dates he’d had in Warrensworth and other places he’d been sent to by his employer, this one wasn’t just a spontaneous hookup. Although the lady he was looking to meet had also been found by him via an online dating app, it had actually been well over a month since they first started communicating with each other. Right after coming back from his last trip to Warrensworth, Tyler spent the next day swiping through his dating app at home, looking for a quickie in New Nevergrimton for a change. That was when he came across the profile of his tonight’s date who he at first mistook for a fellow big city girl. It was only after their conversation in the app’s chat that Tyler realized that he’d forgotten to refresh the list of compatible candidates after returning from Warrensworth, and the lady he’d put his eye on was in fact about 400 miles away from him by that moment. The name of his long-distant passion was Annie Stevenson, and though she wasn’t the kind of date he was particularly looking for at that time, something still made Tyler continue with their communication at least for a while longer.
Annie turned out to be five years older than Tyler, yet she was still remarkably attractive and sexy, based on the photos she had in her dating profile. The grammar and punctuation in her text messages was also surprisingly on point, which had already left Tyler impressed at the early going. However, in contrast to the target audience of his regular booty calls, Annie wasn’t looking for any such thing. She was in active pursuit of a serious relationship, so when Tyler attempted to approach her with his ordinary vulgar proposals, she nearly deleted him from her list of matches forever. Thanks to Tyler’s speedy reaction and outstanding social skills, he managed to prevent that from happening at the very nick of time. Still, even despite Tyler’s charisma and attractive appearance, Annie continued to remain skeptical of him for some long time still. It also didn’t help that he was from New Nevergrimton, and Annie didn’t have much faith in building serious relationships with guys over distance, let alone if this distance led to big cities which were so infamous for having all those self-indulgent, soulless, hypocritical people living in them.
Notwithstanding Annie’s skepticism and desire to have a relationship based on commitment, Tyler still didn’t give up his attempts at winning her over. Although he had no intention of becoming the Prince Charming she was looking to bind herself for the rest of her life to, getting her charmed was gradually becoming a matter of principle for him. The main reason for that was because Annie was special. All the women Tyler had caught into his web of enchantment so far were either the same cynical, careless human beings as himself who weren’t interested in anything else but sex, or just naïve, narrow-minded clucking hens who were too stupid to see even through the thinnest of his facades. But Annie was none of those. She was smart, she was kind and she was disciplined. She had morals, she had values and she possessed tremendous spiritual depth. Unlike all her predecessors, she actually represented a real challenge. And if Tyler could score it with someone like her, maybe then he could consider himself worthy of a true Lovelace title. Soon that ambition became one of Tyler’s key purposes in life, which also sustained his continuous interest in Annie.
Eventually, Tyler managed to capture Annie’s attention and use it as a fundament for establishing a constructive dialogue between them. At first, the two began to discuss unrelated matters like music, books, movies, their jobs, hobbies, dreams, funny childhood stories… Annie once again proved herself to be a very rich, versatile personality, so Tyler had to strain real hard to keep up with her. Little by little, text message chats led to phone calls and phone calls led to video calls. Annie began to take a liking to Tyler and even developed a semblance of trust in him. In their conversations, she started opening up to him more and more often, sometimes filling him on quite some intimate details of her life. Tyler realized he’d truly managed to worm his way into her confidence. He also noticed that her overall perception of him began to change for the better. She started displaying sings of legit interest, admiration and even care for him. It was a little uncustomary for Tyler, but he had to admit it felt extremely enjoyable. It had been a very long while since he experienced someone showing such strong feelings for him, so in some ways it was reinvigorating his spirit more than any hookup ever could.
Soon there was hardly a day left in the life of Tyler Creed which would pass without him having at least one long, pleasant talk with Annie Stevenson. The ultimate pinnacle of their relationship development was attained when Annie told him plainly that she couldn’t wait to finally meet him in person. That was the moment when Tyler understood the fish had swallowed its end of the bait at last, and the goal he’d been striving for so much all along was now within his reach.
And now today, more than a month into since this whole story had just begun, Tyler now stood in the lobby of his favorite hotel in Warrensworth, mere hours away from completing his grand mission. He’d initially hoped the convenient opportunity to meet Annie in person would present itself sooner, but against his expectations the business necessity to come to this town again and get the wants and needs met hadn’t come for another five weeks or so. On the other hand, it had given him more time to fully win Annie to his side and thus secure the success of the today’s venture. Of course, he had not yet scored an official victory to get so far ahead in his forecasts, but he was feeling confident the verification of his forecast was only a matter of time. In fact, he was feeling so confident right now that he was ready to do something he had never done before, which was go against one of the superstitions he had.
“You know what,” he addressed Christine after coming back from his reverie, “I guess I’ll make an exception today and go with champagne. I mean, it’s been awhile since I last visited this place, so we might as well consider this a festive occasion, right?”
“Fully agree with you, Mr. Creed,” the girl at the reception desk wreathed in a smile. “I’ll be back in a moment.”
On that note, Christine hurriedly made her way to the distant part of the lobby where the champagne bucket stood. Tyler watched her go, his thoughts, though, still revolving around Annie and the tonight’s date. It had been more than a month of constant flirting, sweet-talking, pandering, putting on the act and engendering trust. Indeed, it had been awhile since the last time he exerted himself that much for a woman. But tonight, at long last, all his hard work and all his efforts were about to pay off…