* Clover *
Clover didn’t see Mason after work that week. He explained he and Peter had meetings plus late dinners with investors and would make it up to her Friday. She didn’t mind, used to doing her own thing. She appreciated how easy it was for them to separate work and personal lifestyles. Mason told Peter about their relationship, he admitted, only because it was fair and they were friends.
Before the day ended on Friday, Bentley waltzed in, all smiles, “Hello, Red.”
The Plastics stopped what they were doing, or weren’t, considering it was close to leaving time, spying on their conversation. She felt exposed and once again struggled to keep her annoyance with the man from showing.
“Mr. Jarvis, how are you?” she offered a polite nod, opening communications to Mason.
He leaned across the desk, grinning, and she scooted backward so he wasn’t in her space, “Here to take you and Mason out,” at her blank look he frowned, “He didn’t tell you? Tsk, I’m hurt.”
The other women glared at her with undisguised resentment. She quickly rose, pasting on a welcoming, yet cool smile, “I’ll show you to Mr. Thistle’s office.”
He waved a hand, following in her angry footsteps. What’s going on? Mason ordered her to stay away from Bentley, but made plans? Why would he make her believe he’s a bad man only to bring him around? Did he warn her out of jealousy? She’d find out, one way or another.
He looked pissed when she entered his office with Bentley strolling in behind her. “Mason! How’s it going?”
Clover stood to the side, crossing her arms. Mason gave a tight smile, greeting his friend. They talked a little as she patiently waited for answers.
“So, where should we spend my money? First round’s on me!” Bentley clapped his hands together, “I’m thirsty.”
Mason cleared his throat, avoiding Clover’s glare. Several awkward seconds passed, and Bentley let out an amused chuckle at the tension. What an asshole.
Reaching for his jacket Mason finally addressed her directly, “Where would you like to go, babe?”
Oh, so now her input mattered? Screw it. He said their friendship was complicated. “There’s Patches Pub. I go there a lot.”
A smirk played on his mouth as he walked over to where she pouted, “Yes, I recall.”
Bentley shrugged, texting on his phone, “I’ll meet you there then.”
When Bentley exited the room he bent to kiss her, but she stepped out of his reach, “Are you guys still friends? Why didn’t you say we were going out with him tonight?”
Mason sighed before nodding, “I forgot but he’s leaving soon, so what the hell, yeah? Ride with me?”
Clover winced, and he noticed. She would love to leave with him, but she didn’t need The Plastics rumor mill to explode come Monday morning if anyone saw them together. God, she felt like a bitch when he straightened, his usually warm eyes turning cold.
“I still have things to finish,” she quickly covered, “How about I meet you there, and that way you can catch up without me interfering with bro time?”
Mason shook his head, “Fine.”
Clover tried to avoid the remaining Plastics as she tidied Mason’s office, going back and forth in the break room, but she wasn’t lucky enough to escape the pettiness. As soon as she returned to the front they pounced.
“Why does Bentley Jarvis even talk to you?” Adley cocked a bony hip against the desk as she closed the computer down.
“Hm, maybe because I’m Mason’s secretary?”
“I swear I overheard him say he was taking you and Mason out!” Carrie, Plastic #2 hyena laugh made her cringe, “Glad he came to his senses. Men can play such cruel jokes on fat chicks. Don’t take it personal Clover, I’m sure if it was a buffet you’d be the first one he’d invite. Got to get his money’s worth.”
“You know the gym downstairs is free for employees, right?” Adley flipped her blonde hair, waving a manicured talon, “Well, I heard Mason’s looking for another assistant and he’s hiring within the staff. I thought I’d give you a head-up since it’ll be me. Peters PA and I are close.”
Although shocked at the news, she kept her face neutral. “We’ll see.”
“Yes, we will,” Adley snapped before sashaying away with her braying friend.
Clover sat in her car for several minutes before heading to Patches. What were those bitches talking about? Surely they were just being their usual cruel self’s? She tired of the fat jokes in high school when her ass and tits overgrew her five-foot-five frame. If Mason planned on firing her why bother with all that HR talk? Adley was a billing supervisor, so why would she wish to take her place?
She paused when she entered Patches ten minutes later, taking in the scene. Bentley’s tall form leaned at the bar tapping on his cell, while Mason sat at a table with a petite redhead who was sitting so close she was nearly in his lap. He peered at the woman with total concentration and never once looked up. She joined Bentley instead of facing Mason.
“Hey Red,” Bentley smiled, putting his phone in his pocket.
Swallowing her insecurities, she asked, “Who is the girl with Mason?”
Bentley picked up his beer, “That’s Reese. Stunning, isn’t she? He has a thing for redheads. As if I need to explain his predilections to you!” he winked, “She’s a sweetie too. What’s your poison?”
Her stomach rolled at Bentley’s callous disregard for her feelings, “Huh? Oh, lemon drop.”
He touched her arm, “Here?”
“Here,” she agreed, not ready to face Mason and all the unanswered questions bouncing around in her brain, “Thank you.”
Bentley ordered and dropped the drink in front of her as her mind raced why Mason would replace her at work and why he was sitting with another woman, not even caring she was there. She knew it was too good to be true. That Mason wanted a meaningful relationship. As Carrie and Adley said, men were cruel to fat chicks.
After finishing the shot faced Bentley who was observing her closely, “What do you do for a living?”
He glanced down at her legs and she crossed them self-consciously, “I have a few startups and lately I’ve been dabbling in acquisitions. Mason didn’t tell you? Figures, the man is always on the go. I’m surprised they’re still here.”
She felt light-headed suddenly but demanded, “What do you mean?”
“Well, he’s already picked his fuck toy for the night, so I figured he’d bounce by now.” Bentley waved at the booth.
Picked his fuck toy?!
Clover turned unsteadily on the stool just in time to witness Reese kissing Mason, skinny arms wrapping around his neck. Blood rushed to her head when she stumbled towards the entrance in sullen disbelief.
What the hell was he doing? How dare he cheat after declaring only wanting her and would go to any lengths to prove it? He lied and for once she was glad it was in her nature to keep her guard up with men after Dan misused her trust again and again. Worthless pricks!
Bentley asked where she was going before she tumbled outside, but the roar of restrained fury coursing through her veins along with a fuzzy head made it hard to concentrate. Feeling full on wasted after a single drink, fell against the brick building. Hm, this seemed a good place to collect herself.
A figure surged forward in the darkness, “Clover?”
The world tilted when she peered upward, trying to focus on the dark-haired man kneeling in concern, “B… Oh! Brad?”
“Yeah, hey, are you okay? What are you doing on the ground?” he placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder, “Talk to me, beautiful.”
With sickness threatening to spew she gasped, “I can’t drive and I have to get out of here. Now. Right now!”
He nodded with a worried gaze, “My ride’s over there, I’ll take you anywhere you want. Come on, let me help you.”
Brad hauled her inside his little sports car just as she thought she heard the unmistakable voice of Kyrell calling out for her when they pulled away from the curb.