Seeking happiness

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XXI

The following Monday, Jolena almost arrives late at work due to the public transport being late. When she hurries in, she sees Joseph looking out the window in his office through the opening of the door. “Good morning, Joseph. Coffee?” “Please.”

A few moments later she walks into his office with his coffee. He is still staring out his window. “Here you are,” she puts his cup on his desk.

“Thank you,” he turns around. “You were late, how come?”

“My car broke down last Wednesday, I don’t have the money to buy a replacement, so I’m traveling by public transport for the moment.”

“Didn’t the people of the HR department offer you a company-car?”

“No, they didn’t.”

“That is strange, anyone who is working in or for the higher management gets a company-car. Well, I’ll make sure you get one, do you prefer a particular car?”

“As long as it gets me from point A to point B, I’ll be glad to have any car.”

“I’ll have one at your door quickly.”

“Thank you, Joseph.”

“Oh, don’t thank me, this is pure self-interest. I want you to be at the office in time, not because you are depending on the hours of the public transport.”

Jolena nods and returns to her desk.

Later, she sees Vince approaching with the man she has seen before in the restaurant. “Good morning, Jolena,” Vince says, “looking beautiful, as always. How are you today?” He winks.

“Good morning Vince, I am fine and, how are you?”

“I couldn’t be better. Is Mr. Simmons in?”

“I’ll check if he is available,” Jolena says, “you can sit over there while you are waiting.”

She points at some armchairs that stand against the wall opposite of her desk. After she calls Joseph, she gets up to make coffee for the visitors. When she returns, Mr. Simmons is just letting the men in his office. Joseph sees her coming with the tray with coffee and he smiles. “You already got us coffee! Perfect, thank you Jolena!” She puts the tray on the desk and walks back to her own desk. She continues to do the things she has to do, when she hears loud voices coming from Joseph’s office. Looking up, she notices that the door to his office is slightly ajar. She knows it isn’t polite to eavesdrop, but she can’t help it. She needs to know if mr. Simmons is alright.

“You call your boss immediately, I want to talk to him as soon as possible! I don’t care what kind of excuses you have, but I will cut the deal if he doesn’t show up!” She recognises that voice, that is Mr. Verona.

“But Mr. Verona, I can assure you, I have full authority.” That is Joseph’s voice, “Mr. Anderson never negotiates with his clients, let alone that he follows up the contracts. Everything that needs to be discussed, needs to be discussed with me!”

“Call your boss, I want to speak to him, now! I have important matters to discuss and little time.”

“Even if he comes here, he could only be here by tomorrow, he doesn’t live nearby!”

“Get him over here!” Verona growls, “Or the deal is off!” Jolena hears chairs moving.

“No wait!” The clanging of coffee cups is heard and then a loud thump. The pleading way Joseph speaks, makes the hairs on her arms stand straight. Did they just attack him? “Wait, I’ll call Mr. Anderson, I’ll make sure he is here by tomorrow! Please, let me go!”

“You better, call me when you know when he’ll be here. And remember, no Anderson, no deal!”

The door opens and Verona storms out, followed by Vince. Verona is already on his way to the elevator, but Vince slacks a little.

“Jolena,” he says quietly, “would you like to have dinner with me tonight?”

“Err,” she doesn’t know what to say. What if this guy has two faces? Is he involved with the things that Mr. Verona is doing? The business that Mr Verona runs doesn’t seem to be entirely clean, what does that mean for Vince? She remembers he just asked her a question. “I don’t know what time I’ll be done,” she tries to avoid his question.

“What if you call me when you’re done. I’ll come and pick you up. Just dinner, then I’ll drop you off at home afterwards.”

“Okay, that is fine,” she can’t find a way to turn him down. “I’ll see you tonight.”

A little while later, Joseph opens his door and comes out. He tries to loosen his tie a little. There’s sweat on his forehead and his hair looks like he just got out of bed.

“Joseph,” Jolena she approaches him with concern on her face, “are you alright?”

“I’ll be fine, Jolena, thank you. I have a lunch meeting, so I’ll be out for a while.”

“Alright, I’ll see you later then.”

That night Jolena is getting a little anxious while she waits for Vince’ car to show up. She just called Vince to pick her up. She decided to confront him about what happened earlier. She doesn’t have to wait long as his car rides in front. She quickly gets in and he brings her to a little bistro close to her apartment. While they wait for their order, Jolena starts fiddling with her napkin. Vince lays his hand on her hands to stop her and she looks at him. “Is something wrong?” He asks.

“No, it’s nothing,” she says avoiding eye contact.

“Seriously, stop playing with your napkin,” he says a little sterner. “What’s on your mind?”

“I, I don’t know. It’s none of my business,” she keeps looking down at her hands, “but this morning I heard a lot of loud noises coming from Mr. Simmons office, I wanted to ask you what was going on.”

“You’re right, it is indeed none of your business, but it was just a heated discussion,” Vince shrugs, “nothing special.”

“So heated that Joseph was shaking and sweating when he came out of his office?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong.”

“What kind of business does Mr. Verona have?”

“Jolena, is this some kind of interrogation?” Vince looks annoyed. “Shut it, girl, you have no idea who or what you’re dealing with right now. You really don’t want to get involved. I just do what I’m paid for, I don’t ask questions.” The rest of the dinner is quiet. The feeling that something is off with Vince got stronger.

When they’re waiting for dessert, Vince’s phone rings and he excuses himself to pick it up and walks outside. Jolena looks around the little bistro, a few people are enjoying their food. A tall, broad man with big tattoos and huge muscles leaning against the bar stands out. When they make eye contact, he pushes himself off and strolls her way. “Excuse me young lady can I ask you something?” He takes a chair from another table, turns it around and straddles it.

“Err, sure,” Jolena has no idea what the man wants.

“Sorry, where are my manners, let me introduce myself first. My name is Drake.” He sticks out his hand to shake hers.

“Jolena,” she says, and she shakes his hand, “what do you want to ask me?”

“Well, I don’t want to be rude, but do you know who your boyfriend is?” Drake puts his wrists crossed over the backrest of the chair, his hands dangling.

Jolena frowns, again someone asking about Vince. “Err, do you know him?”

“I don’t know him well, but I know he means no good.”

“How do you know he means no good, if you don’t know him at all?”

Drake shrugs, “I just know, let’s say I can smell it. I can smell a rogue from afar. Just as I can smell you, a pretty, little human girl.” He smiles friendly.

“Human?”

“Yes, you are, right?” Drake frowns confused.

“Are you- are you a wolf?” She starts to understand why he is talking about humans. But what she still doesn’t understand is why he is so sure Vince is bad news, while he doesn’t even know the guy. They are quiet for a while.

“So, you know that werewolves exist, well that makes what I want to say to you so much easier.” He smiles. She looks at him confused. “The guy is a rogue, a wolf without a pack. When a wolf is without a pack, most of them go rogue. Wolves need a pack and a leader to keep going straight. Rogues are dangerous, they steal, rape the females, destroy homes, murder whole packs. Nothing good comes from them. There actually is a rogue pack not far from here.”

Jolena now gets a little anxious. The off feeling, she had earlier, turned into a real bad feeling. “So, you’re saying I should stay away from him?”

“Yes, I don’t want to worry you, you’re only human, they leave humans mostly alone, but you should be careful. I just wanted to warn you.” Drake gives her a wink and gets up from his chair and puts it back on its spot.

“Thank you for your concern.”

A while after Drake left her, Vince comes back from outside. He looks moody. “We need to leave, something came up. I have to drop you off at your place.” he grumbles. He leaves some bills on the table and turns around to leave. “Are you coming?” Jolena quickly grabs her stuff and follows behind him. Dessert forgotten.

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