Author Topic: The Hand of Fate  (Read 11 times)

Derek Reese

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The Hand of Fate
« on: November 21, 2020, 01:16:44 PM »
"You're so lucky I like you," Holli muttered into her phone as she collected the pair of coffee cups from the barista with a smile. "I do not do coffee runs, you just happened to catch me in a coffee shop."

She chuckled at the reply from her colleague, turning to push her way out through the door and onto the streets of Horizon City. And straight into the chest of a complete stranger.

"Oh my god! Oh! Gods, I'm sorry - god, that's hot!" Dropping the cups, she danced back, grabbing the front of her dress to pull the wet fabric away from her skin.

The stranger - who had admittedly not been watching where he was going because he'd had his face buried in his cell phone - jerked his head up as he was jostled, almost dropping his phone. His brows knitted momentarily, as if he was about to chew out whoever had run into him and almost caused him to smash his phone on the sidewalk, but his expression changed at the sight of a pretty blond looking understandably upset.

"I'm so sorry," he murmured, realizing he was not without fault. He reached into a pocket of his impeccably-tailored suit jacket for a handkerchief to help wipe up the coffee, but had no idea where to begin. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm just burning up because you're hot." The words slipped out before she could stop them, but she at least caught her own tongue saying it. "The coffee's hot, not you. Not that you're not hot - wow. Today is not my day already." She laughed at herself, glancing down at the large dark stain on her dress. "I can hear the jokes already."

He smirked in amusement as he handed her the handkerchief, though it probably wasn't going to help much. "You should probably rinse that out. Coffee stains," he said, as if he knew from experience. Thankfully, none of the coffee had spilled onto his crisp white shirt. No tie, unless it was absolutely necessary. "Why don't you go try to rinse out your blouse and I'll buy you a fresh cup of coffee," he suggested amicably. It was the least he could do; after all, he'd been just as much at fault.

"I've got a spare shirt at work," she managed to stutter, rolling her eyes at herself. "I'm so sorry. I didn't stain your suit, did I?"

"No, I'm ok," he assured her, not even bothering to check his shirt. "Let me make it up to you somehow. I know ... How about dinner?" he asked, offering a cheeky grin.

Holli blinked, surprised but not offended by the fast mover in front of her. "Wow, I should throw coffee at men more often," she commented, her lips parting in a broad grin. "Sure, dinner works. Got a name or a number, mystery man?"

"To be fair, you mostly threw it at yourself," he pointed out, looking amused. "Derek," he said, offering his name. Or at least, his first name. So far, she hadn't recognized him, but that only added to her allure. Either she had no idea who he was, or she just hadn't recognized him yet. He hoped it was the former. "Where should we meet?"

"Do you know Cafe Vert?" she asked, tilting her head curiously. That would at least tell her if he was from around here. He did look vaguely familiar, but then, she had a bad habit of just staring at good looking men while her thoughts were elsewhere.

"I know it," he confirmed. "Miss ...?" he asked, arching a brow in curiosity as he had given her his name, but she had yet to return the favor.

"How about you just call me Holli?" she suggested, since he had only given her his first name. "Eight o'clock suit you? Earlier is a bit touch and go for me - I'm not always sure when my work day finishes."

"Eight o'clock suits me just fine," he said. If it didn't, he'd make it work. She was way too cute to let this opportunity pass him by. Lucky for him he'd bumped into her - literally.

"I'll see you there, then," she said, offering him a sweet smile. Glancing down at her watch, she rolled her eyes, laughing. "Just enough time to grab more coffee. Have a nice day, Tall, Dark, and Handsome."

She pulled open the coffee shop door, and he must have overheard the explosion of laughter from behind the counter, followed by her rueful, "Don't ask."

"See you later, beautiful," he replied, blue eyes sparkling in amusement as she stepped back into the shop. He'd hesitated a moment, debating following her inside. He had offered to buy her a fresh cup of coffee, but the promise of dinner was so much better.

Being late to work was definitely worth it today for Holli. Thankfully, she got on pretty well with her boss, who spent the first half of the morning teasing her about her "meet-cute" with a guy while getting him his coffee. But she didn't mind. She had a hot date, and how often could she say that?

As for him, he was rarely, if ever, late for work. He'd always been a bit of an over-achiever and a perfectionist, and if he was ever late for work, his co-workers would probably never let him live it down. But today, he didn't much care. He had just met the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen - with or without glasses - but he had to get through the next eight to ten hours before he could see her again.

It wasn't until lunch that Holli suddenly remembered why her mystery date looked so familiar. Holy crap ... that was Derek Reese. Investigative reporter and news show eye candy, and she had totally failed to identify him while dancing around covered in coffee. There was no way she was telling her colleague about that now.

It was clear enough to Derek's co-workers that his mind was not on his job today. He flubbed his lines on the noon news, and he couldn't manage to concentrate on the story he was investigating, but whether it was his impending date or something else that was distracting him was hard to say.

The only problem was that they hadn't exchanged numbers, so when something came up, Holli found herself in a pickle. She spent a good ten minutes swearing about it to herself, but there really was nothing for it. She only had a small window in which to do this particular thing, and unfortunately, that window was opening tonight. She did remember to call the cafe, though, in the hope that Derek wouldn't be so offended by her being late that he left and she never saw him again.

To be fair, she'd see him on the Channel 4 news from time to time, but that wasn't the same thing as seeing him in person. As for Derek, he had some things he had to take care of after work, as well, but somehow, he managed to be the first to arrive at the cafe. He was still wearing the same suit he'd been in when she'd bumped into him earlier in the day, but he'd didn't look the worse for wear. He asked for a table for two in the back and ordered a drink while he awaited her arrival. The cafe staff passed along word that his date was going to be a little late, and so he took out his phone to pass the time while he sipped at his drink.

Derek Reese

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Re: The Hand of Fate
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2020, 01:17:05 PM »
A little late turned out to be around forty minutes late, and it turned out that walking in heels while trying to ignore a bruised rib or four was not the most fun in the world, but Holli at least managed to make it to Cafe Vert before he'd been sitting alone for a full hour. She paused in the doorway, nervously pushing her glasses back up her nose as she waited to speak to the maitre'd.

Derek was so busy looking at something on his phone that he didn't see her arrive. Not until she was walking his way, and then his jaw just about fell open to the floor. She wasn't just cute; she was hot - even with the glasses on.

Directed to the table Derek had elected to sit at, Holli forced herself to stop chewing on her lip and walk tall, ignoring the twinge in her side. "This seat taken?"

He clumsily moved to his feet at her arrival, knocking over his drink in his haste to greet her. "Yes ... I mean, no ... s***," he muttered, grabbing his glass to put it upright and tossing a napkin over the spill. "Sorry, guess I'm a little nervous."

Holli let out a quiet laugh. "It's good to know I'm not the only one throwing drinks around today," she said. "I'm sorry I kept you waiting; something ... came up."

"It's okay," he said, moving to pull out the chair for her. There was only one other seat, after all, and he'd been saving it for her. "I honestly wasn't sure if you were gonna show."

"It really wasn't my plan to be late," she promised him, easing down into the chair he held for her as smoothly as she could manage. "Apparently I make great first impressions on celebrities."

"What celebrity would that be?" he asked, completely deadpan. He was glad she hadn't recognized him and agreed to a date just because of that, but now he wasn't so sure.

Holli smiled. "You might be surprised to know this, but you're a dead ringer for a guy on the news," she told him. "And I'm an idiot for not recognising you earlier, but hey, I had hot boobs at the time."

He coughed so that he wouldn't blurt that she had hot boobs all the time, at least, as far as he could tell. He lifted a hand to get the waitress' attention before turning back to her. "You're not an idiot. Not everyone watches the news."

"Honestly? I kind of only twigged you were you when I caught the noon broadcast," she admitted with a wry smile. "Very nearly backed out completely. You have a couple of very nosy colleagues of mine to thank for me not just running home and hiding under a pillow for the next week."

"So, you're just here to get the scoop on me for your colleagues, is that it?" he teased, eyes sparkling with amusement. Or maybe it was just the lighting.

She laughed. "Honey, I don't kiss and tell," she assured him impishly. "Pretty sure you don't either. Although we had a fanfiction-worthy meet-cute, so who knows?"

He furrowed his brows, looking puzzled at her remark. "I'm sorry - a what?" He wasn't a dummy, by any means, but that reference was lost on him. Then again, he had never read - or written - fan fiction.

Her jaw dropped. "Oh, wow, I'm showing off my dork early," she said in amusement. "Fanfiction ... stories about TV and book characters that are written by fans and posted online."

Up went a single brow at her explanation. "People do that?" he asked. Obviously, this was not something he was aware of, but then, he didn't pay much attention to trends.

"They've been doing it since the dawn of time," she told him with a broad smile. "Dante's Inferno was fanfiction of the Bible and Greek myth."

"Oh, well ... That's open for debate," he said. Though he didn't know too much about the subject of fanfiction, he didn't think Dante's Inferno quite compared to modern pop culture. "So, the big question is ... Have you written any?"

"If I had, do you think that's the kind of thing I would admit to on a first date?" she countered, leaning forward as she relaxed into the conversation. "Come on, you know one of my guilty pleasures. I think it's only fair you share one of yours."

"I think you just did," he murmured, as the waitress wandered over and left them with a couple of menus, after tossing a wink his way that he tried to ignore. "Guilty pleasures, eh? Does chocolate count?" he asked with a grin.

Holli saw the wink, certainly, but she also saw the effort that went into ignoring it on his end. He was racking up the points already. "No, chocolate is not something you might be embarrassed to share in company. Guilty pleasures, Mr Reese." This time she winked at him over the top of her menu.

He chuckled at the wink and the challenge. "I'm not really sure, to be honest. Donuts? Um ..." He had never really thought about it much and now that she was asking, he was having a hard time coming up with an answer. "I like to sleep in?"

"Such innocence," she teased. "I'll find out your sexy secrets, don't you worry." After all, if he did a little digging, he was going to find out that she had pretty much admitted to reading smut online.

"You didn't say anything about sexy. You just said guilty," he pointed out, a smirk on his face. "So, what do you like?" he asked, turning his attention to the menu.

Skimming the menu thoughtfully, Holli briefly considered a salad before remembering the last three hours. "You know what? It's been a long day. I am going for a steak."

"Steak sounds good," he said, closing his menu and waving to the waitress. "Let's make it two. And another round of drinks," he added for good measure.

"Thank you." Handing over her menu, Holli finished her current drink in one gulp. "I really am sorry for being late," she apologized again. "One of those days when something came up turned into a three hour commitment. It does not happen often."

"Was this a work thing?" he asked, draining what was left of his drink. He wasn't really trying to be nosy, but the only way to get better acquainted was to ask questions.

Derek Reese

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Re: The Hand of Fate
« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2020, 01:17:20 PM »
"No, this was a side hustle thing," she told him, skirting the truth as close as she could. She didn't like to lie, but knew it was necessary on occasion.

"A side hustle?" he echoed. "So, what do you do for your day job?" he asked, assuming it was something in an office, just based on the way she'd been dressed when they'd collided earlier that day.

She smiled a little wearily. "I'm an executive assistant to the board of directors for Horizon Security Corporation," she told him. "Believe me, it is as boring as it sounds."

"It doesn't sound boring," he said, tilting his head to the side and pretending to snore.

Beneath the table, she kicked him very gently, laughing at his tease. "Laugh it up, Mr Television Personality," she protested. "Not all of us get to be hot and intelligent for thousands daily."

He chuckled, shrugging. "Now you're just being nice. Besides, I'm not on TV every night. Just when I have something to report. I was offered an anchor position once, but ..." There was that shrug again. "Let's just say I like a flexible schedule."

"I get that." She nodded in agreement. "Having flexible hours is definitely helpful. Sadly, I do not have them yet. They're being dangled in front of me like a sadistic carrot."

"I guess it depends on the job, but a nine to five schedule doesn't really work in my line of work," he confessed. As she most likely knew, he was an investigative reporter, and that sometimes meant working odd hours.

"I guess it does." She considered him for a long moment. "So what do you do to forget about work?" she asked, genuinely curious.

"Listen to loud music and get drunk?" he ventured with a grin, obviously kidding.  Probably kidding. Maybe kidding. He waved the waitress over again, but only long enough to get their order - not his phone number - before they were left alone once again.

She laughed, pushing her glasses back up her nose to hide a very faint wince at the way the motion twinged at her sore ribs. "You play it very close to the chest, don't you?"

He shrugged, noting the wince, but saying nothing about it ... yet. "Maybe I'm just not that interesting," he told her, deadpan, before taking a sip of his second drink.

"Oh, I doubt that," Holli said in turn. "No one with guarded eyes is ever boring."

"Maybe I like being mysterious. It adds to my charm," he teased, that dimpled grin back on his face. "So, what's with the ribs? Did you go a few rounds with a boxer?" he asked, with a vague nod of his head in that direction.

She sighed, her smile turning a little defeated. "Should have guessed the observant reporter would notice that," she said ruefully. "I had a slightly violent interaction with a stairway railing about an hour ago. Can't really hold it against the banister, though - it stopped me tipping down three stories in freefall."

He winced in sympathy. "First the coffee, then the banister. You better hope trouble doesn't come in three. Then again, maybe that's me," he said, smirking a little at that.

"Is that a promise or a threat?" was her instant reply, her expression hardly suggesting that she would be against the implication. "You don't seem like the trouble type."

"Oh, you might be surprised," he murmured, almost forgetting himself. What was it about her that had him wanting to tell her his innermost secrets? Secrets he never told anyone.

"I didn't say you don't seem like a magnet for trouble," she teased gently. "You just don't seem the type to cause trouble in a relationship. You seem the type who wants to be domesticated. Like a cat."

"Is that what you're trying to do, Holli? Domesticate me?" he teased further. Oh, she really was too easy to tease, but he had yet to make her blush.

"If I pet you in just the right place, will you purr for me?" she teased back. Oh, he was fun. She'd not met a man who was this prepared to be playful so soon before. How was he single?

"Would you rather I purr or growl?" he countered, that Cheshire cat grin back on his face. It had been a long time since he'd met a woman who was as much fun as this one.

"Mmm ... there's a time and place for both. I do like a good growler every now and then." How was that for open? She realized she was telling him an awful lot about herself, but none of it was the dangerous stuff. She hoped.

"I have to warn you, I snore," he told her, though that was secondhand information. "And I keep odd hours." He wasn't sure why he was telling her all that on a first date, but she was different from other women, and he felt strangely intrigued.

She shrugged lightly. "Apparently I'm a blanket hog," was her counter to his warning. "And my hours are a little odd themselves. It's not like we're moving in together, right?"

"Not yet," he murmured, teasing her again, though that was hardly likely. He had far too many secrets. He shouldn't even be here with her, but well, life got lonely sometimes. "I appreciate your candor."

"I don't see the point in keeping the ordinary stuff a secret," she said, shrugging. "Everyone has bigger secrets to keep, why complicate things trying to keep your toilet paper preference under wraps?"

One brow quirked momentarily upwards at something she said. "Bigger secrets?" he echoed. "I don't know about you, but my biggest secret probably is what toilet paper I prefer. It's Cottonelle, by the say. Just to be clear."

"I'm a Charmin girl," she countered with a grin. "Quilted softness on my butt, you can't beat it." Any observer overhearing this would probably not believe they were on a first date with this topic of conversation.

"The secret's out," he quipped, grinning as their steaks arrived. And then his phone went off, and he sighed. "Perfect," he muttered as he tugged the phone from his pocket and looked to see who was calling. "This had better be important."

Derek Reese

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Re: The Hand of Fate
« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2020, 01:17:34 PM »

Holli tilted her head curiously toward him as his phone started to ring. "Take it," she said. "You're a reporter, you're always on call. I get it."

"Yeah," he told the caller, once he'd swiped to answer the call. Not hello, just yeah, and not without obvious irritation. He paused a moment to hear what was being said. "Yeah ... Where? Okay ... What happened?" Another pause. "Uh huh. Logicorp? Weren't they being investigated for insider trading?"

Her eyes flickered to him at the sound of the company name, and for just a moment, there was something more than mild curiosity in her gaze. She tamped down that look swiftly, endeavouring to seem just curious in an idle manner.

He held up a finger to indicate that he needed a moment. "Uh huh. Okay ... Now?" he asked, scowling at the phone. There was a loud voice on the other end of the phone and while the words couldn't be made out, the voice definitely sounded adamant. "Okay, okay. I'm on my way." He ended the call and slid the phone back in his pocket, sighing in annoyance. "I gotta go. I'm sorry. Duty calls."

"You'd best get to it, then," she said, a little disappointed but understanding perhaps a little too well what was dragging his attention away. "Before you go, though ..." She slid a little piece of paper across the table to him. Written on it was her cell number and address. "Just in case."

He took the piece of paper and looked at it briefly, as if to make sure it really was a phone number, before shoving that, too, into a pocket. "We'll pick this up next time. Promise," he told her as he moved to his feet.

"Next time is always a good promise to make," she agreed, rising with him to brush a kiss to his cheek. "Hope they don't keep you up too much past your bedtime, handsome."

"It's a good thing I'm an insomniac," he said, smiling as she kissed his cheek. That was a good sign, wasn't it? His stomach growled, and he made a mental note to pick up a burger on the way over. "Don't worry about the bill. I'll tell them to put it on my tab."

"Don't forget to eat something, okay? Can't have the hottest guy in Horizon keeling over on set." She smiled, stepping back toward the table. Her fingers were itching to take out her own phone, but she wasn't going to risk him seeing what she now had to do. She hadn't expected the press to be called onto the scene.

He chuckled. "I'll grab something on my way over. Promise," he told her, promising her again. "We'll do this again ... Without interruptions this time," he told her, leaning close to brush a kiss to her cheek, close enough that she'd be able to smell his aftershave.

"I look forward to it. Now scoot, or your boss'll fire you for missing out on your scoop." She wriggled her fingers to teasingly wave him away.

"Yes, ma'am," he replied with a grin, before turning and making his way from the cafe. It was just his luck that he'd met the girl of his dreams and had no choice but to skip out on her.

Holli watched him out of the cafe and eased back down into her seat to tuck into her dinner, one hand making short work of something on her phone. The only thing she hadn't been able to wipe was the security cameras, but she was confident that between the mask and the hood, she was hard to identify. And she was more than capable of paying for dinner, even the uneaten portion of it. It never hurt to have the ball well and truly in his court, after all.

There was something niggling at him about her, but he wasn't quite sure what it was. Was it his imagination or had she reacted with something more than mere disappointment at his phone call. Whatever it was, he couldn't quite put his finger on it, but he was not one to give up easily. Secrets, indeed. If Miss Holli whatever her name was truly had any secrets, he was just the guy to find out.