Tori didn’t come back alone. It was amazing what getting two speeding tickets in a row from two different good looking cops did for her mood. She’d gone straight to a small café for a much needed dose of chocolate therapy and downed the first espresso-sized chocolate shot without hardly tasting it.
Once her mind was buzzing, she sat back and sipped the second one, watching people pass by. And it just so happened that one of them was Liam Masterson, part time public defender, part time $500/hr attorney at law, and full time come-hither tom cat. He wore his wicked we-both-know-you-want-me smile like an everyday accessory.
Some mild-to-moderate flirting later she was inviting him back to her place for drinks. Tonight she felt like bourbon. She poured two glasses and took them to the living room where Liam was checking out her entertainment system. “Ryan,” she called. “Turn on the heater, please.”
“Ryan?” Liam repeated.
The holograph flickered into being by the TV and somehow he looked like he was scowling.
“Ryan,” Tori said by way of explanation.
“You call it by a name?”
She chuckled. “What else would I call him?”
Liam shrugged, nursing his drink while she arranged herself on the couch. “I just say what I want. I don’t call it anything.”
“Huh.” It had never even occurred to her that calling the holograph by a name – one that it had chosen, as if it was an actual person – might not be what everyone else did. But she couldn’t look at a person and act like he wasn’t one. And Ryan had grown on her. She’d gotten so used to his presence here she missed him when he wasn’t around. When she was at work and something was going wrong again, all she wanted to do was call home to hear his voice. Even though there was nothing he could do.
But she wasn’t about to tell Liam any of that. Changing the subject quickly, before he started thinking she was insane, Tori raised her glass. “Here’s to…”
“To a most fortunate chance meeting. May there be many more to come,” Liam supplied and clinked his glass to hers. As she took a sip of her drink, she noticed Ryan off to the side and could swear she saw him roll his eyes. The sip became bigger and she coughed as the alcohol burned its way down her throat.
“Will there be anything else?” Ryan asked. Did he look more tense than usual? She could practically hear teeth grinding. What was this, another unscheduled emotion simulation?
Liam frowned at the holograph. He got up to get a closer look. “Yours looks different than mine.”
She didn’t like him so close to Ryan. “No, I think I have everything I need,” she told him. “Just make sure I’m not disturbed.”
Liam chuckled. “They don’t understand speech like you and I do,” he said with mild condescension that burrowed under her skin. “You need to give clear and concise commands.”
“Security enabled,” Ryan said over Liam. He was looking right at her as if Liam didn’t even exist. If she didn’t know better, she’d say the holograph didn’t like the guy. “Calls will be routed to voicemail. Would you like them transcribed to email?”
“That won’t be necessary,” Tori said, puffing up a bit and keeping her proud smile slight and quick to fade.
Ryan nodded. Something else he’d never done before. “Enjoy your evening.” And then he disappeared.
Liam stubbed his heel against the coffee table as he backed himself to the couch, gaping at the now empty space. “What was that?”
“That,” she told him saucily, “was my house understanding me. Now where were we?”
* * *
Ryan turned off his webcam and unplugged the mic. What the hell was wrong with him? The webcam had to go. He couldn’t control his expressions well enough to keep the holo-Ryan impartial – which, what was up with that? When did he become not impartial? What did he care if Victoria wanted to drag a stranger into her house for drinks and whathaveyou? She was a big girl. If she wanted to let that artificial Ken doll put his hands on her, that was her choice. Had nothing to do with Ryan. He was just her housekeeper.
She laughed at something the Douche said and Ryan shoved away from his desk. It was so obvious what he was after! If he didn’t get into Victoria’s pants today he’d be surprised. But Le Douche would be back again another day to give it another try.
He paced away, then turned and paced back. The way Le Douche was leaning in pissed him off. Ryan checked the systems to make sure nothing required attention. Shit. Everything working optimally. He stomped away again. This had nothing to do with Victoria having a booty call. He was just still riled about Gordon and it was affecting his judgment.
Maybe he should go out, get some air and clear his head. Not like he was going to be needed any time soon. Yeah.
Or he could make it a night in. Watch a movie or something. Madi had made him some kind of casserole dish. And that way he could keep an eye on Victoria in case she needed the cops to step in. Movie and casserole it was.
He heated up a plate, put in the DVD and sprawled on the couch. But his gaze kept going back to the computer screens. Ugh, Le Douche had his hand on Victoria’s knee. Ryan stuck a forkful of casserole in his mouth and spat it right back out with a curse. Great, now his tongue was burned and he wouldn’t be able to taste anything.
Back to the movie. One of those senseless violence, lots of car chases and bullets masterpieces. They were all the same, perfect for zoning out to and letting his brain turn to mush.
Le Douche was kissing her! And she was letting him! God, Ryan was going to be sick. He got up and resolutely turned off the monitors. Out of sight, out of mind.
And back to the movie.
He already knew it would be crap. Just like the rest of his night.
Virtual Copyright 2011 Alianne Donnelly, all rights reserved, may not be reprinted or reproduced in any manner, written, electronic, or otherwise without express permission from Alianne Donnelly.