When you tell someone you’re a Vice President, they usually ask one of two things. ‘What’s that?’ or ‘which country?’ I wondered which way this girl would go.
“You mean like Mike Pence?” Her eyebrows raised.
That was a total surprise. I didn’t know the name but guessed Mike Pence was Vice President of the United States.
“Not really. I’m in consulting, not politics.”
“So, you’re like second in command of your company, right?”
“No. I’ll explain, but first, would you like another drink?”
She smiled. “Sure.”
I took the glasses back to the bar, which was still quiet, as most hotel bars are on a Monday night.
“Two espresso martinis. Make them large ones this time.”
The barman paused. “They’re one size, sir.” He held up a cocktail glass, two of which I’d already seen that evening.
“Right. Two double shots of tequila then, while we’re waiting.”
I checked my hair in the mirror, then carried the shots back to the table.
“I hope you like tequila?”
“What happened to the espresso martinis, Mister Vice President?”
That made me grin. “They may take a while. I thought you might be thirsty.”
She laughed and flicked her hair. First real good sign.
“So, what brings you to San Fran?” she asked as I sat back in the chair.
One of the staff came over and lit the candle on our table, throwing warm catchlights into the girl’s eyes. Suddenly I could see she was much prettier than I first thought. I needed to up my game.
“It’s a conference. Every year we take over the city.”
“I think I’ve heard of it. Every fall, right?”
“We call it autumn, but yes, every fall.”
“Autumn. That’s a weird word. It doesn’t mean anything!”
She laughed again. “You Brits. Always apologising!”
“Yes, sorry about that.”
She laughed again. “It’s kinda cute.” Another big tick.
“So where are you from?” I asked. “Which city do you live in?”
“I live in the Mission, just a couple blocks away.” She nodded.
She widened her eyes. “Yeah, really!”
“So … why do you drink alone in a hotel bar near your house?”
“It’s an apartment, not a house. And I like meeting interesting people.”
“Fuck,” I said. “And you ended up with me.”
She laughed and flicked her hair again. Big smile this time.
Over at the bar, the espresso machine was whirring. I could hear the relaxing buzz of quiet conversation at other tables, and the constant chime of lifts arriving at ground floor to swoosh people up to their rooms, showers, and beds.
I was used to the process. Catch someone’s eye, exchange a few glances to measure interest, then move on to longer gazes to establish intent. Next came the approach. Bold, confident, modest. Those three words were in fact three of our corporate values, instilled into me over the last fifteen years.
“Where in England do you live?”
“Chalk Farm, just north of Primrose Hill. Not far from Camden.”
“Is that anywhere near London?”
I laughed. “Yes, it’s actually in London. Sorry, I should have said.”
“There you go apologising again.” She shook her head and smiled.
“Have you ever been to London?”
“Yeah! It was awesome. We went to Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, Tower of London, London Bridge …”
“Tower Bridge. You must mean Tower Bridge. London Bridge isn’t very exciting.”
The espresso martinis were being shaken now. I watched as the barman poured through a strainer into one glass then the other. He added a few coffee beans to the top, then picked up a silver tray on which he set our drinks.
The waiter came over, weaving through the tables with the tray balanced on one hand above his head.
“Charge to the room?” he asked.
I nodded as he placed the girl’s drink down first, then mine, followed by a small dish of shiny brown spheres.
“Chocolate-covered coffee beans,” he said. “Great with the martinis.”
“Cheers.” I raised my glass. “Forgive me, I believe it’s customary for us to at least know each other’s names before we start our second drink together.”
She laughed. “Nicole. Technically it’s our third drink. You forgot the tequilas.”
“Technically it’s my fourth, I’d already had one of these before I saw you.”
“Wow, I’d be pretty juiced if I had three of these.”
“Well, I used to say three glasses of wine and I’m anybody’s.”
“Aren’t you forgetting something?”
I paused, wondering.
“Oh sorry, how rude of me. It’s Christopher.”
She held out her hand. “Pleased to meet you Christopher!”
“Likewise.” I grabbed a few chocolate-covered coffee beans.
There’s a disrespectful expression in England – beer armour – which refers to the uncanny way a person’s attractiveness increases in proportion to the number of drinks the viewer has consumed. I thought Nicole was beautiful before I’d even started, so by the time I’d finished my third espresso martini she was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. No beer armour required.
I was trying to decide whether she would have another, but my intuition told me that would be one too many. I’d made that mistake a few times, bought a girl that one extra drink that pushed her over the edge. That was the point when they either started crying about an ex-boyfriend, fell asleep, or turned neurotic.
“I’m going to need a coffee,” I said, sighing.
“Me too. I’m a little woozy.”
It was time to close the deal. This was what they called the make or break moment. I had to ask for the business if I wanted to get the sale.
“There’s one of those Nespresso thingies in my room. George Clooney drinks them, so they must be good. I haven’t a fucking clue how to work it though.”
She laughed and gave me a sideways look through narrowed eyes. “And you’re telling me this because…”
“Well, I’ve already blown my expenses budget on these drinks. If you want a coffee, you’re going to have to join me in my room, no alternative.”
She smiled at me for five long seconds.
“Of course, if you’d rather …”
“Sure. Let’s go.”
The lift chimed it’s welcome to the fourteenth floor and the doors slid open. I took out my phone and found the digital key app as we walked down the corridor.
“1417,” I said and held my phone to the door.
“Let me see that.”
She took the phone and the door beeped as the lock opened. This girl obviously had the magic touch.
“Ladies first,” I said, as she pushed the door open.
I heard the door slam behind me, and her hands were already on the back of my head. Our teeth knocked as unfamiliar faces came together.
“Just shut the fuck up.”
Ker-ching. Deal done. Signed on the dotted line.
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