Greek Passions

By: Holly Rayner







FOUR





Kally didn’t usually need an alarm to wake her up on a Saturday, so when Ride of the Valkyries tore through the air, she was baffled. In a fog, she rolled out of bed, blindly seeking out the source of the noise. Only when she saw her smartphone vibrating on the nightstand did she remember she had somewhere to be. It was nine o’clock. That gave her three hours to eat, make herself presentable, and get to Stratos’ offices. She knew from experience that three hours was much less time than it sounded like, so she forced herself into the kitchen, where she threw some pop tarts in the toaster.



“Breakfast of champions,” she quipped, pouring herself some orange juice. Her mother had always said the stuff woke you right up, and she wasn’t wrong. Halfway through the glass, Kally’s brain started to clear.



Kally was midway through her second tart when Layla called to inquire as to whether she had accepted her second proposal, and Kally began to wonder if her agent was getting a commission for setting up these secret meetings. Even now, on a Saturday, the woman was still selling the project, as if she was afraid Kally might ignore her if she stopped.



“I’ve already agreed to do it!” Kally finally replied sharply, and she heard Layla struggle to remain nonplussed at her tone.



“Alright. I’m sorry to keep bringing it up, but the last company that upset Mr. Lewis ended up filing chapter eleven.”



Kally often joked that Layla had worried her way to the top, and she took a few moments to swear that she wouldn’t make the agency crumble like the walls of Jericho. Then Layla asked if Kally could handle two memoirs at once, and suddenly an idea came to her.



No one could know what Don had asked her to do, not even the woman who had gotten her the job. She would have to maintain a cover story, and lie to all of the people she worked with. Everything had seemed clear a few hours ago, when she had been staring down an arrogant Texan, and her mind had been full of revenge. But now she couldn't quite quash the feeling that she was behaving like a criminal.



Stratos is the real criminal here she kept telling herself, as she forced Layla off of the phone. But saying it and making herself believe it were two entirely different things.



She left her apartment at ten forty-five. She always tried to give herself extra time in case she got turned around somewhere, or got lost altogether. That had happened several times during her first few weeks in New York, and she could not afford to end up halfway across the city with no idea where to go again. It wasn’t long ago that Kally had lived in Washington, DC, where the subway map might have been brought to you by Sesame Street. New York’s version seemed so complicated that Kally thought she’d sooner find Treasure Island than Manhattan.



At the subway station, Kally studied a map of the system on her phone while she waited for her train. She kept getting the feeling that someone was hovering behind her, but whenever she looked, there was no one to be seen. By the fourth time this happened, she had convinced herself it was just jitters, and an old lady was beginning to look at her funny whenever she suddenly jerked her head around. When the train pulled in, she got on it eagerly, hoping it was just the station that was making her feel nervous. Kally plopped down in the first empty seat she saw, and pulled up an e-book on her phone.



The novel, the system map, and the gaggle of children some poor mother was barely restraining kept Kally’s mind pretty well distracted until she reached the center of the city. She still had plenty of time on her hands, so she bought some iced tea from a food truck, and strolled toward the address Stratos had given her.



In a matter of minutes, she could see the building, and she shook her head as more and more of the huge expanse came into view. She could have found it without the address; much like the Three Rivers, it stood out prominently from everything around it.



The New York offices of Stratos Holdings Inc. were housed in a building made of cream colored brick. It rose into the sky for forty stories, tapering elegantly at the very top. Each of its sides were covered in floor after floor of huge, tinted, windows. Kally doubted anything could be seen through them. At the very top of the side that faced her sat a golden “S” in a circle, the company’s logo. When she reached the building, she found it was set back from the sidewalk to allow a small lawn and a collection of flower bushes to decorate the doorway.



He doesn’t do subtle, does he? Kally thought as she entered the building and came to a stop in the elegant lobby. She noted the fountain bubbling quietly in the center, its waters filled with a vast assortment of coins.

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