Safeword:Quinacridone

By: Candace Blevins

Chapter One





Cara pushed stray hairs away from her face, her ponytail having long lost the battle of restraining them. Almost time for her three o’clock break, she refilled drinks at all of her tables before heading to the back, untying her apron as she walked. It always felt good to take it off and hang it up, and not have to feel on for a little while.

As she walked from the dining section to the internet and gaming computers the sounds around her changed from the clinking and clanking of dishes to the pitter-patter of keyboards and the clicking of mice. The manager set her up for an hour of computer time, a free perk when they weren’t busy.

She preferred a workstation at the rear of the room, with a decent keyboard and mouse, and situated to minimize interruptions. Relieved to find it open, she slid into the chair and opened a window to log into her computer at home.

The image had started as a complex photograph of a field of flowers, and she’d changed flower colors here and there until the client’s logo could be seen in the field as if planted that way. Part of the monitor was zoomed in to work at the pixel level with another section displaying an overview when someone startled her with, “Wow, you’re good. And fast. I had no idea they had such high-end graphics programs for use here; they should advertise.”

She didn’t bother looking up, just kept working as she said, “They don’t. I’m logged into my home computer.”

“What, the walls started closing in on you so you decided to work on your computer from here instead of home?”

She shook her head, annoyed, but figured answering his questions would make him leave faster than telling him to go away. She kept clicking as she talked. “No, I work here and this is my dinner break. I’m on a deadline and using my hour to try to get this finished; it has to be in the client’s inbox by 8:00 tomorrow morning. Is there something I can do for you?”

“Ah, then I’m bothering you. I tell you what — give me thirty seconds to turn around and look at me, tell me your name and phone number, and I’ll leave you to your work.”

She lifted her hand from the mouse and turned, not smiling. “My name’s Cara. You can’t have my number.”

He smiled. “Well, hello Cara. I’m Travis. I’d like to take you out to dinner sometime, and it’ll be hard to invite you without a way to call.”

Her eyes scanned him, finally seeing him as a human and not an interruption. She’d learned how to tell which guys would be able to get her off in bed and which wouldn’t — going out with the latter was pointless, as it only led to awkward moments and hurt feelings. As a general rule, geeks didn’t have a clue how to treat her in bed, and the combination of being here and attracted to her because of her computer skills put him into the running for the title. Unless he was an artist, which still didn’t necessarily bode well for date-ability, but...

“Are you an artist?”

“No, I design software. New ways to use the internet. You’re much better than my graphic artist and I pay him an arm and a leg. I don’t understand why you’re working as a waitress. I could probably help you find work but that’s not why I’m asking you out.”

Geek. Definitely a geek. “You haven’t asked me out. You’ve said you’d like to, but I haven’t heard an actual day and place.”

He paused and Cara could almost see him replaying the last couple of minutes in his head before saying, “Wow, you’re right. If you aren’t busy tomorrow night would you like to go to The Melting Pot with me?”

How had he managed to pick the one restaurant she wanted to try? Or maybe he’d picked an expensive place to get her attention? She needed to be safe, but realized she was considering his offer.

“Do you have a last name, Travis?”

He pulled a business card from his pocket, offering it to her. She immediately noticed the well-designed logo and had respect for his graphic design person before absorbing the words. It was apparently a tech company — Travis Winslow, President, CEO, and Visionary.

She reached for her purse and found one of her cards, with her name and email address on a light background of one of her paintings and a sticker on the back listing some places around town selling her real world art. There was no phone number; she rarely gave it to anyone.

He looked it over and raised his eyes to hers, and she noted he had a beautiful smile. “Nice to meet you, Cara Jamieson. Still no phone number, but a name and email’s a start. You’re an artist, so the graphic stuff’s a side job? You’re very good. I’m impressed and would love to see some of your work. Are you free tomorrow evening?”

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