There were times in life when the all-day twenty-four-seven hustle of the young and hungry and about to become very successful had to be slowed down. Sometimes to a yawningly boring crawl. Attendance to certain events was mandatory if I wished to maintain important relationships in my life.
So that meant I had to crawl out in my cave once in a while, dawn some socially-acceptable clothing and act like a normal. For at least a little while.
And this weekend, that event happened to be at a wedding. Where I was accompanied by what might be the ugliest date I’d ever had.
But at least he’d shaved his perennial scruff, stopped dressing like a raggedy surfer and vowed not to get too drunk on the champagne.
“You know, you really should have brought a chick with you. It’s bad form to show up at the wedding of an old flame without a much better looking—and preferably younger—date.”
I threw Jordan a salty look. “She’s not an old flame and you are younger than Lindsay so…”
Jordan sipped at his champagne glass. I ignored mine. I’d choke down a glass later when it was time for the toast. But the bride and groom had not arrived yet from their fancy nuptials exchanged at a glitzy church nearby—the Crystal Cathedral, of all places. I had no doubt it was one of Lindsay’s very first adventures inside a church at all. As far as I knew, she was still a very adamant atheist.
But her new hubby wasn’t, so fancy big huge church wedding—as huge a church as you could possibly find in Southern California—it was.
“Why didn’t you bring that blonde of yours—what’s her name, Miss Candi Cane?”
“She’s not mine. And her name is Candace. And we don’t date so I wouldn’t bring her to something like this.”
Jordan shook his head disapprovingly. “I’d be here with my plus one if she hadn’t backed out at the last minute for a surprise audition. Who does auditions on a Saturday?”
I shrugged. “Maybe she found an agent or producer to hook up with to further her career.” I suppressed a laugh at the look he gave me.
“I’m just saying that doing things the way you do them are counter-productive. Especially as you become a man of business, moving about the social scene, you are going to need a plus-one or several you can count on to pull out of your pocket. Not just your tidy little friends-with-benefits.”
I blinked. The truth was that Candace and I had been hooking up off and on for the better part of a year when I had the time to break away from work. Which was less and less often these days. She’d been whining a lot—and implying that she’d like things to be more than just friends.
My instincts had been telling me to let it go for months now but I was lazy and complacent and it was enjoyable most of the time. I’d probably pay for that laziness later.
“Where is this mystical social life of which you speak? I’m a hard working CEO of an as-yet untried startup. Women aren’t exactly beating a path to my door.”
“Stop kidding yourself. With your looks and maybe a little color if you spent more than ten minutes in sunshine per day, you clean up nicely. I could hook you up.”
Now that Jordan had been receiving a regular salary of his own, he’d moved out into his own upscale condo not far from mine.
“Besides, given the buzz the game is getting and the number of preorders that keep piling up, I don’t think you’re going to have to worry about an empty bank account for much longer. In fact, I’m going to suggest you start looking for a new place to live soon if you want a better tax write-off.”
“I haven’t even been in my condo a full year yet and already you got me moving?”
“Into some swanky bachelor pad, yes. Kiss all your sexless nights goodbye. Once you start living like what you’ll be worth in a few months, that is.”
With a sigh and a roll of my eyes, I waved him off. Fortunately the stupid conversation died out moments later when the bride and groom arrived fresh from their hour and a half of post-nuptial photos.
“Well no need to be grumpy about your date backing out,” I said to Jordan a moment after that, nodding toward the half dozen brides maids in matching mint green cocktail dresses who’d just appeared. “You seem to have quite the selection available for later.”
A devilish grin spread across his face. “Hell, yeah.”
Good. It meant I’d be rid of him for most if this gig once dinner was over.
And… as predicted, he was gone from dinner on, only returning when the cake was cut and distributed.
“What are you reading so intently on your phone?” he said between large forkfuls of cake.”
I shrugged. “Just a blog.”
His brows twitched. “A blog? What kind of blog?”
I set down my phone, picked up my own fork and started eating. Jordan snatched up my phone before the screen could fade out. What the—? My phone was sacrosanct and he knew that damn well. I didn’t even let the chick I was sleeping with touch it.
“Girl Geek?” he said between mouthfuls.
“Give that back to me before I ruin your pretty face so badly that none of those bridesmaids will ever be interested in sucking you off.”
He held it out to me with a puzzled look on his face and I snatched it out of his hands.
“Feminist gaming blogger? I…” he shook his head.
He shrugged. “Didn’t think that was anything close to your normal, uh, reading material.”
“Aren’t you the one who keeps nagging me to be more aware of influencers in our industry? She’s going to be blogging about Dragon Epoch as soon as the gag order is lifted.”
“Dude, I’m aware of who the big boys are in gamer influencing sphere and I’ve never heard of her.”
“Women play the game too.” I shrugged. “They could prove to be a much bigger demographic than we expect. Hell we have women working on the game, who’s to say that there won’t be women playing it?”
He screwed up his mouth. “Sure. But they won’t be the ones bringing in the big bucks and that’s what I care about.”
I wasn’t about to admit it to him, but this was my second read-through of her blog. I’d read it the first time last week, the first night I’d played with her group.
Eloisa, that is.
Her best friend Fragged had told me that she was a blogger after we’d spent an enjoyable evening together laughing our way through a few newbie quests. Her sense of humor had interested me enough to investigate her content.
So I’d looked her up after logging off and had to admit I was hooked on her writing style and approach—hilarious, witty with a heavy dose of snark. Just like she’d been while gaming.
A real firecracker, all right. My initial assessment had proved to be extremely accurate.
I’d never in a million years admit to Jordan that not only was I reading blogs but I was also playing on the game incognito. I wasn’t altogether sure why I was embarrassed to admit that.
Maybe it was just because my anxiousness to know how players were enjoying the game came from weakness? Impatience, definitely.
Jordan had a point. I had much better things to do with my time. Work, work and more work. And in those tiny cracks and fissures of personal time, besides working out, I could actually have a real social life like normal people.
Maybe even date.
But the fact of the matter was that I had zero desire to. I had a healthy sexual appetite, like many men my age—well not Jordan. Not many could keep up with Jordan.
But I’d found other ways around that besides dating and having to deal with drama in my personal life. At this point I had no desire to introduce anything that would deter me from my life’s goals. Because I was this-close.
Nevertheless, I kept gaming on Dragon Epoch. I’d tried a few sessions after that fun one with the blogger and her best friend but found I kept thinking about how much fun it had been to just chill out and hang with smart people who were funny.
So when I noticed Eloisa on my friends list again, I did the inadvisable and sent her a message.
And over the next couple of weeks, we all gamed together and sometimes, when the other two weren’t available, I found myself running around the game with just Eloisa.
I already knew enough about her to know she wasn’t a sixty year old menopausal grandma. Despite the fact that I didn’t think many DE game testers would fit that demographic.
She was young, a student, studying premed in college. And she could write. I found myself reading every updated on her blog. Most importantly, she made me laugh. Even if I refused to cross that final threshold of anonymity and use voice chat to connect with them. I was a fast typist, anyway. So they could joke around on voice and I’d keep up with them on my keyboard.
They’d suggested forming a guild but I couldn’t go that far in my play-acting of being a normal average-Joe beta tester.
But despite all these self-imposed restrictions and the closely guarded anonymity. I was enjoying myself. A lot more than I’d ever expected.
One day, while Eloisa and I were off polishing some side quests and I’d found myself scratching down notes based on her comments—without telling her, of course, she sent me the message…
Eloisa: I’m one hundred percent certain that the designer of this game is sexually frustrated pre-pubescent teen.
What the… ? Well I guess she’d be a good person to hang around if I wanted to stay humbled or felt myself getting too pompous, I supposed.
But that was a little rough…
With a grimace, I leaned in and typed out a quick,
Me: What makes you say that?
She went on a small rant about the perfect racks—or as she called them “gravity-defying breasts” and proclaimed yet again that I must be a frustrated virgin. Or rather, the game designer—which was me—was the frustrated virgin.
Well who died and made her the a self-proclaimed sexpert on all things to do with Yondareth and its inhabitants?
I chuckled, typing that out to her.
Eloisa: Do you think I’d reveal all my talents to you at once? Anyway, I have some unpublished articles about Dragon Epoch that will go up once the NDA is listed. Can’t wait to put those out there.
I bit the inside of my cheek, suddenly very nervous about her opinion of the game, especially given the comments about the scantily-clad women. Damn. My stomach did a flip. Me. Adam Drake. I was never nervous about anything, but for some reason this random player’s opinion meant more to me than I cared to admit.
Eloisa: It’s decent.
Decent? I frowned. Blinked. Frowned some more. Hmm.
Eloisa: Who am I kidding? It’s effing awesome. I really am enjoying this game. Just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Yet another cryptic comment. I should have just dropped the conversation nthere. It was angling into slightly uncomfortable territory for me. But shit, for whatever reason I kept it up, asking her what that meant. She then clarified.
Eloisa: Just waiting for the game to disappoint me, I guess It always happends. But it’s only been a week and I have a feeling there’s a lot more of Yondareth to explore.
And suddenly, inexplicably for no reason I could name, I really really didn’t want to disappoint her.
Not with the game, at least…
Chapter 7 | Chapter 9