Gina could hardly believe her luck when she was hired at the Platinum Gold Investment Agency. She wore her black power suit, with the white silk shirt picked out in a tiny red pattern. The men and women of the agency all wore discreet, crushingly expensive designer clothes. With a thrill of pleasure, Gina saw how each associate had a perfect haircut, unmarred skin, trimmed and shiny nails. Their eyes were as sharp as diamonds, and the banter was predictable but clever.
All but one – Trevor.
Gina’s eyes slid over him and away again. In the perfected glitter of her welcome cocktail party, she thought by comparison he might be one of the homeliest men she had ever laid eyes on. He slouched against a wall, slowly sipping a scotch. Unlike the other men, he had no evident muscle tone hard-earned at the gym or racquetball court. His face sported a straight beard instead of a close shave or stylish shadow, and his high forehead had become more prominent from hair loss. As she accepted an elegant cocktail, Gina noted approvingly that every other male associate exhibited a full head of carefully groomed hair.
As Trevor’s forehead furrowed, his eyes, brown rather than piercingly blue, took her in. She wondered uncomfortably why Trevor was part of this.
“Who is that guy?’ she murmured to Claire, the most friendly of the associates. The woman glanced over, and with a discreet trill of laughter, responded. “Oh Trevor. A bit of a misfit…but a brilliant one. He sees trends that other people miss. I try to avoid him though – he’s just too different. And around money, perfection is everything.”
Gina nodded and offered the smile she’d worked on all through business school – pleasant, sharp, non-committal. Perfect.
As the weeks passed, she burrowed into her work with something approaching joy. Following Claire’s example, she went to the gym early each morning, sipped a skinny latte at her desk while reviewing the market, did her best to charm clients, tried to avoid Trevor, and pushed away the disquieting feeling that she was missing something critically important.
One Wednesday morning, she looked up to see Trevor staring at her from her office door. The sunshine that streamed through the window highlighted the imperfect contours of his face but sweetened his molasses brown eyes. Her practiced smile faltered a little.
“You’re working on the Honeybee account, right?” he asked.
“Yes. Claire recommended to Mr. Harrington that I get a shot at it.”
Trevor puffed out his cheeks. “Find a way to dump it,” he said. “There’s poison there. Fraudulent something going on. Doesn’t feel right.”
“It’s my first big chance,” Gina defended. “Claire recommended me especially for it.”
Trevor frowned. “Claire…Claire’s been the big up and comer in the firm.”
“I know,” Gina smiled. Nothing was fake about this smile. “She’s been really showing me the ropes.”
“Right,” Trevor said. “Well, if I can help, you know where my office is.”
Gina waited politely, and when he had gone picked up another file. “Like that’s going to happen,” she murmured.
And then it started to fall apart. There was a terrifying meeting with Mr. Harrington, to explain why the Honeybee account was dropping in value. Gina didn’t understand how it was happening. She was doing everything right. And how had Mr. Harrington caught on so fast?
She asked her assistant to set up meetings with the other associates. She knew when she was out of her depth – needed some serious help. But they were all booked up, even Claire. Especially Claire. Only Trevor was able to open a slot for her.
She sat in his cluttered office, trying not to wring her hands while he looked up the account and glanced through the files. Trying to distract herself, she noticed how well-shaped and capable his hands were as they flew across the keyboard. He turned and began flipping through the file.
“There, and there, and there,” he said, pulling out three sheets from the several hundred.
Gina looked at the pages, and with sick despair, saw what she should have seen before, even though it had been well hidden by reams of reports and spreadsheets seeming to prove otherwise.
“These don’t add up,” she managed to gasp out.
Trevor nodded, got up, and took a bottle of water, regular water – not Perrier – from the small fridge. “Take a minute,” he said, “while I think on this.”
Gina grasped the bottle and when her hands fumbled with the cap, Trevor took it, gave it a twist, then handed it back.
“This was Claire’s account…” she said.
“She set me up…” A thousand tiny ignored indicators fell into place.
“You got it in one.” Trevor sat down again and began paging through the file, occasionally calling up information on his computer.
Gina simply sat, rolling the cool bottle between her fingers, trying to think of something, anything she could do to save herself. But instead of a plan, the only things that sludged through her mind were her massive student loans, the credit card debts allowing her to look the part, the money she had promised to repay her parents…the humiliation when she became a pariah in the exclusive money club. There was no way Claire would keep this quiet.
Keep your enemies closer…
Trevor’s PA appeared at the door. “Mr. Harrington wants to talk to you, Trevor,” she said.
Trevor didn’t even look up. “I have some time this afternoon.”
And Gina realized then, that the manicures and haircuts and clever chat had been camouflage. Trevor was the real deal. So caught up in the flash and glitz that Claire and the others fostered, she’d been too stupid to notice.
Her mind cleared. She leaned forward, lifted the damning pages and with a deep breath, forced herself to read them. “What if I approached it this way?” She outlined a plan that was now forming in her mind. Trevor nodded approvingly.
“Do it,” he said. “And maybe throw this in.” He pushed a pile of figures toward her, ones he’d rapidly scribbled on scrap paper.
Gina read the notes, and flashed him a grin, the real thing – not her perfected smile.
In three weeks, she toasted Claire when the woman was “leaving to pursue other interests,” then with a list suggested by Trevor, did a serious search on her own. Two months later, Gina accepted a position in another firm. It was a bit less manicured, a lot more ethical, a place where she could actually do her job with pride.
She and Trevor met again and again as she described her challenges and efforts. He listened, offered advice when asked, and smiled so that his brown eyes looked like the tastiest chocolate fudge.
When Trevor looked at her like that, when he finally worked up the courage to ask her out, Claire realized how happy she was to say yes to the handsomest man she had ever met.