Home > Come As You Are(5)

Come As You Are(5)
Author: Lauren Blakely

Damn, this woman is an absolute genius. I do enjoy a toasty shower. Shaking my head in admiration, I answer her, “Yes, and please turn off the lights when I leave this morning. That’s all I need right now.”

“As you wish.”

Spinning in my chair, I turn to my two colleagues—Carson and Jennica, my right- and left-hand people. Carson’s dark eyes are lit up with excitement. As one of my top executives, he’s been working tirelessly on the final touches for the voice recognition in our smart-home system. “Carson, all I’ve ever wanted since I was a kid is to live inside The Jetsons, and it’s happening at last.”

“I’ll work on launching you into space next. But for now, I’m glad this works so well,” Carson says, gesturing to the showcase for our system, dubbed Haven.

I give Kate, the voice I like to converse with, one final command, telling her to cancel the shower, since I don’t actually plan to shower here in our demo home. But man, am I ever glad the system is firing on all cylinders.

Haven rocks. If I’m popping into a wine shop on the way home, I can check on the dog cam and see if Fido, Fritz, and Mitzi are lounging in their dog beds or eating yet another roll of toilet paper. From the subway, with the press of a button, I can flick on the thermostat to warm the place—I can even start the washing machine. If I want to talk to the lamps or the blinds, I can do that too.

Jennica flips her red hair off her shoulders and chimes in. “How about giving me the hot British voice when you’re showing me all the whizz-bang features? Do I have to listen to Kate? Or can I please have Henry, Tom, or Daniel?”

I hold out my hands in a question. “What is it with British guys?”

Jennica leans forward, her blue eyes bugging out. “Hello? Have you heard them talk? It’s like listening to sexy British butter.” She brings her index finger to the tip of her tongue then touches the air, making a sizzling sound.

Jennica and I have worked together for ten years. I knew her in college, and she was by my side when I had my first company, and now she’s here again with Haven. She’s an unstoppable force and like an older sister to me. A second older sister, since I have one already.

“Butter?” Carson shoots her a quizzical gaze.

“Butter good. Butter yummy,” Jennica says. “And I want Kate to be a hot guy with a sexy British butter voice. Switch her to Daniel for me, please.”

Carson shrugs and tips his goateed chin at me. “We can’t compete.”

“Hey, speak for yourself. I have a deep baritone that’s like sexy American butter.”

Jennica cracks up. “Flynn, you should use that voice to go as a bad boy to the masquerade ball.” She snaps her fingers. “Wait. I have a better idea. Why don’t you go as a bad boy piece of code? Just get a leather jacket, some boots, and write some crap code on a T-shirt. Speaking of, I’m going as a Polaroid.”

I pretend I’m deeply annoyed. “Why’d you tell me? Now I can’t guess what you are when I see you.”

“If you couldn’t tell I’m a Polaroid, then I’d be doing it wrong. Steve is going to be a Snapchat filter,” she adds, mentioning her husband.

“I already have a costume. Plus, I find bad code so morally offensive, I’m not sure I’d choose that. But my costume does rock,” I say, proud of what I picked out.

“Tell us.” Jennica grins.

“I’m going as ID theft,” Carson blurts, and I spin and stare at him.

Dread drops into my stomach. “What did you say?”

Carson nods excitedly. “I have one hundred name tags, and I’m going to slap them all over me with different people’s names.”

And there goes my idea.

“That’s a great plan,” I say with a forced smile.

“What about you?” he asks innocently, since he doesn’t know he picked my idea.

“Guess you’ll all just have to wait and see.” I rub my palms together, moving on. “Now, let’s review the final tweaks in Haven.”

“No one can come close to Haven.” Carson walks us through the updates he’s made to the automation system that’s rolling out next week. “Haven is far better than anything else on the market. And it’s absolutely better than ShopForAnything,” he says, meeting my gaze. There’s a touch of nerves in his eyes, and I get it—I feel them sometimes too. Our newest competitor is merciless, and I have to guard our company from its pending ambush.

I can’t fail because I have hundreds of employees depending on me to succeed, people counting on me for paychecks, for jobs, to make sure the company doesn’t become ShopForAnything’s cornflakes.

I won’t let us fail. I’m well aware that while I might be fine and dandy in the nest-egg-for-generations department, I have people who rely on me for their daily bread. What motivates me every day at work isn’t making more money to pad my coffers. It’s building something new and taking care of the people who make it possible.

“And you’re ready to roll out the marketing plans on a wide scale?” I ask Jennica.

“We are going to market this like Christie’s marketed the holy hell out of that lost da Vinci. That was genius. Advertising, PR, videos—the works. And, go figure, but for some reason”—she points at me and rolls her eyes—“people seem to like you, so we’re going to market the hell out of you. The secret weapon of the boy-next-door genius.”

I laugh it off. The attention is still weird to me. “Recap the plans for me.”

She spreads her hands like a movie director making a pitch on Sunset Boulevard. “You have the morning shows booked where you’ll demonstrate all the cool aspects of Haven, and we also have magazine features lined up that’ll reach some high-end consumers.” She twists her index and middle finger together. “And I have Up Next interested in a potential in-depth feature on you, and how you made the change from your first business to this one. I’ll know soon if it’s a go.”

The mention of the prestigious magazine makes me sit a little straighter. That publication is the holy grail when it comes to feature profiles. “That would be quite a coup.”

“Your assistant has all the others in your calendar, and she’ll be sure to tell you what color shirt to wear when you’re on TV,” she says with a wink.

I give her a thumbs-up. “Good. Because fashion is hard for me,” I say, deadpan, since clothing is no laughing matter, which may explain why my wardrobe consists of jeans, pullovers, and the occasional business button-down that my sister picked out for me. Without her help, I’d be lost.

I head to my office, and I’m tackling some of the items on my to-do list when my assistant, Whitney, pops in. “Hi. I have all the name tags for your costume for the masquerade party tomorrow night. Do you want me to google popular names and mix them up with weird and bizarre ones?”

I drag a hand through my thick brown hair. “Nope.”

“You’re going to do it yourself?” she squeaks. Whitney’s voice is naturally high-pitched—she almost always sounds surprised. This time, though, it seems legit.

“Why don’t you give the name tags to Carson? I need a whole new costume. Any ideas?”

She taps her lip then blurts out, “A headless horseman. You’d totally be in disguise.”

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