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Dating in the Dark (Dating Trilogy Book 1) by Alexandria Bishop (1)

Chapter 1

Nine-fifteen.

It’s been approximately thirty seconds since the last time Tinley glanced at the clock in the bottom corner of her monitor. Her shift started an hour and fifteen minutes ago, and yet her phone remains silent. The delicious sweet nectar of coffee she was drinking is long gone, and her caffeine high is quickly fading due to boredom. Her purse is hiding a delicious strawberries and cream cupcake that she was using as something to look forward to later in the day, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and the fluffy melt-in-your-mouth buttercream is calling her name.

“Domestic,” whispers the voice in her headset, alerting her to a call coming in from one of their United States customers.

“Thank you for calling Wanderlust International, my name is Tinley, can I cure your lust for adventure with a Caribbean cruise today?” She tries not to choke on her words as they tumble out of her overly fake, plastered-on smile because, as her boss likes to drill into her head every single day she’s at this damn job, the customer can hear a smile in your voice. As it turns out, Tinley would rather vomit than spend one more minute caring what these customers think.

“Am I on a recorded line right now?” Tinley pulls the headset away from her ear and turns the volume way down. There are some conversations where she has to struggle to hear a single word, but ones like this, for example, are projected just fine. It’s annoying, but just part of the job. “I’m not sure how I feel about that, and I don’t think I ever gave y’all permission to record me.”

Every freaking time. She doesn’t know what it is, but it’s like they completely ignore everything until they’re talking to a real person. This lady must be one of those zero pressers who keeps hitting it no matter what the recording says. News flash lady, it doesn’t always work that way.

Tinley quickly mutes her phone, chugs down some water, fake screams, unmutes her phone, and plasters on her fake smile again. Using a saccharine yet professional voice, she says, “Ma’am, you are on a recorded line. We record all of our phone calls for quality assurance and training.”

Before the woman even starts talking again, Tinley can sense the anger already starting to build. “But you didn’t tell me that. Aren’t you required by law to tell me you’re recording me? I have yet to hear those words come out of your mouth.”

“I apologize for any confusion ma’am. Before you were connected to me, the line did let you know you were being recorded, and like I said, we record all calls for quality assurance and training.”

The audible breathing on the other end of the call becomes heavier and heavier. It’s T-minus five minutes until explosion time. Hell, if Tinley’s lucky, this call will be ending in less time, and she can go for a “smoke break,” even though she doesn’t smoke. Around here, it seems to be the only acceptable excuse for abandoning your station for five minutes; God forbid she has to pee or—heaven help us—change a tampon. Nope, the dudes running this place don’t want to hear about the woes of being a woman, and it has become common practice for everything to be described as a smoke break.

Whatever.

“I don’t like the tone you’re taking with me. I am the customer, and if I didn’t exist, you wouldn’t have a job right now. You think about that one, missy. Isn’t the first thing they teach you people that I am always right?”

Another holier-than-thou customer who seems to think she knows all—just what Tinley was hoping for to end her perfect suckfest of a week. With a quick glance at the clock, she inwardly groans. She’s killed exactly three more minutes of her day; only seven more hours until she’s free from this place for an entire forty-eight hours, but who’s counting?

“I’m really sorry if I upset you. I would be glad to help you out today in any way I can.” Her back stiffens when someone starts hooting and hollering in the corner, no doubt the current largest sale for the day. It probably went to that douchebag, Marek Outlaw. While he’s not technically her boss, he’s still a supervisor on the floor. He’s never ever on the phones, but if he pops on for five minutes? He always lands the biggest deals. What kind of a last name is Outlaw anyway? It has to be fake.

“It’s a little too late for apologies. I think you need to transfer me to a manager and find a new job. You’re obviously no good at this one.”

“One moment please, I’ll transfer you right over. Before I do, is there anything else I can help you with?”

“No, you can’t. I would like to talk to someone with intelligence, although I’m not holding my breath on that since someone obviously had to train you.”

Six hours and forty-two minutes. Only six hours and forty-two minutes to go.

“I hope you enjoy the rest of your day ma’am. Transferring now.” She hits transfer and blows out everything she was holding back. “And fuck you very much, you cow.”

Damn, that didn’t even help a little bit in helping her feel better. She remembers back in the good old days when a fervent one-finger salute to her computer and headset was all it took to cheer her up. Now? Not even the nightly after-work cocktails are helping. Something needs to change, that’s for damn sure.

She puts her phone on unavailable so another call can’t come through then turns to her neighbor. It just so happens to be her best friend and roommate, Dakota—who, by the way, got the better end of the stick with this job because she only answers emails and the occasional chat. Meanwhile, Tinley deals with all the jerks over the phone.

“Shoot me now. Please just take me into the back room, whack me over the head, and be done with it. I’m ready to meet my maker and own up to the shit I’ve done in this life for the kind of karma being thrown my way. I would much rather be dead than deal with another phone call like that.”

Dakota continues typing her bullshit response to some crazy she’s got in a chat and says, “Okay drama queen. I’m going to keep saying it until it makes it through that thick skull of yours: You. Need. To. Get. Laid. Plain and simple.”

“Don’t worry, Tinley, I can fix that for you.”

She doesn’t even look up to see who’s speaking; she knows it’s Marek. She rolls her eyes and instead, the trusty one-finger salute goes up in the air. His arrogance really bugs the shit out of her, and the problem is he knows how badly he gets under her skin. She ignores him completely and continues talking to Dakota. “Do you ever think about anything else besides sex? It’s not the cure-all for every single problem out there, you know.”

“Says the woman who never gets any.” Dakota points to herself and looks up from her computer screen to look Tinley in the eyes. “Am I ever half as stressed as you? I know you say you don’t give a shit about this job, but you always seem awfully worked up over something you supposedly care so little about.”

“If you had to deal with—”

Dakota raises her hand as she turns her monitor toward Tinley, and the crude language spewed all over her computer screen is absolutely disgusting. Her eyes zero in on one line from the chat. “Is it really necessary for you to know that happened on the cruise? C’mon, doesn’t this person have any self-respect?”

She pops her gum and sends a final response before ending the chat and locking her computer. “Tinley, the keyboard warriors aren’t afraid to say anything and everything as long as the words are being typed and not actually spoken. You’d be surprised at the crap people say to me every day, but unlike you, I don’t let it affect me. This is a job, nothing more.”

“And that is why you’ll never be up for a promotion. You’re not a team player, Dakota.”

Tinley is annoyed that Marek is still standing there. If he weren’t so smug and arrogant, she would actually be attracted to him. His low husky voice is enough to make any woman’s panties wet, including hers. She rolls her eyes and wills her phone to start ringing so she can avoid whatever confrontation is about to happen. Then she remembers she put it on unavailable and resigns herself to another annoying co-worker encounter.

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” Her best friend laughs and walks away, leaving Tinley all alone with the gorgeous dickbag. Why are the attractive ones always the biggest jerks?

Closing her eyes, she takes a deep breath and slowly turns around to find him standing directly behind her. “Is there something I can help you with Marek?” She inwardly cringes as her voice cracks. Way to go Tinley, real smooth.

“I just got off the phone with one of your customers, and she wasn’t too happy with the interaction she had with you. Fortunately, I was able to save the sale, no thanks to you.”

Ugh. The last thing she is in the mood for is a lecture from Marek “The Asshole” Outlaw, and why the hell did Dakota just leave her all alone with this jerk? She’s going to have to have a chat with her about the rules of best friend loyalty because this right here definitely breaks them. “Sorry, it’s time for my smoke break. Can we talk about this later?”

Marek gives her a double take then shakes his head. He’s a got a smug grin on his face, and she can’t decide if she would rather slap it off or sit on it. The former would probably be a lot more satisfying. Marek is probably one of those guys who seems like he would be good in bed but is actually all about himself and makes for a really lousy experience. “You don’t even smoke, and it’s not your break time.”

“Are you sure about that? Are you one hundred percent sure that I don’t smoke? Because Jonah over there just came in from a smoke break and I know he takes more than the allotted two fifteen-minute breaks a day. So, unless you’re going to tell every person in here who smokes that they’re only allowed to do that on their given breaks, I don’t think you can play favorites and tell me I can’t spend five minutes away from my desk getting a cup of coffee, shoving a tampon in, or doing any other thing I feel the need to do to clear my head of the assholes on the phone.”

Mic drop.

Tinley’s hands are shaking as she walks away from Marek and heads toward the front doors. She can’t believe she said any of those things to him. She’s never stood up to him like that before, and she kind of liked it. As the doors slide open and she’s hit with a major heat wave, all she can do is smile. Not able to walk out the doors without one last look, she turns around slightly and slams right into Jonah on his way out for his umpteenth smoke break of the day. To make matters worse, she was trying to be cute and spin on one foot, and all that did was cause her to lose her balance. Her legs fly out from underneath her, and her butt slams down on the track of the sliding doors.

Someone starts a slow clap, and laughter can be heard throughout the office. Unmistakably, Marek’s timber thunders over everyone else’s. Tinley has never been particularly graceful, but this one moment would have been the perfect time for her to pull it off. Instead, her grace is lying down in the gutter, along with her dignity. Her body screams out in pain as she slowly pushes herself up—not a single person came running to offer their help. A bunch of selfish jerks, all of them. Her foot slides as she steadies herself on her feet and she almost face-plants into the cement, but fortunately she catches herself before that can happen. The doors finally shut behind her as she walks away on her hunt for her so-called best friend.

There’s no way this day could get any worse, right?

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