“I’m counting on it,” I said and he smiled once more at me before walking back down the hall. Tempus Manum was leaning on the desk of the receptionist, chatting with her while she giggled. As soon as I walked in, though, he pushed himself away from the desk and walked over to me. He was holding something in his fist, which he held out to me and dropped into my hand. It was a plain and simple watch, with a brown leather band and a square face.
“It’s your comm unit,” Tempus Manum explained, the lack of excitement in his tone expressing his boredom quite clearly. I picked up the watch by its band gingerly, turning it round in the air and frowning. “I know it doesn’t look like much. That’s because it isn’t. Like I said, this is a pretty basic model. It’ll alert you when a POWER group member needs to talk to you. Because of how new you are, you can generally expect that I’ll be the POWER group member who needs to talk to you.” He took the watch out of my hand and clasped it around my left wrist. I pulled it away after he’d finished and held it up to the light. It was pretty, I could see. Simple, but pretty. “Do you like it?”
“It’s okay,” I said, shrugging, trying to match his nonchalant tone. “It’ll probably be better once I upgrade it.” Tempus Manum grinned at me for the first time in the entire period we’d been together.
“Perfectly understandable. Come on.”
“Where are we going now?” I asked, as the elevator rose higher and higher and higher. The unlabeled buttons lit up as we passed each floor and finally we stopped, as the last button lit up.
“Public Relations,” Tempus Manum said somewhat grumpily. How he managed to get such a mood swing, I had no clue, but it was sudden. “Welcome to Hell, Stryker.” The reception area of Public Relations was sleeker than Real Estate’s had been and there were multiple secretaries typing away at their laptops. Tempus Manum paid them no attention and led me to the front desk, where one supermodel-like brunette idly read a magazine. She glanced up as Tempus Manum and I approached and shoved the magazine away so that we wouldn’t see.
“Tempus Manum,” she purred, leaning forward on her elbow so that her head was propped up in her hand. One long, French manicured nail stroked her cheek softly. “What can I do to service you?”
“Lisa,” he purred back, leaning forward. “Always a pleasure.” He suddenly became serious again and took a step back. “We need to see Randi. It’s important. She’ll know what it’s about.”
Lisa frowned and pressed a button on the desk next to her. “Temp, this is a girl. You’ve never come here with a girl before. Are you…” She gasped loudly, causing all the other secretaries to look at us. “Are you his girlfriend?” It seemed the people in the POWER group’s Public Relations division were just clueless as everyone else about Tempus Manum. Why was he so secretive about everything?
“What?” I said, my eyes going wide. “No, no. No, God, no. I’m just here to…um…” I turned towards Tempus Manum and frowned. “What am I doing here again?”
“Ravi, hold all my calls,” said the short and slightly chubby woman who barreled into the lobby. A disheveled young Indian man trailed after her, scribbling things down onto notepads and putting notes into a phone. The woman turned towards Tempus Manum and I and smiled widely. “If this girl is anything like the man standing in front of me, we’re going to be quite a while.”
“Randi,” said Tempus Manum, giving the woman a tight hug. “So good to see you again. Can we come in?”
“Of course, Tempy,” Randi said, leading us into her office. She shut and locked the door behind us before pressing a button to lower the blinds and block us out from the rest of the world. “Okay, we’re good. It’s soundproofed.”