Semi-Aggressive

Tasha wasn’t expecting a client, so when the door to her office opened her head snapped up from her work. She was just about to snarl at whoever had disturbed her when she saw it was her assistant. He knew better, so if he had opened the door it had to have been important. Before she could ask what he needed, her most notorious client stepped into the office and shot her the smile that had charmed thousands of moviegoers and one carefully curated jury.

“I brought you a gift,” Taylor said, holding up a bulging paper sack. Tasha held back a sigh. Whenever a client brought her a gift there was a decent chance it was going to be unimaginative. At best.

“Liquor?”

“Even better.” With a flourish, he pulled a plastic bag out of the paper one. It was a little over halfway filled with water and contained a single jewel-bright fish. Its rounded body was made slightly pointed by its fins and it stared at Tasha with a crafty orange eye.

“You brought me a fish.”

“I brought you a cichlid,” Taylor corrected maddeningly. Tasha narrowed her eyes at him, a moment away from telling him that she knew what a cichlid looked like, something that should have been obvious from the decoration in her office. “He wasn’t cheap, either.”

“They rarely are,” Tasha said, accepting the fish from him before he dropped the damn thing. She wasn’t about to admit it but she didn’t want to see even a single fish harmed. Clients had been offended when she refused to accompany them to extravagant sushi restaurants but she couldn’t think of anything more upsetting than sitting beside a beautifully aquascaped tank and eating fish. She turned the bag around and examined the fish. “You are aware this is a semi aggressive fish, right?”

“You mean it’s going to kill the other fish?” The look of surprise on Taylor’s face told her that she’d caught him completely off guard, and the balance in her office was immediately restored. Tasha raised an eyebrow at him.

“Does that bother you?”

“Not really. Everything has to die sometime.” It was exactly what she’d expected from him, and there was no point in commenting on it. He turned away from her and examined the tanks, his blue eyes stopping on each of the fish. Some of them stared petulantly back at him while others, mostly the small schooling fish, dove for cover in the rocks and plants. “Are you just going to dump it into one of the tanks and hope for the best?”

“I suppose you’ll be starting production on the new movie soon.” Tasha took the fish to her desk and set it down, careful not to shake the bag. She doubted Taylor had been quite so gentle on the trip over. He grinned at her and she sighed, though she didn’t think he noticed. It wasn’t surprising. Guys like him rarely paid attention to anything that didn’t involve themselves.

“Everybody’s favorite superhero is back in business,” he replied with a thumbs up. “I’m on my way to have lunch with my co-star, as a matter of fact. Just wanted to stop by and drop off that little guy.” His cocky smile turned genuine for a moment and he extended a hand to Tasha. “Thanks for getting me off.”

“You’re welcome,” she said, shaking his hand. It was the last time she would see him, and she was relieved. It was always irritating when clients decided they wanted to get chummy. Taylor went to the door, then paused for a moment.

“How did you make that guy have a breakdown?”

“Enjoy your lunch.” Tasha turned her back on him and waited until she heard the door close, then pushed the button on the intercom. “Troy,” she said before her assistant could speak. “Don’t let anyone else in.” It wasn’t a request, and she took her finger off the button without waiting for a reply. A moment later, she pressed it again. “Wait half an hour and call my tank guy.”

She locked herself in with the soothing glow and hum of the tanks that surrounded the room, her eyes on the fish suspended in his plastic prison. He’d be out soon enough. Tasha let a rare smile tug at her lips, then she unbuttoned her jacket and took off her shoes.

There was just enough time for a dip.

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