Unknown number calling. It must be Tara calling me back to discuss information about Sunday’s event. Normally I wouldn’t answer an unknown number, but since we’re having problems finding a place for our event, I swipe my finger across the locked screen of my cell phone to answer the call.
There is a brief pause and I’m ready to say hello again when an automated voice comes through the speaker. “Hello, this is Bayou National Credit’s Lose Prevention calling. We are calling to confirm the last few transactions on your card.” The automated voice drones on, but I barely pay attention to what it says. My heart drops down to my feet as I realize that someone has tried to steal my credit card number.
Oh no . . . my tax money!!!!
Frantically I open my laptop so I can log in to get access to my banking information. There is over three thousand dollars in my checking account; over four thousand in savings. For some people, it’s not a lot of money, but to me, that’s all the money I have in the world. I’m going to be so pissed if some faceless asshole took what’s mine. This is the last thing I need now; work has been stressful, my brother and I aren’t getting along at the moment, and it’s been raining for nearly a week so my mood has been less than sunny.
After getting through the automated prompts, I’m finally able to speak with a human being. The first question he asks is if I recently charged $267 at a Food Lion over in Monroe. Every time I hear the name Food Lion, I automatically add ‘roar’ to it thanks to one of my brother’s idiosyncrasies. When he hears someone say Piggly Wiggly, he oinks. Jason Stackhouse was blessed with good looks and unparalleled skills when it came to hunting, fishing, sports, or picking up women. God must have looked the other way when it was time to give out intelligence and maturity.
I confirm that I did not make the charge at the Food Lion (‘roar’), but did authorize a charge for one dollar at the Grabbit Qwik. I was driving home from work and the gas warning light came on. I’d pulled off the highway to get gas at the closest station. Since when did gas pumps start coming with televisions in them?!?!?! While pumping gas, I’d gotten the latest entertainment news courtesy of the Access Hollywood program that was showing. Technology advances in the strangest of ways.
Once we established what charges I did and did not make, the gentleman on the other end of the phone informs me that my credit card number has been duplicated and from now on is closed. They will be mailing me a new card. While we are on the phone, I’m finally able to get into my online account information. Fortunately all the account activity I see are charges that I have made, so I have not lost any of my money.
The bad news?
I don’t have my credit card for three to five business days.
The gentleman on the phone rushes to assure me that my account is not closed and that I can still use checks or withdraw cash from any bank teller. He wishes me a good evening before he hangs up.
Checks?!?!?!?! Do people still use those? I don’t think I ever purchased checks once the starter checks that came with my account were gone. That was over five years ago.
And cash? I haven’t dealt with cash since I stopped waitressing. I never liked carrying money on me. It was too easy to lose and I seemed to spend it faster than if I was using my credit card. Without my card, I have to go to the bank to withdraw money from a teller. Of course this phone call would happen around five in the evening when all the banks are closed for the night. So my lunch break tomorrow will be spent going to the bank to withdraw enough money to get me through the next few days.
Is there even a bank near my office? With online banking, mobile applications, and credit cards, I haven’t stepped foot in a bank in a long time. Sighing heavily, I grab a beer from the refrigerator. It’s going to be a long night as I check all of my accounts for any fraudulent charges.
The rain outside picks up, lightning streaks across the sky, and thunder booms so loudly that it rattles the windows. I sigh again before taking a long pull on my beer. It’s gonna be a long fucking night, and it’s only Tuesday.
Midday Wednesday finds me standing in line at the bank. I don’t understand it; if you know your busiest time of the day is going to be the lunch rush, then why don’t you have every available teller working their window? I got here about fifteen minutes before noon; there were three people in front of me and another person behind me. So what happens? The gum-chomping, badly dyed red-haired wench took one look at the line forming and announced she was going on her lunch break.
The three customers in front of me seem to take forever. One of them is an elderly woman, another is doing a deposit for a business, and the third is a gentleman that is cashing his paycheck and wants the money in twenties, tens, and fives. When it’s finally my turn to move up to a teller, it’s almost quarter after twelve. I have to be back at work by half past and I still need to pick up something to eat for lunch. Packing lunch wasn’t high on my list of priorities last night.
Beer and ice cream were.
So I’m not in the best frame of mind when I get up to the teller. She’s a larger woman perched on the tiny stool they give the tellers to have them sit up higher. I feel sorry for that stool; it could collapse at any minute under her weight. I know that’s not very Christian of me, but I’m too irritated, hung over, and hungry to care. Besides it’s hard to be charitable to someone who is staring at me like I’m inconveniencing her because I dared to come into her place of work.
I’m sorry, is there a ham sandwich I’m keeping you from Miss Piggy?
“Can I help you?” Her question may have indicated that she is here to help me, but her tone is extremely hostile. Why is it she works in customer service if she hates dealing with people?
I slide the withdraw slip across the counter as I tell her I need to withdraw money from my checking account. To be safe, I’m taking two hundred dollars out of my account. It’s more than I think I’ll need, but I don’t want to have to return to the bank again. It’s a nuisance.
The rotund woman with the bright blue eye shadow and five double chins rolls her eyes at my statement. “I’m gonna need to see your ID and debit card,” she says gruffly.
I quickly hand over my driver’s license, but I don’t have my debit/credit card. Why the hell would I carry it with me when the gentleman yesterday told me that I could no longer use it? “I’m sorry I don’t have my card. It was canceled yesterday because of an attempted fraudulent charge to my account.”
The woman smirks at my words and pushes my license and withdraw slip back across the counter. She tugs at her dress – or is it a muumuu? – and looks smugly at me. “We can’t process any cash withdraws without your debit card. Bank policy.”
The pleasant smile I’d plastered on falls away and I glare at this woman. Today is not the day to fuck with me. “I’m sorry, but how can that be your policy? My credit card number was stolen; my card no longer works. Why would I carry it with me? I was told by the representative on the phone yesterday that I would be able to withdraw money if I came to the bank, so that’s what I’ve done. Now you’re telling me that you refuse to give me access to my money?” My voice gains in volume until I am practically shouting. It’s my fucking money; don’t you dare tell me that I can’t access it! Everyone in the bank turns their head to stare at me. Normally I would be embarrassed that I was causing a scene in public, but I don’t care today. This experience is difficult enough without having this woman throwing her considerable weight around.
“I’m afraid I’m gonna have to ask you to leave,” the woman says rudely. “You’re causing a disturbance and we don’t take kindly to that. Don’t make me have security escort you out!” Her eyes gleam with the idea of having the security guard forcibly removing me from the building. My eyes glance towards the gangly security guard standing near the entrance. I used to waitress when it was quarter wings, two dollar pitchers, and Monday night football; I’ve thrown more than my fair share of drunk frat boys and rednecks out of the bar. The taller version of Barney Fife by the door doesn’t scare me.
Before I can retort, a smooth baritone interrupts the hostile situation that’s escalating to dangerous levels. “Excuse me ma’am. My name is Eric Northman; I’m the branch manager. May I be of some assistance?”
My eyes, which have been locked in battle with Tammy Faye Baker’s long lost twin sister, flicker to the source of the voice in annoyance. The branch manager is dressed in a charcoal grey tweed suit with a black V-neck shirt underneath, showing a sliver of a gold rope chain. He must be tall because he towers over the woman on her stool His skin is tanned a nice golden color which complements the short sun-kissed blond hair on his head. And his eyes are somewhere between a mix of blue and green; they remind me of the color of the Caribbean ocean. His expression is one of polite professionalism. I was ready to blast him with both barrels because of how pissed his employee has me, but then I looked at him more closely.
I’ve always been a sucker for a man with stubble. There’s something about it that makes me want to nibble along a man’s jawline. Not a full beard because I don’t want a mouth full of hair. Any variation of hair on the face usually doesn’t do it for me either, though I do like a well-groomed goatee on some men. But stubble on the right guy makes me weak in the knees.
And this definitely looks like the right guy!
My lips curve upwards in a genuine smile. “I certainly hope so. I was trying to withdraw money from my account because my credit card has been reported stolen. However your employee,” I say with a look of contempt at the woman and she glares at me, “said she can’t do it because I don’t have my card with me. I have my license, and there is more than enough money in the account to cover what I’m trying to take out. I don’t understand what the problem is.”
I’m a blue-eyed buxom blonde and I’ve always hated when a woman uses her assets to try to get what she wants out of people. Today I don’t care; I’m using every advantage I have to try and get what I want. So I bat my eyes, flip my hair over my shoulder, and I even push the girls together to make my cleavage look deeper. The heffer behind the counter knows what I’m doing and scoffs in disgust, but I’m not doing this for her benefit. I’m doing it for his, and judging by the smirk on his face, I’m hopeful it’s working.
“Well Mrs. –“
“Miss,” I hurry to correct. “Miss Stackhouse,” I say with a pleasant smile.
The smirk spreads on his face and a giggle escapes my lips. I’ve heard every play on words when it comes to my name, and most of them annoy me. It’s not my fault that I’m built like a brick shithouse and was born into the Stackhouse family. Jason got in his share of fights when we were younger because he didn’t like the things he heard the guys saying. I love my brother but he’s such a hypocrite. If he wasn’t my brother, he’d be saying the same damn stuff about my tits that all the others have. But because I’m his sister, I’m supposed to be as pure as the newly driven snow.
Oh if only he knew how I’d like to have the man in front of me drive into me right here, right now.
“Well Miss Stackhouse, I couldn’t help overhearing your dilemma. Mrs. Fortenberry,” he says putting his hand on the woman’s shoulder, “was correct. Our bank policy does require you to have identification and your bank card to withdraw money from your account.” My smile fades and Mrs. Fourteen-tons-heavy smiles triumphantly. Her victory is short-lived though as he continues speaking. “But given the extenuating circumstances, I’m sure we can make an exception in this case. If you’ll step down to the end of the row, I’ll be happy to help you down there.”
My vagina is jumping for joy hearing that he will be happy to help me down there. In fact, it is weeping with joy.
Pity that isn’t the ‘down there’ he was referring to.
The branch manager is staring at me from his place at the end of the counter, waiting expectantly. With a smug smirk to Satan’s mother, I take my withdraw slip and license and walk confidently down to where the branch manager is waiting. I slide the items across the counter to him. Our fingers brush and I gasp as the delicious jolt of awareness shoots up my arm, on a path straight to my peach. My eyes fly up to look at his, and I gasp again seeing how intense his gaze has become.
“Give me a moment to get this taken care of for you,” he says in a lower voice, not nearly the smooth professional tone he first offered. When he walks away, it gives me my first chance to look at his body.
Christ on a cracker! I didn’t know a real man could like this! He looks like a model, except I don’t think his body has been touched by Photoshop. Even with the suit on, I can tell that he is muscular, but not a meathead. He is firm in all the right places, and I want to take a bite out of that ass.
I think that will more than satisfy my appetite for lunch.
My hands move rapidly through the air trying to fan my flushed skin. It got warm in here all of a sudden. Eric turns around with my money in his hands and he smirks when he catches my gesture. That smirk makes my skin hotter than the hinges of hell. All I want to do is take my clothes off, lie down on the counter, and offer myself to him.
All too soon, Eric is standing across from me at the counter and he is sliding my money across the smooth wooden surface. I make sure our fingers touch when I go to pick up the envelope containing my money. That tingle is there again and it makes a shiver work its way down my spine. It is with great reluctance that I pick up the very thing that brought the two of us together.
Eric removes his hand from the counter and gives me that polite, professional smile again. “I’m terribly sorry about the inconvenience earlier, but I hope that you found your experience with me completely to your satisfaction.”
I bite my bottom lip nervously as I grin at him. He has managed to befuddle me with his overall sexiness. I cannot think of a thing to say, which isn’t very helpful since I’m trying to bask in the gloriousness of his presence for as long as possible. My eyes flicker to the clock on the wall. Twelve thirty; damn, I’m going to be late getting back to work.
“Thank you very much for your help Mr. Northman,” I begin only to have him cut me off.
“Please, call me Eric,” he says with a twinkle in his eye.
“Eric,” I say with a small smile. “Unfortunately, I have to get back to work. I’m going to be late as it is.” Regret hangs heavy in my voice as I look at him with a wistful smile.
“I am sorry,” he tells me with a look of alarm. “I hope it won’t cause you any problems.”
“No, it’ll be fine. I may have to stay a little later this evening.”
“Well I hope that won’t interfere with any of your plans for the night.”
“I don’t have any plans later.”
“Hmmm,” he says enigmatically. “Such a shame. Well,” he says drawing out the word as his eyes glance at the other people inside the bank. “It was my pleasure to help you today Miss Stackhouse. I do thank you for banking with us; I hope we’ll see you again in the future,” he says expectantly.
“You’ve certainly shown me the benefit of coming in here instead of doing online banking. I’m sure you’ll see me around.” My flirtatious manner returns and I give him a wink for added benefit.
“Good. Oh, you might want to check the envelope. It’s always a good idea to double-check that all your money is there,” he says wisely.
“Oh believe me, I’ll be keeping a close eye on my money from now on,” I vow fervently. “Good-bye Mr. Northman.”
“Have a good day Miss Stackhouse.”
With a last nod, I turn and walk away. I sigh heavily as I walk towards the exit. Looking at the envelope in my hands, I quickly thumb through the cash, confirming that it is all there. What I’m most interested in is my receipt. I’m paranoid now to make sure all my money is exactly where it should be. I haven’t watched my account balance this closely since I was a college student and would take my balance down to a penny. The amount in my account is correct, but that only holds my interest for a second; the handwriting on my receipt is far more captivating.
Lafayette’s. 7:00 pm.
When I reach the door, I pause to look back at Eric. He’s watching me expectantly, waiting for a sign that I received his message. With a nod and a wink, I turn back around so that I can rush back to my office. This afternoon is going to drag. All I want is for time to fly so that it’s seven and I’m having dinner with Eric.
Who knew I’d end up happy that my credit card number was stolen?