Chapter 3 : Picking Up the Pieces

1888 Words
*Simone* “There you are, girl!" Crystal said cheerily as I walked into the office. “How did your showing go? I've been dying to hear all about it." What a fake b***h. “It was wonderful," I said with a fake grin plastered on my face. It was too early in the morning for this woman to get the best of me. I wasn't going to give in. “I'm so glad to hear that!" she responded with a snotty edge to her voice. “First showings are always so difficult for most people. No one would be surprised to hear that you completely f*cked it up." “No, it was fine," I said breezily, trying to hide my anxiety. I hated this situation so much. The house was gorgeous, and it could be perfect for Michael. And Michael was gorgeous, and he could be perfect for me. But my career was too important to risk for a man. Maybe that was a harsh way to look at it, but I knew I wouldn't have trouble finding someone when I was ready to settle down. Now was the time to prove myself professionally and worry about a man later. I just hoped I could convince Michael to see it that way. . . . “It was awful," I moaned to Mandy during our lunch break. Crystal was out showing a house, so I felt like I could talk freely without her judging me. Mandy patted my arm sympathetically. “It's okay, sweetie. I'm sure you must have been nervous. Did you tell him you were new? People are always sympathetic when they hear you're new." “I did great," I said defensively. The problem was not my showing skills. “He loved the house! He even told me where he would put all of his relatives when they came to visit." She pouted, a confused look crossing her face. “So what was the problem?" I sighed wearily and dropped my head in my hands. “He liked me," I complained. She looked at me in concern. “You and I have a very different idea of what 'awful' means," she deadpanned. “You don't understand," I said. “He liked me, liked me. He basically told me he would rather have s*x with me than buy a house from me." She dropped her fork and fixed me with a hard stare. “Were those his exact words? You have a tendency to hear what people aren't saying." Damn. She had a point. “Well, he asked me out," I started. “And I told him that I couldn't date him because he's my client. And he said he didn't have to be my client." She laughed at this. “He didn't fire you as his agent!" she said cheerily. “You're the one placing boundaries on this relationship. Sell him the house, then screw his brains out. You're hardly the first realtor to fall for her client." I rolled my eyes at her. She couldn't possibly understand. “Look, most of my life people have taken one look at me and said, 'Wow, she's pretty. That must be all she's good for.' For a long time, I believed them. That's why I became a model when I was a teenager." She nodded at me, knowing my backstory. “For years, I heard men and women tell me that I could coast on my good looks for a while, but one day I'd be old and saggy, and no one would hire me. But I knew I was worth more than that. I know I'm smart and talented and good with people. And now when people tell me how pretty I am, it almost feels like an insult. It's like they're saying, 'You're pretty, and that's all you'll ever be good for.'" This confession was exhausting for me. I'd felt like this for years, but it wasn't something I could complain about to many people. I probably sounded like a spoiled brat, but it really was a frustration. Ever since I was a child, I felt like I had to work twice as hard to make people take me seriously. Saying it out loud felt like moving a boulder off my chest. To her credit, Mandy gave me a sympathetic look. Rather than making fun of me for what I'd just confessed, she stood up and hugged me. “You are smart, and you are talented, and you are good with people," she said, emphasizing the things I'd just told her. “You are so much more than a pretty face, and I'm sorry that there are people out there who don't value you for who you are." She sat back in her chair and fixed me with a serious look. “However," she continued, “it sounds to me like Michael values those things about you too. Give him another chance. Show him another place and tell him that if he really likes you, he'll be patient and wait until you've closed the deal. And then you can… close the deal," she said, waggling her eyebrows. I briefly wondered how many times I would have to hear that double entendre. . . . My heart raced as I heard the line ringing. One tone. Two tones. Three tones. “Hello?" his velvet voice answered. God, even on the phone he was sexy. “Hi, Michael!" I rushed out. I felt like a spazz. I took a deep breath to collect myself. “I was wondering if you might be available to see another house tomorrow." He chuckled brightly, his deep voice doing something sinful to my nether regions. Focus, Simone. “I was worried I'd scared you off," he finally said. “I would love to tour another home with you." I breathed out a sigh of relief. Maybe Mandy was right, and I could salvage this sale after all. “I don't scare easy," I joked. God, was that flirty? s**t, how on earth was I supposed to be around this man without losing my mind? “Then I guess I'll have to work harder next time," he responded with humor in his voice. Yep, we were definitely flirting now. I maneuvered us into safer territory as I scheduled our walkthrough time and gave him the address. Then, I hung up so I wouldn't be tempted to ask him to meet me at my house and ravish me. That would definitely blur the lines between realtor and client. . . . I spent the rest of the day following up on leads and trying to schedule more viewings. Real estate seemed glamorous to a lot of people. They thought it was easy money with very little work, but they could not be more wrong. I got my real estate license after meeting Mandy. She saw something in me that I didn't see in myself. We'd gone out to dinner the night after we officially closed on my house, and she broached the subject. “You know, you would be really excellent at selling houses," she had said out of the blue as we sipped our celebratory margaritas. I remember rolling my eyes at her. “I think that cocktail is a little too strong," I'd responded. She laughed and waved me away. “Seriously! You have an eye for the spectacular. Half the time we've been looking for houses, it felt like you were the agent, and I was the client. You barely needed me at all!" I loved Mandy's encouragement, but it felt like a pipe dream. I'd been modeling for several years. I absolutely hated it, but the pay was great, and I didn't feel like I had any other skills. I scraped by in high school, more focused on my career than getting good grades. I didn't go to college, instead moving to LA and working my butt off. Sometimes literally. I didn't have the education or qualifications to do anything else, and I told her so. “Honey," she said seriously, “you don't give yourself enough credit. So what if you didn't go to college? Education is no indication of your abilities. It's just a tool. Plus, you don't need a degree to do this." I felt my heart race a little, though I wasn't sure if it was from her words or the alcohol. Was this something I could do? Could I be more? She spent the better part of six months helping me study for the licensing exam and getting me set up at my first firm, Alliance Real Estate. It was a larger firm that catered to more middle-class buyers. There wasn't anything wrong with that, and I loved the experience it afforded, but it didn't help me to afford the lifestyle I was after. Then, Mandy was able to convince Jake to hire me, and here we were. The only problem was, selling million-dollar mansions on Sunset Strip was a lot more intimidating than selling family homes in the suburbs. If I was ever going to earn my salt, I'd have to hustle hard to get clients. I felt bad enough that my only client was handed to me on a silver platter. I worried the other agents wouldn't take me seriously, or might even grow to dislike me, if that kept happening. Jake was also kind enough to provide a short list of leads. He told me every new hire got one, but I still suspected I was getting special attention because of my friendship with Mandy. I had to do the legwork and prove that I could get clients on my own and that I could close multi-million-dollar deals. Unfortunately, that required me to do several cold calls and try to sell myself as a real estate expert. I'd been talking to a lot of people's voice mailboxes when my phone rang. I was hopeful it was one of the leads calling me back, so I composed myself and answered in my most professional voice. “Hello, this is Simone Carter of the Owens Group. How can I help you find your dream home?" There was a slight pause on the other end of the line, and I worried my spiel had made the person on the other end hang up. Then a bright tenor voice responded, “Hi, Simone. My name is Rob Christianson, and I was referred to you by an employee of mine. You sold him a house last year, and he's thrilled with it. I'm in a slightly higher income bracket, and I was wondering if you ever show homes on the Strip." Everything about his speech sounded rushed and rehearsed. He sounded almost nervous, though I wasn't sure why. “Hi Rob, thank you so much for contacting me!" I tried to sound excited without the quiet desperation of desperately needing a sale. “I would love to show you some places. How's tomorrow?" I was thrilled with this development. It meant I'd made an impact on a former client, which was always the goal. More importantly, though, now I had someone new to show a home to. I only prayed he wasn't a gorgeous basketball player with a million-dollar smile. Because that would mean even more trouble.
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