Power Play - Brittney Mulliner
Sleep deprivation was messing with my head. It had to be. There was no way I was twenty miles from Nashville. That was in the opposite direction of where I was supposed to be going. My heart rate picked up when I saw another sign announcing the split toward Nashville. I wasn’t hallucinating. I really was in Tennessee.
I pulled off on the next exit and into the nearest gas station. I picked up my phone and checked the map. Oh no.
Somewhere, who knew how long ago, I’d taken a wrong turn. A wrong freeway. I’d been on this one for hours. Since … Louisville.
Wait. Louisville? Why had I been anywhere near Kentucky?
Detroit to Columbus. Southwest, straight through West Virginia.
I dropped my head against the steering wheel and fought back tears. There was no use in crying. That wouldn’t help anything, and I’d end up with a headache.
How could this have happened? I went over my route at least a hundred times before leaving. Carrie, my older sister, had me repeat it back to her twice before I got in the car. Sure, I’d been engrossed in the audiobook I’d been listening to and was mostly on autopilot, but not enough to end up in the wrong state!
I didn’t have time to panic. I had to fix this. I set my destination as Raleigh in my phone’s GPS and swallowed back the lump that formed. Over eight hours away.
It was two in the morning, and I was due to start my new position with the Pugston Firm at eight-thirty. The most prestigious accounting firm on the East Coast, outside of New York City, and I royally screwed it up. I wrote an email explaining the situation and sent it to my contact, the human resources director, but I doubted any excuse was valid for missing my first day. They could hire anyone they wanted. They probably had a list of excellent candidates they could call and replace me with before I even made it to the city.
I wouldn’t know until she arrived at the office in the morning, so I had to push through. Giving up was not an option, not when there was still a scrap of hope.
I bought two energy drinks before getting back on the road. Eight more hours of driving. I could do it.
The email came in at eight-fifteen. I glanced at the message long enough to see “We regret to inform you …” I pulled off and read the full email. They rescinded their offer and wished me luck. Of course, they did. Why on earth would they want someone so absent-minded and incapable working for them?
I had nowhere to go. Nowhere to be. Returning home was too humiliating to be an option. Not after my family bragged to everyone they knew about my big fancy job. I couldn’t show my face again until Christmas.
Less than two hours to Raleigh. I sighed and got back on the road. I had a hotel room waiting for me, and I was too tired to think of a better plan at the moment. Once I got there and slept for a few hours, I would come up with the next steps.
I shuffled into the lobby with my two suitcases and leaned against the counter.
“How may I help you?” The woman eyed me with a fixed smile. Her perfectly sleek bun and impeccable makeup was a reminder that I hadn’t showered in two days. Her judgment was too far down on my list of concerns for me to care.
“I have a reservation under Taylor Klein.”
She tapped on the keyboard and frowned. “I’m sorry but your check-in isn’t until three this afternoon.”
Right. Because I was supposed to be at work right now and check in tonight. “I’ve been driving for two days. I know I’m a bit early but surely you have a room available. Could you please check?” As much as I wanted to cry or scream at her, I knew I’d get further by being polite. Something my parents taught me.
Her fake smile returned, and she clicked on her mouse a few times. “We are quite full this week, but it looks like I have a room with a queen available.”
“That would be great. Thanks for checking.” I slid my ID and credit card toward her.
It seemed to pain her to be nice to me, but she handed me my things along with a keycard. “You’ll be in room two-twelve. Enjoy your stay.”
“Thanks.” I smiled and turned to find