For most of her colleagues, the worst part of a Monday arrived with the dawn, slowly stretching beams of light signaling exactly when it was time to drag themselves from bed to the shower to the car. But for Brienne Tarth, those moments paled into insignificance when the ridiculously good looking man from the other side of the retail complex prowled through the automatic glass doors and onto the shop floor, almost in slow motion, as if the world needed the extra time to draw even more attention to his arrogant allure. It seemed to crawl even closer towards a halt as a smattering of their female customers, a couple of the male, and Brienne herself stopped to admire the strong legs covered in crisply ironed slacks carrying the gilded demigod across the store, tanned arms straining from the crimson polo shirt, blazer slung over his broad shoulder. He should have looked ridiculous in the red, gold and white uniform, of that she had no doubt considering the number of Orange Orange employees she'd seen flitting across the parking lot at lunch to pick up headphones or computer games, but their manager, unfortunately, had no such bad luck.
He wasn’t there to buy a car charger or to see Brienne, assistant manager and team leader of the Tech Angels at Stark Electronics, though. He likely wouldn't have even noticed she existed had her friend not gone beyond the call of duty to exchange introductions after being dragged, almost kicking and screaming, to a too full, too loud club a month or so back. No, this god was the boyfriend of the beautiful, saucy Margery Tyrell, the store’s very successful HR manager and the closest thing Brienne had to a friend. But judging by the number of very public quarrels the two prettiest people she'd ever seen had been having recently, usually outside of the store just before opening, and the fact that all of Margaery's calls went straight to voicemail after lunch, Brienne doubted he was here with flowers and wine.
She had been left feeling somewhere between relieved and riled that she'd decided to move in with her brother after college and only had to deal with Margery, her former roommate, and her passing fancies on occasion. In fact, until Jaime showed up a few months ago, she hadn't even bothered to learn the names of the guys who had graced Margaery's bed for a night or two, unfortunately being in the wrong place at the wrong time to catch some in the act of sneaking out. Now, though, she could almost set her watch to the frequency of visits by the simmering blond, their sharply worded previous encounters leaving her not wanting to wonder if the only thing Jaime really had going for him was between the sheets.
It appeared the other young women on her team were also curious about his use, if she was correctly reading the looks that were bouncing around between Alys, Meera and Dacey, the trio starting to trail a few slow moving shoppers like a well honed pack of hungry lionesses while Brienne manned the halo adorned help desk, always happy to keep her hands busy and away from shop floor small talk during their mid afternoon lulls.
"Don't you ever go home?" Jaime drawled as he approached, his long strides eating up the ground faster and faster as if his very presence could intimidate her, his manners, as always, non existent. "You do know there's more to the world than Stark Electronics, right? No matter how indispensable you think you are."
"I'm sorry, Margaery is in a meeting with-" Brienne forced a smile as she pulled up her friend's diary on the screen in front of her, "Jen Clegane all afternoon." Jaime growled out a colourful curse at the name, but she ignored him, not recognising the significance. "She'll be back in the office on Wednesday but you could, I don't know, maybe call her instead of using me like an automated dating service. I have a job to do, don't you?"
"More than you know," Jaime snapped in reply, his eyes at odds with his tone, a wave of green nonchalantly, almost professionally, brushing over her broad shoulders and down to her chest as if he was studying her every reaction. She tried not to fidget behind the desk while she felt the momentary flicker of judgement move over every inch of her ill fitting purple shirt, along the collected clusters of freckles that ran down her neck as if he had time to count each ugly, reddening mark, digging her nails into her palms when he paused to check her name tag. It wasn't as if he hadn't been there often enough not to need the reminder. "Angel."
"That's not my name," she hissed through gritted teeth, noticing that Catelyn, manager and owner of Stark Electronics, had just arrived on the shop floor for her hourly sweep. Though she was currently too preoccupied with chastising her younger daughter, Arya, a very recent addition to the Tech Angels squad, for using one of the television stands as a seat to realise how much difficulty Brienne was having with an irritatingly lingering repeat visitor.
Jaime smiled innocently up at her, giving her another opportunity to understand how easy it must be for him to sail through life. But as it stretched across his face, not quite reaching his eyes, it became cloying, digging under her skin, setting her on edge like nails down a chalkboard. "But it says that right above what I'm guessing is supposed to be a breast. Are you sure you're a woman?" he enquired as she couldn't help but flush and splutter. “I’d ask you to open your shirt, but from the looks of you that wouldn’t prove much.”
It wasn't the worst thing she'd heard from across the help desk, that honour belonged to a man who'd called himself Biter, a man who had soon come to realise that between a volunteer firefighter, a former champion rower and a Krav Maga specialist, the staff on duty that evening were far more than 'little girls'. But Jaime had a way of delivering a line that hit closer to her soft spots than any one of the frat boys and mean girls she'd grown up around, children who seemed to enjoy pointing out her lack of beauty whenever the chance arose as much as their parents.
While her mind stuttered through a dozen questions, always coming back to feeling hopelessly out of her depth in working out what was so special about this one that had her friend wanted him to stick around, Brienne's tongue slowly rediscovered purposeful movement, her stolen voice growling and hissing back to sense. "I don't care who you are or what you want...you can get out. Now."
"What happened to the customer is always right?"
"Whoever came up with that phrase clearly hadn't dealt with someone like you."
"There's no one like me, Angel. There's only me."
"Thank the Gods. And if you really want to use that defence, you're not a customer, you didn't come in here with the intention to buy anything."
"That almost sounds like it came from the pages of a..." he cocked his head, mindful enough to appear non threatening to their red headed computer tech, Ygritte, who was starting to stack repaired laptops to be collected behind Brienne. "Are you now or have you even been a lawyer?"
She huffed, crossing her arms over the tag he seemed to be so interested in. "Pre-law at Highgarden."
Jaime whistled, the first honest sound he'd made that afternoon, clearly impressed though the feeling was as fleeting as his earlier ire. "So what are you doing here?"
"It's a long story." She pulled a face, her fall from grace wasn't something she was particularly interested in sharing. The silence between them stretched uncomfortably as he continued to stare, Brienne beginning to feel like she had been ambushed somehow into letting that morsel of information slip. "Margaery will be back on Wednesday," she repeated when slow seconds slid towards suffocation, wanting him out of her face before he could try and dig any deeper. There was something distinctively unnerving about being that close to Jaime Lancaster. "Tomorrow she's in White Habor at an 'improving public and human relations' symposium."
He narrowed his eyes as if she had just told him the sky was the exact same shade as his eyes, the grass green colour turning to emerald embers and glinting from across the desk, not believing her for a moment despite Brienne feeling like she'd given him no reason for that doubt, whispering another series of curses to himself. "You're sure she'll be here Wednesday."
Brienne sighed. "That's what it says. I can't promise anything, though, it's not like I can read minds."
A quick glance towards the rear of the shop confirmed that Arya was now sulking in audio-visual electronics and Catelyn was on her way towards the help desk. "Now, if you're not going to buy anything, I'd suggest you go back to selling frozen yoghurt, Mr Lancaster."
"Call me Jaime," he insisted as he took two long strides backwards without breaking eye contact before spinning on his heel for, what felt like, effect. "Catch you later. Angel."