This chapter is set between Series 2 and 3
Josie stood outside the hall and took a deep breath. You can do this, she thought, you already have the invite for the invite only event. They might be the big bosses, the people who matter, but you matter too. You just have to network. Don't sell yourself short.
She steeled herself again and swallowed. She really didn't belong here. London was a long way from the compassionate community she grew up with in Scotland. But the idea of getting stuck there and never fulfilling her dreams made her determined, despite the imposter syndrome that plagued her. She looked down at herself and tried to feel comfortable. They were her smartest clothes: a black pencil skirt, blouse with frilly collar and a fitted, thanks to Nancy's excellent seamstress skills, suit jacket. They were all high street brands which wouldn't compare to the designer suits and dresses she'd be mingling with. The only saving grace was the simple diamond chain around her neck. Worth more to Josie than anyone would know, and it gave her the courage she needed. Brushing down her jacket and holding her head high she strode forwards.
She had been so fixated on herself that she almost bumped into a mature couple. Josie stumbled out an apology and let them in first. Flustered, and having lost any semblance of confidence, she entered the room.
Another networking event, this time forced on him by Lady Penelope. Scott scouted out the room as he sipped his Scotch. Many eyes were on the two Tracy brothers, all wanting but not yet daring, to approach. The power of his presence in a room of businessmen never ceased to amaze him.
"Found someone you like yet?" Gordon chimed cheerfully from beside him, though Scott knew him well enough to hear the bored undertone. Penelope had invited Gordon and of course he had said yes, his brother absolutely smitten with the lady. Scott shook his head. Events like this maintained Tracy Industries reputation, though they also gave Scott his player reputation. It was an easy place to pick up a girlfriend or let off some steam. Scott surveyed the room again. Within sight there were a few women who appealed to him.
"I don't always leave with someone."
Scott took a sip of his drink.
"Oh, so you're not the ever-successful ladies' man we thought you were?" Gordon teased.
"Well, I didn't say that." Scott chuckled. "I just don't always want company."
Gordon rolled his eyes. "Yeah, right. I bet you've had many failed conquests. You just don't want to admit it."
Scott shook his head. "You believe what you want, Gordon."
"Bet you can't get a random woman to sleep with you," Gordon challenged.
Scott bit his lip, trying not to rise to Gordon's bait. Yes, Scott had been planning to find some company for the evening, but a bet? He shouldn't sink to that. Thankfully, the CEO of a small engineering company that had worked with Tracy Industries a year ago strolled over. Scott slipped into CEO mode and exchanged the required pleasantries and confirmed that they were considering working with their company again, before one last handshake.
"So, the Great Scott Tracy is backing down from a challenge?"
Scott rolled his eyes. Gordon was bored and just trying to find a way to entertain himself, but Scott did like a challenge. What's the worst that could happen? With a sigh, he gave in.
"What are the stakes?"
"If you can't seduce the woman I pick, then you give the swimming pool its biannual clean."
"And if I win, you are on deck lounger duty for a month."
Gordon held out his hand and Scott shook it. He knew this was a bad idea, but it
would liven up the evening a little, and Scott was in the mood for a little fun. Something to help him relax after a tough week. His brother's eyes scouted the room looking for the ideal candidate. The smirk that appeared on Gordon's face worried him.
"The next woman to walk through the door."
Scott raised his eyebrow. It was a gamble, but Scott understood why Gordon had
done it. He nodded and took a sip of his drink. Both men had their eyes on the door. A few people left, but no one entered. When the door finally opened, they both held their breath. An older couple entered, their outfits and demeanour radiating their importance. A quick sideward glance at Gordon confirmed he was holding back a laugh. Scott sighed before looking back toward the couple. Behind them the door opened again and in walked a lone woman.
"That one, the nervous blond." Gordon announced.
A nod from Scott and he accepted the challenge. His eyes surveyed the woman. She was young, probably about Virgil's age, and she definitely looked uncomfortable. Her clothing was smart and fitted her well, but he could tell they weren't the high end fashion that many were wearing that evening. Her hair was loose, brushing down past her shoulders, and there was nothing wrong with her features. She had the kind of appearance most people would look over, including himself, for someone more striking. Scott started to formulate a strike plan. He knew he had to avoid overwhelming her, she probably wouldn't be expecting to get the attention he was going to give her. He turned back to his brother; whose attention had turned to something else. Scott followed Gordon's gaze to see Lady Penelope with a tall man, laughing away. The man was obviously flirting with the aristocrat. The clenched jaw and stiffened stance of the aquanaut gave in to jealousy he was feeling. Without a second thought, Gordon strolled over to the gathering and joined in, a fake smile plastered his face. Scott shook his head, before turning back to his target.
The glass was chilled in her hand, and Josie took a sip of the non-alcoholic mojito with the hopes it would help steady her nerves. Practicing her breathing techniques briefly, she turned around only to come face to chest with someone. She was flustered again and felt heat rise in her cheeks. Her eyes fell on the man in front of her and her heart jumped.
She froze. Her instincts put her on high alert. This man looked like trouble, and she had just made contact with his deep blue eyes. He smiled at her, dimples deepening in his cheeks when he did so. Mind over body, mind over body, she repeated in her head. It was the intensity he gave off, the way he held himself like he was in control. He hadn't been surprised by her almost bumping into him. He'd know she was there and hadn't moved. She'd seen this before at university, she'd learnt the signs from experience. But still, why did they always have to be attractive? Why did they always gravitate to her? Josie rolled her shoulders back and gave him a brief nod.
"Excuse me." Josie smiled politely, ducking as gracefully as she could past him.
"I've not seen you here before."
Josie paused. His deep voice demanded her attention. She was here to network, at least she could get him over and done with. She could keep her cool, watch out for his game. Josie was wiser now. She turned around and held out her hand.
"Josie McNelly, engineer for Taybrooke Aeronautics, Satellite division."
He shook her hand firmly. The man looked familiar, though she couldn't place where from.
"Scott Tracy, CEO of Tracy Industries."
That explained the familiarity. She smile grew as she thought of her brother's prized
poster of Jeff Tracy which had hung above his bed. Josie could see the resemblance
to the astronaut. Same eyes for certain. She'd been shocked at the sudden loss of the great Jeff Tracy. Not that her brother had ever met him, but the astronaut had been such a big part of their childhood. Especially the fights over who was greater, her admiration for Neil Armstrong was still just as strong. The memories threw her, and suddenly she had no idea what to say next. How do you network again? What do you talk about with the CEO of Tracy Industries, one of the best engineering companies in the world? Facts about the company filled Josie's head and thankfully one stood out.
"Tracy Industries doesn't have a UK branch, so may I ask what brings you to London?"
Josie took a deep breath as the man paused; glad she could make an impression. She congratulated herself while remembering what she was here to do. She'd failed to get a job at Tracy Industries on multiple occasions, maybe this could be a way in. She almost laughed at herself. The CEO was unlikely to care for someone as low down the pecking order as she. Part of her wanted to try, just in case. If people less qualified could get experience and jobs over her by knowing the right people, maybe she could too. That was why she was here, to get the contacts so she could play their game.
"You've done your research. Tracy Industries works with some UK based companies that are represented here tonight, and the event is being hosted by a good friend of mine. I've not heard of Taybrooke Aeronautics before, care to give me some insight?"
His strikingly blue eyes gazed down at her with sincerity. It threw Josie to see it in someone she suspected of having ulterior motives, however she'd tried to keep her cool. Staying wary, she engaged with him.
"Taybrooke Aeronautics is a small Scottish company. It started with plane design and manufacturing then branched out into satellites and astronautical technology. It's well known for its niche and unique satellite designs. It's entirely based in Scotland and has various sites throughout the country."
"Have they done anything I might have heard of?"
"Have you heard of Global One?"
"The GDF's space station."
"Yes, the thrusters that keep it in orbit are a product of Taybrooke Aeronautics. They are actually my design."
"Your design? Aren't they normally developed by a team of engineers."
The surprise on Mr Tracy's face was priceless. It wasn't the first time people were shocked by what Josie could do, and she was planning to make sure it wasn't the last. If she wanted to become a big name rocket designer, she was going to have to blow a few minds.
"The initial design was mine, obviously other engineers had input over materials and the like, but the actual design hasn't changed much. Taybrooke owns the patent, but my name is on it, so you can check it if you don't believe me. They aren't the only thing I've designed that's currently on orbit. Two of my resistojet rockets were used in some private satellites that were launched late last year."
Josie refused to hide her pride. Her family was proud of her achievements even if they didn't understand them. It was why she was here, to continue making them proud of her. She and her brother had had a dream and she was going to fulfil it if she could.
"That's impressive. Have you considered applying for a role in the Tracy Industries aeronautical department? I'm sure we are always in need of people with your kind of skills."
Josie took a deep breath. She wanted to believe Mr Tracy. Every engineer wanted a job at Tracy Industries, it was considered one of the industry leads and had fantastic employee benefits. The company was known worldwide for taking care of its workforce, but she had never made the cut. Neither did she believe this man would remember her beyond today. It was time to end this conversation and see if anyone here might actually be interested in hiring an engineer. Josie met his gaze and prepared to say her piece.
"I have applied for various aeronautical and astronautical roles at Tracy Industries since graduating. I've been called to interview twice, one at the European branch in Germany and another at the Japanese branch. Both times I was turned away for lack of experience. The Japanese branch didn't believe I would fit in with the company's culture and the European job was given to the son of one of the employees. It appears that I'm currently not what Tracy Industries is seeking. It's been interesting talking with you Mr Tracy, but I have just spotted someone that I would really like to speak with, so if you'd kindly excuse me. Have a pleasant rest of the evening."
Josie turned and strode away from Mr Tracy. She headed into the crowd, not looking back, keeping her eyes open for the people she'd flagged on the short guest list she had managed to obtain. There were representatives here that might help get her into the industry. Not that she wouldn't stop applying to Tracy Industries jobs, a girl could dream, but she was realistic. Josie knew she had to work her way up and she needed to make the right contacts.
Scott watched Josie walk away. She weaved into the crowd and disappeared from his sight. Gordon had lucked out and this bet was going to be harder than he thought. Miss McNelly may be nervous, but there was something beneath her words and her guard was up. He would have to change his approach, and unfortunately, he couldn't use Tracy Industries as bait. Josie wanted a job and she seemed to believe Tracy Industries didn't want her. Even if he could promise her a job, he was sure she wouldn't believe him. Scott was so used to women warming to him, swooning over his smile, and in many cases excited by the prospect of spending the evening with someone from International Rescue. Josie hadn't even mentioned it or made an indication that she knew he was part of the elusive organisation. Scott headed to the bar and ordered another scotch. He lent against the polished wood, swirling the drink in thought. He had to get her to lower her guard, to open up. His eyes hit the crowd and he sighed. Scott knew he was going to have to take the plunge.
Almost an hour later and Scott hadn't been able to get close to Miss McNelly. He'd glimpsed her but being in the crowd meant he had to be polite to the other attendees, especially those who the company did business with. Duty called without the usual klaxon that echoed through the villa. Although Scott did want to be rescued from the current conversation; fisheries in the Atlantic were more Gordon's realm. He inspected the room, going from head to head in search of Miss McNelly. He easily spotted Gordon, standing next to Lady Penelope who was conversing with a young businessman. At least his brother wasn't having much luck either. Continuing, he spotted Mr Sandip with whom he'd had a pleasant conversation with at a previous gala. Excusing himself, Scott headed over to the man, but as he neared, Scott got a glimpse of whom he was talking to. Josie's hands were moving as she described something, and as he stepped up to the pair, he could hear the enthusiasm in her voice. There was a sparkle in her grey eyes that hadn't been there previously.
"Mr Tracy! How good to see you again? How have you been?"
Mitchell Sandip had spotted him out of the corner of his eye and had turned to offer him a hand, which Scott took with a smile.
"I'm very well, thank you, though I wasn't expecting to see you here."
"Yes, well, the representative from the engineering department that was meant to attend became unwell. With so few people free to come, I drew the short straw. Though, seeing you has greatly improved my night."
Scott laughed at the accountant, his friendly demeanour had charmed Scott last time they had met.
"Now, Mr Tracy, have you met Miss McNelly? She has quite the head for numbers. Unfortunately, she's not after an accounting job otherwise I'd snap her up before anyone else could!"
Scott turned to the woman in question, eyebrow raised. Head for numbers, well she was an engineer. He watched her straight up and nod politely at him.
"I'm rather good with calculations."
Mitchell's hand landed on Scott's arm, drawing his attention away from Miss McNelly. The shorter man's hazel eyes peered up at him full of excitement.
"She's being incredibly modest, Mr Tracy. I was certain someone was pilfering funds, and after a week I managed to work out who and how, but I hadn't mentioned it to anyone yet. I've just finished collecting all the evidence and sent it to HR. Well, I was just discussing yearly finances with Mr Yang over there, and I was just throwing a lot of numbers about, as you do, trying to show off, when Miss McNelly pipes up saying my calculations are wrong. I told her they weren't, and she said they had to be unless someone was swindling money. I was shocked that she could work it out like that, then she rattled off her calculations faster than anything. Like I said, I hadn't told anyone and Miss McNelly here was able to work it out in minutes. Obviously, I had to confirm this wasn't just a one off, so Mr Yang and I rattled a few numbers off, and Josie performed the calculations there and then. All in her head and fast as can be. It was incredible!"
Scott turned with Mitchell back to Miss McNelly. There was a proud smile on her face, even if he could see that she was still nervous. Her fingers were playing gently with the hem of her jacket.
"I've always been fast with numbers."
"Are you certain you don't want to be an accountant?"
Miss McNelly laughed, a blush coming to her cheeks.
"As I told the Professor during my interview at Cambridge, when he asked why I was pursuing a career in engineering over mathematics; for me mathematics is easy. I don't want to be bored. I want to be challenged."
A cheeky grin graced Josie's lips, obviously warming to Mitchell's easy charm. It was hard not to smile around Mitchell, the man had a unique manner that just set people at ease.
"How about a drink then?"
"Fantastic idea, Mr Tracy. I'm sure Miss McNelly is in need of one too."
Scott beckoned over a waiter, who swiftly moved around the other attendees to reach them.
"I'll have a sherry, if you don't mind."
"I'll have a Scotch please. What would you like, Miss McNelly, another mojito?"
Josie hesitated a moment and seemed to become uneasy, her fingers returning to her hem.
"Another mojito would be lovely, thank you."
"Is that all?"
"Yes, thank you."
Scott dismissed the waiter, still intrigued by Miss McNelly. There was so much to uncover, and although he was starting to feel that he'd be cleaning the pool next week, he hadn't given up. Mitchell was just the person he needed to help break down those walls of hers.
"So, a Cambridge graduate then? I've a friend who did engineering at Cambridge university."
"Yes, it's a fantastic institution. It took me a year to find my feet, but I thrived once I did. Did you visit your friend while he was there?"
Scott chuckled slightly at the thought of visiting Brains at university. His father hadn't met the man yet and he would have been a kid himself.
"No, I never got the chance."
"That's a shame. It's like a world of its own. All the best equipment within old buildings and traditions which go back centuries. Although it was fun at the start, with all the formal dinners and dressing up in your gown, it does get a little mundane after the umpteenth time. Sure, it's a three course meal with wine from some excellent chefs, but you can't eat that rich food every day and it's expensive. I could keep myself fed and watered for a week for the price of two evening meals!"
"I must admit, I didn't make the best decisions when it came to food during my first years in the Air Force."
Scott thought back to the instant noodles and takeaways he'd indulged in on the weekends. The freedom that came with not having to eat Grandma's home cooking had been liberating. Though he did eventually learn to cook a few simple dishes during his time in the Air Force.
"Most of us make bad choices at university. It comes with being young and free."
There was a sadness in her tone and her face dimmed slightly. What mistakes had this woman made that she regretted? Did it have something to do with the guard she hid behind? She put on a forced smile, and he knew he had to keep her engaged. Unfortunately, Lady Penelope and Gordon decided to make their entrance to the group.
"Oh! Why hello Lady Penelope, and you are…."
Mitchell held out his hand to Gordon, who shook it with his usual amount of enthusiasm. Out of the corner of his eye, Scott caught the movement of Miss McNelly's hand. She was once again fiddling with her jacket.
"Ahhh, Mr Tracy's brother. I see the resemblance now."
Scott hid his laugh behind a grin, though he caught Miss McNelly's eyes darting between him and Gordon. He wondered if she was picking up on the same resemblance. Scott watched as Lady Penelope, and then Gordon, introduced themselves. The drinks they had ordered arrived, and Scott noted the way Miss McNelly took a tentative sip of the drink. The small talk started, though Scott caught the small sips she took frequently, as a way to keep herself busy. She was definitely out of her element, which might explain why her guard was up. He listened in, gaining snippets of information about the woman. Gordon was keen to keep her chatting, probably as a way of distracting her from him, thus improving the chances Scott was going to lose the bet. After a while, Miss McNelly politely excused herself. Scott watched as she headed in the direction of the bathrooms, he hoped that meant she'd be back.
"Miss McNelly is quite the interesting character, don't you think Scott?"
Scott could see the small grin on his brother's face and the gleam in his eye that revealed to Scott the hidden meaning. Gordon thought the bet was his and he'd gotten out of his chore. Another business associate of Tracy Industries joined their group and stole Scott's attention. Miss McNelly never returned.
Finally getting away from yet another business proposal, Scott headed to the bar where Gordon was perched. He lent against it and turned to survey the room with his brother.
"No success then?"
"As much as you've had with Lady Penelope."
Scott's eyes fell on Miss McNelly. She was chatting with Mitchell again. Maybe he still had a chance. Turning to the bartender he ordered a Scotch and mojito. Gordon raised his eyebrow at the order.
"One last chance. I'm not going to give in that easily."
Scott grabbed the drinks and headed toward Miss McNelly. She'd just shaken hands with Mitchell and the man had turned to chase down someone on the other side of the room. He took a breath and turned on the charm.
Josie watched Mr Sandip hurry after someone and smiled to herself. He'd promised to pass on her details to recruitment. She was feeling beat but was pretty pleased with her efforts. She'd sold her company and thrown out a few business cards. Hopefully she'd made her mark. The whole event hadn't been as bad as she'd expected, though that one alcoholic drink had eased her nerves a little. She was happy to have been able to keep it to one. Glancing at her watch, she confirmed it was late and she still had some travelling to do. It was time for her to leave.
"Miss McNelly, care to have a drink with me?"
Dread filled her as the familiar voice spoke from behind. Turning she immediately noticed Mr Tracy was standing between her and the exit. She took a deep breath. In the man's hands were two drinks: an amber spirit and a mojito. Her breath caught in her throat, the situation bringing her back to a night she wanted to forget.
"You got me a drink?"
She stared at the glass. She suspected it had alcohol in it, having ordered one in front of him, but what else did it contain? She couldn't confirm it wasn't spiked. Would he do that sort of thing? Save people one day, drug them the next? Rich people never made sense to her though. They defied logic.
"I thought we could chat a little more."
He held out the mojito, forcing Josie to make a choice. Did she trust the man? She looked up into his face. He had a warm smile that met his eyes and she wanted to trust him. She wanted so much to believe he was a good guy. But her fear was there, deep inside as it always was, and she couldn't. She smiled at him as she reached out her right hand and plucked the glass of what she hoped was scotch, from his grip. Josie kept her eyes locked on his as she raised the glass to her lips. The amber liquid was not one she'd tried before, probably a vintage out of her price range. She was thankful it wasn't peaty; she hates those. His mouth dropped in shock as he looked at the cocktail in his hand. Josie couldn't help the smile as she fought not to laugh. She let the liquid roll over her tongue and down her throat.
"I'm Scottish and it's the end of the night. You never asked me what I wanted."
She locked eyes with him as the shock faded from his face. Mr Tracy glanced down at the cocktail briefly, indecision in his eyes. Josie was still on edge, ready to step back if she had to. She decided to test the water.
"Take a sip. The mojitos here are the best."
Josie challenged him. If he refused to drink it then it must be spiked. If it wasn't, there was no reason not to take a sip. His hand stayed where it was.
"I'd rather the scotch."
"This scotch is mine now, and you don't want to waste that drink now, do you?"
Miss McNelly's face was serious. Scott felt slightly uncomfortable under her scrutinizing gaze. It was a challenge. For some reason, she wanted him to drink the mojito. He hadn't expected her to take his drink and she had sipped it without grimacing. Never before had he met someone who acted as she did. Most people wanted to know more about him, most pestered about International Rescue, but not Miss McNelly. It felt like she had never warmed to him, even if she had seemed better and more relaxed during their conversation with Mitchell. Scott didn't want to drink the mojito; it was his most despised cocktail. What was this woman's game?
"No, thank you."
Scott was shocked again when Miss McNelly took the cocktail from him. What happened next, happened both at lightning speed and in slow motion. There was nothing Scott could do to stop it.
"Thank you for the drink, but I don't appreciate the attention you've given me. I tried to make it clear I wasn't interested."
The cocktail glass was thrust in his direction, its contents flying out at him. Ice and mint hit his face as the sticky fluid started to soak into his shirt. As if that wasn't enough Miss McNelly stood on her toes, stretched up and poured the scotch into his hair. It trickled down his neck.
"I'm not interested."
Miss McNelly stalked past him. Scott didn't know how to react. One part of him wanted to storm after her and demand an explanation, though that would probably make things worse. This is what he gets for accepting a silly bet. He turned on his heel and headed towards the exit. Gordon was sitting at the bar and the smirk on his face became laugher as Scott approached. His brother was struggling to stay in his stool.
"I'm calling it a night."
"Sure Scott….I look forward...to watching you...clean the pool." Gordon gasped between spasms of laughter.
Josie bolted. She started running once she had heard the door shut. She didn't stop, not looking back and running as fast as she could to the nearest light rail station. Fear was a great motivator, and she didn't slow until she was on the platform where she gasped for breath. Josie had never been a runner. She hated it. Her eyes never left the entrance until she was on the train. Only then could she start to relax. Once in the carriage the tears started to fall. She'd overreacted. She'd made a scene. Her body shook. How stupid could she be? Slipping her phone out of her jacket she swiped up her call history and tapped the first person on the list.
Josie lay back on the bench. It was around the corner from the hostel she'd booked for the night. The cheapest way to stay in London was to share a bunk bed with a stranger. There was no way she could have a private conversation in a room of sleeping people, and this random street bench was the easiest option. If there was ever someone she needed right now, it was her best friend Graham. His thick Scottish accent rang out from her phone.
"Seriously Josie, ye need to stop seeing every man as a potential threat. Cannae a man just be polite?"
"I don't suspect all men, just the ones that make me feel uncomfortable."
"Ye said this guy was Scott Tracy, right?"
"Scott Tracy, the Commander of International Rescue and pilot of Thunderbird One?"
"Maybe, I can't remember which one flies which."
"Hold on, ye can list every damned fact available about the Thunderbirds, but ye cannae tell me who pilots them?"
"You sound like my brother! Why should I care who flies the Thunderbird? I want to know how they fly!"
Graham rolled his eyes, and Josie couldn't help but laugh at him. She twisted onto her front, her arm aching from holding her phone in the air.
"Well, I've looked him up and I think ye would have been safe to drink that mojito. Although I'll admit that he probably was hitting on ye. According to the gossip blogs he has picked up the odd girlfriend from events like that. Not that they last long, with him spending most of his time savin' people. If ye hadn't been so aggressive ye could be heading back to Scotland with a great story! Imagine being able to say ye slept with the pilot of Thunderbird One!"
"A. I prefer Thunderbird Three. B. I'd rather spend the night with Thunderbird One herself. C. If I'd known, I would have given him your number."
Josie stuck her tongue out, only to watch Graham contort his face in response. They both ended up in a fit of giggles.
"At least ye still have a good story for the next campfire. Many girls have slept with Mr Thunderbird One, but I doubt many can claim they threw a drink in his face."
A groan left Josie as she placed her forehead against the wood, breathing in its damp musk. She was never going to forget this and once it'd been passed round the town, it would definitely make its way to work. They would never let her go to another event again.
"I'm an idiot. The whole night was pointless. No one is going to want to hire me now."
"Definitely an idiot. They only let those into private schools."
Josie scowled at her friend, though she was fighting a smile. It was an old joke, one that Graham used when she needed to see perspective. It reminded both of them how far they had come. Even if Josie was still stuck in Scotland. She yawned at the same time as the fifteen-minute warning was announced on Graham's end.
"Looks like we're both in bunks tonight."
"Righty-ho. G'night Josie."
Josie was just about to end the call when Graham decided to get the last word in.
"And Jo, FYI Gordon Tracy pilots Thunderbird Four."
Josie glared at him. The last thing she heard was Graham's laughter as the screen went black. Cradling her phone in her hand, she stared at it, before turning her head to the sky. She couldn't see the stars that she knew were there. Josie may not have her dream job, yet, but Graham always reminded her of how lucky she was.