Janet Pywell ellie BravoThe tension continues between Maria and Elly.

Stuart’s skinny frame leans across my desk and over the keyboard. He taps a few buttons with knobby fingers and waits. He smells of Paco Rabanne and I wonder if he notices I am wearing it too.

“It should only take a moment to download.” He is staring intently at the screen and scratches his head with a puzzled look on his face. “I can’t believe it got through our firewall.”

“These things are done deliberately aren’t they?” Maria stands beside us holding her coffee mug which has The World’s Best Mum written on it.

He considers her question before answering. “It’s often an ego thing. It could be someone looking for fame like they want to beat the system or make money illegally, or sometimes they hack into the Ministry of Defense simply for the fun of it.”

“Fame, money and power,” Maria says, “it’s a heady mixture.”

“So, did someone do this deliberately to my computer?” I ask.

“I don’t think so. Normally our firewall is resilient to these types of viruses. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ll have to look at it when I get time.” He stands over six feet tall running his hand across his stomach as if to press the creases from his faded Snow Patrol T-shirt.

“Where did you learn all this?” I ask.

“I joined the company after I left the Ulster Uni two years ago. I was interested in programming. But site-hosting and development, e-commerce and custom technology integration are great for establishing a company’s web presence. It’s all online marketing,” he frowns, “but then again, you know all this, right? I googled you, you’re quite a marketing online expert Elly!”

A small gasp escapes Maria’s lips but I ignore her.

“What about writing software for games and Apps,” I say, “isn’t that the future?”

“Yeah, I think it is–” He looks at Maria and clams up. His mouth set firmly closed.

“That’s what I think. Would you help me–”

“Er, I’m not sure– I won’t have the time, I mean, John needs–”

I hold up the palm of my hand. “I understand. No problem.” I don’t want to cause trouble for him so we all stand in silence watching the program on the screen run.

“That’s your computer sorted,” he says a few minutes later.

“How’s Siobhan?” Maria asks, referring to our purple-haired receptionist with a cheeky smile. She winks at me and I see devilment in her eyes for the first time.

“She doesn’t like geeks.”

“Did she say that?”

“She’s saving money to go to London. She wants to be an actor.”

“But there’s nothing to stop her from going out with you while she’s waiting to go to London, now is there?”

“Well–, John’s asked her out too.”

“John? I know he separated recently but I don’t think he should ask Siobhan out.” Maria places her mug on my desk. “Maybe I should speak to him.”

“I’d say Siobhan can look after herself. Besides he’s too old and boring,” I add.

“If John backs off, then there’s only Liam to contend with.”

I punch him playfully on the shoulder. “You hang on in there. I’ve got my money on you.”

His face flushes pink and when he leaves the office it’s like the spring has sprung back into his sneakers.

“Will you say anything to John?” I say.

“I think I might. Siobhan’s only been here a few months and she may be too embarrassed to say no. Besides, it will liven up my day.” Her brown eyes are like soft silk. “I would have thought Liam would have been more Siobhan’s type. He’s got the film-reviews star good looks and dresses much better.”

“Nah! He’s too smooth. I’ve seen her with Stuart. He makes her laugh and he’s a good friend and that’s the secret. That’s what most women want.” I am looking at her but she is studying the coffee at the bottom of her mug and won’t meet my gaze.