The hotel bar was dimly lit, with thick carpet and leather seats. The music on the radio was drowned out by the hum of conversation from men in suits who had taken off their ties for the night; there was a conference at the hotel, probably something IT or management related.
Octavia sat quietly in a corner booth by herself, writing some messages on her small laptop. She was wearing a white cocktail dress with purple flowers on it, her matching purple jacket lying on the seat next to her. With a sigh, she saved her message as a draft and let down her hair. She was too distracted to continue, she could tell from the corner of her eye that those men at that nearby table were looking at her.
She pretended to continue working, but really she pulled up her laptop's camera app to get a better look at them. Sure enough, the guy with the trimmed beard and the colourful power tie was pointing at her, probably explaining to his buddies how to pick up women by the looks of it. His nametag said 'Mike' in large letters. One of the buddies was a tall dude with a mane of unkempt hair, no tie in sight, the other was a balding, shorter guy who had loosened his tie without taking it off. Neil and Herman according to the tags, though the latter was written very small, so it was an educated guess. Octavia clicked the camera app away again, trying to decide if she was in the mood to shut them down quickly, or in the mood to play.
When the guy with the beard appeared at her table, it was apparent that the other two were watching. Octavia pretended not to notice, she wanted to give the man her full attention.
"Hey Beautiful." He paused to smile at her in a way he had clearly used on other women before. "You're working too hard. Why don't you call it a day?"
"You know what? You're right." She closed the laptop and looked up at him, trying to think of something nice to say. But she didn't need to.
"We've spent all day in the conference room with Casey Johnson. Have you heard of Casey Johnson?" Mike smirked at her.
Octavia smiled mysteriously. "The renowned NLP coach Casey Johnson himself? That must have been an interesting day."
"We're getting certified in effective communication strategies and leadership. Because we're senior managers Global Enterprises United, you see?" He waggled his eyebrows as if his position at that company was supposed to impress her.
"You must be tired from that long day, Mike. Why don't you have a seat?" And she pointed at the empty chair across from her.
As he sat down, he immediately grabbed her hand and started to stroke her knuckles with the tips of his fingers, not an unpleasant sensation, but very forward. Octavia's smile broadened, the game was on.
"Have you ever been to the penthouse suite here?" Mike said as he stared into her eyes. "Silk sheets, everything lavender scented, even the hot tub. Wouldn't that be something?"
"Oh Mike…" She sighed. "You're trying so hard, and you're doing so well, aren't you?" She held his gaze, continuing quickly without giving him time to respond. "You're keeping eye-contact, and giving me a charming smile, a smoulder if I've seen one. And you're stroking my hand so gently, telling me about that wonderful suite up on the top floor of the hotel, making me feel all these things. And in the back of your mind, you're remembering your pickup artist theory, about how to hold my attention, how to make me react more favorably to whatever you're going to say. That's pretty impressive."
Mike looked stunned, he sat there and let her words wash over him, his mouth opened to reply, but no words passed his lips.
Octavia quickly continued, hardly pausing to breathe, as if it was all just one long run-on sentence: "Keep smouldering at me, your eyes have me mesmerised, and that's a great smile. Keep touching me, you know how to make me feel all swoony and overwhelmed. You know what to say to make me feel things, sexy, happy things that will up your chances. That's what the theory says, right? Just touch my hand, as you hold my attention with your smouldering look and your charming smile. You're doing all these things at the same time, even though you're already so exhausted from a long day at the seminar. Why don't you take a rest from all of that and just focus on me?"
She pushed his stroking fingers onto the table and held them there, laying her hand on top of them. "Just focus on me. There is nothing else you need to do anymore. Isn't that nice, Mike?"
His eyes glazed over and his jaw sagged further open as he silently stared at her.
"Just take a deep breath. You can relax with me. You can just sit here and look at me. Nothing else. Isn't it nice to focus on me and not think at all?" She inclined her head.
Sheepishly, Mike nodded at her. "...nice…"
"Now I don't know if any of the NLP exercises you've done today involved any kind of hypnosis at all, or if any of the pickup artist classes you've been to have ever shown you what hypnosis is like, but you know in this moment that you can just close your eyes and sink into trance for me. Right now." She pressed down on his hand and her tone clearly communicated her orders. As his eyes closed and his chin drooped down to his chest, Octavia looked over at Neil and Herman to see their reaction.
Herman stared wide-eyed at Mike, as if it was the most unbelievable spectacle he had ever seen, with a hint of outrage at Mike's defeat. Neil, on the other hand, grinned widely, seeming impressed and perhaps even amused.
More than a little smug, Octavia turned back to Mike and sighed. "You're such a handsome man, Mike. And charming to boot. You would have such success with the ladies if you just remember to think about what you're doing. Who are you trying to impress here? Me, or your friends? Why would you boast about the penthouse suite if you can't follow through and take me there? Am I even free to spend time with you tonight, or do I have a reason for being here in the bar? What would Casey think if he knew you were trying to use his teachings to pick up women? Why don't you take a moment to think about that now?"
She reclined in her seat, watching him stir, and his face twitched as her words sank in. Her eyes brightened when she noticed someone walk into the bar behind him, and he came straight towards her table. She reached across the table to pick up her laptop, and that's when Mike's eyes snapped open and he tried to compose himself.
"You're a hypnotist!" He pointed at her.
"My favourite hypnotist, in fact." Casey Johnson stopped beside the table, his hair wet and slicked back, wearing only a T-shirt, slacks and hotel slippers, as if he'd been in the shower. "So good to see you, Octavia."
She smiled quietly as she gathered her laptop, bag and jacket, and rose from her seat. "It was lovely meeting you, gentlemen."
In an attempt to salvage his dignity, Mike exclaimed: "Well, if you're taking private lessons from the master himself, it's no wonder you were onto me."
"Onto you?" Neil belly-laughed. "You were out like a light!"
Casey chuckled as well. "She's not here for lessons. I love to call Octavia for a session whenever I happen to be in town."
"What kind of session?" Herman asked.
Octavia drew up close to Casey, and murmured: "Would you like me to show them?"
Casey froze and seemed to be thinking, shifting on the flat hotel slippers.
"Hey Lady." Mike pointed with his accusing finger again. "You didn't ask before you hypnotised me."
"You didn't ask before you touched me," she retorted without missing a beat.
Casey bit his lip and then softly said to Octavia: "Yes, I would like it if you showed them."
"Showed us what?" Herman asked.
Octavia gave Casey a smile of approbation and asked him, in a soft voice: "Casey, why do your eyes look like that?"
"Well, I was just looking… at the…" He moved to point out something on the wall and then his voice died away mid-sentence. His eyes grew wide and his shoulders slumped as he went completely still, staring at the wall. His arms fell limply by his sides and he swayed on his feet ever so slightly.
Octavia stood close to him, as if she were keeping watch, but she glanced at the guys as she said: "He's deeply hypnotised."
Herman and Mike stared at the NLP coach with shock and disbelief, but Neil's mouth opened in a delighted grin.
She glanced at Mike. "Would you like to try to speak to him? Be respectful, no touching this time."
With a huff, Mike approached and waved his hand in front of Casey's eyes, but there was no reaction whatsoever, not even a blink. Then, Herman also approached and asked: "Casey? What's going on with you?"
Only Casey's mouth moved, the rest of him remained perfectly still, as he replied in a low, dull voice: "I am deeply hypnotised."
Octavia covered her mouth and gasped, blushing as she watched him.
Herman and Mike backed away in silence returning to their table, but Neil started to laugh and applaud. "Bravo, that is pretty darn amazing, Miss."
"Thank you." Octavia leaned towards Casey and said in his ear: "Thank you. You can come back now."
It started with heavy blinking, then Casey took a deep breath, and the life returned to his face. As he stuffed his hands into the pockets of his slacks, he looked at each of the men in turn, and then at Octavia. "Well, I think that's enough of a demonstration to the guys. I'll see you in the morning, Mike, Herman, Neil." He held out his arm to Octavia. "Will you come upstairs with me now?"
She nodded, but with a mischievous smile, she asked: "Which room are you taking me to, Casey?"
"The penthouse suite, why do you ask?" He gave her a puzzled look.
"Oh, that's lovely!" She exclaimed as they walked away towards the elevators. "Does it have a hot tub?"
At the table, Mike downed his drink while Herman fidgeted with his phone. Neil chuckled to himself, shaking his head. "You're awful, Mike."