I stop on the way to work to pick up some cookies for the office—we have a full day of clients planned on both sides—and to drop Nick’s shirt at one of those twenty-four-hour dry cleaners. It’s going to cost more than it should, but I feel like making sure I get his shirt back to him pressed is the least I can do.
I plan on quitting early, more because I can’t stand the knowledge that I’m going to have this hanging over my head all day than because I’m actually anxious to get it over with. But the second I walk through the door, one crisis after another starts and I don’t even have the chance to breathe until lunch.
First, Mr. Kinickey, who it turns out is extremely difficult on his best days, shows up an hour early for his appointment, though he absolutely will not admit that he got the time wrong. I get him settled talking to one of the paralegals, Marigold, because she’s really sweet and has a way with him, then bring him a cup of coffee and some cookies to keep him busy.
I barely drop off the tray when Gina starts yelling in Italian and, when I go to investigate, I find it’s because she’s at war with the laser printer over documents she needs ASAP—and obviously losing. I get her settled with a cup of coffee and some cookies before her first appointment, then spend fifteen minutes troubleshooting the laser printer before I figure out what the problem is.
It takes me another ten minutes to fix it—finicky machine—and I make a mental note to talk to the partners about replacing it before I leave. Thinking about having to talk to Nick about quitting depresses me, so I stop by Marigold’s office to check on her and Mr. Kinickey. They’re having a grand old time as he regales her with tales from his days of being a writer in Paris.
I relax and head to finally—finally—get my first cup of coffee of the day. But before I actually make it to the break room, Gina’s at it again, this time with her laptop.
“I’m sensing a pattern here,” I tell her as I ease the machine out of her death grip.
“Always,” she answers with a dramatic wave of her hand. “But usually it doesn’t happen all in one day.”
I get her login credentials, then look at her over the top of the laptop. “Your first appointment for the day is in fifteen minutes.”
“I know.” She sighs grumpily. “That’s why I was trying to go over my notes from last time.”
“My laptop is on my desk.” I write down my login credentials and hand them to her. “Why don’t you use it to look up whatever you need in the client files? Hopefully, by the time the client gets here, we’ll both be back to our regular computers.”
“You are a godsend, Mallory,” Gina says, blowing me a big, smacking kiss on her way out the door. “Whatever we’re paying you, it isn’t enough.”
Ten minutes later, I trade laptops with Gina—after making sure to pull up the client docs she’ll need for the meeting—and I bring her an extra cookie because she looks like she needs it.
After getting both her and Nick’s nine o’clock clients settled in their offices, I head back for that cup of coffee—and get waylaid by Marcus, one of the first-year associates, who has an irate client on the phone yelling at him about billing errors.
I head to my office, where I find out that Gina has somehow completely screwed my computer up in the ten minutes that she had it—and end up having to borrow Marcus’s laptop to look up any discrepancies in billable hours.
By the time I finally get off the phone with Mrs. Hart, Marcus and I both need a cookie. And then it’s back to my desk to try to figure out what on earth Gina managed to do to my laptop.
The whole day goes like this, so I manage to avoid Nick without even trying. Unlike last time, he actually makes it out of his office once or twice, but every time he stops by my desk to talk, I end up getting pulled into another emergency. He watches with bemused eyes several times—each time while he shoves a handful of cookies into his mouth before heading back to his office.
By four thirty, I feel like I’ve run a marathon and I’m pretty sure I look like it, too. My hair is a mess because I ran my hands through it so many times during the day, my feet hurt from all the running I’ve done back and forth to everyone’s offices who had a problem, and my stomach is churning—a combination of nerves and way too many cookies.
When Nick sticks his head in, the churning stomach turns into full-blown anxiety, something that the smile on his face and the softness in his eyes only makes worse.
“Can you stop by my office sometime before you head home?” he asks. “I want to talk to you about something.”
The anxiety ratchets up another ten degrees. “Yes, of course.”
I give him the best smile I can muster, which must not be that great because the softness in his eyes turns to concern. “How was your day?”
“Good so far.” I force a smile I’m far from feeling. “Give me about ten minutes to finish what I’m working on and I’ll be in, okay?”
“Absolutely.” He starts to walk away, then stops and takes a couple of steps backward. “Are there any more of those cookies—”
“No,” I say and raise one brow at him. “There are no more cookies, mainly because you ate more than a dozen of them yourself today.”
“In my defense, they were really good cookies.” He gives me his most charming grin.
“Of course they were good cookies. They’re from Garimbaldi’s bakery. But now they’re gone, so…” I shoo him away.
He just laughs, but he takes the hint and heads back to his office.
I finish dealing with the access problem Marigold mentioned she was having, then log out of my laptop and lock it up in my desk drawer before heading back to Nick’s office. Once I get there, I take a deep breath and try to center myself as much as I possibly can.
Then I knock on the door.
Instead of telling me to come in, Nick pulls the door open and ushers me inside. The second we’re alone, he wraps his arms around me and pulls me into a hug.
“I’ve been wanting to do that all day,” he murmurs. “I missed you when I got up this morning. What time did you leave? And—if you don’t mind my asking—what did you wear when you left, considering your clothes were still all on my bathroom floor?” He wiggles his brows at me and it’s so charming and sweet that I kind of want to crawl into a hole.
“I couldn’t sleep, so I left a little after one. And I didn’t want to wake you, so I just grabbed your shirt from downstairs. I took it to the dry cleaner this morning, by the way, so you should have it by tomorrow morning.”
“Wow.” He rocks back on his heels a little. “Well, that’s very efficient of you.”