Next weekend seemed interminably far away. What would we do on a second date? Where did we stand? All I knew was I already felt safe with him, which was both comforting and unnerving. I hadn’t felt that way in a long time with anyone; I’d even begun wondering if I could trust a guy again.
I recapped my date to Riley expecting irrational excitement, but her reaction was subdued. She announced she was coming down with a cold, her throat’s scratchiness since coming back from Cape Town an advanced indicator. Before leaving for work, I told her I’d stop by a Duane Reade to pick up orange juice and cough medicine. If she needed anything else like blankets or a humidifier, she could just text me.
I arrived at work a little earlier than usual, eager to start the day. The morning passed in a blur of investment research and excel sheets. It was rare that coworkers didn’t stop by to chat but I supposed it was just one of those busy mornings. I was about to head to lunch when Richard made an unexpected appearance at my cubicle.
“Hard at work, I see.” His voice didn’t contain its usual confidence bordering on smugness.
“Just finished the ROI projection charts for the Sorenson account and about to head to lunch. Need something?”
He sighed heavily and I leaned back in my chair preparing myself for some bad news. There was no way the firm had found out about my trip with Vincent already. “I came to tell you that you’ve been promoted.”
“What?” This was good news. I had been promoted only six months ago, which earned me the privilege of working under Richard in the first place. Now I was promoted again? Richard had been right, landing the Sorenson account did have its perks.
I beamed. “This is great! It’s just like you said. So are you going to buy that new convertible you’ve been talking about?”
“No.” He sighed again, rubbing his temples with his fingers. His jaw was working overtime. “You have been promoted. Not me. I also found out Vincent specifically listed you as his point of contact. Did you know about that?”
I gulped. Richard was upset with me and I had to diffuse the situation. Complete honesty wasn’t the answer. “He mentioned the possibility, saying he was impressed by my work. But I didn’t know he would go that far.”
His eyes narrowed. “What did you tell him and what did he say when he handed you the signed documents?”
“I just went through the standard follow-up pitch and he stopped me before I could finish. He said he liked my work and wanted to sign the papers. I gave them to him and didn’t really look too hard after he signed.”
He opened his mouth to say something but shut it, his mind seemingly deep in thought. He grumbled something under his breath and left before I could question the situation or offer words of consolement.
I tried to put Richard’s frustration into perspective. Despite him being ten years my senior, my promotion brought me to the same level as him. No longer a meager ‘analyst’, I was now a ‘client acquisition manager’ that would be reporting to Richard’s boss, Carl Stansworth, directly. I figured Vincent’s request for me to be his point-of-contact was the reason Carl promoted me, but I wondered why Richard wasn’t promoted. Richard certainly did his fair share of work, which meant either the company wasn’t doing well enough to promote him or Richard wasn’t on Carl’s good side. I figured it was the latter. Whatever the reason, the situation made it look like I stole his client lead. I was concerned about rubbing Richard the wrong way, but there wasn’t much I could do about the circumstances.
I skipped to lunch and returned to my desk with a newfound passion for my job. My fingers a whirlwind at the keyboard, I felt at peak productivity, churning page after page of reports and analyses.
It was approaching the end of the workday when my purse chimed with the sound of a text message. I reached inside, flutters in my stomach, figuring it was another flirty text from Vincent. I was already thinking about him so often since our date it was difficult to concentrate on anything else, and the frequent communication wasn’t helping. I wasn’t sure how long I’d be able to resist him if we kept this up.
I discovered the text was actually from Riley. Maybe she needed something else from the store.
Hey someone stopped by asking for you.
Not what I expected, but okay. Using my thumbs, I typed a response back to her. Did he have dark eyes, sexy blonde hair, and abs to die for?
A moment later the chime sounded. No. Didn’t get his name.
So it wasn’t Vincent. He probably wouldn’t have dropped by anyway knowing I would be at work. I also wasn’t expecting any packages . . . who could it have been? I was in the middle of preparing a response when I received another text. Riley must have accidentally hit send early on the last one.
But he had gorgeous blue eyes, brown hair, and rimless glasses.
Suddenly, the office spun, coming choppily like a film with missing frames. My pulse leaped and I felt an immediate tightness in my chest. I tried to breathe but couldn’t. The familiarity of the experience made me realize I was having a panic attack. I stared at the words, reading and rereading them, hoping they’d change.
Blue eyes. Brown hair. Rimless glasses.
There was no mistaking it. He had shown up at my doorstep. How did he find out where I lived? Why did he show up now? Should I call the police? Run? Stay at a hotel tonight? For how long? A flurry of questions and actions raced through my mind. And none of them seemed good.
In the midst of the chaos, my phone chimed again. Hands trembling, I checked the new message, fearing the worst.
The sight of Vincent’s text grounded me in reality. I’m aching for you. When can I see you again?
I recalled how safe I felt around him. That was the one thing I desperately needed right now and only he could give it to me. Not knowing what else to do, I decided to see him tonight, be with him.
Tonight. Your place. Can you pick me up after work?
I waited anxiously for his response. A few seconds later, it came.
What happened to slow? :)
I’m not promising anything. Can’t a girl come over just for fun?
Of course. We’ll hang out.
Spotting Vincent’s car pull to the side of curb, I checked to make sure nobody I recognized was around. Once I confirmed that none of my coworkers would suspect Vincent was taking me to his place, I hopped into the passenger seat.
His peacock blue shirt showcased his trim torso and his tailored black pants matched his expensive shoes. The effect was striking, and for a moment it felt surreal that a guy like this was picking me up from work.
“Hey.” I smiled at him.
He shifted the car to ‘park’ and leaned over, kissing me as if starved for the taste of my lips. His raw hunger for me was intoxicating. Hesitant at first, I easily succumbed to the sensation, running my hands through his long blonde locks and reciprocating. I enjoyed the soft feel of his mouth and his surprisingly fresh masculine scent.
Once our lips broke contact, he spoke. “Hello, Kristen.”
Hello to you too. “Sorry to give you such short notice.”
He placed his hand on my bare knee, the warmth from his skin a welcome sensation. “Anytime you need anything, don’t be afraid to tell me. I can be accommodating.”
“Thank you.” I considered for a moment if I should tell him about my ex-boyfriend showing up at my apartment, but I didn’t want to freak him out. People typically didn’t unload their baggage onto someone else when they’ve only been on one date. I hadn’t told anyone about my ex’s dark side before, not even Riley. But then again, I hadn’t had to. “So how was your day?”
“Went from good to great.” He grinned as his hand began lightly brushing my leg below my skirt. “How about yours?”
His sharp eyes studied my features carefully. “You seem kind of tense. Is everything all right?”
I hesitated. “I got a promotion today, thanks to you.”
“Congratulations. You deserved it,” he said. “And I’m not just saying that because I like you. You’re a rare talent.”
I blushed. “And you’re quite the seducer. You sure know how to flatter a girl.”
“Not flattery. Honesty. And I’ll take that first part as a sign of affection.”
The sound of my stomach grumbling betrayed my hunger and Vincent must’ve heard it. “What do you feel like eating tonight?” he asked. “I’m planning on cooking for us.”
“No preference,” I answered. “You don’t have to go through all that trouble though, I was just thinking we’d go to a restaurant or get take out.”
He shook his head. “I’m taking you to the best restaurant in the city—my kitchen. Tonight’s an opportunity to impress you with my culinary skills.”
“Expert surfing instructor, now a master chef.” Also, billionaire and sex god, but I figured those were already obvious. “How many surprises do you have?”
Those sinful lips forming a smile made me feel a sudden ache between my legs. “Oh the things I’ll show you, Kristen.”
Just as my thoughts began to turn naughty, a mental shopping list interrupted them. “I almost forgot, I need to pick up some medicine for Riley. Do you think we could get that first?”
“Of course. We’ll stop by the grocery store,” he said, pulling away from the curb to join the flock of cars in traffic.
If picking me up from work was surreal, grocery shopping was an illusion. I was cautious at first that someone might see us, but caution turned to laughter as we roamed the aisles for items. Two weeks ago I was rebuffing Vincent’s advances, and now we were picking out food to cook for dinner like an established couple. It was a domestic experience that felt bizarre but natural. I hadn’t been looking for anything serious or Mr. Right or even much of anything, and there I was with someone who felt like all those things. I hadn’t expected Vincent to be this way but then again he’d been constantly surprising me.
By the time we left, I felt a lot better than when he had picked me up from work. With half a dozen bags loaded into his trunk, he drove while I played the role of navigator, directing him to my apartment.
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