Her voice is flat and rehearsed, like a robot. “Of course not, Mr. Evans. If you have business to discuss with me, I’d be happy to converse with you. But if it’s not regarding work, then I’d really prefer—”
“Mr. Evans?” I don’t think so. “Is this like a kinky role-play thing? I’m the bad boss and you’re the sexy secretary?”
Her jaw clenches, and her hand tightens on her briefcase.
“Or you can be the boss, if you like. And I could be the submissive assistant who needs punishing. I could definitely get into the dominatrix thing.”
She makes a disgusted sound.
And walks away.
I easily catch up to her. “No, wait, Kate. I’m kidding. It was a joke. Please wait. I really do need to talk to you.”
Her voice is sharp—annoyed. “What do you want?”
I smile and hold out the flower again. “Have dinner with me on Saturday.”
Her brow wrinkles. “Are you taking some kind of medication that I’m not aware of?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Did I not make myself clear last night? Why would you think I would ever consider going out with you again?”
I shrug. “I was hoping you’d be in a better mood this morning. That maybe after a good night’s sleep you’d realize that you still…like me.”
She snorts. “Don’t hold your breath.”
She takes a step. Then stops and turns back to me.
“No, on second thought—do.”
I keep pace beside her as she continues toward the building. I’ve got two minutes here, maybe less. I talk fast.
“Seriously, Kate, I’ve been thinking—”
“Will wonders never cease.”
Was she always this much of a smartass?
“I want to start over. Do things right this time. I want to take you out. Tell you all the things I should have said before. About how amazing I think you are. How important you are to me. Oh, and I’m never going to lie to you again.”
I mean it.
Ten years from now, if Kate asks me if a certain pair of jeans makes her ass look fat—and they do? I’m going to take my life in my hands and say yes.
She looks straight ahead as she answers, “Thanks for the offer, but no thanks. Being made to feel stupid and used really isn’t high on my to-do list this week. Been there, done that. Not looking for a repeat.”
I grasp her elbow gently and turn her toward me. I try to catch her eyes, but she refuses to meet mine. My voice is low. And sincere.
“Kate…I panicked. I got scared, and I screwed up. It’ll never happen again. I learn from my mistakes.”
“What a coincidence.” She looks me up and down meaningfully. “So do I.”
Then she walks away. And I blow out a big breath.
Hard way it is.
Why am I not surprised?
WHEN KATE OPENS THE DOOR to the building, I’m right behind her. As soon as she crosses the threshold, the music starts.
And she stops dead in her tracks.
They’re called the Three Man Band. They’re traveling musicians. Literally. The lead singer’s got a guitar hanging from a strap across his shoulders and a microphone attached to his chest. The drummer has a six-piece set harnessed in front—like a kid in a marching band, but much cooler. The last guy has a combination base guitar and keyboard sitting on a platform at his waist.
It’s really not as corny as it sounds. They’re good. Like one of those cover bands that play down the Jersey shore in the summer. And they’re playing “Caught up in You” by .38 Special.
Kate hisses at me through her teeth, “What the hell is this?”
I shrug. “Well, I don’t know how to play the guitar. And I can’t sing. So…”
I know what you’re thinking. Music, Drew? That’s the big plan? Didn’t Billy already try that? Yes, Warren tried this strategy and failed. But this will be different.
The Three Man Band is mobile. Which means they can—and will—follow Kate all day. Serenading her with not just one but dozens of carefully chosen songs. And no—this isn’t the whole plan. This is just the first step. There’s more.
“I hate you.”
No she doesn’t.
I slide my unclaimed flower behind her ear. “Listen to the words, Kate.”
The singer croons about a man on his knees, who’s so in love he wants to change, to be better—more. For her.
Kate rips the flower out of her hair and drops it on the floor. Then she shoves past me toward the elevator and gets in.
And the Three Man Band crowds in around her. Still playing.
She looks horrified, doesn’t she? As the doors close, I almost feel bad.
I take the next elevator up to the fortieth. By then, the sounds of “Angel” by Aerosmith fill the air. Apparently, Kate has barred the Three Man Band from her office. So they’re stationed outside her closed door.
I stop at Erin’s desk. She hands me my coffee.
“Thanks. Everything set?”
“Locked and loaded, boss.” Then she snaps her fingers. “Oh, and I brought this for you.” She hands me a medium-sized box filled with DVDs. Laying on top are Gone with the Wind, Say Anything, Beauty and the Beast, Casablanca, Titanic, and…The Notebook.
“Research. For you. I figured you might need it.”
I smile. “What would I do without you, Erin?”
“Spend the rest of your life miserable and alone?”
She’s not far off the mark.
“Give yourself another week’s vacation, okay?”
I take my box of goodies into my office and prepare for phase two.
Flowers. Lots of women say they don’t want them. But every woman is happy when they get them.
Which is why I’ve arranged to have them delivered to Kate’s office, every hour on the hour. Seven dozen at a time. That’s one dozen for every day we were apart.
Romantic, right? I thought so too.
And although I know Kate’s favorite are white daisies, I specifically told the florist to avoid them. Instead, I’ve chosen exotics—bouquets with brightly colored petals and strange shapes. The kinds of flowers Kate has probably never seen in her life, from places she’s never been.
Places I want to take her to.
At first I kept the notes simple and generic. Take a look:
Let me make it up to you.
I miss you. Please forgive me.
But after a few hours I figured I needed to step it up a notch. Get more creative. What do you think?
You're turning me into a stalker.
Go out with me on Saturday and I'll give you all of my clients.
Every. Single. One.
If I throw myself in front of a bus,
will you come visit me at the hospital?
PS - Try not to feel too guilty if I don't survive. Really.
That last batch was delivered forty-five minutes ago. Now I’m just sitting at my desk, waiting. Waiting for what, you ask? You’ll see. Kate may be stubborn, but she’s not made of stone.
My office door slams open, leaving a dent in the drywall.
Here we go.
“You are driving me crazy!”
Her cheeks are flushed, her breathing’s fast, and she’s got murder in her eyes.
I raise my brows hopefully. “Crazy? Like you want to rip my shirt open again?”
“No. Crazy like the itch of a yeast infection that just won’t go away.”
I flinch. Can’t help it.
Kate steps toward my desk. “I am trying to work. I need to focus. And you’ve got Manny, Moe, and Jack playing every cheesy eighties song ever written outside my office door!”
“Cheesy? Really? Huh. I so had you pegged for an eighties kind of girl.”
Well, you live and learn.
“I’m serious, Drew. This is a place of business; I can’t be the only one this noise is bothering.”
Good. We’re back to Drew. Progress.
And as far as disturbing the rest of the staff? I thought of that. I spoke with most of the people on this floor and gave them a heads-up about the entertainment for the day. They didn’t seem to mind.
“I’m serious too, Kate. You shouldn’t be working. You should be listening. I chose this playlist myself. It’s my grand gesture. To show you how I feel.”
“I don’t give a shit about how you feel!”
“Well, that’s harsh.”
She crosses her arms, and her foot taps on the floor.
“You know, I didn’t want to do this, but you’ve left me no choice. You’re obviously too immature to handle this like an adult. So…I’m going to tell your father.”
She’s the one who’s going to tell Daddy on me, but I’m being immature.
And I thought of that already too. “My father’s in California for the next two weeks. I’m not overly concerned about what he might do to me via telephone.” She opens her mouth to try again, but I continue. “You could try talking to Frank. But he’s in the Hamptons, at that year-round golf course Trump just opened. George is in his office.” She turns, but my next words make her pause. “I should warn you, though…he’s got a real soft spot for romantics. I wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were you. And he’s my godfather.”
She stares at me a minute. She’s trying to think of a comeback. I’m just glad I cleared all the heavy objects off my desk.
You know, the ones she probably wants to chuck at my head right about now.
“You can’t do this. This is sexual harassment.”
I stand up and lean across my desk. “Sue me.”
Her mouth opens to spew what I’m sure will be a tirade of volcanic proportions. But I cut her off. And my voice is calm. Rational.
“Or, you can save yourself the trouble and just go out with me on Saturday. One date. One night, and all this goes away. After that, if you still don’t want to have anything to do with me, I’ll leave you alone. Scout’s honor.”
Technically, this isn’t a lie. We’ve already established Boy Scouting was not my thing. Loopholes, remember?
Her face contorts into a mask of disgust. “Absolutely not. I won’t be blackmailed into going out with you.”
I sit back down. “That is the strong choice. The feminist, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar decision. I’m proud of you, Kate.”
Her eyes narrow suspiciously.
“Plus, I can’t wait for you to see what I have planned for tomorrow. I wouldn’t schedule any meetings, though. Might be too loud.”
Her voice rises with every word. Like thunder from a storm that’s moving closer. “You are a manipulative, childish, vindictive bastard!”
“I’m not trying to be.”
She makes her way around my desk, and I stand up to meet her.
“A selfish, self-centered, egotistical son of a bitch!”
She hits me on the chest with both fists.
“I wish I’d never seen you at that stupid club!”
“I wish I never got this job!”
“I wish I never met you!”
I grip her wrists and pull her close.
Now here’s when we usually start kissing.
Were you looking forward to that part? Sorry. Not gonna happen. Because this isn’t just about me and my raging hard-on. Not anymore. And I have to prove that to Kate.