When Alex is called into the office to work for the day, he meets two women that influence his life: Emily – a coworker that he quickly becomes good friends with; and Daphne – an intern whom he lusts after. At the company’s Mardi Gras themed event, his eyes are opened to the true personalities of both women. Will he continue to deny the attraction that he feels for his friend, or will he listen to his heart before it’s too late?
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
“I hate going in to the office,” Alex sighed to himself as the alarm clock blared in his ear once again. He ignored the woman lying on his bed as he stretched and cut off the annoying sound. Standing up, he tugged at his pants, then slowly walked into the bathroom and turned the shower on.
As the water warmed, he ran a hand over his face and head. Standing in front of the sink, he put shaving cream in his palm and lathered up.
Twenty minutes later, with nothing more than a towel wrapped around his waist, he headed back into his room towards the closet. Glancing at the lump under the blankets, he wasn’t surprised to discover that it hadn’t moved. Pushing past his normal clothes, he pulled out a suit before heading back to the bathroom to dress. He left his tie and jacket across the back of a chair while he finished getting ready.
Returning to the main room, he grabbed the tie from the chair where he’d dropped it moments before and wrapped it around his neck. Mechanically, Alex began to knot it. Knowing there was no more time to delay, he walked over to the bed and nudged the woman’s leg. “Get up.”
“No,” she said, rolling over and pulling the covers over her head.
“Candace, you need to get up. I have to go in to work.”
The sheet was lowered to the woman’s chin. “Why don’t you just call and tell them you’re going to work from home today and climb back in this bed with me?”
“For the same reason I told you no last night. Look, you’re welcome to crash here anytime. You know that. But we are over.” Alex pulled the blankets off the bed and threw them into a heap on the floor.
She sat up, glaring at him. After an attempt to smooth her hair, she tugged her shoes on. “I still can’t believe you made me sleep in my clothes.”
“Them’s the breaks, kid. Now let’s go, or I’ll be late.”
Despite his words, she took her time. “You know, last night when you told me I could sleep at your place, I had no idea you meant literally.”
“Go see Doug. He’ll straighten out your boss.”
“Why don’t you just straighten him out for me instead? You’re so much more forceful than he is. Then I could spend all day figuring out creative ways to show you how much I appreciate your help.” Candace put one slender finger on his chest and traced the edge of his tie. “Now, doesn’t that sound like much more fun than sending me off to Dougie?”
Alex smiled. “Once upon a time, Candace. But that time has long passed, and I’m going to be late if we don’t leave now. So let’s go.”
Scooping up his jacket, he guided her to the elevator that led out of his studio apartment. As it descended, they were both silent.
As soon as the rickety elevator landed on the ground floor, she smiled. “Fine, you big spoilsport. Just remember, anytime you want to change your mind…” She let her voice trail off with unspoken promise and playfully threw his tie over his shoulder. “I’m sure you still have my number somewhere.” Turning, she added more sway to her hips as she walked down the hallway.
* * * * * *
Stepping out of the car, Alex pulled the navy blue tie tighter. He buttoned his jacket and pulled the strap of his bag more securely over his shoulder. Turning toward the building, he reminded himself to be polite, that his bosses didn’t have to allow him to work from home as often as they did.
It was rare that he was told to come into the office to work for the day and he knew the ordeal would soon be over. After the brief pep talk, he found himself able to plaster on a small semblance of a smile as he entered the building.
“Good Morning, Mr. Smith,” a security guard said, returning his smile.
“Hey, Jimmy, what’s up?”
The other man laughed. “Not much. I’m just waiting to find out who my trainee is for the next four months.”
“Damn. Is it that time of year already?” Alex shook his head. So that’s why they insisted I come in to the office today. He rolled his eyes. In the entire ten years he had been working for Davis and Son, he had never worked closely with an intern, but that didn’t stop them from forcing him to be at the meetings where the interns were introduced and placed.
“I’m afraid so.”
“Good luck. Maybe this year you’ll get a blonde with legs up to here,” he teased, holding his hand just below his chest.
Jimmy laughed again. “Don’t I wish. But I’m not that lucky.”
Chuckling, Alex shook his head as he made his way to the elevator.
Once he was inside it and the doors had closed, he smoothed nonexistent wrinkles from his black sleeves. When the doors reopened, he automatically headed for the large conference room.
“Glad to see you made it.” A friendly brunette with short hair whose name he couldn’t remember immediately smiled at him.
“I heard today’s the day we get to meet the interns,” he said with a forced smile. He hoped it didn’t look like the grimace it felt like.
“Yes,” she nodded. “But I heard we’re only getting a few this year.”
What a tragedy, Alex thought sarcastically, though he acknowledged her words.
He listened to her as she made small talk. Talking about the company’s latest projects, though he really didn’t care. Instead of paying attention to what she was saying, he escaped into the memory of the previous night as his teeth worried the small surgical steel ball inside his mouth.
He still felt outraged that Candace’s boss believed she would jump straight into his bed. That the man had the audacity to think she would sleep with him to get a promotion.
Of course, a cynical part of him said, is that really so farfetched an idea? It wasn’t that long ago that she…
No, those thoughts were best left forgotten. Candace wanted Doug and now she has him. It is not my problem that she suddenly wants more as well. Those two are together now, and Doug can handle whatever problems arise.
The brunette brought him out of his thoughts when she stopped talking, waiting as if for a response.
Instead of complaining about his lack of attention, she grinned. It brightened her entire face, and he felt himself relaxing. “I didn’t think you were here. Was it at least somewhere nice?”