I brushed my hands across my new desk for the third consecutive time. Lifting my heels off the ground, I gave myself another spin in my complementary swivel chair. Also new. My cubicle was moderately sized, which was expected due to its cubicle status. The walls were bland, something that could be easily remedied with my own personalization and the situation of my new office was just so, that I could see Mr. Hatter’s office across the way and he could see mine. Making it easier for us to communicate back and forth when the time came. At present, he was allowing me to get my bearings. In other words, he was holding himself back from dumping a truckload of work on my desk in my first hour. Nice of him.
Sighing, I sat back. While I was still currently enamored by the knowledge that I was now an employed woman, working in a field I’d always dreamed of … even with these new surroundings and circumstances, I couldn’t fool myself into believing that I wasn’t still hung up on Mr. McIntyre. Puzzling over three words, endlessly, Until next time …
This morning, after the coffee incident that I truly didn’t believe I would ever live down, and Jonah having guided me upstairs with a gentle but heat inducing hand at my back, he’d walked me into my new boss’s office. His soiled suit jacket having been removed in the elevator.
“She’s here,” he’d said, a look of cool superiority on his face. As if daring Hatter to speak out against him. “And she’s not late.” The difference in his tone was stark compared to how he had spoken to me earlier. Before he’d seemed relaxed … amused, but in that moment he seemed cold and helplessly removed. His eyes like chips of bluest ice.
Hatter had been happy to oblige and eager to please in any way, “Of course, Mr. McIntyre. I wouldn’t have charged the lateness against her anyway, things do happen.” Jonah had nodded only once toward my boss, then turned to me, his eyes no longer cold and forbidding … rather, sapphire jewels with molten heat flaming from their cores.
“Until next time.” He’d said, his hand sliding gently off my back, leaving me with a startling sense of bereftness as he’d stepped away from me, out into the hallway and out of my life. I’d turned to Hatter, hopefully having cleared away all traces of my ridiculously wild emotions.
John Hatter was a young, tall man, who could only be in his late twenties to early thirties. He had kind green eyes, that smiled at me just as much as his upturned lips had.
“It’s nice to see you again, Ms. Tate,” he’d said, smile never fading but his eyes taking on a conspiratal shade. “I’m sorry, but I can’t resist … how did you manage to get McIntyre wrapped around your finger so quickly?”
I’d shaken my head, confused by his deduction, “I wouldn’t go as far as to say that …”
“Well, I’ve only known the man a minute, but you can tell he’s not the type to warm up to people very quickly. How long have you known him fifteen, twenty minutes? And the way he looked at you before he left … I’m sure it could have reduced a lesser woman to a mere puddle.”
“There was nothing to it … he was just being nice.” I’d said, thoroughly frazzled by that point. Had there been something more to that look, I’d thought. You shouldn’t think so much of me, Mr. Hatter because I’d sure been compelled to melt a few seconds ago.
“Alright, I’m sorry. Totally not my place, I know.” He’d run a hand through short brown hair, giving me an almost sheepish smile. “Let’s show you to your office.”
Stretching in my chair, I shook myself mentally. Mr. McIntyre is none of your concern, I told myself. Leave it alone. And for the most part, I did.
The rest of the work day was a breeze and relatively light. A few of my new co-workers took the time to stop by, say hello and make their acquaintances and Hatter took the time to show me the ropes and what would be expected of me. Because of this, leaving the office at the end of the day was paired with a sense of fulfillment. I loved my workplace, with its comfortable and laid back atmosphere. My boss was growing on me, his quirky, people loving and patient disposition was one I felt easy being around. And the job was one I didn’t mind spending time and energy on.
When I made my way back to the apartment around six, Vince opened the door before I could get my key out, a huge grin on his face. I couldn’t help but smile back. Stepping inside I slipped off my coat, hanging it on the rack beside the door. Vince leaned against the door, crossing his arms as I was slipping off my shoes, his devilish grin never fading.
“So …?” He inquired. “How was it, baby girl?”
I leaned on the door beside him, “Great. My boss is nice, the place is lovely and my co-workers seemed very accepting. Except …” I sighed, “Do you know who Jonah McIntyre is?”
Vince looked over at me speculatively from his perch, looking every inch the sexy male model, “That young billionaire who owns McIntyre Industries and a whole lot of companies across the U.S., if my facts are straight.”
“That’s the one.” I said, sinking further into the embarrassment that I’d been able to shelf for most of the day. “He bought Berkeley Publishing today and you know how I repaid the favor?”
“I have a feeling this isn’t going to be good.” Vince said, his arm snaking behind me to squeeze my shoulder comfortingly.
“You’d be right. I … I … spewed coffee from that blasted thermos all over his gorgeous Armani suit!” I blurted, just wanting to get it all out there at once. Vince was silent for what seemed like forever, then he sighed himself as he guided me to the couch, sitting us both down.
“Tell me all about it, babe.” He said and I let it rip. I told him about the insanely gorgeous, yet impossibly cool, collected and superior man I’d crashed into by chance and clumsiness this morning. I told him about how I would’ve landed my ass on the ground if it hadn’t been for Jonah’s strong arms coming around me to keep me up.
I told him about McIntyre’s undramatized reaction to the possibly permanent stain that had decorated the front of his jacket because of me, and how he’d refused to release me even though there was no longer any reason for my remaining there … in his arms.
I let Vince know everything, about the pardon he’d given me with my boss and those three words that had been plaguing me all day, until next time … and the scorching look those startling eyes had graced me with just before he’d walked away.
Vince listened in silence, only nodding every once in a while to let me know that he was with me. I was grateful for that, as I always was, because sometimes, all you need is for someone to listen and Vince had oftentimes been that someone for me.
“He’s interested, Cat.” He said after I’d finished. “As he should be, he’s noticed a beautiful girl, a worthwhile girl and I’m almost positive that ‘until next time’ stuff was a promise. You’ll be seeing him again and soon.”
I frowned slightly, my heart fluttering at the prospect of seeing Mr. McIntyre again. “You really think so?” I asked.
Vince took my hand in his, “Sweetheart, there’s no doubt in my mind. That man won’t be able to stay away.”
* * *