Suzy arched an eyebrow. “Theodore. You know I love you as much as my late Callum, but…Alice?”
“Evoking your Westie, God rest his beautiful, stubborn soul? Whatever is on your mind about me and Alice must be serious.” Theodore sighed and sat down. “What about her?” As if he didn’t know?
Theodore should have seen this coming. He’d gotten too caught up in Alice. But who would blame him?
Like any man, Theodore spent a lot of time thinking about sex. He’d had his fair share—some rough and fast, other times long and slow. But none of his lovers had ever been so all in like Alice. She was fearless once she made up her mind about something—like getting nailed in a supply closet. It had him pitch caution in the dust bin.
As penance, he’d endure yet another ten-minute lecture from Suzy around his love life. Then he’d find Alice.
She was obviously hurt given how she shuffled out, her beautiful hazel eyes stunned at learning about her wanker boss. He knew it was coming, too. But what could he do? He was sworn to secrecy.
Suzy studied him. “Are you playing her?”
“Excuse me?” He loved women and let nature take its course there, but playing someone wasn’t in his repertoire. Surely Suzy knew that after all these years.
She crossed her arms. “I see how she looks at you. It’s…”
“Familiar. Women fall in love with you and then…” She cocked her head a little to the right.
“Why don’t you just spell it out.” They’d known each other for years so speaking so plainly wasn’t out of the question.
“You move on, and she’s left here.” Suzy stepped forward. “She doesn’t need a reputation of being the woman who screwed the hot consultant. Oh, yes, I know all about your work breaks with her.”
He knew right then he’d made more than a mistake. The two of them having a little fun during the day wasn’t his biggest one. Because so what, truly? Suzy and Samuel weren’t prudes. Far from it.
“The only women I meet are through work. And I didn’t realize dating someone I worked with was against policy.”
“It’s not,” she said carefully. “Alice is smart, Theo. Don’t hurt her.”
Pricks broke out across his skin. As if he’d hurt her? “I care about her. A lot.” He’d been thinking about Alice and what she meant to him. How she was different from all the other women he’d been interested in over the years. Even Beatrice.
Suzy arched eyebrow. “You care?”
“Okay, more than. But it’s been hard to think about. With me in a different place every six months, it’s not exactly conducive to a steady thing.”
Irritation bubbled up inside him like a volcano. He was getting tired of her repeating his words. “Yes. Convenient. Propitious. Possible. Pick a word.”
“Anything is possible.” Her voice was irritatingly calm.
Of course, he knew anything was. But not everything. Having it all wasn’t in the cards for anyone. For some reason he’d thrown that bit of wisdom into the wind when he’d met Alice. She was as ambitious as he was, and honestly, he believed maybe their significant pull to each other would make something work.
But the closer they grew to solving the unraveling puzzle of Edison Tech’s failure, the closer he grew to a trip to the next gig. And making something work long distance? Who was he kidding? He’d tried that with Beatrice and look how that turned out.
“You know there is such a thing as a traveling CFO,” said Suzy.
“Oh? You offering her that? I thought with Roger and his hiding things…” He stopped. He wouldn’t be the one to plant a negative idea of Alice in her head. He was, however, a little miffed she hadn’t caught on to Roger sooner. Her blindness to his moves didn’t make sense.
“Roger was clever. He kept her busy as hell in this office. Giving her the office manager and accounting roles in absence of an actual CFO?”
“He’s a prick and never deserved her.”
Suzy’s brow furrowed. “What? Tell me she wasn’t….”
Shit, that cat leapt from the bag. Suzy didn’t know Alice was one of his attempted dalliances.
Suzy shook her head. “My god. Alice with Roger?” She gave off a soft laugh. “I’d have never believed it.”
“It’s not what you think. They never…” He scrubbed his hair as if that would remove the image he had in his head about Roger being near Alice, trying to touch her….
“I see. Well, if she’s into you as much as you’re clearly into her? Her taste has improved.”
Suzy always did know how to slap on the healing salve in the nick of time. “Her taste maybe, but that doesn’t mean she’ll put up with my schedule.”
“Hmm, you may be right. Want to stay here?”
Staying at Edison? He couldn’t even imagine what he’d do all day. His skill set required things to be “off.” Once they were righted, he moved on.
He shook his head. “Not quitting. Unless you’re firing me.” He worked damned hard to get where he was. Plus, he rather enjoyed bringing justice to the workplace.
“Wouldn’t dream of it. But if you are serious about her then…” She shrugged, got that look in her eye that told him she had an idea in mind. Whatever it was, he couldn’t imagine.
The problem was his imagination wasn’t any help, either. He’d committed to exploring each other with her. See where it led. He never imagined they’d fit so well together, that it’d get so serious so fast. Chemistry, in his experience, generally fizzled out after a month or two. But with Alice, the scent of her, her laughter, her smart mouth only doused his interest like gasoline on a fire.
Ffycing great. He more than cared for her. He couldn’t get enough of her. And it wasn’t because of her spectacular physical assets—she’d hadn’t been wrong about the perfection of her breasts.
It was more the way her eyes lit up at seeing him, the way she rolled her eyes when he brought up a day to celebrate—it did something inside his chest. He tried not to dwell on it because Suzy had one thing right. He always left town. His job demanded it—the only job that ever fit him.
Alice stepped into the elevator. It was 4 p.m. but she was cutting out early. She had nine weeks of vacation time saved up. She could take a few hours.
A hand reached out and slapped the door from closing.
Theodore grinned down on her. “Hey. Cutting class?”
Anger radiated through her chest like lightning. His blue eyes sparkled as if he hadn’t stood in the conference room and lied to her. “Cutting the bullshit.” To think she once thought her life made sense. Now? She didn’t know what was real anymore.
Just like that, her lady bits woke up. She stuffed any warm feelings she had toward him as far down as she could. “Only if we don’t talk.” She wasn’t ready to discuss whys he was so miffed at him. Deep thinking time, that’s what she needed.
He hit the down button, wisely kept his mouth shut.
She studied the numbers lighting up, one at a time, as they descended. With each floor passed, her chest grew tighter. Theodore cleared his throat, the sound grating on her nerves.
She clasped her tongue between her teeth, clenched her fists.
She couldn’t hold back. She turned to him, and words still cascaded out of her like a damn breaking. “How could you? How could no one tell me about this sting operation? I was the one who’d been putting up with Roger’s B.S. the last three years. The least anyone could have done was clue me in. I could have helped.”
He nodded once.
A slice of fear cut through her anger. “Unless they don’t trust me. Or…” she gasped. “…suspected me at the beginning and then… Oh, shit did they think I was in on it?”
His brows furrowed.
She backed up until her back hit the elevator wall. “I would never. My God, and what was that about you were in on it and—” Her words were lost because he advanced on her, his lips claiming hers.
A soft bounce and then the elevator was still. The doors whooshed open. Her eyes snapped open and landed on Tricia and Stephanie who stood in the lobby. Tricia’s eyes narrowed and Stephanie’s mouth dropped open. A fan-fucking-tastic addition to the cluster of a day.
Alice pushed Theodore off her. “I almost fell.” What a lame thing to say. Especially since they just got caught obviously tongue-wrestling each other.
Alice didn’t let Tricia or Stephanie say a word. Rather bolted out of the elevator, leaving Theodore in the dust.
“Alice,” he called.
She kept going. As if running away would change the story Tricia and Stephanie were now plotting to spread upstairs?
She could hear Tricia now. I knew something was up with those two. First Roger and then the hot consultant. She might as well replace her office door with a revolving door.
And they weren’t wrong. She had screwed Theodore almost everywhere at the office. What had she been thinking?
She wasn’t thinking. That was the problem. So much for her dedication to adopting clear-eyed judgement. She spun on him. “Did you have to kiss me?”
“It was one way to enforce the ‘no talking’ rule.” He grabbed her hand. “I’ll drive you home.”
“I can do it,” she yanked her hand free.
“Come on, let me help you.”
“No. Did you know he was embezzling? Tell me right now.”
Theodore gazed down at her. “Not until a few weeks ago when Samuel brought it up. I wasn’t at liberty to tell you.”
“A few weeks?” Her shout echoed in the lobby.
This man had been inside her dozens of times. He’d told her he always wanted more. Couldn’t get enough of her. But he couldn’t tell her the truth?
Or maybe the truth was staring her in the face the whole time. Roger set her up. Suzy’s questioning all the reports. It was all right there. And Alice was merely collateral in the O’Flannery’s ultimate plans—or worse an unwitting co-conspirator for Theodore’s spying.
So much for eyes wide open.
Little pricks formed in her vision. The floor pitched under her feet and then… blessed nothingness.