Kiss A Ginger Day: Chapter 3

Alice leaned into her desk and squinted at the computer screen. Something was not right on Roger’s expense report. $200 for lunch? Then again, D.C. prices.

Patty knocked on her doorframe. “Still can’t believe Roger made us come in today.”

“I can.” The man was a drill sergeant. And a prick, something she’d voice to him at the appropriate time.

Patty perched herself on the corner of Alice’s desk. “What’s with the jumper cables?” She pointed at the things taking up far too much space.

She waved her hand at her friend. “Harrison from marketing returned them. Finally bought his own, which is good because I’m tired of giving him a jump.” Tired of car issues altogether.

She discovered that morning hers must have been towed from its spot overnight. She’d go back at lunchtime to retrieve it from the lot. At least DC had a phone number on the signs calling the street a “snow emergency route.”

Also on the day’s docket was not dwelling on the cascade of unfortunate events of last night. Or think about how she’d spectacularly broken her resolution to make better choices hours into it.

She’d woken up that morning on a stranger’s couch under a tartan blanket with a pounding headache. It took a solid minute to remember how the hell she’d gotten there. Far less time to hightail it out once she remembered the Kiss a Ginger Guy. Theodore. He at least had plugged her phone into a charger near the sofa where she’d passed out. And thank god she was able to get a cab, get home and changed for work. It was a miracle she was only an hour late to the office.

Alice pointed at her computer. “Hey, you ever been to the Palm?”

“The restaurant? Yeah. Overpriced.”

Roger’s weekly expense report might be right then.

Patty leaned down closer, dropped her voice to a whisper. “Did you get a load of the Jamie Fraser that walked in this morning?”

Patty had three categories for men when she was interested in them. Dark-haired men were Henry Cavills, Blonds were Daniel Craigs—“the young one”—and redheads were naturally Sam Heughans. Patty was obsessed with the Jamie Fraser character, in particular. “The rarest unicorn of them all,” she had sighed dramatically over margaritas one night at her most favorite rugby bar.

Alice spun her chair around. “Thought you were going to make babies with the Henry Cavill in the C suite?” Jerry Maxwell, the vice president of the manufacturing division, was cute with great hair—and he knew it given he couldn’t pass a mirror without pausing to peer into it.

“Not since I found out he still lives with his mother because he’s worried about their eighteen parrots. How they might miss him. Apparently, parrots bond with their humans. I’m betting his new Jamie doesn’t have parrots.” Her eyes grew distant. “He looks more like he’d have Scottish terriers.”

Patty had an active imagination.

Alice blew a stray strand of hair out of her face. “I made it a point not to see anyone this morning.” Thank God for dry shampoo but second-day hair was always a static nightmare.

Patty pushed off the desk. “Well, how do I look? Good enough for the new Jamie?” She ran her hands down her pencil skirt then adjusted her sparkly, blue-framed glasses.

“Very sexy librarian. He’d be lucky as sin to nail you behind the historical romance section.” She grabbed her portfolio and a pen. “Come on. Monday staff meeting starts in two.”

“Still can’t believe Roger’s making us do this today. I want the chair next to the back, the one with not-heinous lighting.”

When they entered the conference room, six other Edison Tech employees were seated around the large walnut table including Tricia and Stephanie who threw her yet another pitying glance. Great, they honestly  thought she was heartbroken over Roger and her being Miss December. As far as she cared, Roger could have a woman for every month, national holiday and even the made-up ones like National Bobblehead Day.

Ginger Guy last night surely had made up that one.

“Good morning, team. Glad to see you made it in, despite a few snowflakes.” Roger rushed through the glass doors.

A few? Roger should hand out medals for those who showed up today.

Roger clapped his hands together, rubbed them as if kindling firewood and stood at the head of the table. “I realize it’s Friday but it’s time to talk about this new year.”

“Let’s not,” mumbled Harrison from marketing as he scrambled to take the vacant chair next to Alice. Patty sat on her other side under the half-dimmed ceiling light giving her a warm glow. Alice really needed to call maintenance about the bulb. It could go out anytime.

Roger beamed over at everyone. He was entirely too happy this morning. Probably because he’d identified Miss January already. The way that petite blond, new to the management team, was gazing up at him, Alice would bet her life savings, he had.

Roger leaned down, knuckles on the table. “A new year means new beginnings. I’m not going to beat around the bushel here. We’re starting with assessing the team. Edison Tech hired a management firm to conduct a thorough evaluation of performance, redundancy and inefficiencies.”

A visible groan filled the room. Roger’s smile thinned. “Now, now. I know what you’re thinking. You are all valuable and this is merely to ensure everyone is giving their best work, headed to their best future for themselves and this company.” He knocked on the table once.

Harrison leaned over. “He means protecting his future bonuses.”

Alice gave him a grimace in solidarity.

Roger wasn’t through, however. “We’re starting from the rump up.”

Alice stifled a laugh. No one else held back, though. Snickers filled the room. Roger was constantly mixing up words and getting metaphors wrong, like bushels versus bush and rump versus bottom.

“I know whose rump I’d like to start with,” Harrison whispered as he eyed Patty. He was fully bald in a sexy Rock-kind of way, and quite handsome. But Patty had a real thing for hair.

Roger theatrically swept his arm toward the conference room door. “Everyone, I’d like to introduce you to Theodore Gaston.”

Blood began to pound in Alice’s ears, her neck, her head. No way. The red-headed guy from last night’s surprise snowmageddon walked through the door in a charcoal gray suit and blue tie.

Patty sat up straighter.  But if Alice could have faded into the upholstery of her chair, she’d have done it. A crushing flood of memories swamped her. She’s kissed this guy last night.

Roger held out a handshake to Theodore. “Good to see you again.” He turned to the staff. “Many of you met him last night but given it was my birthday…”

Jesus, keep reminding us already.

“…I told him to stick to just getting to know you. No work talk.”

Theodore wrested his hand free, nodded once, and then scanned the room. Alice did her level best to hide behind Patty but since her friend was thin as a pencil, Theodore easily caught her gaze.

One side of his mouth lifted. The man was amused? A buzzing began in Alice’s low belly and snaked its way up her spine. So this is what shame felt like.

She dipped her chin, assessed her manicure. God, she hated her life right now.

“Thank you, Mr. Rubenstein. Good day, Edison Tech,” he said in a far deeper voice than she recalled.

And Mr. Rubenstein? No one called Roger that.

A chorus of “hi’s” and “hello’s” sounded, mostly female. She risked a glance up. He still stared at her.

“As Mr. Rubenstein stated, I’m Theodore Gaston. And I want to start out by saying, I know I’m not your favorite person already.”

A few titters sounded.

Theodore began to walk around the conference table. “Mr. Rubenstein thought it best to keep everyone out of the loop until it was time.”

Oh, they’d been out of the loop alright. Though last night, she almost had been very, very much in the loop – the nude one.

“I’m not here to make your life miserable.” He stopped, stared at her once more.  “I’m here to make it better.”

A few of the sales guys visibly shifted, uncomfortable. They were always the first to get put on the chopping block.

Theodore resumed his walk. “Now I’d like to set up appointments with each of you. Just a deeper, get-to-know-you meeting. Learn about your relevant and important skills. No preparation needed.”

Three hands went up. All female again. Shocker. Because Alice was woman enough to admit Theodore was a hottie with those bluer-than-blue eyes and frame that can carry a woman around in the snow while never breaking a sweat.

He didn’t look like he only got five hours of sleep and drank too much. Oh, crap. She did, didn’t she? She hadn’t even put on make-up this morning, thinking it’d be an ordinary day of her computer screen seeing more of her than anything or anyone else.

Why should she care what Theodore thought? Maybe because her entire future was at stake here.

She’d heard rumors that the higher-ups weren’t happy with the way things were going. Sales were down. Marketing costs were up. She never thought they’d bring someone in to assess the entire staff, however. They should be assessing Roger. He was the one who dictated everything down to when the plants were watered.

Theodore pointed at Tricia whose hand nearly touched the ceiling. “Yes, Miss…”

“Brown. Tricia Brown from HR.” The woman beamed at him, a huge grin on her face. “It was good to meet you last night, Mr. Gaston. Given I work in HR, perhaps I could help you navigate the team?”

By the way she eyed him, she’d like to navigate him alright. Straight into those very expensive-looking trousers.

“Please, call me Theodore.” He’d almost circled to her side of the table now. “We’re going to do the interviews randomly. I think starting with…”

He looked over to her, which sent highly-inappropriate tingles down her whole body.

He moved to where she sat. “Miss Crawford? You’re in accounting, correct?”

“Correct. And it’s Alice.” She did not smile. “As you know.”

“Alice. I heard you had a bit of car trouble last night. Everything sorted?” he asked in that melodic British accent. His blue eyes sparkled. He was enjoying this.

“Sorted,” she said sharply. In her periphery she could see all eyes were on them now.


Everyone’s phones pinged and vibrated in the room.

“Right on time,” he said. “Meeting requests should have landed in your inbox right then.”

Everyone, including Alice, lifted their phones to see a calendar request showing their time slot with Theodore. Chit-Chat with Theodore, it read. Ridiculous.

Alice quickly glanced around to gauge reactions. Tricia’s mouth twisted, clearly unhappy with her time slot.

Harrison waved his phone. “And if we have a conflict? Have to move it?”

Roger held up his hand “There is no greater priority than this.”

Theodore had finally moved his body, his scent away from her. Made his way to the head of the table. “If you have an emergency or really need to change your time, just let me know.”

Roger’s face fell, his eyes darkening a little. She recognized that look. Countering the guy who’s writing his management fee checks? Not very smart. Then again, catering to Roger’s ego hadn’t gotten her very far at Edison.

Theodore didn’t seem to notice he’s semi-insulted Roger. Just stood there in his beautifully cut suit, smiling, basking in the gaze of every person around the table. He enjoyed the attention. She didn’t recall him being arrogant last night. He was fun–and dishonest with her. Time to remind him he should tread carefully in case he got any notions of yielding power over her. What he’d done last night had to have broken some ethical rules somewhere.

She cleared her throat, raised her hand.

Theodore pointed at her. “Oh, no need to do that. Just ask away.”

“Mr. Gaston—”

“Just Theodore is fine.”

The women gave each other sidelong glances, like secret messages being handed in 7th grade. Every single one of them was already into him. By the look of confidence on his face, he was quite comfortable with being admired.

Alice laid a hand delicately on her breastbone. “Don’t you mean Theodore Gaston the Fourth?”

Patty gasped a little. “Is he famous or something?” she whispered out of the side of her mouth. “Dibs on him.”

A lazy smile broke out on his face. “So my mum and dad say. You have a question?”

Alice laid her phone face down on the table. “I can’t make it at 11.” Or ever.

“No problem. We’ll talk right after this meeting.”

Damn him.

Roger looked at him and then at her. “Excellent. Now, meeting adjourned. Have a…”

She didn’t hear the rest of his words. She was out of her chair like a shot and left the conference room from the back exit. She hightailed it to her office, closed the door.

Think. Think. Think.

She was a professional and aways on the ball at Edison. She was pretty sure, however, straddling the new management consultant’s balls, as she’d done last night, wouldn’t be viewed as a relevant and important skill. If it was, she’d have fired herself.

A knock on her door sounded. She didn’t need to open the door to know it was him—the guy whose hands held her future.

A muffled male voice chuckled on the other side of the door. “Didn’t take you for someone who ran away.”

Before she could think, she yanked the door open. “You have some nerve…”

He advanced on her and she had no choice but to retreat backward. He closed the door behind him.

No words came to her mind. It was because he was too close. He smelled good like he’d put on cologne, which is not something she normally thought about with men.

“About last night,” he said.

She crossed her arms. “It was highly unethical of you.”


“Luring me to your place. Kissing me.”

“It was Kiss a Ginger Day.” He dipped his chin, his tone as serious as if delivering serious news. “And for the record, you jumped me.”

She gasped, dropped her arms. “I did not.”

“Oh, yes, you did. Climbed right aboard.” He pointed to his crotch. “Straddled my goods. In fact, I feel incredibly used.” He batted his eyelashes up at the ceiling.

Crap. More fuzzy memories swam up to the surface where she was the one to launch herself at him last night. She wanted to smack that smirk off his face. She settled for slapping his pec. Oh, hard muscle. She quickly brought her hand back, clasped to her belly. “I could get you fired.”

He chuckled. “Maybe. Then again, I did help you find your car.”

“Ah, but you didn’t help me push it out.” Jamie Frasier would have.

“And mess up my chances to spend more time with you? Not on your life.”

“You think you had a chance? Not on your life.” Like she’d be interested in him after hiding who he really was?

She circled to the safety of her desk, putting it between Theodore and herself. “You should have told me last night that you were an Edison. Consultant.” In fact, Roger should have told her. It was going to be an expense after all.

He shoved his hands into his pockets. “I didn’t lie to you.”

“You didn’t tell the truth either.” A realization hit her. “You were spying last night.”

“I was an observer. You can tell a lot about how happy people are by watching their social interactions.” His gaze raked over her. “You were quite friendly.”

She pointed at him. “See? Unethical.” If this guy thought he could blackmail her because they’d had an interaction, he was smoking something.

“That’s not what I meant. I mean, you were friendly…before …”  He scrubbed his hair. “Listen. I enjoyed getting to know you. Nothing ultimately happened and—”

“And that’s the way it’s staying.” She sharply nodded her chin. Period. End of statement. “We will be strictly business. I’m very serious about my job.”

He rocked back on his heels, peered down at her with those sparkly blue eyes. “Good.” He kept studying her.


“You’re especially pretty when pissed.”

Did this guy have any boundaries? “Go charm one of your admirers out there.” She waved her hand to her door and hallway beyond.

“Admirers? I’ve been in the building for less than hour. But I see what’s happening here.”

Nothing was happening here. “Oh, really?” A sudden roil went off in her stomach. She clutched her belly as if that would quell the sudden queasy feeling.

“Playing hard to get.” He tapped a finger on his lips. “I like it. A woman like you should.”

“Theodore,” she said slowly, putting her palms together.

He leaned closer, bringing his woodsy scent closer to her. “Alice.”

She blinked. She forgot what she was going to say. It was because she was hungover and sleep-deprived. That’s all.

“Did you get your car unstuck?” he asked. “I didn’t see it this morning on Porter.”

“You live on Ordway.”

He cocked his head back and forth. “I went and checked on it.”

Oh. That was nice of him. “Uh, thanks. It’s been towed.” Which was yet another problem she was going to have to solve.

“You left your car to make sure you got to work? Dedicated.”

“And stupid.”

His face grew serious. “There’s nothing about you that’s stupid.”

“Oh?” She arched her eyebrows at him. “Last night? That was—”

“Highlight of my life.”

She crossed her arms, refused to be further charmed by him. “Then you need to get a better life.” Her hands slapped to her sides. “Is this part of the interview? Talking like this about goods straddling, my car?”

He peered around her desk at her feet. “You going to retrieve it in those heels? Shame to kill another pair.”

“Maybe. Yes. I don’t know.” Her head was pounding anew, and she rubbed one temple. Enough of this. “I need coffee.”

She rounded her desk, yanked open her door. Tricia and Stephanie jerked upright. Patty stood behind them, arms crossed, her foot tapping, clearly disapproving of the eavesdroppers. Patty always had Alice’s back.

Stephanie giggled, and Tricia adopted her disapproving frown. “We were just seeing if Alice was free for lunch,” Steph said.

“Sadly not,” Theodore answered for her. “We have a lunch. Our first interview.”

What the…?

“Ooo, a date,” whispered Patty at her and slowly nodded.

Roger came up behind them. “Ladies. Call a meeting or something?” He hated it when the women gathered, probably because he didn’t want any of them to compare notes on him.

Tricia slowly turned toward him, her lips curling into a cunning smile. “Seems Alice and Theodore are having a date.”

Alice almost corrected her, because no way was she going on a date with Kiss a Ginger guy. But then Roger stepped closer. “Date? Is that appropriate?”

Nothing about the last twenty-four hours had been appropriate. But, even if Roger was her boss, she’d be damned if she’d think he could pull that stunt. The guy dated half the office. If anyone was wrong, it was him.

You know what? It would help to have a guy with her if she had to go to a place where they towed cars. They weren’t usually located in the safest areas of DC. She could pretend they were going out for lunch and do that instead. It would be Theodore’s penance for putting her in this position.

She swiveled her head to gaze at him. “You ever been to the Palm? I hear it’s a great place for a job-related lunch for that interview.” She then looked right at Roger who flushed red with anger. “Since it’s such a priority and all.”

It was ridiculously early for lunch but this whole scenario needed handling—now. After she got her car, of course. Then she’d have a serious talk with Theodore about boundaries.

“No, I haven’t,” Theodore said. “Lead the way.” He gestured for her to bypass the crowd.

She did and marched straight to the elevator. She wasn’t feeling great so maybe a little food would help. That’s what she told herself anyway.

The door opened immediately. She stepped inside, leaned against the railing feeling a little dizzy. Theodore followed her inside and the doors shut them inside together—and alone.

He immediately stepped closer, bringing his scent into her space again. “You sure you want to go to the Palm?”

His eyes really were otherworldly blue. And he truly smelled amazing.

“No, I don’t, I’d like to…” Her words were stopped because, his arm circled her waist and yanked her flush to him. Oh, strong. Her head felt like it was floating off her body. He brought his face closer to hers. He had such nice lips.

“I do, huh?”

She said that aloud? She sucked in a breath, the elevator walls waving in her sight. Dots appeared in her vision, her knees buckled. Then…

Click here for Chapter 4.