Kiss A Ginger Day: Chapter 5

“Note to self. Don’t ever leave my car alone again,” she muttered toward Theodore.

Galin & Sons Impound Lot was as she’d expected. Cars parked haphazardly inside a fenced-in yard. Chain link fencing stood at least twenty feet high to keep anyone out.

A man in a flannel shirt and down jacket, a cigarette dangling out of one side of his mouth, gruffly puffed out, “That’ll be $675. Cash. ATM over there.” Her jerked his head to a gray and black ATM machine wrapped in thick chains that stood to the side of the booth.

“How convenient,” Theodore sniffed.

“Yeah,” the guy’s face split into a grin. “She’s lucky. The Northwest lot ain’t got one.” He appeared quite proud of his little machine. She pushed her card in, began to tap the dirty screen. She would have to hose herself down after this field trip.

“She’s so lucky,” Theodore agreed. “I mean, stranded during a snow storm, car unable to move, no one else out and about. But just in case her car was in the way of, oh, I don’t know, a snowmobile that needed a park or Santa’s sleigh, you guys come along and liberate the the spot no one in the city needed all for the bargain price of $675 dollars. You must be very proud of the work you do.”

What was this man doing? “Um, Theodore, let’s just go.” She slid the money across to the lot attendant.

His hand immediately snatched it up. “The parking rules are the parking rules, your Royal Highness.” The guy grinned at him, turned away to watch whatever he was watching on his tiny TV screen.

It took them a full twenty minutes to find her car but it didn’t look any worse for the wear. She cracked open the driver’s side. “Remind me to stay home when it snows again.”

“Still can’t get over he asked for almost $700 with a straight face. Whatever happened to fair warning where they merely leave a ticket on your windshield, adorned with a smiley face?” Theodore asked as he climbed into the passenger side.

She glanced at him. The man had quite the optimistic streak. “Clearly, you’ve not parked on a snow emergency route. The snow plows take precedence.”

“No chivalry in that.”

The man was hung up on that notion. She wasn’t sorry about it. For instance, he hadn’t asked about Roger.

Back at her apartment the two men had had a minor standoff. Basically they stared at one another, not speaking, neither breaking eye contact. One having just declared he and Alice were “involved”—what a crock—and the other who’d just kissed her lips until they were bruised. Neither situation felt right.

She’d broken the stand-off, sent Roger on his way with a promise to be back in the office “soonest.” Also, in front of Roger, told Theodore good-bye. He caught on, and made quite a show of calling a rideshare ostensibly to take him back to the office–alone. He waved off Roger’s offer for a ride to the office, citing the need to run errands. She couldn’t believe Roger bought it. But she was glad. The two of them then got to go together to Galin and Son’s Impound Lot.

Now, it was time to figure out how to handle the gossip Roger likely started back at the office.

She clutched the steering wheel with both hands, faced forward and tried to forget the fact Theodore smelled really good. Like a man—wool and something else she couldn’t name. Roger had always smelled like pancakes to her. Sugary, yeasty, flowery and not at all masculine like this guy. Even Theodore’s weird obsession with made-up holidays couldn’t dampen the pull she had toward him.

She would have got star buck naked with him in a second if they hadn’t been interrupted. And that’s not something she did often—or ever with someone she didn’t know.

Get a grip, Alice. And keep it, she told herself.

Theodore glanced around. “Let’s have lunch. I could eat a cow. Fair warning, too, we are going to talk business. Let’s have that interview after all. Starting with why Roger thinks you two are involved if you’re not.”

Oh, shit. Guess they were going to be forced to talk about it after all. “We once had a… thing. Can we just not go into it? It hasn’t impacted my job performance at all.”

“If he’s ever taken advantage of his position…”

“No. Pure consent. But ancient history.” She tittered a little. “Meant nothing. All is well. It’s over. Like a minor blip. Like … nothing.” Gah, she rambled.

“Okay,” he drew out, and then sighed. “You don’t strike me as someone who gets easily bowled over, so I accept your answer.”

“How noble.”

He looked over at her, brow furrowed. “Whatever you tell me, I’ll believe.”

“Good.” It was time to get down to business. “So, what’s our story going to be?”


“The one we need to tell Patty when we get back after us supposedly having a lunch interview. The one we’re going to make up about us because Roger has likely let it slip that he saw us in my apartment and people will assume we were… you know…”


He would be so lucky. “Patty can start the counter gossip immediately. We have to neutralize this thing before the end of the day.”

He stared at her, blinking.

“What?” she asked. “This is important.”

He faced the windshield again. “Okay, I was magnificent. The best you ever had. I’ve ruined you for all other men.”

She choked out a laugh. This man was incorrigible. “You have it backwards. I am now the benchmark for which you assess all other women. I own your body and soul. Bella Hadid, Angelina Jolie and Blake Lively could offer to do you at once and you’d refuse.”

“Truth,” he nodded. “But if you throw in Halle Berry, I’d have a reconsider.”

She mock-gasped. “You cheater!” She slapped her arm against his chest, and he grabbed it.

She never talked like this. But something about Theodore felt oddly safe and free at the same time and it had her slip into sexy banter at the drop of a hat. Maybe because his stay was temporary and despite them saying they’d revisit their inconvenient chemistry “thing” on this National Bae Day—whatever the hell that was—she knew the score. He was just a flirt. There wasn’t anything there, and if they did make it to NBD as she was calling it in her head, she’d go on a date with him. Something appropriately neutral. Normal.

Still, he held her arm to him. He looked like he wanted to devour her.

He finally let her slip her arm free. “You just can’t stop touching me,” he said.” But listen, Roger’s not going to say anything. His ego won’t allow admitting you’ve moved on from him. Trust me. I’m a guy.”

“I hadn’t noticed.”

He only smirked at her remark. “Let me take you to lunch. You can tell me all about what it’s like at Edison Tech. Interview done, and then we go back to the office.”

Maybe she would let him interview her. If nothing else, to assure him her unwise involvement with Roger had no bearing on her work.

She took him to Mrs. Meacham’s Kitchen, a little cute bistro-set up in Georgetown. They parked in a garage this time, and given it was 1:45, they easily found a table near the big window overlooking M Street. It was casual and even better no one from the office knew about the place—she thought.

They ordered lunch. He chose a ham and cheese sandwich and a glass of water, no ice, for him. She went with her usual, an all veggie salad and iced tea.

He tsked when the waitress put down her drink. “Again, the tea abomination continues.”

“You don’t have iced tea in England?” She pushed the wrapper off the straw.

“Wales. And no. What did those tea leaves ever do to you?”

She snickered, dramatically dunked her straw into her iced tea and took a long draw. “Mmmm, iced cold tea.”

“My taste buds are dying as I sit here.” He lifted his water to his lips.

They sat in relative silence, sipping their drinks for a few minutes. His foot bumped hers and a jolt of electricity went through her whole body. They were going to need to talk about business—soon.

Alice put her elbows on the table and her hands on her chin. “Okay, so what do you want to know about my work?”

“Are you any good?”

She laughed. “Of course. But I’m sure all the girls tell you that.”

“You wouldn’t believe it.”

The waitress arrived, put her salad in front of her and his sandwich before Theodore. “Get you folks anything else?” Her eyes remained glued to him.

“We’re good, love. Thank you.” He smiled up at her, and Gloria, as her nametag announced, paused. She gave him a wide smile and flushed.

Women regularly fell at his feet, didn’t they? She wouldn’t. Couldn’t afford to.

Still, Alice couldn’t help but feel a little charmed by him, despite his job. There was something about a man with convictions and protective instincts that stirred warmth deep inside her. She had always been one to follow the rules, but he seemed to be a rule-breaker.

She picked up her fork. Curiosity arose. “How did you get into this job anyway?”

Theodore dramatically snapped his napkin on his lap. “I got my MBA from University of Cambridge. Starting working for a manufacturing firm. Then, a tech firm. Turns out, in both places, I had a knack for ferreting out personnel problems. Discovering inefficiencies.”

“So,” she said, clearing her throat. “What do you do after you find these inefficiencies?”

“I report them to the higher-ups. They’re the ones who make the decisions about who stays and who goes.”

“And how does that make you feel?” God, she sounded like a psychologist.

He sighed, looking down at his hands. “Honestly? It’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, I feel like I’m doing good work, making things better for everyone. But on the other hand, I know that some of the people I report on are going to lose their jobs. It’s not easy.”

“Is this part where I should feel sorry for you?” She forked a piece of carrot.

“You think I like being the most hated person in a room? Making people cry?”

She gasped. “You make people cry?”

“Only sometimes.” He waved his sandwich at her, then took a big bite.

“You could stop. Do something else.”

“I like my work. I help companies. Basically go in and show where things aren’t working. The inefficiencies are—”

She held up her hand to stop him. “God, such corporate speak.”

“Spoken by the accountant.” He took another huge bite of his sandwich. The man really was hungry.

She angrily forked more salad, stuffed it in her mouth not caring what she looked like. She was so sick of management types who didn’t have to actually do the work telling everyone how to get it done better. “Ya know. It seems like the higher someone goes up the career ladder, their ability to see “what’s so” lowers.”

Like Roger. She remembered when he was a project manager. As soon as he was moved into the CEO position, his vague-speak went off the charts and suddenly he didn’t know how to do anything.. Tricia, too. She started out as receptionist.

Yet, they all used the same words. Synergies. Inefficiencies. Redundancies. All words to make firing people more palpable.

“Okay.” Theodore brushed crumbs off his fingers. “Truth time. I ferret out the lazy people, the toxic ones, the people who make it harder on everyone around them. The people who are nice but don’t really do anything. The people who are paid big money to basically show up to meetings and scroll through their phones while everyone else around them is making problems disappear. I make it possible for those lazy asses’ salaries to be redistributed to those who are doing the work.”

His vehement tone made her sit up. He really believed his words. She could see it in his eyes. “It never happens that way, though.”

“It should.”

“But it doesn’t.”

“It at least has a chance,” he sighed. “Even if it is hard trying.”

She could see the conflict in his eyes, the pain he felt at having to be the bearer of bad news. His blue eyes bore down on her, and the need to kiss him again arose—inextricably. Her mouth was watering remembering their kiss, which she shouldn’t have done. Snuggling up to a management consultant sent in to assess the staff—assess her? Yet, she hadn’t been able to push off him. In fact, her libido was still on fire around him. Even Roger’s sudden appearance hadn’t dampened a single ignited hormone.

Get back to business, she reminded herself. “Am I going to lose my job?” She might as well go there.

“Tell me why you want to keep it.”

She straightened up, feeling a sudden surge of determination. “Because my work at Edison makes a difference. I’ve been working hard to improve the company’s financial records, and I think I’ve made a real impact.”

He leaned back in his chair, studying her. “I see. But that doesn’t tell me why you want this job. What does it do for you?”

She hesitated, unsure how to answer. But something in his gaze made her want to be truthful. “I can make a difference. I have ideas for how we can improve our processes, if someone would just listen.”

“I’m listening.” He picked up his sandwich and bit into it.

So she did. If they made everyone submit their expense reports electronically with receipts attached, the new financial system she’d been eyeing would reconcile the two. Then, there was the matter of actually investing some of their cash flow instead of just letting it sit in the corporate checking account. That last one was such a no-brainer she was shocked the company had never done it before. But Roger liked things to stay “liquid.”

Theodore listened to her ideas so intently, she kept going. She told him about possibly buying the building that housed Edison Tech, leasing out unused parking spaces and other ideas to raise money that could be reinvested into Research & Development and marketing.

She waved her fork. “R&D and marketing really needed a team building something-or-other because they are at each other’s throats all the time.”

“God, I hate those things. Falling backwards into people arms. Rappelling down mountainsides on anchors and carabineers that your colleagues put in. Though I suppose that is one way of getting rid of someone.”

He sounded so serious she nearly choked on her iced tea. “I would never let anyone at Edison be in charge of my anchors.”

“Ah, and there’s the truth.” He pointed a finger at her. “The fact you can’t tells me everything. I can tell you I wouldn’t let Roger near my rappelling gear. I’d end up pancaked on the canyon floor.”

“But he hired you.” Roger had to think Theodore was the right man for the job.

“Ah, but that was before he heard me kissing you into oblivion. Moaning out my name.”

She flattened herself against her chair back. “I did not. I distinctly heard Alice… Alice… Oh, Alice.” She fluttered her eyelashes.

“Can’t blame a guy for that. Like I said, your kiss is …” His gaze fell to her mouth.

She was far too interested in him finishing that sentence. My, how they reverted to the flirting so quickly and so often.

She threw down her napkin. “We need to get back to the office.”

“You took the day off, remember?” His feet slide alongside one of hers, capturing it. She didn’t pull back.

“I feel fine now, and I have a pile of work to do. Grab a cab or something so we arrive separately?”

“The office saw me carry you out.”

Strong arms, his scent, all crashed back to her mind, and heat grew stronger between her thighs. “Don’t remind me.”

“They’re expecting us to go back together. Besides, we have nothing to hide. Right?” He stared at her, his blue eyes fixed on hers. “At least not until National Bae Day.”

She grasped her bottom lip between her teeth. Ah, their deal to be professionals until June 10.

“What is National Bae Day anyway?” she asked.

“BAE stands for ‘before anyone else.’ So, that day is an opportunity to show your lover they are truly number one in your life.”

“Oh.” Being number one. What’s that like? “You celebrate every year?”

“Never have. Been wanting to, though.”

Doesn’t everyone want to find their BAE? “It would be… nice.”

Another one of his cocky smirks formed on his face. “Nice? Oh, we’d be far better than that, Alice.”

Shit, her panties were wet. “How do you know? This could be just pure chemistry.”

“That’s what we’re going to disprove.”

She swallowed. “By waiting.”

“Yeah,” he said quietly.

They weren’t going to wait, were they? His foot still captured hers. Her entire body was one giant vat of dancing hormones screaming at her. She had taken the day off.  Would be a shame to waste it on something like laundry.

“Can I get you all anything else?” Gloria had magically appeared. She looked to Alice, then to Theodore and then back to Alice again. “Some pie, perhaps? It’s National Pie Day somewhere today.”

Alice gasped, her eyes locked on Theodore. He didn’t take his gaze from her face, either. “No, thanks, Gloria. Just the check please.”

As soon as Gloria scooted away, Theodore leaned forward. “Alice. Do you believe in signs?”

Click here for Chapter 6.