Kiss A Ginger Day: Chapter 10

Alice scanned the office “cattlepen”. They’d long ago renamed the maze of cubicles often called a bullpen to something more appropriate. “It’s where all creativity goes to wither and die,” Patty once lamented.

Alice couldn’t disagree.

The office didn’t look any different from Friday, except for the poor fig tree by the elevator doors, now on its side, a scattering of dirt over the gray carpet. It felt different, though. A hush hung in the air like smoke.

Being robbed would change the mood.

Last night Patty had told Alice that Tricia called her to say the building’s alarm went off at 7:38 p.m. just after it’d grown dark. The cameras caught a guy in a hooded sweatshirt and jeans running through the parking lot, his backpack bumping on his back. He held something under his arm—the petty cash box which Alice had stored in her locked desk drawer.

Fingerprints had been taken. Items taken were catalogued. The thief had taken really odd things: Roger’s fountain pen, a crystal paperweight, the Keurig machine and all the K-cups including the disgusting blueberry cobbler coffee. She would have willingly given the guy those if he’d only left the French roast. Whoever the guy was, he was about to be the most hated human at Edison Tech. No caffeine on a Monday morning could start a war.

The quiet grew oppressive.

“Where is everyone?” she whispered to Patty. “You know Roger didn’t give anyone the day off.” He never did.

Patty shrugged. “Maybe Harry brought the good pastries from the German Deli?”

That would send anyone running to their tiny kitchen, turning it into the Thunderdome, especially since there’d be no coffee unless someone ran out for it. She couldn’t imagine the whole office would be at the Coffee Monkey cafe down the street at once.

Or, maybe everyone was in an all staff meeting. The two of them were at least 15 minutes late, given Alice had to pick up Patty that morning. Her car wouldn’t start.

The thought Roger likely had called a morning meeting must have dawned on both her and Patty at the same time as they slowly blinked at one another. Without another word, they scooted toward the conference room. Sure enough, Roger was giving one of his morning “prep talks.” The fact he used the wrong word for “pep talk” was okay because there was nothing motivating about his impromptu gatherings.

The room was fairly crowded. Other than pastries from the German Deli, nothing else brought workers to a meeting faster than getting all the juicy details of something like an office robbery.

Theodore sat back, his ankle on his knee, rocking back and forth in his chair, listening intently to Roger. Tricia sat next to Theodore, her gaze roaming Theodore from head to foot.

His penetrating blue eyes flicked up to Alice once, then returned to Roger. Not even giving her a second glance. Oh, right, they were on neutral territory now. It’s what they agreed last night after their sexting session.

She’d called him right after she got the download from Patty. Alice let him in on what happened, and he seemed oddly nonplussed about the whole matter. They didn’t talk long. Probably for the best since it was now time to put their deal in place for real and go back to work.

She tried hard to concentrate on Roger’s talk instead of remembering Theodore’s words last night. Imaging myself inside you right now is fucking fantastic.

She could imagine it right now herself. Her thighs squeezed together, as if that would stem her rising lust just by being near him again.

The expected words from Roger floated into one ear and out the other. We’re handling things with the authorities. If anything seems suspicious, like you’re missing anything, anything at all, report it to me. I’m really going to miss that fountain pen.

Low chuckles filled the room at his attempt at humor.

She couldn’t stay focused on Roger. Her mind fixated on trying to remember how much money was in the stolen petty cash box and when the twins might show up. They’d been warned they were coming today. In fact, she was surprised Roger wasn’t talking about that.

Roger clapped his hands together and rubbed them. “Alright, everyone back to work. We’ve got a bottom line to watch.” He then proceeded to watch Janie’s perk little bottom sway its way to the door. Yep. She had to be his Miss January alright.

“What’d we miss?” Patty asked Harry as soon as he got closer.

Alice didn’t have time to wait for his answer because Roger was next to her in seconds. “Alice? My office please?”

Damn. She really hoped he’d forget all about showing up at her apartment Friday and finding Theodore there. He clearly wanted to talk about it. “Sure thing.” She sent a sidelong glance to Patty who mouthed good luck.

Once inside Roger’s office, he gently closed the door behind them. “You were late this morning. Still not feeling well? I trust you rested up over the weekend.”

“I’m fine. Everything’s fine. Uh, thanks for checking on me on Friday.” Not. “I spent the weekend in bed.” Dammit, she flushed from head to toe. Probably because she had spent most of the weekend between the sheets, and not getting much rest.

He arched an eyebrow. “Good. Now, you heard about the break-in.”

Oh, thank god. He didn’t want to talk about Theodore.

“Terrible timing,” Roger continued. “I mean you were out and we didn’t get to prepare for today.”

She swallowed a “sorry” though guilt crept up on her. “Today?”

“Susie and Samuel will be here this afternoon after lunch. Nothing going on, by the way. Just a drive-by, they said.” Roger fidgeted, kept clearing his throat.

Oh, the Twins. “Um, great. What do you need?”

“Prepare the latest P&L’s and the…” he waved his hand around. “…usual financial reports. They might want to see them. Also, they might ask about what was stolen. You can tell them the petty cash box wasn’t a big deal. A few hundred dollars—”

“Thousands.” She didn’t know the exact amount left but it was way more than a few hundred bucks.

He stilled.

It was her turn to clear her throat. “You mean, there were thousands in there. $6,400 on my last count.” She hadn’t paid much attention to it lately. “You’d asked me to keep about ten grand on hand so—”

“I did, did I?” His tone was rather accusatory. “I don’t remember that.”

She blinked at him. “You said for emergencies. Suddenly needing a new printer, or—”

“Alright. Alright. But just say the petty cash was taken. Minor amount.”

“Oo-kay.” It wasn’t minor. Most businesses kept less than a thousand on hand but Roger was in love with cash so she pushed his odd request out of her mind long ago. She had more pressing matters to attend to. “I’ll just go do those reports then.” It’d take her less than ten minutes to pull them. Then she’d get to the real work—seeing what else she missed on Friday since Patty seemed to think things had “fallen apart.”

As soon as she cracked open the door of Roger’s office, she could sense what Patty had meant.

Corrine, a junior sales assistant, and Tricia stood huddled over some paperwork, shaking their head. Probably yet another memo from Roger demanding to know what her compensation contract stated, in response to a request for Corrine’s new cell phone or laptop for her new duties. Alice could handle it with two phone calls but Roger had to bless the purchases first. He made people justify every dime like it was his own.

Harry and two of the marketing and sales guys were standing around holding Styrofoam cups of…something. Couldn’t be coffee given all the K-cups were gone. They didn’t look very happy. She’d need to find out who was in danger of not meeting quota, calm his nerves. Make sure he hadn’t moved on to liquor given no caffeine had been found anywhere after the police were gone, according to Patty—via Tricia, of course. Supposedly not even a no-name tea bag, which should make Theodore very happy.

For the love of God, a male voice cried from the copier room. She’d start there. Patty exaggerated about the love affair she and Big Whale, as she’d dubbed the large copy machine, were having. But she seemed to be the only one who could ever scroll through it’s display memo to see why it’d stop working.

These were all things that the office manager, Blanche, used to handle. But she’d been promoted to sales and Roger hadn’t wanted to “add to payroll” just yet. The man had severely underestimated how many things could go wrong in a day. The CFO also quit in a huff three months ago. Alice was supposed to be taking his place but Roger had yet to make that declaration. So, she just kept doing these little things to keep the place running.

She rounded the corner and ran smack into Theodore’s chest. His familiar scent rose up so hard, a sizzle ran through her veins. She could recognize her reaction to him now. Pure physical attraction. Chemistry. A biological reaction. All of which were not like her. Not at all. Even if Theodore had turned out to be a sex God—so opposite of his goofy first-impression on her.

But then his hand grasped both of her biceps and the frisson of electricity grew like her she’d morphed into a lightning bug—on steroids.

“Good morning, Miss Crawford.” His smile sent crinkled around eyes which bore down on her, twinkling, amused, filled with secret messages.

“Dammit, Theodore,” she hissed. “Unhand me.” Jeez, he was rubbing off on her fast. She sounded like a British Lord about to demand a duel. But another second of him touching her might have her ruin yet another pair of panties.

Who was this woman she’d become?

He let go, stuffed his hands in his pocket. His smile didn’t drop one bit. “Cranky. Need me to send you some motivational messages?”

She gasped. “Don’t you dare. We are on property now.” Her eyes flicked around the room to make sure no one was listening or noticing. Of course, all the women were looking their way.

“Property. Yes.” He nodded slowly. “I’m quite busy today, anyway, Miss Crawford. Lots of interviews.” He winked and strode by her.

Corrine, a junior sales associate, sidled her way into his path. “Ready?” Her smile was threatening to split her face. She was sweet and very good at her job if her sales reports were any indication. Even with a laptop as old as the dawning of the Internet. She’d be sure the woman got a new one by end of day.

Theodore gestured for her to step his temporary office, ostensibly for their “interview.” Alice wasn’t worried about Corrine’s obvious drawn to Theodore. Every woman in the place had that same, besotted look on their face. Even the married ones, like Corrine.

It was his energy—positive, easy-going and confident. It’d made a nun drop her panties like they were on fire. It certainly had for her.

And for some odd reason, Alice was his chosen sex bunny for the weekend. Still not sorry, she sang in her head, even if she’d become someone she didn’t recognize. Like noticing that other women were noticing Theodore. She wasn’t the jealous type—especially not after having an impromptu affair with a guy she knew so little about. All she knew is he had a deliciously dirty mouth and he likely knew when National Sext a Ginger Day was. The last few days, they’d moved way past Kiss a Ginger Day.

Theodore’s smile stayed camped on his face as Corrine entered his office.

“It’s National Shareholders Day. Let’s make them proud,” he told her right before he closed his office door.

See? Charm incarnate. Alice shook her head and headed to the copier room. Peter stood with his back to her, punching the copier’s display with so much gusto Alice’s heart hurt for the machine.

“Peter.” She crossed her arms, leaned against her door frame. “Need help?”

He rolled his eyes and heaved a sigh. “Oh, thank god. You’re back.”

It took less than five minutes to get Big Whale working. Less time to assure Tricia she’d handle Corrine’s laptop problem. Talking Harry off the ledge, the one whose low sales this month were putting him in danger, took longer. But she gave him a Coffee Monkey gift card she had stashed in her desk drawer and told him to walk it off—after fueling up. That got a smile out of him.

She ran Roger’s reports, ordered Corrine’s laptop—hang Roger’s demand to approve it—assessed the list of Edison Tech’s equipment leases, checked the online inventory and ran a dozen expense reports.

She rose up from her laptop only every five minutes to glance at Theodore’s office door across the cattlepen’s labyrinth’s of short walls. Her restraint for not staring at his door all day deserved a medal. Even from here she could hear the giddy buzz of female voices rising up every time one of his interviewees left and a new one entered his den-of-female-adoration.

The fact he started with the office’s females irked her. The fact she was irked made her even more irked, until she was one big ball of super-irked tension. It was ridiculous. There were a lot of women who worked for Edison Tech. Just because he was only interviewing women didn’t mean anything—like he was an unconscious flirt and probably was having the time of his life turning them on to National Whatever Day.

The rise of jealousy inside her surprised her. It only added to the growing disappointment in herself. She had one, sweaty, sexy weekend with the guy, a promise of further exploration in three months—on National BAE Day—and a deal that they’d be professional between the two.

Still, she rose, peered through the long glass window alongside Theodore’s closed door where he and now Jenny sat. She just had to make sure his desk was still between them. Theodore was leaning back in his office chair, smiling and laughing. He was enjoying himself.

Maybe she and Theodore could go to lunch together. That’s what professional colleagues did all the time.

Stop it.

His door cracked open, and she plunked back down to her seat. She’s almost been caught spying. His low rumble reached his ears. Jenny made a delighted sound. Then laughter from more voices. She couldn’t help herself. She slowly rose, likely resembling a gopher emerging from its hole.

Theodore was surrounded. Tricia, Jenny, Corrine, and now Patty–who she really hoped was spying on him for her–circled him in the hallway. All female eyes were trained on his face.

Then abruptly Theodore’s hand went to Tricia’s back and the two of them strode toward the elevator. Tricia turned, waved to the other women and winked. There was a message in that wink. I bagged me a Jamie ladies.

Given it was 12:15, they were probably going to lunch. That was better. She and Theodore shouldn’t be seen together anymore anyway. But, man, it was going to be a long three months watching all this unfold around her.

The elevator doors whooshed open, and she had a quick moment of relief. It was the twins, Susie and Samuel O’Flannery. They couldn’t possibly leave for lunch now.

Susie and Samuel were talking about something with each other but stopped as soon as they saw Theodore and Alice standing there.

Samuel was the first one out, a huge grin lighting up his face. “Theo. My man.”

“Hey, mate,” Theodore answered, his grin growing impossibly larger. The two of them gave each other back slap hugs. As soon as they separated, his blue eyes turned to Suzy. They sparkled with something. The look on his face was familiar, but Alice’s brain couldn’t deliver anything concrete because Theodore quickly shoved Samuel aside. The man laughed about being thrown off.

Theodore then opened his arms. “Suzy, get over here.”

The woman moved in so quickly Tricia had no choice but to take three steps back. Suzy threw her arms around him, then pulled back gave him a big kiss. Right on the lips. It wasn’t a peck, either. One thing was clear. They knew each other well. As in Kiss A Ginger Day well.

The dominoes cascaded into place. He travelled—a lot. A new office every job. Never to return. An ex-girlfriend that he didn’t want to talk about except he’d said “I wasn’t a saint either.”

This guy had a woman in every port, didn’t he?

What did Theodore say? Fyck me. Alice had been played. Or maybe, not? He seemed like a genuinely good guy. She would find out one way or the other.


Read Chapter 11 Here!