I stepped off the elevator to the executive floor. It was buzzing with activity. I held a large coffee and a pastry. My stomach was in knots. If this little peace offering didn’t work, I didn’t know what I was going to do. Human resources would probably be calling me down sometime today if it didn’t.
Finding my way down the hall, I passed Wilder and Kai’s offices. By the looks of it neither were in yet. It got quieter as I approached my office. The only thing I heard was typing. I almost tripped when I saw Skylar sitting at the desk. She looked more beautiful each time I saw her. Striding up to the desk I stopped and waited for her to look up from her typing. Her eyes snapped from the screen to me. The fire I saw there turned me on like a light switch.
“This is for you.” I put the coffee and bag on the desk.
“What is this?”
Taking a deep breath, I said, “It’s a peace offering.”
Her eyes tightened slightly. “Not an apology?”
“It is the beginning of an apology. I know I have to do better. I promise you this, I will never make you feel the way I did yesterday, Ms. Albright. I am sorry.”
She pulled the coffee to her and the bag. Opening the bag, she sniffed. “Chocolate chip danish?”
“A coco caramel latte from The Beanery?”
“Yep.” I felt pride swell in my chest.
“You called Dylan.” It was a statement not a question.
I felt heat flame my cheeks. “I didn’t want to screw it up.”
She nodded then went back to her typing. I’d hoped for a better reaction. With a sigh, I walked toward my office.
“At least you didn’t spill it on me this time.” Her voice barely above a whisper.
“Good morning, Mr. Hill.” Edie’s voice cut through our little standoff.
“Good morning, Edie. How are you today?”
Edie looked between me and Ms. Albright. “Everything alright here?”
Before I could answer, Ms. Albright stood. “I’ve just been getting Mr. Hill’s schedule ready for him for the day. I’ve also been checking the email. I have a few questions for you when you’re settled.”
Edie blinked then said, “Absolutely.” Her gaze fell to the coffee and pastry. “I’m glad I brought my own breakfast.”
Ms. Albright looked away but not before I caught the blush creeping up her neck. She sat back down and went back to typing.
“Ms. Albright, when you are done with those emails could you please come in and brief me of my calendar?”
“Yes, sir.” She mumbled.
I nodded and gave Edie a smile. Leaving them to start their day I escaped to my office. The door shut silently behind me. I looked around the office that was once my father’s. It didn’t feel right. I was still standing in the middle of the office when a soft knock pulled me out of my thoughts.
“Yes? Come in.” I hurried over to the desk.
“I have your schedule, Mr. Hill.” Ms. Albright walked over to the chairs in front of my desk. Her eyes fixed on the floor.
She began listing one meeting after another that I wasn’t interested in. Most were other departments trying to “win” me over to get more funding or promotions. As her voice droned on a thought popped into my head.
“What are you doing for lunch?” I blurted out.
She looked up from her pad. “Excuse me.”
Clearing my throat, I said, “What are you doing for lunch?”
“I’m not sure. Do you need me to work through it?”
“No. I’d like you to schedule us at Pedro’s.”
She looked down at her notepad. “May I ask why?”
“I like Pedro’s.”
“I meant why do you want to have lunch with me.”
I scratched my neck. It was a nervous tick I’d done since I was in diapers. If my mother were there she’d smack my hand. “We got off on the wrong foot. I’d like to have lunch so we could get to know one another again.”
I watched her bite her lip.
“I’m not going to human resources if that’s what you’re afraid of.”
“This has nothing to do with that. I want you to know that if you feel you need to go to human resources then please do. I will never stop you.”
She nodded. “Your schedule is pretty packed but I could probably squeeze in lunch around one. Does that work?”
“If you need to shuffle some meetings and appointments then do that. This lunch is my priority.”
Her eyes met mine. “All right. If there isn’t anything else you need from me, I will call Pedro’s and work on finishing the report Edie said you needed for your nine o’clock meeting.”
“Thank you, Ms. Albright.”
She stood gracefully and left. My eyes wouldn’t leave the sway of her ass. I knew it wasn’t something her boss should be doing but I was still a man and my body was drawn to her like a magnet.
“Are you ready, Ms. Albright?” I approached the desk she and Edi were sitting at.
She looked at Edie. “Go ahead, Skylar. I think I can handle things while you’re gone.”
Edie gave us a smile then grabbed the phone that had begun to ring.
“We can take my car.” I said as we waited for the elevator.
She stood there quietly clutching her purse tightly. The ding of the elevator drew my attention. Kai and Wilder nearly run us over.
“Eason? Where are you headed? Don’t we have a meeting in a half an hour.” Wilder asked.
“It was pushed back to three.” Ms. Albright corrected.
Both of their heads snapped to her. I watched as the two of their gazes pinged between us.
“I will see you two then. Come on, Ms. Albright.”
Wilder raised an eyebrow in question but just moved out of the way. The meeting at three was going to suck. I could already see the interrogation he was preparing. Ignoring that for the time being, I pushed the button to the lobby.
“We aren’t going to the garage?”
“No. I have a driver when I’m not going to my parents house.”
“Is that ok?”
She shrugged. “Sure.”
More awkward silence. I needed to figure out a way we could communicate without the awkward. I’d encountered small glimpses of what could be and craved more of that. The elevator let us out at the lobby. We walked through the bustling lobby. I saw my driver waiting for us. He pushed off the car as we walked through the doors. I waved him off.
Open the door, I did a little bow, “My lady.”
She looked at me with an inscrutable look. “Thank you.”
I watched as she slid in over. Joining her I sat next to her in the cool interior of the car.
“We’re ready, Steven.” He nodded and the car pulled smoothly into traffic.
The city passed by quickly. The drive to Pedro’s was a short one but with the dense quiet in the car it felt like hours. The pressure to want to talk to her overwhelmed me but I pushed it down. What the hell could I say?
“We are here, sir.” Steven announced.
The door was opened by a valet. I stepped out of the car then held my hand out to help her exit. She hesitantly placed her hand in mine and got out of the car.
Leaning into the car, I said, “I will text you when we need pick up.”
I shut the door and followed Ms. Albright into the gorgeous Mexican restaurant. A mariachi band played in the corner of the grand entranceway. Beautiful murals colored the walls while a waterfall trickled behind the hostess stand.
“We have a reservation for Hill.” Ms. Albright said.
The hostess nodded, grabbed menus and lead us to a table. It was situated in a corner. The restaurant crowd was thin. I was pleased to see we wouldn’t have to yell to be heard. Ms. Albright reached for her chair but I got to it first to pull it out. A flash of surprise crossed her face but she looked away before I could think more of it.
“Thank you.” Her voice was barely audible.
I took the seat across from her. She hid behind the giant menu. Pedro’s was one of my favorite restaurants and I knew exactly what I wanted. It wasn’t a traditional restaurant for business meetings but I didn’t really care.
Clearing my throat, I asked, “What looks good?”
“Uhm…probably just a salad.”
I grimaced. “A salad at a Mexican restaurant?”
“Well, it’s all pretty…” her voice drifted off.
She sighed. “It’s expensive Mr. Hill.”
The Mr. Hill thing was beginning to bother me. It shouldn’t have because I was her boss after all but when she said it, it felt like an insult.
“First of all, I’d like you to call me Eason. Second, there isn’t one item on here that I can’t afford. Please order whatever you want.”
“I’m not sure it’s appropriate.”
“What isn’t appropriate?”
“Calling you by your first name.”
I leaned closer to her. “We are going to be working closely with one another. I’d like you to call me Eason. If it makes you feel better you can call me Mr. Hill when there are other employees around. But, when it’s just you and I, I’d like us to address each other by our first names. Okay?”
She stared at me then back at the menu. “I’m Skylar.”
A smile curled my lips. “I know.”
I watched a blush color her cheeks. Every time I saw that it highlighted just how beautiful she was. The waiter broke into my reverie to take our orders. When Skylar ordered something more than a salad, I felt like I’d won a small victory. The waiter disappeared in a flash and we were left with just each other.
“This wasn’t what I expected.”
“What do you mean?”
She waved her hand around. “I’ve never been here. I pictured the walls covered in gold and diamonds.”
I snorted. “Seriously?”
Skylar shrugged. “I’ve never been in an upscale restaurant.”
“I told you. Dylan and I are just friends.” Her voice snapped like a whip.
Raising my hands in surrender, I said, “I know. I just meant as friends you never came to a place like this. I mean Dylan’s family is just as rich as mine.”
“Oh well, Dylan and I don’t have that kind of friendship.”
“How did you meet?”
She leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms. “We worked together at the 9th street video rental in high school.”
“Huh…I remember something about him working a part time job in high school but I didn’t know where. That’s pretty cool.”
“Yeah. All of us who worked there are still pretty close.”
“Really? I don’t think I even have one friend left from high school.”
“That’s kind of sad.”
“Life gets in the way.”
She nodded. “Yeah but we make sure to get together every month.”
“That takes dedication.”
“At this point it’s more like habit.”
“Can I ask what you do every month?”
“We watch movies. Every month one of us gets to pick a movie. We all have different tastes so one month would be horror and the next would be adventure and so on. Half the time we just talk shit and throw popcorn at each other.” Her eyes got big when she realized she’d just cursed. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t-“
“It sounds like a lot of fun. I’d love to join some time.”
We stared at each other. What the hell had come over me to ask for an invitation to my assistant’s outing with her friends? I was losing my mind.
“Here we are.” The waiter dropped off the food.
“Thank yo-“ Before I could finish the waiter leaned over and set my plate on fire. Two things happened at once. Skylar screamed and I became drenched in water.
“Oh my God! Are you ok?” She stood next to me.
“Uhm…what just happened?” I looked down at my soggy lunch and drenched shirt.
“Your plate was on fire.”
“Ma’am, that’s how the meal comes out.” The waiter brought over a few extra napkins.
“Oh no…” Skylar crumpled into her chair.
“It’s ok. Don’t worry about it. Thank you for saving me from my lunch.”
“It was a mistake.” She blushed.
I reached out and grabbed her hand. “It’s ok. It was an honest mistake. I need to change before my meeting with Kai and Wilder anyway.”
She looked at our linked hands then at me. “Ok.”
I began eating my soggy lunch and the mariachi band circled our table. They danced around holding out some extra napkins. The singer draped two over my shoulder to help soak up the water. Skylar started laughing. Her laugh was infectious. By the time the song was finished and I tipped them we were smiling while eating our food. I’d totally forgotten it was water logged.
Right then I realized, I was in trouble.