Look the Part (Page 19)
“Do you think it could help Harrison?”
I turn toward him. “Maybe. No two autistic children are the same. But, honestly, he’s already helping himself. Every time he picks up that guitar, good things happen. It helps him focus on something that’s truly good for his mind—not like hours in front of a screen. It’s calming. And when he plays with me, or let’s say you put him in band someday, it will help him build connections and learn to work well and collaborate with other people.”
Flint blinks slowly. If thoughts made sounds, I’m certain his would sound like a marching band.
“I have plans with my parents this weekend.”
“I’ll be out by Sunday night.” I ease my feet off the desk and stand, taking slow steps to him. “So is this goodbye?” I straighten his tie. Absolutely any excuse to touch him … even if I’m a seven in his mind. He’s a ten in mine because he touched me when I needed it so desperately.
“Why are you humming?”
“Because,” I whisper, keeping my eyes on his tie, “it calms my heart.”
“What’s wrong with your heart?”
“It gets a little out of control when I touch you—like it could explode.”
“Then why touch me?”
I glance up to meet his softened gaze. “Because you never feel more alive than when you’re flirting with death.”
“Have you flirted with death?”
I smile. “Yes.”
He drops his head into an easy nod. “Do you want me to tell you why this is goodbye?”
“I already know. You don’t feel worthy.”
I sigh. “Me. Something that’s for you. A life beyond Harry and your work. Sex in your greenhouse. Wine with your neighbors. A second date. A pet rat … or five. Pleasure without guilt. Puddle jumping when it’s lightning outside. Driving with one hand on the steering wheel. Unprotected sex.” I press my hand to his chest, smoothing his tie. “I don’t know … maybe you don’t feel worthy of life because your wife’s not here to share it with you.”
His right hand cups my jaw. My eyes drift shut when the pad of his thumb traces the curve of my lips. “Maybe,” he whispers.
Before I open my eyes, his lips replace his thumb, leaving me with a gentle kiss. I can’t look at him because if this is goodbye, then I want to feel it. I want to remember this rhythm that my heart falls into only when he touches me.
His lips release mine and his hand vanishes from my face. All that’s connecting us is my fingers feeling the soft silk of his tie one small increment at a time until it releases.
My closed eyes hold back all emotion.
The heat of his body fades along with his footsteps. My heartbeat slows, mourning the loss of his touch. I open my eyes to the empty space before me and pull in a slow, shaky breath.
“Bye,” I whisper.
“Hey, Boss. Did you have a good weekend? I tried calling you last night. You must have been out with your parents.” As I drag my tired ass into work just after noon, Amanda hands me a list of calls I need to make.
“Stenson no longer wants to make a deal. He said he’d rather live on the street than give his ‘cheating bitch of a wife’ the house he built ‘with his own goddamn hands.’”
“Of course he did.” I yawn, unbuttoning my jacket and easing into my leather desk chair.
bang bang bang
I glance up. “What’s that?”
“Elle. She’s a music therapist. We’ve been over this.”
“It’s Monday. She was supposed to be out yesterday.”
“Oh, didn’t you hear or see it on the news?”
bang bang bang
I roll my eyes to the ceiling again. “See what?”
“The Dickson building burned to the ground the other night. They still haven’t determined the cause.”
“Let me guess. That’s where her office was located?”
“See there … you really are much smarter than you look. Had you answered your phone last night, you would have known that I told Elle she could stay here until she found another vacancy.”
bang bang bang
“How kind of you.”
“Yeah, I thought so too. Harrison will think it’s pretty fantastic.”
I glance up from my desk.
Amanda shrugs. “Okay, he’ll be moderately happy in his own way.”
“Remind me to discuss the word fantastic with you.”
She spins back around in her chair. “I’ll do that. In fact, I’ll set a reminder on my phone right now. You have a gap tomorrow between 1:30 and 2:00, so I’m putting ‘fantastic discussion’ in that spot.”
In the world of football, people respected me. In the courtroom, people respect me. I think the broken link has to do with women. It’s revenge—karma. I killed my wife and now the women around me are hell-bent on driving me crazy.
“Shut my blinds and my door, please.”
Amanda sighs and rounds the corner into my office. “By all means, don’t you get up. I’ve got this.”
She closes the blinds to the glass wall separating my office and her desk, and she shuts the door on her way out. “I know you’re going to take a nap while you’re on the clock.”
I slide off my jacket, loosen my tie, and recline back in my chair with my feet propped up on my desk. Damn right I’m going to take a nap.
bang bang bang
I groan and attempt to block out the noise above me.
“The wheels on the bus go round and—”
Oh for fuck’s sake. I shoot to my feet, sending my chair back into the bookshelf.
“Short nap,” Amanda says as I storm out of my office.
“You’re fired for letting her stay.”
“Sure thing, Boss. You know where to send my unemployment check.”
When I get to Ellen’s door, I wait outside. The noise has stopped and she’s talking.
“You missed it. She sang today.”
A woman chokes out a cry. I feel her pain. I wanted to cry when the singing started too.
“Thank you.” The woman sniffles.
I give a polite nod as the teary-eyed woman and an older woman make their way past me to the elevator.
“Are you going to make me cry too?” I step into her office space.
Ellen turns, setting her phone down on her desk. My anger escalates because I’m tired, she’s still here, and she felt the need to wear tight jeans, a fitted sweater, and high heels. I need to have words with her, but at the moment I’d like to have my way with her.
Her lips twist to the side. “I have another appointment. And since we both know you only cry when you orgasm, then I’d say … no. Maybe a raincheck?”
“If a man talked to a woman the way you and Amanda talk to me, everyone would call him a jerk. But when women say similar things, they’re labeled sassy. It’s not right.”
“Not true.” She holds up her finger. “I think you’re incredibly sassy.”
“You think I’m sex in a suit.”
Ellen bites her lips and her cheeks turn pink.
“What if I called you Sex in a Skirt? You’d scream sexual harassment.”
Her eyes widen for a few seconds before she makes her way to me. She’s going to mess with me—my tie, my jacket, my resolve—and I won’t move because I like her hands on me, the fruity smell of her hair, and the view of her cleavage when she’s right under my nose.
“Do you feel objectified?” Her hands go right to my tie. By this point she might as well grab my dick since it’s now programmed to respond to her yanking my tie every which way. “I’m not wearing a skirt today, but after my last appointment I could change and we could role play your sex-in-a-suit and sex-in-a-skirt scenario. Or …”
She lifts onto her toes and licks my neck from the top of my tie to my chin. “We could job shadow each other. I could let you play with my bongos and you could show me your briefs.”
So fucked—and not just because my dick is jealous of my neck; it’s her ridiculous, suggestive words that shouldn’t turn on any guy in his right mind. Bongos and briefs?
“Do you even know what the words ‘sexual harassment’ mean?”
She laughs, releasing my tie and taking a step back while shoving her hands in her back pockets. “Hey, unrelated to you gawking at my boobs in spite of calling me a seven, I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you’re letting me stay until I find a new place.”
She sighs and shakes her head. “It’s scary to think had I moved in just two days earlier, I would have lost all of my stuff in the fire.”
No drums or cymbals? Tragic.
“How’s the search for a new place going? Anything look promising?”
She coughs a laugh. “I haven’t started looking. I’ve been working. This fire was a little unexpected, so I need to regroup and start from the beginning again.”
I glance at my watch. “What time are you done?”
“Good. I’ll wait for you downstairs.”
Her head cocks to the side, exposing her neck. I like her neck, specifically when I can feel her pulse racing against my lips. “Are you asking me out on a date? If so, I think you need to work on your sales pitch.”