Jealous? Nope. Pathetic? Absolutely.
The switchboard lit up again, and the receptionist gave a frustrated huff.
“Listen, Marcie. I’m going down that hallway anyway. Why don’t I just drop these off for you?” He picked up the vase.
“Oh my gosh, Mr. Blackwell. You’re the nicest guy. Thank you so much.”
Nice… Yeah, being Mr. Nice Guy had nothing to do with getting a close-up look at Jane Dixon. Nothing at all. Again, pathetic. “Not a problem. I hope your day gets better.”
“It just did.”
Yeah, so had his.
After dropping off his briefcase in his office, Eric made his way to the end of the hallway and knocked on Jane’s door, flowers in hand.
He felt ridiculous. Sort of like he had before his prom in high school, only Jane wasn’t going to dance with him and the flowers were from someone else. Still, this was a chance to actually speak to her and that was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. He was about to make her day with a clearly expensive bouquet of flowers from another man. His chest tightened. So did his grip on the vase. He was beginning to think pathetic wasn’t a strong enough descriptor.
“Come in,” she called.
When he opened the door, she didn’t look up from her computer screen, clearly engrossed in whatever she was reading. Brow furrowed, she tapped the end of a pen on the side of her monitor. Holy shit, she was beautiful—intensely focused with the sun from the wall of windows making her hair shine like gold. He’d never been this close to her before and found himself a little overwhelmed, which was ridiculous. He was head of an entire team at one of the most prestigious law firms in New York City. Nothing should overwhelm him. Get it together, Blackwell.
When she finally looked up, her eyes widened and she pushed to her feet behind the huge, shiny desk. “I’m sorry. I thought you were Marcie dropping something off.”
“Well, I am… Not Marcie, but dropping something off.” Great. Just great. He groaned inwardly at how ridiculous his first words ever spoken to this woman were.
Her large blue eyes flitted from his face to the flowers and back again.
“These are for you,” he said, awkwardly holding them out.
“Oh…um…” She circled her desk, moving closer. “Wow. Thanks.”
“I’m Eric Blackwell.” He cleared his throat. “From Mergers and Acquisitions.”
She smiled, flashing straight, white teeth. “Yeah, I know.”
She knew? His heart hammered harder, which seemed impossible. He cleared his throat again. “Marcie was swamped and asked me to deliver these for her.”
“Oh…” She glanced at the flowers, her smile fading slightly.
“Yeah, she had a bunch of stuff come in at once, and I was already heading this way, so…”
She nodded. “That was nice of you. Thanks.” With her hair pulled into a knot on the back of her head, her eyes looked huge.
Eric placed the vase on her desk, taking a deep breath. Shit. She even smelled good. Maybe it was the flowers. “These are nice. You must have an admirer.” And his morbid curiosity wanted to know who it was so he could direct his irrational jealousy appropriately. He pulled the envelope from the arrangement and handed it to her, hoping not only to extend his time this close to her but also get some intel.
He gritted his teeth as she pulled out the card. This level of interest was incontestable proof that he was working way too hard and playing way too little. Since his break up with Shannon almost a year ago, he’d done nothing but work. No wonder being this close to a woman was the highlight of his day. He had to fix this. Quick.
No. He needed to hold tight until after he made junior partner. That had been his goal from the start. It was important he get that promotion. The money would be nice, but really, it was all about the security, something he never had growing up.
Jane’s face clouded as she studied the card. “Who does this kind of thing? What kind of…” She waved a hand in an exasperated motion. “What kind of jerk uses a romantic gesture as a way to deliver a message like this. Really?”
And here he’d thought dropping off the flowers would associate him with something positive in her mind. Today sucked.
“I thought I’d gotten a date right for once, you know what I mean?”
Nope. Not a clue. How could a woman like this—obviously smart since she worked at one of the premier law firms in NYC, and gorgeous on top of that—get anything wrong on a date? Eric had an overwhelming urge to hunt down and beat the shit out of the prick who sent those flowers.
When she turned, her eyes brimmed with tears. Not the stream down your face kind, but controlled and held in. Oh God, not tears. They made him feel helpless and “holdy.” That’s what his mother had called it. His solution for tears was to hug, which he absolutely under no circumstances could do to Jane Dixon. The image of holding her soft body against his harder one, made him… well, harder. He clasped his hands behind his back to keep from taking Jane in his arms. “I’m sorry. I…”
She blinked, pushing the tears back before they could fully form. “No, I’m sorry. You were just doing something nice for Marcie. You had no idea you’d been thrown in the room with the One-date Wonder.”
“Maybe I should—” He stepped backward toward the door.
She threw her hands up. “Seriously, how I can screw it up every time? Every. Single. Time.” She paced to the edge of her desk. “Do you know that I haven’t had a second date since I graduated law school?”
His day had just gone from pathetic to surreal. All he could do was shake his head.
She paced to the potted plant in the corner and then back to her desk. “Oh yeah. Loads of first dates. Never a second. And you know what?”
Hopefully that was rhetorical, because no way in hell could he possibly guess what would come out of her mouth next.
“I’m so done. I’m never going to find a guy to ask me out twice. I should swear off men forever. Men suck. Dating sucks.” She took a shuddering breath. “I suck.” And then one of the tears she’d held back this whole time escaped—only one—as she stood perfectly still and silent.
As if on auto-pilot, he crossed to her and folded her in his arms like he’d done with his mother so many times in his life. This wasn’t anything like those hugs, though, and his body made that fact painfully clear as she circled her arms around his waist under his jacket and leaned her cheek against his chest. And it was definitely her and not the flowers that smelled good.