I hurry down the sidewalk, juggling three coffee cups. My umbrella insists on dancing with the cold north wind, doing little to keep me dry and a lot toward spilling the hot liquid all over my hand.
At least the rain cleared sidewalks from the normally bustling Seattle pedestrian traffic. Small mercies. Technically, it isn’t my fault I’m late. My faithful twenty-year-old Honda decided today would be a good day not to start, and then I missed the transit bus that would have brought me straight downtown. I’ve ended up with an extra forty-five minutes tacked onto my morning commute, and the new CEO of Bloomin’ Right is paying us a ‘surprise’ visit this week. I’d worked overtime all weekend to prepare. It made this morning’s debacle even more frustrating.
Dodging a puddle, I reach for the tinted glass door at the same time as a male hand grasps the handle. Startled, I step back, banging into a solid chest. I swing around to apologize, and inadvertently catch my umbrella in the stranger’s dark hair.
“Oh, no, I’m so sorry.” I jerk the offending thing away from his head. The wind picks this moment to kick up and almost wrenches the blasted umbrella out of my grasp before I manage to wrangle it under control, the tray of coffees leaning precariously close to disaster.
Embarrassed, I glance at the rumpled man holding the door for me and attempt a friendly smile. “What are the chances two strangers would reach for a door handle at the same time like that?”
He stills from trying, unsuccessfully, to tame his rain-darkened hair and raises a brow. “I have to admit I’ve never been attacked by a deranged umbrella before,” he agrees mildly.
He’s tall, like really tall. I’m five-seven without my heels, and he towers over me. Even though the city is experiencing a cooler than normal spring, his skin is tanned a deep mocha brown, highlighting the most stunning blue eyes I’ve ever seen.
“You’re staring,” He takes the coffee tray out of my lax fingers so I can close my stupid umbrella. “Bad luck to take an open umbrella inside.”
I flush, cursing the tricky mechanism. “Thanks. I’m not usually so…”
“Klutzy?” he supplies.
I shoot him a glare. “Disorganized.”
The cloth snaps closed, showering us with cold droplets of rain that stain my white dress pants. I stare at the dark splotches and sigh. “I knew I should have called in sick today.”
Mr. Sarcasm take a swift step away and holds the coffee tray out from his body. “Are you?”
The dismayed look on his face almost cheers me up, except there is literally—I glance up at the looming gray sky—a dark cloud hanging over my head today, of all days.
“No, I just wish I was,” I mutter, entering the foyer and holding out my hand for the coffee. “I can take those now, thank you. My new boss is coming to check up on our department this week and we’ve heard he’s a real hard nose. I guess it has me more nervous than I thought.” I press the elevator button and is relieved when the doors slide open almost immediately. “Well,” I murmured, stepping inside and jamming a finger for the tenth floor. “It was nice to meet you. Thanks for your help.” I gave him a winning smile and mentally urged the doors to close.
The second set of elevator doors open, and a group of young, stylish-looking women step out laughing and chatting. Mr. Sarcasm glances their way and I let my eyes slide closed on a relieved sigh. No one else is getting on with me, so I’d have a minute to regain some equilibrium before reaching my floor.
The compartment lifts beneath my feet and I open my eyes—
“Claustrophobic, too?” Mr. Sarcasm says, leaning against the opposite wall, his head tipped to the side as though inspecting something strange.
“Shi… shoot. You scared me to death. It’s rude to sneak up on people, you know.” My heart is doing cartwheels in my chest.
“I wasn’t sneaking, as you so eloquently put it. If you paid more attention to your surroundings, you’d probably avoid a few of the catastrophes you cause.” He glances from my still damp slacks to his stained sneakers—which he teamed with what looks like an expensive navy-blue suit and powder blue dress shirt. Who wears running shoes with a getup like that?
My stomach rolls with a sudden queasiness. I’d heard through the grapevine that our new CEO was a bit on the eccentric side, and I’d painted a picture of a grandfatherly man with a penchant for exotic pets. Something tells me I’m wrong.
I clear my throat. “Can I umm, press the button for your floor?” Since I’m practically guarding the control panel. Please don’t let it be…
“The tenth—thanks,” he says grudgingly.
Yep. I’ve just introduced myself to my new boss.