Welcome to Fiction Friday! Every Friday we give you a short bite of a serial story, something you can read on your lunch break, but with a twist: We want you to choose what happens next. If you missed the first segment, you can catch up here. Last week, you decided that Elizabeth would tell Gabe off for running over her artwork. Enjoy the fireworks, and be sure to come in a week to see what happens next!
Drawn Together – Part 2
Kathleen Bittner Roth
Elizabeth stumbled to a halt. No, it couldn’t be…he couldn’t be. She knew the elderly man sitting next to him was Redfield. She’d Googled him. But Mr. Black-Porsche-Boxster? There was no mistaking those Aviators on the conference table beside him, the expensive watch beneath rolled sleeves that had flashed by her when he’d run over her future.
He stood up, tall, dark and arrogant, his eyes flashing so much animosity it was a wonder the flowers on the table didn’t wilt. His scrutiny slid past her hair she’d gathered into a ponytail, down past her plain white blouse to her jeans. When his gaze reached the wet spots on her knees where she’d scrubbed off the dirt, humor replaced the heat in his eyes. “Miss Bretton.”
“You two know one another?” Mr. Redfield stood. “Please, have a seat.”
Oh, didn’t this pretty much sum up her life lately? Tears stung the backs of her eyes, but she’d be damned if she’d let them see her cry. “That won’t be necessary, Mr. Redfield.” She slapped the Preston drawing on the table. “If you can manage your way past the tread marks some idiot who can’t drive worth a darn put there, it’s all yours.” She turned and headed for the door.
“Where are you going?” Mr. Redfield called out.
“To let the air out of a certain Porsche Boxster’s tires.” She barely made it to the ladies room when the tears fell. God, she had to find work. It was Frankie’s last semester. She’d promised her parents. Promised him.
Swiping a sleeve across wet cheeks, she made her way to the sink and splashed cold water on her face. She grabbed a handful of papers towels and turned. There stood Mr. Black-Porsche-Boxster, casually leaning a shoulder against the wall.
She finished drying her face. “You’ve got some nerve.”
A corner of his mouth tilted up. “My grandfather saw past the tread marks some idiot put on your print and wants to hire you.”
Grandfather? She closed her eyes while she gathered her wits, painfully reminding herself that Frankie’s tuition was due. “Are you part of the team?”
“Seems so. My name is Gabe.”
Screw everything. “Not interested.” She made to go past him, but the next thing she knew, he had her against the wall, his arms caging her in.
“Look, I’m sorry I ran over your print, but get over it. You need the job, and Granddad has given me exactly seventy-two hours to convince you to take it.”
“Or what?” Her skin buzzed he stood so close. His breath, warm and laced with a hint of mint, fell across her lips. For some appalling reason, her throat went dry.
His face creased into a broad smile that could have melted bricks. “Will you accept the offer or do I have to break your arm?”
She swallowed a halleluiah and a giggle. The ball was in her court. “Are you in the habit of waltzing into the ladies room whenever the urge grabs you?”
His gaze slid to her mouth. Something shifted in him. He glanced up, a flash of puzzlement running through his eyes. His own lips parted. “Look,” his voice grew husky. “Can we discuss this over dinner instead of in the bathroom?”
Did he just hit on her? Her southern pride kicked in. “If you don’t want my knee in your groin, back off.”
He stepped away, palms up, but a wicked grin plastered his face. “You’re pretty cute when you’re mad, you know that?”
She opened the door to leave, but for the second time in less than an hour, she stumbled to a halt. “And you are one insensitive prick!”
The secretary’s jaw dropped, and Mr. Redfield, who stood at his office doorway, laughed.
Once outside, Elizabeth needed to run. Turning down 81st, she crossed over to Central Park Avenue and into the park. She ran until she found herself in front of the Angel of the Waters fountain where she bent over, gasping for breath. She couldn’t remember being so upset. But now her anger wasn’t directed at him but at herself. She was angry because she found him attractive. Angry that when he stood so close, she wondered what his kisses tasted like.
“Oh, no!” She slapped her shoulder where her purse strap should’ve hung and gulped for air. Her precious vintage Coach—she’d left it in the bathroom.
Gabe had lost sight of her along the path for a couple minutes, but when he rounded the curve, he pulled to a halt. There she stood, in front of the fountain, hands on hips and kicking at something with the toe of her sneaker. “Looking for this?”
When she glanced up, it was as if all the fight had gone out of her. Gabe wanted to reach for her. Instead, he stepped closer and offered the handbag. “I’m sorry for the way things went today. I thought by inviting you to dinner, we could make a fresh start seeing as how we’ll be working together. That is, if you’ll agree to being employed by my grandfather.”
He smiled back.
Good, she was going to let him fix the mess he’d made of things today. “Granddad wants you living on the premises while you work. I’ll drive you there. That is, if there’s any air in my tires.” He offered her another grin.
“Thank you.” She crossed her arms over her chest—that nice, full chest.
He tilted his head. “You’re a pretty good runner. He dipped his hand in the water and playfully tossed a few sprinkles at her. “Cool you off?”
He liked the sound of it.
And then she looked him over, just as slowly as he’d done to her earlier. Well, he deserved as much. He shoved his hands into his pockets, feeling suddenly uncertain.
She nodded toward his watch. “Is that a Tag Heuer?”
He glanced at his $15,000 timepiece. “You know the brand?”
“It’s my brother Frankie’s dream watch. Is it waterproof?”
“Yeah.” And then, just as the shock registered, he looked up. Too late. She planted her hands on his chest and pushed.
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