“Hi there,” I said.
“Hi, did you need something?”
“No, I was just getting ready to leave for the night. I was about to knock when you opened the door. It startled me.”
Seth was looking at me strangely and I imagined him calling me a liar straight to my face. My office door was still wide open and the light was on. I didn’t have my bag with me and I never went to his office to say goodnight, but then again, I was usually still here when he left.
He finally flashed me what had to be his most dazzling smile and said, “I love it.”
He loved that I was coming to say goodnight? Genuinely confused I said, “Excuse me?”
“The hair. I like it a lot. It reminds me of my mother’s. Hers was brown, but long and curly like that.”
I felt the heat of the blush as it rose from my chest to my face, “Um…thanks. It was getting heavy so I took it down. I’m sure it’s a mess now…”
He reached out and touched it as I was talking. Suddenly my tongue felt twice as thick as usual, and definitely drier. I took a step back without even thinking and he dropped his hand to his side quickly.
“I’m sorry,” he said, suddenly. “Touching your hair is extremely inappropriate and that’s not the first time I’ve done that is it?” I thought that was a redundant question so I didn’t answer it. Then something happened to his face and the arrogant, self-assured look that he always wore there slipped as he said, “It just fascinates me so that I hardly realize what I’m doing. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable.”
I smiled, genuinely this time. He looked so self-conscious and genuinely remorseful.
“It’s okay,” I said. “It is quite the anomaly.”
He laughed, “That’s not the word I would use,” he said. “Mine would be much more flattering. But thank you for not slapping me for touching you uninvited. It won’t happen again. Speaking of uninvited however, you were coming to see me for something?”
It was my turn to laugh, “Did you just say I was “uninvited” to your office?”
With a slow grin he said, “It did sound that way, didn’t it? I’m not sure what’s wrong with me tonight. That was not my intention. You’re always welcome in my office Erin, consider it an open invitation.” He was flirting again; I could tell by the way his voice changed. It got deeper, sexier somehow. It made me feel all tingly inside and I tried to chastise myself about how ridiculous I was and how unproductive mutual flirting with the boss would be to my cause. I was still talking in my head when I heard him say, “I was going to step out for a bite to eat. Why don’t you join me?”
Before my inner voice shut up, I heard my outer one say, “Sure, that sounds great.” On my way back to my own office to get my bag I tried to lie to myself again. I was only distracting him from having the time to really consider why I would be reaching for his office door handle. I knew that I was lying. Something about being close to Seth made me want to forget that I hated him and his father and everything they stood for. Grant was right. I was playing a dangerous game…
“There’s a little Italian place up the street that I really enjoy. It’s a nice evening, would you mind a walk?” he asked. Again, I should have said no. The cool evening breeze coupled with the big, full, silver moon and the stars made it all even more dangerous.
“That sounds great,” my stupid self-replied yet again. It was almost like I was on auto-pilot around this guy. I kept telling myself that it was all about the cause.
The restaurant was only a few blocks and I could hear the soft Italian music piping out of the speakers as we approached it. Seth opened the door and held it for me as I stepped in and was taken away to a village in Tuscany. The interior of the restaurant gave you no indication whatsoever that you were in the center of Manhattan’s busiest business district. The lights were low and candles flickered out of red glass vases at every red and white checkered table. There seemed to be plants and vines everywhere, all plush and green and adding an element of intimacy to each table.
The hostess greeted Seth right away and took us straight back to “his” table. It was in a far corner of the restaurant and the high-backed booth and potted plants cut us completely out of the vision of all of the other patrons. We took our seats across from each other and I sat quietly as Seth ordered our wine. When he finished the waiter left and he turned his eyes on me. I tried not to notice how sexy they looked in the candlelight.