What is it about Grant?
Looking at the man sitting across the table from her was no hardship; that was for damn sure. He had the tall, broad body of a heavyweight UFC fighter, but he never used his size to intimidate the people around him. She wanted to sweep his wavy, slightly shaggy dark hair out of his gorgeous deep-brown eyes. His dark hair and eyes complemented his bronze skin. He was hot, in a serious, dangerous kind of way. But in the two and a half years Grant had worked for her, Shayla had hardly learned anything about him.
The waitress at the popular nature-themed restaurant, the Greenhouse Effect, showed them to their table. The plants growing around all the walls and columns made the place look like a wild garden, and the smell of lavender and jasmine mixed with the delicious scents drifting from the kitchen. She tried not to drool, but breakfast seemed like eons ago. Shayla sat next to Sydney and across from Grant. A too-tall centerpiece of yellow-and-purple flowers blocked most of her view of him. Grant moved the centerpiece to the side and gave her a shy smile. His smile made her want answers, among other things.
She knew he was from New Jersey and had gone to school in Wisconsin before moving to Richmond, Virginia, to work with Brook’s Comprehensive, a huge company that did everything from urban development projects to financial management for celebrities and politicians.
“Why do you want to make such a big change from a large corporation to a simple start-up company?” she’d asked him in the interview.
“Honestly?” Grant had paused then, the question hanging.
Shayla had nodded. She’d take honesty over smooth-faced, calculated interview answers any day.
“I want to live somewhere I can have a house and some land. Maybe spend more time outside. Also, I want a job where I can do more than just run numbers for projects where I never see the outcome.”
The last part had seemed to come as a surprise to Grant. Maybe he hadn’t really known he wanted something more than a change of scenery until he had said it out loud.
His answer had been simple and honest instead of a long, drawn-out elaboration about the projected success of new companies in the area or an extensive list of projects he had helped to fruition. She could look at his résumé for all that stuff. Grant had wanted to be there, so she’d hired him. Simple as that—after a clean background check and drug screening, of course.
Grant the mystery man—a delicious mystery Shayla would like to unravel, piece by piece, layer by layer. Ah, but I can’t. I’m his boss. In a different lifetime, if we didn’t have the whole boss-employee obstacle going on…
No harm in looking, though, just a little, since he sat so close. She promised herself to keep her thoughts G-rated—okay, maybe PG-13. Grant had a talent with numbers and paid attention to detail. Also, he was a little shy and standoffish to a lot of people when it came to anything other than work. Shayla wondered where he sometimes went in his head, because, every now and then, his smile wiped from his face, just for a second, before being replaced with one a little harder. None of my business, she reminded herself.
Shayla had really wanted to hug Grant that morning after seeing him look so frustrated but decided that it might be wiser and more appropriate to show him that there were a few people on his side. Watching him break things and try to be all strong and humorous about it made Shayla want to unravel the Grant mystery even more. It kind of hurt to watch Grant pretending to be fine, but all Shayla could offer him was lunch and good conversation. Hopefully Mr. Strong and Silent—Sydney called him that sometimes, although never to his face—knew Shayla and Sydney cared. Shayla cared. Because he’s a friend
. Just a friend.
Grant raised his soda in a toast. “To things not being worse,” he announced with a rueful half smile. “And, uh”—he cleared his throat—“to good company.” He nodded at Sydney, and when he met Shayla’s gaze, he held it. In Grant’s dark eyes she saw hunger, wide-open desire, and about a million other things she couldn’t puzzle out. They both looked away. Grant looked at her that way sometimes, and Shayla did her best to ignore it. Grant might have a small crush on her, or he could have a thing for petite, small-breasted girls possessing a great fashion sense.
Sydney broke the silence. “To good food and even better friends.” She clinked Grant’s glass, and Shayla came back to reality and smiled, pretending she wasn’t experiencing several different kinds of inappropriate thoughts and feelings for a sexy, complicated man who was her employee and also her friend. She needed to remember that things could never go any further than a panty-melting look, and behave.
Her phone buzzed. Grateful for the distraction, she dug it out of her purse to see a text message and call-back number from that pest of a reporter back in Maryland. That pain in the ass wanted another interview with Shayla. Like once in the hospital and once for a “where are the survivors now” follow-up a few months later hadn’t been enough. May as well take care of this before it becomes twenty voice mails piled in my in-box.
“I’ll just be a moment,” she promised Sydney and Grant. If that harpy journalist wanted an interview, it would be her last one with Shayla, and it would cost the reporter. Big-time. She walked outside into the cold and wind.
Kendall Baron, obnoxious reporter, answered her phone rather quickly. No polite niceties, no how have you been?
, no what’s new?, blah-blah-blah
, for Baron—she cut to the chase.
“Listen, Ms. Patrick, I know you’ve done two interviews with me for SCA news in Maryland, but I’ve joined an entertainment news show, and I have a human-interest story on survivors of disasters that I’m trying to put together. You’d be a perfect fit for the story.”
“Can you tell me a little more about the piece? Because last time your questions went a little off on a tangent, what with you being way too convinced I must have had some type of top-secret life-saving surgery or—no, what was it?—that I survived the bombs because I’m a little more than just human?” Jeez.
Shayla had some talents, for sure, but being indestructible wasn’t one of them.
“We’ll do the basics about the accident and how you’re adjusting to life afterward. Plus, there’s the shock-and-awe factor of how amazing it is to survive such a destructive act, so we’ll put together a computer reconstruction of the accident for the viewers. So a few questions, maybe thirty minutes of your time, is all I’m asking,” Baron assured her. “I want you for this story, Ms. Patrick. What’s your price?”
“Ten thousand dollars.”
don’t want the money. I want the check donated directly to Hope and Healing, a charity that helps fund plastic surgery, prosthetic limbs, and burn treatments for disaster survivors around the world.”
“Fine. I’ll send proof of payment of two
thousand dollars to Hope and Healing after the interview’s over.”
“My other condition is that this is the last time you contact me for an interview. Or for any reason in general.”
“You have my word. I’ll text you a couple of dates I have available in a minute, and you can just send me back which one works for you. I’ll even come to Brass Cat so you don’t have to travel.”
Baron didn’t seem like the most honorable woman, but Hope and Healing would get two grand, and Shayla wouldn’t be harassed to do any more interviews.
WHEN SHAYLA STEPPED outside to deal with a text that had her looking all kinds of irritated, Grant found himself under Sydney’s microscope. She asked him the same question she always asked him. “When are you gonna make a move?” Only this time, the girl wasn’t joking. “Next Saturday at the Saint Patrick’s Day Festival would be a good opportunity.”
He’d forgotten about agreeing to go to the festival with Sydney and her husband, Derrick. Sydney always invited Grant to different events, and like an idiot, he usually agreed.
“She’s my boss.” Didn’t Sydney and the bear get that? “That’s a pretty big obstacle. For Shayla and for me.”
Sydney sighed. “I know. I just think you guys would be good together is all. Well, not just good, amazing. Awesome. Phenomenal—”
“Shut up. I get it.”
More likely is that he would lose his shit for Shayla, and then, because life wasn’t warm and fuzzy with a guaranteed happy ending for all, she’d be gone, and Grant would be in a world of hurt and misery, so much worse than simply going all Hulk and breaking a door handle. The bear made a rude comment about Grant’s lack of balls. The bear would get over it. Grant wasn’t ready to fall down a rabbit hole and find himself crazy in love with an adorable, clever, gorgeous, smart, sweet woman who would probably get bored with his silent, antisocial behavior in about five minutes. She was his boss, and that made it all impossible anyway. The bear muttered something about Grant being dumb for a math geek.
I’d be an idiot to think I have a chance with her. We’re too different. Plus, she’s my fucking boss!
He hoped the bear was listening.
Christina Lynn Lambert