He wasn’t going to see Zoe for two days. That shouldn’t make him feel like shit, but Gordon had already accepted that he was obsessed. It was bad enough that he had planned his shifts to coordinate with hers. But he watched her constantly while she was there and prayed she hadn’t noticed.
He couldn’t help himself. The minute he met her, he’d felt like an electric charge had just gone through him.
She was so fucking sexy. It wasn’t just her tits, although they were really hard to miss. Her corset damn near showed him everything, but it stopped just short of where he’d like it to be. He’d had a few—a lot—of fantasies about what he would do if he could see her breasts completely naked. But it wasn’t just that. It was everything
Her hair was long and dark, and he itched to dig his fingers into that thick mass while he bit her full bottom lip. The whole physical response thing was embarrassing. When she was in the store, he could pick out her scent, for God’s sake, and he got hard. Gordon remembered other guys talking about some hot chick back when they hit puberty and never letting it go. He hadn’t really seen what the fuss was. Sex was all right when you got it, but he could go without if the girl wasn’t worth the effort. Now he understood. He was thinking about sex with Zoe all the fucking time. He thought about every part of her body and wanted all of it. Breasts, hair…
And her mouth. That sarcastic, ever-talking mouth. Maybe some people would be put off by it. God knows lately he was used to being with nice, well-bred girls who knew how to make polite conversation and sometimes even talk dirty in bed if he managed to get them that far. He didn’t mind when females chattered—he kind of admired it since he was so bad at saying anything out loud. But Zoe? Zoe was in a class by herself. He had to be obsessed. He even liked her brain and how it worked when she talked. She said what was on her mind, and he loved hearing it. He could almost hear the conversations she had in her mind when she worked in the store. Even when she finally did fall silent, her mouth moved—she would smile or pout over whatever she was thinking.
He wished she was thinking about him. He had a feeling she talked about him when he wasn’t around. Hell, she talked about everyone and everything. But he didn’t think she was talking and thinking about him the way he did her.
He knew he was the pain-in-the-ass boss. And hell, he was paid to be the pain-in-the-ass boss. His uncle might have set him up to look like a tool with this job, but that didn’t mean Gordon wouldn’t do his job properly.
That’s what Allbrits did and especially what they did when the job involved their company holdings. It didn’t matter that this was likely the most insignificant part of everything they owned—he didn’t even know why they did own this place unless it had been an acquisition with something else. No matter. It was theirs, and they were going to be responsible for every last thing in their store. That meant he was too.
That translated to all the women in the store giving him funny looks—or outright ugly ones—when they thought he wasn’t paying attention. But he always did. He’d learned keeping his mouth shut and his eyes wide, wide open was the best way for him to navigate his life. And staying curious. For example, he had a feeling there was something very wrong with the bookkeeping in the store. In fact, it was so wrong he’d called his cousin in accounting about it. They’d had lunch, and Sandy promised to look into it. Gordon made sure lunch was on the company tab. He couldn’t afford to pay for their meal.
He wasn’t even sure how he was going to afford his books and summer class, to be honest. Money wasn’t coming from the family. Apparently his mom had washed her hands of him and left him to his uncle. She hadn’t even taken his calls this week. That stung. She’d always deferred to Uncle Charles as the head of the family, but apparently his decisions meant more than her son.
Or hadn’t he always known that? His family wasn’t going to come through for him. Grandma was the only one who ever had, and now she couldn’t. He had to look out for himself.
Well, hell. He’d never pawned anything in his life, but it might be his summer for a bunch of new experiences.
He hadn’t had time to think about it before as all his disasters hit, but it looked like he wasn’t going to be able to impress a woman—Zoe, in particular—with his money either. And he was pretty sure he didn’t have anything else she might be even remotely interested in. He was smart, but he couldn’t talk. He could dress pretty well, but he wasn’t good-looking. He sure couldn’t joke around and be charming with her. He sucked at stuff like that. Damn, he couldn’t even afford to take her out to anywhere but a fast-food place.
The list of what was wrong kept piling up. His family had shown how little they cared. He’d met a girl—maybe the
girl—and he couldn’t do a damn thing about it. Basically he was screwed, and this summer was going to be hell.
Right now all he had to look forward to was that in the next two days, Zoe would be back in the store.
* * * *
Going back to work kind of sucked. It wasn’t so much the work, which was usually no problem, but starting the day with what I had to do really wasn’t fun. Like it or not, time off had cleared my head enough that I knew I couldn’t avoid the problem any longer. So. I fingered the note in my pocket. I was going to have to post it. I’d spent two days gearing myself up for doing this thing.
It didn’t help that I felt him
looking at me while I put the note on the bulletin board. Really. I could feel his stare boring into my back. If that wasn’t enough, I could smell his cologne in the air. A. Gordon Haigh wore something kind of tangy and sweet at the same time—and something that was him. It was sort of sexy.
Which was not the thing I should be thinking when I was mad. It just transferred some of the annoyance onto him.
Too late. I was officially mad at him too, along with everything else. But he didn’t have to get judgey about what I was doing. I had a right to do it. Probably.
After all, there wasn’t any policy about putting up personal stuff on the news board, but if he wanted to be an asshole about it, then I’d just tell
everyone to spread the word. Or use social media, like people did in the modern world. I had no idea why the store kept to all this old-world paper thing anyhow. Too cheap to go electronic?
A. Gordon Haigh was the assistant manager. He could at least tell someone it was time to update the systems and move with the modern world. If he could dine with a vice president of the company, he could tell them to let employees use a damned computer in the store now and then.
Seriously, this guy was starting to get on my nerves.
And there was nothing sexy about him. At all. My prickling jumpiness was over what I had to do, nothing else. I pinned the note to the board and wished I could stick a tack into someone instead.
He stepped up and read the message.
“Whose apartment?” he asked.
“Mine.” It was an employee bulletin board for employees, and I was an employee the last I looked. This was all legit. Of course I had to keep talking after saying only what he needed to know. I could never keep my mouth shut. “I’ve been managing to swing the rent, but sales during the summer always slow down. That means no bonuses. I’m not sure I can manage rent until September.”
I should have put up the announcement weeks ago, but I hated the idea of sharing my space with anyone, even my coworkers. Maybe especially my coworkers. I mean, I had my quirks, but I didn’t need them talked about at work. I was in charge of talking about quirks at work.
“You know, I can take it down if you want,” I said. That way I could hate the boss and change my mind about subletting to someone I knew. Strangers, even potential ax murderers, might be a better idea.
“Actually.” He cleared his throat and didn’t say anything else. I hated bosses who made up new, inconvenient rules, and
I hated people who started a sentence and then left you hanging. It was worse than talking too much. A. Gordon Haigh was officially on my shit list now. Right under the professor who had given me a D+ in Sociology because I argued alternative lifestyles weren’t potentially damaging to families. That meant I might not be able to transfer the class to a four-year college, and, if so, that class had been a waste of my time that semester. That idiot had ranked high on the asshole list for the last several months, but the new boss could topple his lofty first place in the next few moments.
“Yes?” I said, ready to snatch the piece of paper back from the board.
“I need to sublet a place this summer.”
The two of us looked at each other. I wasn’t sure which one of us was more appalled by what he’d just said.
“My spare bedroom is actually a study. That’s why it’s so cheap,” I said. “No closet. You have to use the one in the living room.”
Calling it a living room might be a little bit too much. It was the living room/dining area/kitchenette/room that wasn’t my bedroom or the study. He’d hate it. Anyhow, anyone with that many suits needed a walk-in closet at least. Maybe a suite.
“I don’t have much to bring. Mostly dorm stuff. Part-time students don’t get to live in dorms.”
He was a student? Probably at Oh-So-Snotty U about fifteen miles away. They didn’t have dorms at the community college. Not that I could see him going to my community college.
I added the real kicker. “And you’d have to learn to live with Sexy.”
“Sexy? That’s your…boyfriend?” He looked at me, and I thought I saw a faint blush. “You?”
I almost laughed. I didn’t have too many self-esteem issues—okay, maybe I did but faked it better than most people—but not even I would nickname myself Sexy. Then again I suppose I hadn’t been that clear. Hell, I hadn’t picked the stupid name. The previous asshole owner had. I pointed to the first sentence on my note. MUST LIKE DOGS.
“My foster dog. He’s been with me for the summer. He’s only going to be there for a few more weeks, if he’s lucky, but you never know. I can’t give you a timetable for when he gets a forever home, and after he leaves, I’ll probably get another.”
“Oh.” He stopped frowning. “I like dogs. I’ve never lived with any, but I like them fine.”
How did you like dogs but not live with any? Maybe his parents had allergies or something. He better not have any—or if he did, he could take some antihistamines and shut up. The place had been Sexy’s longer than it had been his.
Not that I was going to have him for a roomie.
“I need you to pay part of the security deposit too.” It hadn’t occurred to me before, but why make this sublet look attractive to my boss, for God’s sake? This could be the summer from hell. A. Gordon Haigh at work and at home, morning, noon, and night.
“Oh.” He cleared his throat. “I might need…to give that to you. Later.”
Saved! I now had a legit way to tell him no. I opened my mouth to do that, and then, like a fool, I had to ask, “Why not? And how much later?”
“When I get my first paycheck from the store.” He didn’t answer the first question, but I knew. My boss, the one with the expensive business suits and cool cologne and the new BMW, was short on cash. He wasn’t being cheap or weird. I could almost see the embarrassment rolling off him.
Something bad had happened. Bad enough that he had to take my sublet study for a bedroom. If I were a better person, I’d say it was none of my business and drop it. But of course I was dying to know more. If he moved in, I bet I’d find out.
But would having A. Gordon Haigh around my house after work be worth satisfying my curiosity?
Absolutely not. All I needed to do was refuse and stop things right away. Just say no, Zoe. Why aren’t you saying no?