Head bowed, writing on her clipboard, Angela Heissman stepped out of the elevator and onto the fourth floor, where her laboratory was located. Without looking up, she entered her workspace and looked down into the microscope.
“Mm-hmmm. Good, good.” She made a note on her clipboard and looked back into the eyepiece of the microscope. Nervous energy caused her to tap her foot on the floor, tap her fingernail on the table beside the microscope, and, rounding off the beat, tap her pen on her clipboard.
Ten minutes later, she tsked
, drew a small, handheld tape recorder from her lab coat pocket, and pressed Record. “Total genetic breakdown at ...” She glanced at her watch. “... nine-twelve p.m.” Continuing to stare into the microscope, she watched as her latest experiment turned into goo. Two days' worth of watching and waiting, down the proverbial toilet.
Rubbing the back of her neck with one hand and sighing, she straightened and stretched her aching back muscles. “Not even nine-thirty, and already my night is shot.”
Taking the slide with the failed test off the microscope, she placed it with the other failures and began preparing the next slide. The one good thing about being blessed with the night shift was that she did not have her immediate supervisor standing over her shoulder, criticizing her work. Mr. Pendergrass, more commonly known as Fenderass, had put her on the late shift after the last time he had submitted her work under his own name and she'd had the bright idea to complain.
The thought of her boss actually doing his own work caused her to emit an unladylike snort. It was so much easier for him to just steal her findings and then give her fucked-up job performance reports. She couldn't even apply at another laboratory because of the reports he had written up on her.
Humming to the tune “Take This Job and Shove It,” Angela finished setting up the new test slide and spun around on her stool.
While trying to catch her breath, the woman gasped out, “Where did you come from?” He could hear her heart beating a mile a minute. She placed her hand over her heart and looked at him sitting on a stool in the corner of the room. “I'm sorry for screaming. I didn't know anyone was up here besides me. I'm Angela Heissman; can I help you with something?”
Stephen had been watching her work, for some time, before he materialized on the stool. “I'm just here to observe.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Did Fend-- uh, Pendergrass send you here to spy on me? Well, you can just tell him that I am doing my job, and the next thing he puts his name on had better not be from me. I'll wait tables before I let him have any more of my work.”
“Calm down, little lady. You're gonna pop a button if you don't relax. Pendergrass didn't send me; I'm just here to watch.”
Angela pursed her lips and showed him what had to be her meanest frown. Very slowly, she said, “Why ... are ... you ... watching ... me?”
“Do ya know, you remind me of a schoolmarm, with your clothes all buttoned up like that. You even have that precise Boston accent, and it really comes out when you get angry.” Stephen coughed, trying not to laugh. Unaccountably attracted to her, he could feel tendrils of heat slide through him as he looked at her. Probably because she was just too cute. He had never come across a woman like her. She wore tortoiseshell glasses on her face and had another pair, with large green plastic frames, perched on the top of her head. He could see a third pair in the pocket of her white coat.
Her rust-colored hair was up in a sloppy bun, sitting precariously on the top of her head, behind the green glasses. She wore a lab coat that had specks of gods only knew what on it. The only jewelry she wore was her multiple pairs of glasses and her plastic digital watch. Not a speck of makeup could be seen.
Stephen tipped his hat to the back of his head and propped himself against the wall.
“Exactly who did you say you are?” She crossed behind the table, looking uncomfortable.
“I go by the name Stephen Westlake.”
Angela considered that for a moment. “Well? Are you really Stephen Westlake?”
“You said that you go by the name, but you didn't say if you are
Stephen laughed. “I guess I won't be gettin' anything by you. I am
Rocking side to side behind the table that separated them, Angela pursed her lips. “Do you have any identification?”
“You bet I do.” He stood and reached into the back pocket of his faded jeans and pulled out a timeworn wallet. Flipping it open, he held it out to her.
He watched her carefully until she finally decided that it wouldn't hurt to look at his ID. He offered her the Society shield that he carried, but didn't think she would recognize it.
“Are you saying you're Superman? I have to tell you upfront that I don't buy it. Superman had slick black hair and wore his underwear on the outside
. You have brown hair. I can see it now that you have your hat pushed back.” She gave him back his wallet and a so-there look.
“You didn't mention my underwear.”
Angela sputtered. “Well, that's because ... umm, well, it's obvious that your underwear isn't on the outside.”
He leaned his hip against her table. “That's right. Besides, how do you know I'm even wearin' underwear. I might like to go without.”
Angela looked him over, and the picture of him sans underwear -- and everything else, for that matter -- flashed through her mind. Carmel-colored skin, ripped abs, small waist, long legs, and tight butt. She wondered if he had a hairy or smooth chest and if a line of hair ran from his navel to ...
He cleared his throat. “So, whatcha workin' on?”
Snapped out of her reverie by the sound of his voice, she glared at him for a moment, then stepped over to the phone hanging on the wall. Picking up the receiver, she dialed and turned her back to the wall so that she could keep her eyes on him.
Casually folding his arms over his bulging chest and crossing his booted ankles, the cowboy just watched her. Lucky for him, or she ... she would ... well, she would think of something. Thinking up something to outwit this man should be simple. Seriously, he looked too pretty to be intelligent. Those piercing blue eyes and those soft, full lips that curved up in a small, knowing smile, just begging her to go over to him and ...
Funny, her thoughts weren't having much of an effect on her comfort level at all. The phone clicked, and Angela heard an irritated-sounding “Hello?”
“Mr. Pendergrass, this is Angela Heissman, from the lab. There is a man here with me. He showed me a badge and identification, but I recognize neither. Do you know who he is and if he has authorization to be here?”
She listened for a second, then looked at her visitor. “Well, he's dressed like a cowboy, needs a shave, and he said his name is Stephen Westlake.” Immediately she held the phone away from her ear. Pendergrass had started screaming to beat the band. When he stopped to inhale, she took her chance and interjected, “I'm sure I don't know what
he's doing here early. You will have to ask him that.” Then she listened to the yelling again.
“Right.” She hung up the phone and sighed. Looking at her unwanted guest, she crossed her arms over her chest, crossed her high-top-sneaker--covered ankles and stared back at him. Although her stare intentionally came across as more of a glare. She glared at him from the top of his cowboy hat to the scuffed tips of his pointy cowboy boots. In between, she noticed that he had a really great chest, small waist, and man
was he packing. And she wasn't talking about a gun.