Authors: RaeLynn Blue
“Great. Let me get my purse. Gimme five minutes.”
It’ll take at least fifteen.
Tawana had horrible time management skills. It was any wonder the woman supervised twenty-six sales people. Good thing today, because that meant Aerial had time. She headed down the first row of cubicles; there was one on each side of the narrow aisle. Most of the desks were empty, except for the very last one on the left.
“Here you are,” she said, laughing. “This is a dead end. Where did you think you were going to hide?”
Brice sat upright in his chair, and turned to face her. “I wasn’t hiding.”
“Then what are you doing?”
“Working. Don’t you have a job?” he asked and set down his pencil.
“I do have a job, thanks to you.”
He peered at her closely. With another shake of his head, he smirked, and threw up his hands.
“I give up. You’re only going to keep bothering me until I give you what you want.”
learn.” Aerial laughed.
He scowled at her, but the smirk remained. He made eye contact and he kept talking, so surely she’d made some headway. She liked him. Really liked him.
“I’m kidding. I just want the truth. Not the truth you tell others, but the real truth you can only confess to yourself.”
He tented his hands in front of him allowing his elbows to lie on the chair’s armrests. “Why would I tell you that?”
“Why wouldn’t you? I’ve been nothing but honest with you,” she said with a shrug. “Turnabout is fair play, my father says.”
“So it is. Why do you think I haven’t been honest?”
“Your answer doesn’t wash. I know you have good inside of you. I just want you to admit it,” she said, aware of the conviction in her voice.
“I do know I’m a good person. What makes you think I don’t know that already?”
He rolled his eyes and picked up a pencil. The scattering of papers around the desk spoke to his work and the wall he created to keep people out. No photos. No calendar. No personal possessions of any kind. Only work.
“Because if you did, you would’ve asked me out to dinner already.”
Brice couldn’t find words to put into his gaping mouth to respond to Aerial’s observation. Obviously, Tawana had fed Aerial some damn rumors about him. Not that he blamed her. They were sisters, after all. He knew people didn’t like him and he also knew they called him names. This wasn’t a high school. C.A.K.E was business. As long as Stephen Silver liked his sales numbers, Brice didn’t care one damn bit about the tongue wagging that went on. But
bothered him. The whole thing made him uneasy, as it gave him unwanted attention. Aerial clearly believed he had poor self-esteem. And surely, the one thing he didn’t want was her pity. To hell with that. He didn’t need anyone’s pity.
“Look, I don’t need your mercy. Go to lunch with your sister and leave me alone.” He tried to bite back some of the venom, but it spewed out with the strong hatred he had for office politics. Now, if she would go skipping off to her sister, complaining about the mean guy in the sales department, he could get some peace.
He sighed. That wasn’t what he wanted. On the surface, in the immediate, sure, it’s what he thought he wanted. Later when he went home tonight, he’d do what he’d done the last two nights, jack off to Aerial’s sizable attributes and long for her to be wrapped up in his bed and locked tight in his arms. But the throbbing ache of the last disastrous woman had cost so much. Robbed him of his ability to trust. He rubbed the raised, twisted and scarred tissue in the center of his chest through his shirt.
A giggle rippled through the hushed silence. It confused him that his bellowing would be met with amusement. Aerial grinned at him and laughed, probably at the expression on his face.
“There you go again.” Aerial leaned against the cubicle’s entrance, obstructing the entrance. She blocked over half the space. With her beautiful dark eyes that twinkled when she found him amusing—she added, “Trying to avoid the topic. Don’t be scared, just answer the question.”
“I’m not scared.”
“Yes, you are.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Then ask me out.” She titled her head to the other side and popped her gum.
“How did you know I wasn’t going to ask all by myself?” he asked, attempting to reverse the attention from himself to her.
“Well, you haven’t.”
“You haven’t exactly been around,” he retorted.
What the hell am I doing?
“So you want me around more.”
Perplexed, he didn’t even know how to respond. She had a way of completely getting him to do exactly what he didn’t want to do. Brice sat straight in the chair and tried to discreetly adjust his slacks. Aerial’s scarlet sundress skimmed her body as if sprayed on, and looked very constricting, but she moved as if it was the most natural, comfortable thing in the world. It made her dark skin glow, like royalty. The ebony wedged heels added to Aerial’s statuesque sensuality and she aroused feelings he’d long since buried. For a brief second, Brice pondered how soft her deep, velvety skin would feel in his hands, gliding along his naked flesh. Aerial stood so close, her perfume filled his head. It was light and airy, like her. Her full bosom rested at his mouth level, and he wanted to lean forward and bite through the fabric and bra to her nipple. Would her areolas be as big as fifty-scent pieces, or quarters? Were they as dark as her skin—a rich mahogany, or darker? Full-figured, curves for miles, and possessed with a dangerous habit of teasing him, she stirred his hunger—a thirst he’d kept for years.
“Brice… My eyes are up here,” Aerial said.
Embarrassed, Brice’s internal dialogue had grown louder, so he hadn’t heard what she said.
Face suddenly hot, his head snapped up to her.
When her eyes locked on his, she said. “So?”
All the emotions and thoughts whirled about in his brain, and he couldn’t tell her any of those things. So instead of saying something incredibly stupid and to keep her from getting closer to him, Brice said nothing. He didn’t laugh, and he wanted to laugh—not because her comment was funny, but because it was so honest. Aerial told it exactly the way she saw it.
Outside of her physical attractiveness, Brice liked her personality. And while he could admire her, nothing else was an option. He took his admiration for her and attempted to bury it in the emotional hole in his heart.
The last time he let a woman get close enough, she’d nearly destroyed him. His chest tightened at the flood of memories. Wincing, he shoved the budding memory aside. He wouldn’t go there. Not here. Never here.
“Are you all right?” Concern made Aerial’s tone rise. She stepped closer, her hand outstretched.
“Don’t touch me!” he warned and pushed his rolling chair back. If Aerial actually connected with him, he didn’t know what he would do. It had been so long since a woman touched his skin, and that time had been with love in one hand and a knife in the other. He shivered, but rolled it into a stretch.
She stepped close, her lips inches from his face. Her forehead crinkled. “Brice…”
“Aerial, where are you?” Tawana called. “Oh, there you are.”
Great. Now Tawana would see him talking to her sister and assume the worse. He hadn’t sought Aerial out, but he steadied himself for the verbal assault Tawana would bring. He went back to crunching the sales invoice numbers. Accounting normally did this type of grunt work, but they were down a person due to Doran Richards’ leaving to work for Carte Seay’s law firm.
“Brice.” Tawana said his name the way most people said curse words. He couldn’t believe she was still angry about Friday night, but when he’d arrived at work today, she’d proved how well she could carry a grudge.
“Ms. Gibson.” He bent over the pages. Aerial stepped back so Tawana could see into the cubicle.
“Okay, T, Brice was just explaining to me how he got my job back at the café. And guess what? Antonio is going to pay me double the wages.” Aerial glanced over her shoulder and winked at him.
Could this woman be for real? What was she trying to do, get Tawana to fire him?
“Oh really?” Tawana quirked an eyebrow. “He didn’t tell me anything about that.”
He stiffened. “What are you talking about?”
“She won’t be upset,” Aerial answered. Her face said
Brice groaned. Trusting her meant he’d have to believe she wouldn’t throw him under the proverbial bus.
“He didn’t want you to think he did it just to appease you. He did it because Antonio was wrong.” Aerial turned to him with a big, happy grin.
“That manager was wrong, so I told him about it. He said he’d hire her back, and I suggested he double her pay,” Brice explained. He felt like he and Aerial were in some sort of conspiracy and parroting each other’s words. How had she managed to suck him in like this?
“Oh, and T, Brice is taking me to dinner on Friday, so no girls night out,” Aerial added.
“Um…what?” Tawana turned back to him with a glower.
He raised his hands in defense. “I didn’t—”
“…have the chance to tell you because you were in a meeting all day,” Aerial interjected. “Besides, I’m thirty years old. Surely, I can date whomever I want without your permission.”
Brice stood up. Aerial again came close to him. Somehow he knew that if he touched her, he’d be consumed with want for her. Tawana lurked just a few feet away. A full-blown battle could ensue if Aerial decided to kiss him. She seemed to understand it, and so did he.
She smiled a secret-knowing grin.
“See you Friday…P.F.Chang’s at Friendly Center. Six o’clock!” She waved bye to him and then took Tawana’s arm. They started back down the aisle.
Agreeing, Brice realized he didn’t know what Aerial meant exactly. Sure, he understood he had to be at Chang’s, but didn’t she understand that the more she pushed, the less likely it was he’d pursue her? He couldn’t give her what she wanted and in the end, she would hate him like all the others.
“Can’t wait, Brice!” she shouted.
Tawana shushed her loudly, but Aerial’s giggling could still be heard long after he could no longer see her.
He watched her leave—again. Somewhere deep inside, sadness rose. The world seemed dimmer.
She only pitied him. Felt sorry for the poor, brooding Brice. Perhaps she liked strays and other unfortunate animals. Cringing at the bitterness in those thoughts, he flung himself back into his chair. He
to doubt her, and dammit, he needed to doubt her if he wanted to keep protecting his heart.
But something in her eyes made him pause.
It just couldn’t be possible.
Aerial really liked him.
Closing his eyes and leaning back in his seat, he let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. Each time he saw Aerial, he felt like he’d been on a speeding rollercoaster ride.
She always left him breathless.
“You’re sure he’s going to be here?” Tawana asked Aerial through the window of her luxury car. With her oversized sunglasses, she looked like a queen bee, but Aerial didn’t tell her that. Jazz poured out of the car’s lowered windows.
In the passenger seat, Chloe applied her favorite red lipstick and nodded at her reflection. The two of them smelled more expensive then the entire Belk perfume counters combined. Dressed in tight black dresses and matching ebony stilettos, they also wore enough diamonds to be considered their own jewelry store.
“Where are you two going again?” Aerial sighed at them.
“Big bash for C.A.K.E senior management, well not a party, but dinner. A few councilmen, senators, and of course Mayor Thatcher are going to be there,” Tawana answered, but her forehead crinkled. She removed her sunglasses and gave her sister the once over. “Are you sure he’s going to be here, because if he stands you up, Tyson is going to have a field day whipping his ass.”
Truth was, Aerial wasn’t sure. Yes, she had a good feeling about the date and Brice in general. She hadn’t spoken to him since Monday when she’d creatively maneuvered him into a date. Calls to his job only left her feeling unfulfilled. His voicemail said he would be out of the office until Thursday. Life didn’t come with absolutes, so she didn’t really know if Brice would be here at all.
Aerial knew that telling Tawana that wouldn’t go over too well. So instead she said, “Oh yeah. He’ll be here.”
“Nope. You hear that, T? Sounds like a whole lot of doubt to me.” Chloe closed the mirror flap and leaned across the gear shift and Tawana. “I will make sure he gets sued if he stands you up.”
“Do you two ever wonder why I’m still single at thirty?” Aerial quipped.
“Hell no. We already know why you’re single at thirty. No need to wonder.” Chloe dissolved into laughter.
Tawana joined in and Aerial couldn’t help but laugh also. From past experience, she knew not to take that joke any further, because asking them to tell their reasons why she was still single would be akin to opening a cage of crocodiles. She also didn’t mention the fact both of them were single too. As the baby in the family, Aerial knew when to talk and when to button it. Picking battles had become a survival skill at her house.
Careful not to smudge her makeup, Tawana wiped her eyes. “You look beautiful, baby sis.”
Aerial nodded. “Thank you. I had help.”
Tawana had done her hair, sweeping her natural curls into a big ponytail at the crown of her head. She secured it with a hair tie, but decorated the hair around the ponytail with diamond-crusted clips. Big gold hoop earrings played off her necklace, a gold choker that came from Chloe. The ivory dress came from Samantha’s. A woman her size had to get things big and tall. The chiffon didn’t squeeze her curves, but gently glided around them. To be honest, the dress didn’t have a ton of fabric. Most of Aerial’s smooth, ebony skin was on display. She wore pumps instead of stilettos. Her long, thick legs were sexy enough without the added height. Overdressed for Chang’s but she wanted to wow Brice. Besides, she liked dressing up.