Authors: Sarah Michelle Lynch
Welcome to the real Chloe Harmon
. Was I bohemian? Alternative? Ghetto? Emo? What? I didn’t want to be branded anything.
I grinned at the receptionist, still repeating my mantra—I wouldn’t be broken by these grim souls, oh no. I’d win the fight no matter what it took.
Try and sack me for crap clothes, then
I got to my desk at 8.40a.m. sharp and felt arriving in good time was an achievement in itself after all the trauma of yesterday. I walked the room and noticed only a few others were already in too, most of whom embraced their coffee cups while they read the news on their monitors or caught up with emails.
When I got to my desk I immediately noticed something on top of my keyboard. The item stopped me in my tracks and I was mesmerized.
A dark-green stem around three-foot long. One leaf that was so waxy it gleamed, sprouting proudly from that fertile stalk. The flower itself was a shade so blood-red it almost oozed pigment and would stain to the touch, I knew. I realised as I stood staring at the rose that people around me might be wondering what was going on, so I quickly hung up my jacket, placed my bag down and took a seat.
I picked the rose up and inhaled its essence, taking it deep into my nostrils. Its scent was rich, clean and fresh. Flowers out of season didn’t normally have such a strong perfume?
I laid it down and wondered,
Who placed it here
? I took a moment to think as I switched on my monitor and loaded up all my systems. I went to the instant messenger server and searched for Cai. He wasn’t online yet so he wasn’t even in the building! I was crazy enough to think it might even be that guy, Kip, who had seemed uninterested—though some guys often used that as a cover. He wasn’t in the building either, though, according to the messenger logs which told me he’d logged out more than 12 hours ago.
I thought hard as I stroked the plethora of layers to the rose, which certainly couldn’t be termed ordinary. It did stain, oozed almost, and to save embarrassment I took a wipe from my bag and absentmindedly refreshed my hands.
It was probably a rare breed, one of those hybrid species. I didn’t know much about flowers but it looked like it came from exotic climes, with as many layers as a carnation or a chrysanthemum. Not a closed bud like those you found in common or garden florists or supermarket bouquets—but a full, open flower with dozens of petals outstretched and curled. A cabbage but not quite. Wild but ordered, too. It was a defiant earthly creation.
I was still… shocked.
To enter the building required a pass card so it had to have been delivered by someone who worked with me. (Though my initial suspects were not in yet so that kind of ruled them out.)
Unless either Cai or Kip had visited the workplace early to stow this here? Though, why would they do that? It was just a rose! A pretty, extraordinary one, true… yet why would someone go to such trouble to hide their affection? It was only my second day of work!
I thought about Klaus. He was the kind of man to go for grand gestures but he liked people to feel his influence, power and privilege. He’d worked for it after all so why shouldn’t he celebrate what his wealth offered him and others?
Then another thought occurred. Was this a practical joke? If someone else saw this rose here, would they start asking questions? Would my already tenuous place in the company be questioned yet more?
Or… did I have a genuine stalker? Might some loner in here have noticed me the day before? I told myself I was being ridiculous. It was just a rose.
Except, clearly it was no ordinary gesture. It wasn’t. You’d pay at least ten to 20 pounds and that would be without the delivery charges.
I knew I didn’t need whatever connotations this held, anyway, so I hid the rose in my satchel underneath my desk, laying it across the top of the main pocket inside so that the bottom of the stem and the rose hung out of either end. I knew it would wither and possibly die without light and water, but truly, that was the fault of the person who’d given it to me.
Why wasn’t I happy to know I had an admirer? I guess because I wasn’t sure that it was the admirer I wanted. Without a note or even a ribbon letting me know its source, I wouldn’t know.
Within moments of me hiding that rose, and still trying to figure out its origin, Kincaid appeared with mugs and his coffee jar. He watched while I opened a few windows on my screen, ready to start work as soon as Trev came over.
“I freaking woke a half hour ago. Missed my alarm… and the fucking gym.” He rubbed his face while I admired his burgundy button-down shirt and black jeans.
Well, hello… Mr Suddenly Casual and Breezy
. “I can trump that… I slept on a fucking inch of foam last night and look like total shit!”
“You do not.” He bit his bottom lip, shaking his head in determined disagreement. While he waited for me to rise from my seat, he held his hand on top of my monitor and pushed his hip into the side of my desk, laying ownership to me it felt like. I saw in his eyes a definite pulse of lust.
I smiled and decided not to bring up the rose, especially if he didn’t bring it up first. Although his shyness meant he might have sent it without…
My thoughts running riot, I took a hold of myself and put that token to the very back of my mind.
In the kitchen, he remarked, “Love what you’re wearing.”
“Yeah?” I was incredulous.
“Really. I do.”
I remembered something else then.
“Let’s hope Perez Hilton loves it too, shall we? I wonder if I should watch
back from now on, hmm?”
I awaited an explanation, hoping my demeanour lent itself to me meaning business. He wasn’t bothered about business though, not going by the look in his eye.
He pulled me toward him, our bodies touching. Front to front. One hand held my cheek and the other my waist.
“I’m struggling… not to touch you.” There was an urgency in his eyes and the way he held me. My heart clapped in my chest. “I wanted to kiss you, but I knew… they’re always watching.”
I instinctively lifted my chin and shut my eyes, drunk on lust. My knees knocked, I couldn’t help it! I was shaking all over. He moved in, his satin lips so gentle against mine, no tongue. Just the beautiful motion of him finding me, communicating he did want me after all. Badly. I melted and left my body in that moment, time standing still as I let him impress his need upon me. What was most startling about it was that I hadn’t expected him to be so tender—for it to be so brief but remarkable. His tactic took my breath, leaving me wanting so much more, though I was entirely satisfied with just his delicate lips near mine. It was the softest kiss of my life and I noticed that when he pulled back, his hands were shaking like they had been the previous night. So, it was just a nerves thing then? I was most certainly single and he also seemed to be, but it did feel forbidden, kissing there in the workplace.
The impression of a brief kiss with Cai… endless.
“You totally don’t see it, do you?” He looked up at the ceiling to take a deep, shaky breath—steadying himself. My fingertips tingled as I stroked his cheek.
“See what?” I looked up into his eyes, taking hold of his hand for a moment. His palms were large and soft, his rough thumb rubbed the inside of my wrist.
“You don’t belong in this world,” he gestured at the office on the other side of the door.
“Hmm. In that case, neither do you,” I winked.
He chuckled. “Look… last night I
a douche, but you don’t know what my life is like,” he breathed, still toying with my hand, his eyes searching my face rapidly. “I’m always
Was the rose from him? Should I ask him?
I decided not. Somehow, it just didn’t seem his style.
Besides, a kiss outweighed a rose.
I pressed forward and licked across his succulent top lip, his hold on my waist beginning to hurt. I was so affected, my knees knocked so hard you could almost hear it.
I felt like a ridiculous schoolgirl.
I scratched my nails through his hair and panted. “It’s okay that you were a douche. Your lips just made up for it.”
He trembled and I saw him taste the trace I left on his lips.
I didn’t need an office romance to complicate my life but he was too gorgeous. There was too much there between us.
We broke apart when we heard the newsroom outside filling rapidly. It was nine on the dot. We continued making coffee like nothing had happened as others came in to use the kitchen facilities. It became crowded but we smiled like we knew,
That could have been close.
We eventually left, going our separate ways, ignoring all the remarks people failed miserably to hide behind our backs.
At my desk I wondered whether he’d mail me but he didn’t. I started to get verbose about what I wanted to say to him, writing emails and then deleting everything. About to pull my hair out, Trev came over and remarked, “Nice to meet you, Chloe.”
In that wise, jaded fashion of his, he plonked himself next to me and we got on with the day. Thoughts of the rose disappeared.
THAT DAY PASSED quicker than the previous. Lunch went by in a blur (without Cai’s presence, he had a few photo runs that day). When the five p.m. toll chimed, I thought I was imagining it. Yet, I’d quite successfully made it through my second day. Though Trev had garbled until my ears bled, I’d actually started writing! Thank god! That made me happier than I could express.
Kincaid landed at my desk before I even started packing my things up.
“Busy day?” I smiled up at him as I began to slide devices into pockets and pouches.
“Great day, actually. It began when…” he looked around, then whispered, “…a woman I’m into let me kiss her.”
“You’re such a boy,” I winked, knowing despite my little remark, I was the one blushing.
“What’re you doing tonight?” he asked with a hopeful smile.
I looked up into his eyes. Sapphire—emerald hues—I wanted to tell him that.
I grimaced and felt uncomfortable telling him, “I have a commitment with my flatmate… she’s in a spot of bother right now otherwise I’d say yes. Rain check for another night?”
He blinked quickly, shrugging it off. “Sure. No problem. I have
Game of Thrones
“I love those books!” I squealed, while under the desk I stuffed that stupid rose deep into my bag, having to fold it as I did.
“Fantasy fiction lover, huh? So far you seem perfect.” He smiled genuinely, and that was perfect. To me.
“I am perfect, you’re right. I must be to have willingly agreed to spend the evening listening to my best friend offloading about her total dick bloke… when there are certainly better things I could be indulging in.”
His hand still propped his body up on the top of my monitor and he nearly toppled my whole desk with the weight of his white-knuckle grip. I could tell it had taken a lot for him to ask me out—then I’d turned him down—but not for any old reason. His beautiful, sorted façade hid the truth of so much I didn’t want to see—a man whose oceanic eyes might mirror the depths of myself.
I felt I had to give him something, at least. “Walk me to Hyde Park?”
He smiled such a cute grin, his lovely mouth curving at one side. “Sure. I could do to stretch my legs anyway.”
“It’s a picturesque route… otherwise trust me, I’d be taking the tube.”
We got out of the building without a problem and I don’t know why, but the walk to the park was spent in silence, yet he held my hand.
Could love affairs (real-life ones) really develop so quickly? You read about them, don’t you? In books. Love at first sight. The couple sleep together on the first date yet their love lasts forever? One glance was all it took, and all that sort of thing…
My heart sang the whole time we walked hand in hand and I felt like a teenager again. Happy just to see him, be with him.
We stepped through the looming park gates and turned a corner. At first I didn’t realise where he was steering me but when we were behind a tree, he pulled me into his arms and walked me backwards. We dropped our bags, my back against the bark. His hands tight on the sides of my head, he tentatively moved in to brush and caress my lips with his.
He suckled my mouth, not afraid of hurting me a little. “Do you want to feel how hard you make me?”
I had a million and one things to tell Kayla when I got home.
“Yes,” I gasped in response.
The first time his tongue licked mine, a wallop of heat hit me right between my thighs, my heart humming into his kiss as he took me. My need was overwhelming, like nothing I had ever felt before. When I put my hands around his shoulders, he lifted me up under my knees and I wrapped my legs around his waist. We didn’t break off for some time, lost, thoughts inconsequential. I forgot I was wearing a skirt, forgot people might see. Our tongues battled and sank, curled and danced, between cheeky nips. He pushed himself against the tights separating my genitals from his and I whispered in his ear, “Rock and I’ll come. I’m roasting.”