Craving My BossBy: Tasha Fawkes
Stewart Beecham is not my boyfriend. He is not my babe. He’s not even this annoying normally—at least, not in this overbearing, socially awkward way that I’m now forced to deal with. Stewart is a pathologist. He’s normally so clinical, so boring and specific… about everything. It’s structure without control; it’s lists upon lists of itemized ways to be intimate with one another, yet at the end of the day they’re all as bland as soft serve vanilla ice cream. No sprinkles, no Gummies, no chocolate or strawberry syrup. Just… boring.
“Well, why don’t you go try to talk to someone who isn’t me?” I grab Stewart by the shoulders and steer him toward the nearest conversation, broadcasting a psychic apology to the two women as I do so. “I need a break. I need… I need to find the bathroom.”
He nods as I thread my way through the revelers, sighing with relief. I need some fresh air. I need—
“I love you!” Stewart hollers.
Oh God. I stiffen with another bout of mortification as I dart from the room. Just outside the doorway in the hall, I realize that the heels I wore aren’t made for darting, and my left ankle buckles. I barely manage to catch my balance as I keep moving. I manage to make it out of the hallway and into my small office. I slam the door closed and lean against it, eyes closed, shaking my head.
I breathe a heavy sigh of relief into the cool, familiar darkness of my safe harbor. I took on way too much tonight, and what for? So I could try to impress a man who couldn’t even be bothered to show to his own company party? I try to muster some anger at Daniel Stone as I move to my desk and collapse down into the chair, but all I really feel is aching disappointment.
I let my mind drift to him now. I imagine him finding me here, alone in my office, sheathed in the bright red dress I had rented out for the evening—the one that sober Stewart had called outlandish. But I knew what I wanted. Red is the color that signals passion louder than all the rest. Daniel would know this. He wouldn’t be able to tear his eyes from me—or keep them from falling, lower, lower, even as he asked me what was wrong…
I open my laptop and have the Word document pulled up before I realize what I’m doing. The glow from the screen is comforting, my characters familiar, keeping me company. The hero would never skip a party when he knew the heroine would be in attendance. He would never be able to overlook her to begin with.
I’m halfway through a revision of an earlier scene—really an expansion into a passionate sex scene, the hero and heroine seizing a much-needed break in the plot’s drama to relieve the tension that’s built between them—when the door to my office eases open.
I know better than to freak out now like I did the last time. My fingers pause above the keyboard, and I raise my eyes to the intruder. Stewart enters and grabs the chair from Tory’s desk and pulls it closer to mine. He smells sweetly-sour, like the champagne he’s been drinking all evening. His eyes shimmer, but his expression is sober.
“What’s up, Stewart?” I push my laptop to the side, but leave it open to let him know he’s interrupting something I intend to finish. He gazes at me from beneath his shaggy brown hair, and I’m not sure he’s noticed my signal. It wouldn’t be the first time.
“I want to talk about us,” he says, point blank. “I think it’s time to put a name to what we are. I love you, Ash.”
“I… know that you’ve said that before.” I wince at my own indelicate response. “But I’m happy with what we are. I don’t see why we have to give it a name.”
“You’re avoiding having this conversation.” Stewart frowns.
My eyes narrow.
“Maybe because the depth of your feelings for me makes you uncomfortable? I know you’ve had relationships in the past, Ash, but how meaningful were they, really?”
I gaze at him in disbelief. “Yes. I’ve had relationships.” And maybe I thought they meant something at the time, but now I can see how hopelessly lacking they all were. That’s the whole reason I resisted becoming anything more with Stewart from the beginning. I thought I was finally waking up to what I wanted, but now I feel that Stewart is trying to lull me back to sleep. Complacency. I shake my head.
“I just want you to know it’s okay to feel like you want to settle down with me, Ash,” Stewart continues.
He leans across the desk and takes my hand in his. I let him. Usually I’m encouraged by any lead he decides to take, no matter how small. But not this time. I wait.
“So, let’s settle down together. I’m drunk, but you know what I mean. Let’s settle. Be boyfriend and girlfriend.”