“What part of Florida?” I ask.
“Orlando,” she replies with a wrinkle of the nose. “I left one hot, humid city for another.”
“What were you thinkin’?” Suzanne asks with a laugh. “I think we’re going to try to take the kids to Disney World next year.”
And just like that, the subject is redirected from me, and I sit in silence and listen while I nibble my sandwich and chips and sip my diet soda.
My phone is vibrating in my handbag as I push my way into my loft after a long day in the office. I drop my keys and briefcase on the kitchen table and dig out the phone, grinning when I see Van’s name on the caller ID.
“Hey, boss lady.”
“How was your first day, dear?” I can hear the smile in her voice.
“Pretty much the usual. Choose forty-five different passwords, each with a different number, symbol, and the blood of a virgin, then gossip about the boss, not my boss, mind you, and the two assistants having an affair three offices over, learn how to make the boss his coffee, and walk home in the sweltering heat in a suit jacket.”
“So, it wasn’t boring then,” she replies dryly, as I eye the boxes that were delivered this afternoon and are now stacked in my living room.
“Nope, not boring.” Tedious, long, and I wanted to poke my own eye out with something hot and sharp, but not boring. “I just got home.”
“Do you like the loft?” I can hear Lance’s voice in the background, asking Van something about where his golf glove is, to which she says no.
“It’s really beautiful. I love the balcony off the bedroom. I think I’ll have some wine out there before bed tonight. My stuff arrived today.”
“Good. Settle in and make yourself at home. Do you want to have breakfast in my office in the morning? You could come the same time as today and I’ll have everything ready.”
“Sneaky breakfast, I like it.” I grin and sigh happily. I missed her. “You don’t mind going in that early?”
“Pshaw, no. I usually show up that early every day. This will be a much better start to my day.”
I bite my lip to keep from asking her why she shows up to work before seven in the morning every day, because I already know.
I wish she’d talk about it, but I know she won’t. Maybe one night I’ll ply her with a bottle of wine and get her to unload on me.
“Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow morning then.”
“It’s a date. ‘Night.”
“’Night,” I reply and end the call, then order in pizza and put the bottle of wine I bought on my way home from work into the fridge on my way to the bathroom for a long, cool shower.
It’s bloody hot outside.
I need to start dressing in layers for work, with something light under my jackets, so I’m not so damn hot by the time I get home.
The shower is cool and rejuvenates me. Just when I’m pulling on my shorts and a tank top, the doorbell rings.
Thank God, I’m starving.
I carry the pizza to the kitchen, grabbing my iPad on the way, pour myself a glass of wine, then decide screw it and tuck the whole bottle under my arm and walk through my bedroom to the balcony. There is a small wrought iron table with two comfortable, plush chairs out here, and I settle in to watch the sun set and the people wander through the Quarter on their way home from work or walking their dogs, tourists wandering.
It’s like a moving painting, never the same, but familiar. The person who owns the herb shop below me must have got some fresh lavender in today, because the smell is brighter and lovelier than yesterday.
I prop my feet up on the unused chair and nibble on a slice of pizza and sip my wine, perfectly content to stay right here until bedtime.
“Did you get my flowers?”
I turn my head to the left, and there is my neighbor, Eli, sitting in a similar chair, only about ten feet away. And, instantly, I’m pulled toward him in the most elemental way possible.
Which is ridiculous. He’s only a man.
“I didn’t hear you come outside,” I reply.
“You were too busy munching on that pizza and looked about a million miles away.” He props his feet up, laces his fingers behind his head, and flashes me a smile that I feel all the way to my core.
Does he have to be this handsome? Seriously?
I take a sip of my wine, finishing the glass, and refill it.
“Have you had dinner?” I ask.
“Here.” I pass the pizza box over the ornate railing that separates our balconies. “I have lots of food.” Then I fill my glass and pass him the bottle of wine as well. “But only one glass.”
He stands and disappears into his house, then quickly returns with his own glass and flashes me that heart-stopping smile as he reclaims his seat and takes a big bite of pizza.
“This is good.”
“Hilary said they were the best in the neighborhood,” I inform him.
“Who’s Hilary?” He frowns in confusion, making me grin.
“The woman whose position I took. She trained me today.”
“So, it went well then?” His gaze is sober, and if I’m not mistaken, concerned, making me soften toward him even more.
“It did. No problems.”
“Good.” He chews on his crust and tilts his head at me. “Did you get my flowers?”
I nod slowly. “Why did you send them?”
He opens his mouth to answer, and then chuckles and shakes his head. “I’m not sure. It just felt like the right thing to do.”
“Because you kissed me?”
His smile fades as he watches me over the railing, and I know that the replay of yesterday is running through his head just like it is mine. “No.”
“Did you kiss me because Van told you not to?”
He narrows his eyes in temper, his jaw ticking, and then simply says, “No.”
“The kiss or the flowers?”
“The flowers.” I can figure out the kiss on my own. It’s called chemistry, and we’ve got it in spades.
He frowns and looks into his wine glass. “I don’t know.”
“That’s…not helpful.” I chuckle and offer him another slice of pizza, which he declines with a shake of the head.
“Well, I don’t want you to lie to me.”
“I’ve been asking myself why all day. And the only thing I can come up with is, I like you, and I wanted you to have a good day.”