I’ve had one of the longest days that I can remember, but it’s not really that late in the evening. I walk into my building at six o’clock, but it feels like today just dragged. I was distracted by Sophie again today, and it felt like I couldn’t get any work accomplished. I decided, after I’d read the same document a dozen times, to call it a day and just go home.
As I walk through the lobby, I wave hello to the doorman and head to the elevator. I’m not paying attention to what I’m doing, so when I hear a familiar sweet giggle, I jerk my head up and look around for Sophie.
My heart stops as I see her in front of the elevator with a man. After a second I recognize him as Bryan, one of the tenants on the third floor. He’s nice enough, always says hello, but in this moment I hate him.
She smiles up at him, and he leans in close to her. Too fucking close for me. I feel a rumble in my chest and I realize I’m growling at the sight. Fucking growling. I didn’t even know I could growl until Sophie entered my life. They aren’t touching, but something about seeing her smile at someone else makes my blood boil. My words from earlier play back in my head: go find yourself a nice young boy. I didn't think she would do it so fast, but who was I kidding? Innocent little Sophie will have all kinds of men chomping at the bit to get a taste of her. A taste that I turned down. Fuck, I should get a goddamn medal for that shit.
Suddenly, Sophie turns and sees me. It’s as if she senses I’m near. For a second she looks contrite, like she’s been caught doing something she knows she’s not supposed to. But it’s only for a moment and then it’s gone. She turns back to Bryan and laughs at whatever it is he says. As she laughs, she reaches out and touches his arm. Before I realize what I’m doing, I’m in motion, heading towards them.
“Mr. Archer, good to see you,” Bryan says as he extends his hand to me.
I take his hand in mine and squeeze much harder than I should. I see a pained look on his face, but I don’t let go.
“I see you’ve met my Sophie.”
He glances over at her and then back at me, trying to pull his arm back. I reluctantly let it go, and I see him spread his fingers out, as if trying to get the blood flow back.
“Yes, I was just showing her around the area a bit after lunch, and we got caught up talking.”
“So kind of you,” I say, letting it drip with sarcasm. I practically gave her to him on a fucking silver platter. I should have told her she was too young for anyone. What possessed me to tell her to go find someone her own age is beyond me. I had bitten the words out this morning, thinking it was for the best, but it’s clear I worded it wrong. While she is staying with me there will be no boys. I’m sure it will take her months to find a new place. Maybe, with time, these feelings I have for her will lessen, and it won’t bother me to see her talking to other men.
I turn to Sophie and take her by the arm. “We’re late for dinner.”
“Good to see you again, Bryan,” I say, walking into the waiting elevator and pulling Sophie with me. Once inside, I hit the ‘close doors’ button, not allowing Bryan to join us. He just stands there with his mouth open a little but no one says a word. I give him a look that screams back the fuck off. I’m sure he understands.
When the doors close I punch in the code for the penthouse.
“That was so embarrassing.” She tries to pull away from the grip I still have on her arm, but I’m not letting go. I’m not sure I could if I tried. Her skin feels like silk against my fingers. No, it’s softer than silk. I’m not even sure there is a word for it.
“He was just trying to get in your pants. You’re lucky I interrupted you,” I tell her, trying to make it seem like I did her a favor. To be honest, Bryan is probably a great guy. I haven't seen him coming and going with random women, but I don’t care. She’s mine for the next week. My responsibility for the next week, I mentally correct myself. Maybe even longer if she can’t find her own place. Actually, after what happened downstairs it would be better if she stayed here longer. Maybe until she goes off to college. It might even be best if she just stayed here while she goes to school. It’s clear she needs me, I try to convince myself