“I don’t know. I have a lot of work to do…” Her voice trailed off. I wasn’t sure if she was playing hard to get or if she was truly uninterested in going out with me, even at a work function with other employees.
“I know this great place to eat,” I told her. “It’s a little sports bar around the corner. It’s a nice day out. We can walk there, plus it will give us some time away from these looming deadlines.”
She looked up at me with her big green eyes. A smile formed on her face.
“Fine,” she said. “You talked me into it.”
I wasn’t sure what exactly I said that changed her mind, but I was glad that I was able to.
* * *
A few hours later, Maurice, Nikki, Tiffany, and I were walking to the bar. Nikki and Tiffany were laughing about an encounter with another co-worker as we approached the sports bar. Tiffany suddenly stopped laughing and her face fell.
“Something wrong?” I asked. She had obviously been here before. Perhaps she had a bad experience with the wait staff or the food?
“Nothing,” she said, faking a smile. “I’m fine.”
Maurice and Nikki didn’t seem to notice her change of mood, so I brushed it off. Perhaps it really was nothing. I’d to quit overanalyzing her every look and word. We walked inside and grabbed a high-top near the window.
“You ladies can thank me for this lunch,” Maurice announced dramatically. “Fantasy football winner of the week!”
I playfully punched him on the shoulder.
“I’m just thankful to get out of that office,” Nikki admitted. “No offense to you guys, but sometimes that place is so boring.”
“Nah, I get it. I actually started as a fact checker before I worked my way up to managing editor,” I explained.
Tiffany’s eyes grew wide.
“You did?” she asked. I nodded.
“I sure did,” I responded. “We all have to start somewhere. Who knows, you may be taking my job before I know it!”
“I could never do your job,” she said.
“I just couldn’t,” she said. “You do a great job. You’re confident and take charge at the meetings. For starters, I could never stand in front of everyone, including our boss, and give a presentation.”
I was flattered. It turned out she had noticed me, but I was still confused by her own lack of confidence. Someone that gorgeous should not have been as timid and insecure as she was. What or who caused her to be that way?
The rest of lunch went by rather uneventful. Maurice and Nikki seemed to hit it off much easier than Tiffany and me. Once we had covered my past working history, mine and Tiffany’s conversation had died down considerably. I desperately tried to keep her talking, but her short answers were preventing our conversation from taking off again. She kept looking around the bar with a mix of sadness and nervousness.
“Have you been here before?” I asked. She shook her head.
“No,” she replied. She said it in such a tone that I knew not to pry any further. She obviously did not want to discuss whatever had happened here. I decided to ask her about work instead. I knew that would be a safe topic.
“How do you like your job so far?”
“I guess it’s okay,” she admitted. “As Nikki said, it has moments where it’s less than exciting, but that is part of the position, right?”
I nodded in agreement as I took a sip of my iced tea.
“Well, I hope you know that you are doing a great job,” I complimented her. She blushed.
“It’s an easy job,” she said. “Anyone can do it.”
There it was again – the insecurity. It seemed like she had no confidence in herself, despite being one of the best fact checkers that I’d ever worked with. She was much smarter and more thorough than Nikki.
“It isn’t that easy of a job,” I replied. “You should really give yourself more credit.”
She shrugged. We would obviously have to work on this confidence thing.
We left the restaurant and headed back to the office. Despite being December, the Miami sun was still very hot.
“I wish we could skip work and go to the beach,” I said to Tiffany. Nikki and Maurice were a good fifteen feet ahead of us.
“I haven’t been to the beach in so long,” Tiffany said.
“What? We live in Miami! You’re supposed to live at the beach.”
She wrinkled her nose.
“I know, it’s just, I guess it lost its appeal after a while.”
Her response baffled me. I’d moved to Miami a few years ago from New York and one of the main reasons was because of the beautiful beaches. Compared to up north, Miami was an endless summer.
“We should all go sometime,” I said. “Maybe one day we can leave the office early and call it a ‘team-building’ exercise?”
She did not seem impressed by this idea. Once again, she was caught up by the thoughts inside of her head.
“I have a lot on my plate right now,” she said. “Sorry, but the beach is a no-go for me. Nikki and Maurice will probably go with you, though.”
* * *
Once we reached our building, Nikki and Tiffany headed toward their office and Maurice followed me back to mine.
“I can’t figure that girl out!” I exclaimed as soon as I shut my office door. Maurice let out a hearty laugh.
“Aww, is Pretty Boy Cayden having trouble with the new girl?”
“It’s so frustrating, man!” I said. It really was. I’d tried everything that worked on girls before – asking them to the beach, complimenting them, asking questions about their lives. Nothing I said or did seemed to penetrate the shields that Tiffany had put up.
“Is she just not into me?” I asked. “I mean, tell me the truth. Did she seem interested in me at lunch today?”
“I can ask Nikki tomorrow night, we actually have a date.”
Of course, Maurice had a date. All he had to do was acknowledge Nikki and she was putty in his hands. Why couldn’t Tiffany be like that with me?
“Congratulations,” I said, slightly jealous. I wasn’t jealous that he was going out with Nikki, but rather that he was getting somewhere with a co-worker and I wasn’t.
“Tiffany is pretty hot,” Maurice said. “I never really noticed it until today. She looks like she would probably be really good in bed, too.”
“Come on, with a body like that, you know you’ve thought about it. She has those Ashley Graham vibes going on.”
Truthfully, I’d thought about what it would be like to be with Tiffany. Her luscious lips on mine, her body on top of mine in my bed… I’d to stop. I couldn’t get turned on in the middle of the day at work. I shook the dirty thoughts from my head as quickly as they had entered.
“I just don’t get it,” I said. “I’m a good guy, unlike half of these men here. I have a nice car and I could take her out anywhere she wanted to go. We work together, and we get along here, so why wouldn’t we get along outside of work? Why is she not interested in me?”
Maurice sighed as he took a seat on the other side of my desk.
“Bro, just keep trying,” he advised. “Maybe she had a bad breakup or something. I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that it has something to do with you. Come on, I know you have got a bit of that Cayden Lewis charm left to spread. You just need to show her that you’re different than whoever fucked her up.”
Maurice did have a point, I’d never considered that she might have recently gone through a breakup. Maybe she was interested in me, but was scared to get hurt again? I knew that feeling well. I’d experienced it in high school after my one and only real girlfriend dumped me for a college guy. It took a long time to get over that one. I would have to casually ask Nikki if she knew about Tiffany’s past.
I decided to take my mind off Tiffany by looking at Austin’s Christmas list. I pulled my son’s wish list out of my desk, smiling as I saw his messy four-year-old renditions of what he wanted for Christmas. I couldn’t believe the holiday was coming so quickly. I’d tried to ignore that it was fast approaching, but I could only put it out of my head for so long.