Me: About tonight, sorry, I can’t make it. Something came up with work and I have to stay late.

I send the text message and wait for a response before I get back to work, but nothing comes. The silence is very un-Oz-like. He’s always quick to respond, and when I don’t respond to him fast enough, he’s sending another message or calling.

I wait a few more moments and think maybe he got caught up with work, so I put my phone into my bag and take a sip of the coffee sitting on my desk. I smile, thinking of this morning. I’m mystified as to how he knew the way I like my coffee.

I let myself fall into my work, wanting to get everything they added to my pile done. Eric was already slowing us down. I tried to show him each time he messed up where the problem was but he seemed more interested in me fixing it.

“Mallory.” Linda says my name, and I sit up straight like I’ve been caught doing something bad. I turn around and see her coming out of her office again, her face a little pinched.

“I won’t be needing you after all.”

“Oh.” I don’t understand why she seems upset. Maybe she isn’t happy with something I did. “It’s quite fine. I’m more than happy to help,” I tell her, trying to reassure her. I don’t want everyone else working late and I’m not.

“No, no, I’m sure Skyler and Eric can handle it.”

I see Skyler looking at us, probably wondering the same thing I am. Why don’t I have to help?

“Ma’am, I’d really like to stay and help them.” I’m a little panicked, like I did something wrong. Why is she cutting me out?

She doesn’t answer me for a second, almost like she’s thinking about it. Then she lets out a breath, like she’s giving up.

“I’m sorry. I meant I won’t need any of you tonight. We can get them finished tomorrow.” With that, she turns and leaves.

Skyler and I look at each other as if to say what was that? Then Eric comes strolling back from lunch.

“We’re not working late now,” Skyler informs him.

“Nice,” he responds, sitting down in his chair.

I sit back down at my desk, thinking how weird that was, but then I get excited and reach into my bag, picking up my phone to text Oz after letting Paige know my change of plans.

Me: Never mind. I don’t have to work late. Can’t wait for dinner!

His response is instant this time.

Oz: I’m counting the seconds.

Me: I’ll text you when I’m out front. I really need to get back to work. xoxox.

Oz: Eat your lunch first. See you soon, baby. xxx.

Chapter Nine


* * *

The rest of my day is spent elbow-deep in reports. We may not have had to stay late, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a stack of work to be done. I refrain from checking my phone throughout the day as I try to focus on work. I know that the second he sends something, I’ll spend an hour melting over it. He’s so charming it makes me ache.

I can’t believe what I did in the car with him this morning. Every time it crosses my mind, the blush burns my cheeks. I’ve never done anything like that with a boy before, but Oz most definitely isn’t a boy. No, he’s all man, head to toe.

Caught up in the moment, I’d let myself be taken away by desire, and it felt completely wonderful. Although Oz and I don’t know much about each other, there’s something happening between us. He’s sweet and intense, but I’m pulled to him like nothing I’ve ever felt before. He’s nearly a stranger on paper, because there’s not much I know about him. But the more I get to know, the more I like him. And isn’t that what dating is for? To get to know each other while having a good time? I’m sure I should be more worried about the fact that I’m so eager to get to know him, but I’m going with my gut. Although I don’t have any frame of reference and no real starting point, all I’ve ever really wanted in a man is someone who loves me and treats me well. Maybe Oz can be that.

“I’m headed out. See you girls tomorrow.”

I lean back out of my cubicle and watch Eric’s back retreat from our desks. I look over to see Skyler standing up and watching the same thing.

“That little shit is getting on my last nerve,” she says, and I can’t hide my smile. She looks down at me and shrugs a shoulder. “I’m finishing this last one up, and then I’m calling it a day. Want to grab a drink afterward?”

“Oh, I’d love to, but I’ve got plans.” I’m disappointed because Skyler seems like fun. And she doesn’t seem like the type of girl to ask if she doesn’t mean it. “What about Friday?”