Page 2 of Tripping on a Halo

“Dec?”

He turned away from the view.

Nate held open the door to his office, his brow raised. “You coming?”

“Yeah.” He followed his partner out into the lobby, attempting to focus on their upcoming meeting. The client was coming in from New York City to review their proposal for a sprawling business complex. They were one of three firms up for the job and needed this one. The market crash hadn’t been good for business, especially for a new company still trying to find its legs and market share.

Purple People Eaters? Is that what she’d said?

“You got the presentation?” Nate asked.

“Yeah.” Nate pulled open the door of the conference room, and Declan got a glimpse of the client. Benta Aldrete. A thirty-year-old tech exec who had already verbally roasted Nate over their initial proposal. This was their second meeting with her, and the callback had increased their optimism. He reached in his pocket and withdrew the flash drive, confident about their design.

“We designed the second floor as an open workspace—one where your remote employees could work when they are in town, but also where you could meet with clients, or in small teams.” Nate turned away from the screen and flashed a smile at the woman. It was a lost cause. Nate had turned on the charm at every opportunity and gotten absolutely nowhere with the exotic beauty.

“A flex space,” Declan added, zooming in on the area.

“Right.” Nate nodded. “This would solve the need for workspaces without having to chop up the floorplan. And the private rooms here…” he pointed to the edge of the plan. “And here—that would still give you small places for quiet or privacy if…”

What Declan couldn’t figure out was what had brought this stalker into his life. The Purple People Eater episode hadn’t been her first crazy moment. There’d also been the outburst at Chipotle, and at Trader Joe’s. And those had been the major events. Just as alarming were the minor sightings. Her hidden behind big sunglasses and mixed in among the wives at his softball game. Her ducking in between cars in the Target parking lot. Reports from the reception desk of a blonde’s repeated attempts to get up to his office.

“…the structure of the complex.” Nate finished, glancing at Declan. He nodded and tried to find their place in the presentation. Nate waited for him to pick up the reins, and then continued on. Declan straightened in his seat and vowed to focus.

How did this woman pay for things? She seemed available, twenty-four hours a day, to stalk him. Didn’t she work? Hell, he could have sworn he saw her in the airport in West Virginia, a glimpse of her platinum-blonde hair swinging out of view just before he grabbed his suitcase from the baggage claim carousel.

Nate flipped to the next slide, showing the building’s elevation, the tech complex modern and airy, full of glass and color—everything the client had wanted. They should have a good shot at the contract, especially given their design pricing, which was well below industry average.

He pushed back from the table and stood, coming to stand next to Nate, their heights almost identical. Nate’s last girlfriend had dubbed them the two Archihotties—an unoriginal nickname she’d driven into the ground. Thank God that had ended, but the nickname had stuck, popping into his head whenever he joined Nate.

Declan pointed to the proposed courtyard, in the middle of the U-shaped structure. “You’d wanted an area for employees to eat lunch or work outside. The beauty of this courtyard is in its hidden shade. There are retractable screens built into these overhangs. If weather hits or the sun is too bright?” He nodded to Nate and the screen changed, a video playing, showing the extensions at work. Benta smiled, her first positive response, and Declan felt relief flood his chest.

He and Nate would get the account.

And he would figure out a way to lose his stalker.

3

“It’s just that you’re so normal in every other way.” Ansley peered at me over the lid of her coffee.

I snorted. “I am normal.”

“You used to be normal,” she countered. “But ever since this all began, you’ve turned completely abnormal. Pretty certifiable. I was talking to Roger yesterday—”

“About me?” I interrupted. “Oh God. Please don’t.”

“He’s a professional.” She set down her foam cup and gave me the serious look, the one she normally reserved for deep conversations about funeral preparations or civil unrest in Nicaragua. “And he’s one of the only people I know who wouldn’t haul you off to a crazy bin.”

“Dr. E hasn’t hauled me off to a crazy bin.”

“Which, quite honestly, amazes me. He was a total dick with me.”

I eyed the cupcake on her plate. “Are you going to eat that? I think the one they gave me was undersized.”

She pulled the glittery confection closer to her. “Anyway, Roger thinks this is an attempt to distract yourself from Mom’s death.”

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