It was as if she was running away from something, and work had become her panacea. That was no doubt good news for the company, but if she continued as she were, Ms. Jones would eventually run herself ragged and end up in the E.R. sometime soon.
A while later, he saw her rise from her seat and start swaying on her feet –
Gareth made up his mind at that.
She snapped to attention, her back automatically straightening. “Yes, Mr. Evans?” Blank blue eyes gazed back at him.
“What the fuck happened to you?”
Pippi blinked. “I’m sorry, Mr. Evans. I’m afraid I don’t quite understand.” But she was lying, and they both knew it. The truth was, she was still in shock, but it wasn’t like she could tell him that. He would ask why if she did, and what was there to say?
I’m in shock because I think Acheron Simonides had low-key dumped me over the phone? She hadn’t even realized that kind of breakup could exist until she had personally experienced it, and even now a part of her remained reeling. Things couldn’t be over between them. It just couldn’t. Right?
Pippi jerked in shock at her boss’ curt tone, and her cheeks colored when his frowning gaze made her realize she had spaced out on him. “I’m s-sorry, Mr. Evans—” The impatient shake of Gareth’s head silenced her even as Pippi’s embarrassment grew. Lud, lud, lud. Why did she always end up acting unprofessional in this man’s presence?
“You’re not yourself,” Gareth stated calmly. “That much is obvious—” He saw her start to protest and shut her up with a warning look. “Don’t bother denying it, Ms. Jones. Right now, the only thing I’ve to figure out is why.” His gaze turned thoughtful as he considered her pale face and the dark circles under her eyes. “You had a fight with your boyfriend perhaps?”
Ex, Pippi thought numbly. Make that ex-boyfriend, Mr. Evans.
Gareth’s gaze narrowed. “Did he dump you?” The flash of pain in Pippi’s blue eyes was answer enough, and he winced, realizing he could’ve afforded to be a bit more tactful. “I apologize, Ms. Jones. I know I could’ve worded that better.”
Pippi managed to pull up a smile for her boss’ sake. “There’s nothing to be sorry for, sir. A better phrasing won’t change reality.”
“If it’s any consolation, I think he’s an idiot to have dumped you.” A pause. “And you know what they say about getting over heartbreak…”
Pippi blinked. “Actually, I don’t.”
“The best way to get over an old flame is to find a new one,” Gareth murmured.
“So if you ever require my assistance in that sense…”
The words threw her off, and Pippi choked.
Gareth’s lips curved at the sound. “That’s better. Laughter suits you more, Ms. Jones.” His voice turned brisk. “That said, you’re dismissed for the day.”
“Mr. Evans!” Pippi’s lips twitched even as she felt torn between amusement and exasperation. “Giving me time off isn’t always the answer, you know.”
“Why can’t it?” Gareth’s broad shoulders lifted in a shrug. “It worked the first time, didn’t it?”
“Do you know,” he mused out loud, “you’re the only employee I know who actually complains about getting more downtime from work.”
The words made her realize just how silly she was acting, and a rueful smile touched her lips. “I’m sorry. I know I’m acting like an ungrateful witch…”
Gareth’s eyes laughed at her. “You’re an adult now, Ms. Jones. I doubt anyone would freak out if you said the word ‘bitch’ out loud.”
Her lips pursed, and she couldn’t help sounding defensive as she said, “I just don’t like saying it.”
That she truly meant it and wasn’t faking being prim and proper made Ms. Jones all the more attractive to his eyes, and Gareth had to mentally shake his head, thinking once again that only an idiot would let go of such a prize.
“May I give you some unsolicited advice, Ms. Jones?”
“Of course, sir.” But the way her lovely face had turned blank told him that a part of her already knew what he was about to say.
No matter, Gareth thought. People had a tendency to ignore what wasn’t being said, and this unfortunately appeared true in Pippi’s case.
“I’m not sure what happened to make you forget the truth,” he said quietly, “but you’re much stronger than this. You’ve never struck me as the type to mope and let things happen, and I don’t like being proven wrong.”
A shaky smile made its way to Pippi’s lips at her boss’ words. “So what you’re basically saying is…I should either move on or make things happen…for your sake?”
Gareth released a mock sigh of relief. “Thank God you’re done acting like an idiot.”
Pippi was still shaking her head in rueful amusement as she boarded the half-crowded elevator. As it sped down, she lifted her gaze absently, taking note of the other passengers. Most of them were wives of the company’s board members, and she vaguely remembered about a luncheon on the same day that was exclusive to Simonides Incorporated’s higher-ups.