Connor dropped me at the office after a mostly silent ride back, save Daniel’s promise to let me know about what time to come into the campaign headquarters so I could meet with the staff there. I made a mental note of it and spent the rest of the drive staring out the window, feeling my life slipping away.
I walked in to find Risa pulled up next to James’s desk, smiling and chatting away while he shifted his focus uncomfortably between his computer screen and her. Something about it set me off.
“Risa, can I speak with you?”
She sat up straight, as if I’d broken the spell between them that existed only in her mind. She followed me back to the office.
“This needs to stop,” I said bluntly, unable to soften my delivery.
“This thing you have for James. We can’t have these kinds of distractions. I need you focused on work, not spending half the day at his desk flirting.”
“I don’t know what you mean.” She frowned and tucked her hair behind her ear nervously.
“I know we don’t have an official policy on relationships in the office, because frankly I didn’t foresee that being an issue, but now that it is, I see why companies put these things in place. Set your sights on someone else. I need him working and I need you focused.”
Her jaw snapped shut and her face turned beet red. I couldn’t tell if she was more embarrassed or angry, but calling her out had taken her completely off guard. I’d brushed her off before, but never reprimanded her directly like this. I simply didn’t have the patience to dance around it anymore. Not today.
“What about you and Blake?”
I’d been pent up with wanting to tell Daniel what I really thought about him for the better part of two hours. I really should have picked a better time to speak with her, but here we were. I spoke slowly, trying to maintain my composure.
“He’s an investor, not an employee, and my relationship with him isn’t any of your business.”
She pursed her lips and tapped her toe on the floor.
“Okay, let’s move on. Any updates?” I said, hoping to neutralize the tension and get back to work.
She stared at me for a second before taking in a deep breath.
“I’m attending a fundraiser on Saturday. It’s for a foundation that supports tech education for inner-city kids. Max thought it might be good for us to have a presence there.”
“Sure, that sounds like something we could get behind.”
“I thought so too, but I wasn’t sure if donations were in the budget or not.”
“I’m sure we can pull something together.”
“Great, just let me know and I’ll make the arrangements.”
“That might be the type of event that I would attend, you know.”
I tried not to be offended at her surprised look.
“I didn’t realize that. You seem really distracted lately. I didn’t want to bother you with it. I know you have other things you could be doing, and the networking thing is my job. Sorry, I guess I should have asked you about it.”
“It’s fine. I’ve had a lot going on.”
“Did you want to come? I can call Max and try to get an extra ticket.”
I considered the offer for a moment. I hadn’t been beyond Marie’s or the office in a while. The idea of mingling with people when I was still feeling so fucked up was a little petrifying, but I could use the distraction. If nothing else, networking was better than being alone with my thoughts.
“I think I would, actually. Might be a nice change of pace.”
“All right. I’ll see what I can do.” She gave me a tight smile and left briskly.
I sighed inwardly, thankful that we’d talked a little. She was pissed, but I didn’t want tension between us to affect work. And heaven knew I’d been a walking disaster for the past couple weeks. I only knew what it felt like on the inside. I couldn’t imagine how I was being perceived on the outside, and most of the time I didn’t really care. So much was up in the air right now. Tiptoeing around people’s feelings at work wasn’t something I had energy for.
The rest of the day went along quickly. I ignored the marketing plan that Daniel had given me. I cared enough about my work to know I’d take a genuine interest in the contents of the document. That was exactly what he wanted, and I couldn’t handle the idea of catering to his wants right now. He’d ruined my relationship with Blake, and I was determined to delay becoming part of the Fitzgerald political machine as long as possible.
I stopped in at the apartment to find something suitable to wear for the event. I hadn’t packed formalwear in my mad dash to leave, and Marie and I couldn’t really share clothes with our body types.
Being in the apartment again seemed strange. I hadn’t made any effort to find a new place, though. Not as if I’d had much time, but deep down I also couldn’t imagine being anywhere else yet. Marie’s spare room was fine. A place to try to sleep, and at least I wasn’t alone there. I couldn’t bring myself to think about starting over someplace new though.
I put my rent check on the counter for Sid. Out of habit, I started to clean up the small messes that had accumulated.
“You don’t need to do that.”
Cady walked out of Sid’s room in a long T-shirt that seemed to swallow her up. She looked tired and content as she padded into the kitchen to help me. Her spiky frosted blond hair was pushed every which way.
I turned to put some dishes in the sink, hiding a grin. Sid was making a girl tired and content. Go him.
“I don’t mind,” I said.
“I’m not sure how Sid would survive without someone taking care of him.” She laughed.
“No kidding. Guys…”
We made quick work of it and she picked up the rent check, glancing up at me.
“You plan on coming back sometime?”
I hesitated. Sure, she was Sid’s girlfriend, but she was also Blake’s assistant. I could almost guarantee that anything I said to her would make its way back to him.
“No plans to, but I haven’t found a new place yet.”
She gave me a sympathetic smile. “That’s too bad. I’m sure Sid will miss having you around.”
“Maybe. He has you now though.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t think he’s the only one who misses you.”
I grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and drank some of it down, not acknowledging those last words.