During the meal, we talk about each other’s families. I learn more about Keon and Enna. His parents have passed, that’s why he’s so close with his brother. I tell him about my family, how they live miles away so I don’t see them as often as I should. I moved out when I was eighteen, I’m used to living alone.
When we’ve finished, we clear the table and move into the living room. I pour us both a glass of wine and we get comfortable on the sofa. There’s no need to put the television on, we’re still deep in conversation. I hesitate and run my finger around the rim of my wine glass.
“The day I twisted my ankle in the gym was the day after Mark and I had broken up. That’s why he came round later on to get his things,” I tell him.
He hasn’t asked about our relationship or why it ended, but I can see that he’s curious to know. I would be, too. If you are potentially getting into a relationship with someone, it’s good to know why their last one ended. I proceed to tell him how different Mark and I were, how we got together during university and how we’ve both changed so much that we aren’t the same people anymore.
Braxton listens, like really listens to every word. He asks questions about what we first like together and how we’ve changed, why I didn’t leave him before, etc. He’s genuinely interested in my answers, and I like that.
After pretty much hearing about the last five years of my life, I try to turn the topic back onto Braxton, but he keeps asking questions. I decide to ask some of my own and voice my own fears.
“I’ll admit, Braxton, I like you,” I tell him. I don’t dare look him in the eye and I’m playing with the stem of my wine glass. “But I’ll also confess that I’m hesitant about us getting into anything.”
When I look up, he’s frowning at me. “Why is that?”
“Well, for one, we work together. What if it doesn’t work out? Things could get messy,” I explain.
Braxton nods. “I see what you mean, but, without sounding too fatal attraction, I can’t see how things wouldn’t work out.” I raise a cynical eyebrow at him. “The last month, you and I have gotten to know each other very well. I have never met someone I get on with so well, in so little time. Knowing how good we fit together at work, why wouldn’t it be the same dating?”
He has a point there.
“I’ve also just got out of a relationship that I was in for years,” I tell him, but I don’t sound convinced, even to my own ears.
“You wouldn’t have asked me around tonight unless you were ready to move on. Would you?” He says firmly.
I shake my head. “No, you’re right. I am ready.”
“Okay, so, next excuse.” He grins at me.
I’m trying to find reasons not to date this man, and he’s fighting all of them.
“I know that you say you’re not a ladies’ man, but it’s hard to trust guys. I’m sorry to stereotype, and please don’t be offended, but it’s difficult to believe that a guy like you doesn’t...play the field,” I try to explain myself without being too judgemental.
I fail massively. But it’s hard! It’s so difficult to say, but it happens so often. I don’t want to get messed around.
Braxton pins me with a stern look. “I know what you’re saying Melia, but I’m not having it. I’m not here to screw you over or to get you into bed. I’m here because I like you and I want to see if we could go somewhere,” he says seriously. “I’m not going to play with your feelings.”
“Are you sure you aren’t just enjoying the chase?” I ask him dubiously.
He rolls his eyes at me. “I’m twenty-seven. I’ve done enough chasing, thanks.”
I ask my final question. “Why am I worth it?” I ask him. “Why have you waited a month for me?”
His face softens and he smiles. “When my brother met his wife, I asked him why he chose her, how he knew she was the one. He told me what he also told everyone in his wedding speech; when you know, you know. He just knew when he met her and honestly, I knew the moment you shook my hand in Brad’s office that there was something special about you.”
Well, damn. What’s a girl to say to that?
“Whoa,” I mutter stupidly.
Braxton grins. “Yes. Whoa. Took me by surprise too, I’ll admit.”
Our eyes meet and time seems to slow down. Everything drops away around us and all I can see is him. He leans in close to me and I realise he’s going to kiss me. Nerves grip me and I worry that my heart is beating so loud that he’ll be able to hear it. I can feel his warm breath on my lips, and I know that I need to do something, pull away or lean in closer, but I need to act fast.
His phone buzzes with a text, making us both jump. I take the opportunity to lean back, away from him. I take a sip of my wine and try to ignore how hot my cheeks are.
Braxton checks his phone and then puts it back down. He turns to me and gives me a small smile, no doubt disappointed that we didn’t kiss. I don’t know why, something’s holding me back. I’m nervous. He makes me this nervous.
“I should probably go soon, it’s getting late,” he suggests.
I worry that I’ve offended him. I don’t want him to think that I don’t like him. I walk him to the door, and he puts on his shoes.
“I had a great time tonight, thank you,” he says sweetly.
“So did I...I’d like to do it again,” I tell him honestly.
He smiles and turns to leave. I catch his arm and he slowly spins back around.
“I really like you, Braxton,” I tell him softly, my face burning. “But I’ve never felt this way about a guy before, ever. It’s scary and new and you make me so nervous, I’m sorry.”
His smile turns into a grin at my babbling. “Hey, it’s okay,” he replies soothingly. “We go at your pace.”
“Thank you,” I tell him gratefully. “Please don’t think that I’m not interested, because I am, I’m just...scared.”
He runs his thumb over my bottom lip and my heart skips a beat. “Don’t be scared, Melia,” he murmurs. “You have no idea how good things are going to get.”
On Monday morning, we both return to work. We’ve taken to walking in together, seeing as we’re both going to the same place. Braxton waits for me in our building’s foyer and then we walk the commute together.
When we get in, Brad calls us both into his office. Momentarily, I panic, wondering if he knows about our date at the weekend and he’s going to tell us off. I manage to calm myself before we go in. There’s nothing in the work policy that forbids colleagues from dating one another. Brad informs us that he is not going to the supplier event at the end of the week, and that Braxton will be taking his place.
Excitement fills me. Instead of spending next weekend with my boss, I’ll be spending it with my crush. Braxton is over the moon. He wanted to come on this trip over a month ago. Marta is practically as excited as us when I tell her.
With the prospect of a fun weekend ahead, the week goes past painfully slowly. Braxton and I work on some new accounts, but most of our time is taken up managing accounts. We visit some loyal customers and bring freebies as a thank-you for their custom.
On Friday night, Braxton drives us to the conference. I offer to drive, but he refuses. I think he likes driving his flashy car, to be honest. We arrive at around 7PM, so we check into our rooms first and then go down to the hotel restaurant for dinner.
We’re still in our work clothes, which means I get to appreciate Braxton King in a suit for a little longer. He takes off his blazer and removes his tie. He undoes the two top buttons of his shirt and I get a glimpse of some inked skin underneath his shirt. Together, we go over the plan for tomorrow. We have a list of suppliers to check out, and competitors to check on.
We chat throughout the meal and stay for one drink in the bar afterwards. We head up to our rooms shortly after 9PM. We’re up early tomorrow and it’s going to be a long day.
Our rooms are opposite each other; Braxton says goodnight and then hesitates. I wonder if he’s going to kiss me. Instead, he smiles and steps back. He goes into his room, and I reluctantly enter mine. I hate the feeling of disappointment that fills me. I want him to kiss me.
I should never have backed out at my flat, now he’s unsure whether I want him too or not. He’s trying to respect me because I told him I was scared.
How do I let him know that I’m ready for more?