Wednesday morning, I stand in front of the leader-board. I glare at Braxton’s name, right below mine.
That sneaky bastard.
He acted innocent. He didn’t give anything away about this meeting until he’d already closed the deal. There I was, offering to give him tips and pointers. Dickhead didn’t need them. He played me.
“I quite like having you on top of me.”
Speaking of the sneaky bastard...
Braxton sneaks up behind me and makes me jump. My eyes narrow as I replay his comment in my head. I realise he’s making a dirty innuendo out of my name being above his on the leader board.
I smirk at him. “That’s the way it should be, me on top,” I say sassily.
He leans towards me, giving me a large whiff of his aftershave. “Really? I think you’d enjoy it if I was on top. Maybe we should try it,” he suggests smoothly.
I glare at him. “You better be talking about the leader board.”
He snorts and leans back. “What else would I be talking about, Melia?” He asks, feigning innocence.
“Prepare yourself to be disappointed, Braxton,” I tell him. “Because I’m not giving up first place without a fight.”
He grins. “Oh, I’m counting on it, Wynter.”
I huff and turn on my heel, strutting back to my desk.
The rest of the morning, Braxton proceeds to wind me up. He brags about his deal around me, winking and speaking unnecessarily loud nearby so that I can hear. I try to ignore him as much as possible, but this man has some kind of knack for getting under my skin. Both in irritation and in attraction.
It’s lunchtime when he drapes himself across the divider next to my desk. He looks at me with large, blue eyes. “Want to buy me lunch to celebrate my success?” He asks cheekily.
I glare at him and turn my attention back to my screen. “Oh, don’t be like that, Melia. Come and have lunch with me or I’ll be lonely.”
I scoff at him. “I’m sure even an arrogant twat like you can find a date for lunch, Braxton.”
He places his hand over his heart and gasps.
“Your words hurt, Mel. But you’re right, I probably can find a date. You, however, I’m not so sure. I worry about you, and I don’t want you all on your own. Eat with me.”
I stop typing and glare at him once more. He loves this banter between us. I can’t decide if I enjoy it, or if I want to smash my keyboard into his smug face. I change my mind every second.
“Fine, but we’re eating outside. There’s nowhere nearby with premises big enough for your ego,” I tell him.
He grins at me.
This is the problem; my sarcastic insults bounce right off him. He finds it funny when I mock him, he enjoys our verbal sparring. It doesn’t seem to irritate him in the slightest, I barely scratch the surface. He enjoys it. Whereas he makes my blood pressure skyrocket.
“Sounds like a plan, Wynter. Plus, if we’re out in the open, more people are likely to see us together and we can do some damage control on your reputation.”
I frown at him and cross my arms over my chest. “And what exactly is wrong with my reputation?” I ask him accusingly.
He winks and slides his blazer on. “Oh, nothing horrendous, just that you’re upright and in need of a little fun.”
I narrow my eyes at his stupid, handsome face. “And what exactly is fun to you? Winding up your colleagues until they hit you? Or seeing how many people your arrogance can repel in one day?”
He smirks and leans in close to me. The sudden change in proximity makes me breathing hitch. “Oh, I have many ideas of what fun is. I’d love to show you one day. But for now, let’s stick with; just how charming can Braxton King be on one lunch date?”
I roll my eyes at him, and we walk out of the office. “You’re about as charming as you are shy,” I mutter, making him chuckle.
We walk the eight minutes to the stir-fry place I told him about on his first day. We order our take-away pots and carry them across the road, to the park.
After finding a free bench, we sit down next to each other. The conversation drops for a while, as we tuck into our food. Braxton breaks the silence first.
“Brad was telling me that you’re off to some conference in October,” he says.
I nod and swallow my mouthful of noodles. “Yeah. It’s an opportunity for us to meet prospective suppliers. I visit companies’ stands and look at their products. Gives us a chance to find new suppliers and check out the competition.”
“That sounds fun. How long do you go away for?”
“It’s on Saturday to Sunday, so I tend to go Friday evening and come back on Sunday afternoon.”
“And all extras are paid for by the company?”
I smirk. “Yeah, they are.”
“Does anyone ever come with you?” Braxton asks and I can see the hope in his eyes.
“Brad does, usually.”
“Oh, right. Wonder if he’ll let someone else come this year,” he says with a wink.
I shrug. “Not sure, I think three is a crowd.”
Braxton grins and wiggles his eyebrows. “I’ve never found that. In fact, I think three people makes the whole thing a lot more interesting.”
My cheeks flush on reflex.
Does this man make everything sexual?
“You better still be talking about the conference, because I’m trying to eat my lunch here.”
He laughs at me and my stupid vajayjay flutters. He looks so hot when he laughs like that. His head thrown back, showing off his neck which I suddenly want to kiss.
“Of course I am, Melia. Who do you take me for? I’m just saying, three people changes the dynamic.”
I eye him warily but continue eating my stir-fry. If he wants to be inappropriate, two can play at that game.
I wait until he’s taken a large bite of chicken, then I go for the kill. “Ever had a threesome?” I ask him.
Braxton’s eyes widen and just as I intended, he chokes on his mouthful. He hits his chest a couple of times and struggles to swallow. I casually turn back to my food, picking at it with my fork in the most nonchalant manner I can muster.
“I see what you did there, Wynter,” he says. “Touché. And yes, only once.”
I don’t know why I’m surprised. With someone as attractive and sexually confident as Braxton, it shouldn’t be ground-breaking news.
“Oh, really? Details, please,” I reply, and he grins at me.
Having finished his food, he pops the container into the bin nearby. He turns on the bench, so that he can face me head-on. I do the same.
“University. Second year. My friend’s sister and her friend,” he states.
My mouth goes into the shape of an ‘O’.
“I went round to help my mate’s sister move her furniture into her new flat. After my mate went home, I stayed on to help her and her friend showed up. The girls wanted to celebrate moving in, so we all started drinking and one thing lead to another and yeah...safe to say I’m not friends with that guy anymore, after I fucked his sister and all.”
I gape at Braxton, and he bursts out laughing,
“God, Mel, your face!” He laughs. “This was seven years ago, it’s ancient history.”
I roll my eyes at him. “I’m supposed to believe that you’ve completely changed? Taken a vow of celibacy? Sworn off women until marriage?” I ask dryly.
Braxton shakes his head. “No, not celibacy,” he answers. “But definitely a change.” His face turns solemn, and he breaks eye contact. “I met a girl in my final year of uni, she made me see everything differently. We dated for three years until she broke it off when she decided to move to Australia. I went back to my uni ways and had some fun.” He trails off and shrugs.
“What has made you change now? Or are you still back in your old habits?” I ask and I suddenly realise how close we’ve gotten.
We’ve both moved closer to one another without having realised it. Braxton meets my eyes. Blue meets brown.
“My brother got married. Man, seeing him with Enna, it’s crazy. Two minutes around them and you want what they’ve got. He’s completely whipped, and he’ll be the first to admit it, but I’ve never seen him happier.”
I smile at his wording. Strangely, I really want to meet his family.
“I want what they’ve got. It’s been three years since I’ve been in a relationship, and I miss it.”
My smile turns bittersweet as I think of Mark. “Yeah, but sometimes relationships aren’t all they’re made out to be,” I respond quietly.
Braxton looks at me with an assessing gaze. “No, it’s not the relationship that is the problem, it’s the person you’re in it with. Relationships are great; if you’re with the right person.”
I blush at his correction. He’s right, of course.
I lean around him and put my rubbish into the bin. To cut off any further talk of unsuccessful relationships, I stand up and brush down my skirt. “We should probably get back to the office. It’s a ten-minute walk on the way back. I add two minutes for the extra weight I’ve gained from eating,” I tell him matter-of-factly.
Braxton smirks and stands up. “Alright then. But Mel? I know that Mark isn’t right for you. I don’t have to meet him to know that you deserve someone different, more suited to you.”
I don’t reply. I keep my eyes on the pavement and chew on my bottom lip. Braxton takes my silence as offence.
“I’m sorry, that was too far. I didn’t mean to offend you, it’s none of my business,” he apologises quickly, and I feel bad.
“Don’t apologise, it’s okay. And...” I take a deep breath and run my hand through my hair. “You’re right. I need someone different. It’s just taken me a while to realise that.”
Braxton shrugs and gives me a sweet smile. “As long as you’re happy, Melia. That’s all that should matter to you.”
After we get back to the office, there’s suddenly a phone rush. It rings off the hook non-stop and makes the rest of the day fly by.
When I get home, I get changed straight away. I grab my things and go down to the gym.
I’m on the cross-trainer when an all-too-familiar face saunters in. Braxton King heads over to the weights section in my gym.
My gym, where I don’t have to worry about seeing anyone from work, or bumping into people I know, because it is solely for the 40 flats in this building. He’s wearing a tank top that shows off all of his muscular, inked arms and some of his chest. His shorts reveal even more ink on his legs. The man is walking piece of art. He looks up and sees me. A grin breaks out on his face, and he strides over to where I am working out.
I stop the bike and pause my music. Pulling out a headphone, I try to get my breath back.
“What are you doing here?” I ask him accusingly.
“I live in this building. What are you doing here?” He asks, but the grin on his face tells me that he already knows my answer.
“I live here,” I reply bluntly.
His grin widens.
“Perfect. You can help me get to know my new city,” he says. “I’m going to go workout now, but it was great seeing you, neighbour!”
I watch as he walks away.
Neighbour. Is God trying to test me?