Chapter 3: Hotdogs with a side of Basketball
Reds fingers work fast and I find myself shirtless within a matter of seconds. For a moment we continue to stare at one another and then finally he realises the position we’re in. His eyes scan my torso for any deep injury, I look down and notice my caramel skin spotted with red rashes. “You’re hurt.” Red states.
“So are you,” I mutter, eyeing his stained shirt.
Red looks down as if only just realising he too was attacked by the coffee, cursing once again he unbuttons his shirt. I turn quickly and gaze out the large window, although it’s really no use as the reflection off the glass gives me an eyeful of rock hard muscles and large biceps. “You’ve never seen a man shirtless?” Red scoffs.
“No,” I reply looking down at my nude heels.
Reds voice seems distant, “no as in you have or haven’t?”
“As in I haven’t, not like this,” I reply automatically. Lying to him crossed my mind but something tells me he’d know and then I’d probably just be embarrassing myself further. When he doesn’t reply I look up and release a short breath, I discover that tattoos not only cover his front but also his back. Red pushes a panel behind his desk and it pops open, he pulls the section of wall out and I notice it opens up into a wardrobe.
He grabs two white crisp shirts and heads back to me, soft material drapes over my shoulders and I make fast work of buttoning up his shirt over my bra. He too pulls on a clean shirt. “Long, si?” He questions.
I look down and groan as his shirt falls below mid-thigh, “I look like a kid.”
“You are small.” He nods in agreement and I glare at him through the glass, as if I didn’t know that myself... “Tuck it in.” He suggests.
“Would you mind if I take a quick break?” I question, planning on buying another blouse. He looks at me confused, “I’ll just pop down and buy a new shirt.” I continue, explaining my reasoning.
He shakes his head, “I’ll stop on the way to Mrs. Gryphon.” He grabs a folder off his desk while I tuck the shirt in, I straighten up and look towards him, only to find him gazing at me. Nervously I smile weakly before moving through the door and to my office. I hear the jingling of keys and quickly grab my laptop and notepad which I dispose of in my bag. Red leans against the door while I do this.
We both then leave the office and head down the opening to the elevator, the receptionist raises an eyebrow at my attire, I simply look away awkwardly. Red presses the arrow facing down and we wait, thirty seconds later the metal box opens, he sticks his hand across the opening and nods for me to enter first. I do, he follows. Pressing UG (underground), I try to blend in with the mirror behind me.
Reds phone buzzes and he looks down at it. The man is so attractive; I’ve heard Marisa talk about him on multiple occasions, stating his relationships all consist of tall, skinny models. Grumbling inwardly I take note of my own appearance; When I was a kid my dad always told me my dimples would catch a man, my mother stated my brown eyes would warm anyone’s heart, but as I grew up I realised I am not anything special. In fact, I could probably use a couple of gym sessions to loose my big bottom.
Sighing I look up just as the elevator doors open, once again Red allows me to exit first. He directs us towards a sleek white vehicle, which I’m sure I’d awe over if I knew anything about cars. “Don’t you have security detail to drive you around?” I question without thinking and instantly bite the side of my cheek.
He opens the passenger door for me and waits with an expectant look, I walk towards him and take in his scent before slipping into the seat. He closes my door with a soft thump and walks around the front of the car to the driver's side, he slides in far too gracefully. Starting the engine he turns to look at me, “I do. But he has more important tasks to do than driving me around." It’s mock. I nod and look down as my phone buzzes, I tug it out of my bag and look down at the screen.
[Don’t forget our 6 runs!]- Rob
I groan and sigh. About a year ago, Robin convinced me to join her in her runs around the block, at first we raced through the streets every day. However, eventually, it was cut down to only three evenings. My phone buzzes again.
[Stop ignoring me, babe! After all, I almost starved this morning, you can’t just steal my breakfast like that...]- Rob
I laugh at this silently and quickly reply. [I’m at work... You tool.]- Julia
I look away from my phone and gasp slightly, Red’s intense glare has me frozen. “Who’s that?” He questions casually, pulling away from the traffic lights. I shrug and tell him it’s nobody. “Well, I hope this nobody doesn’t distract you from work.” He dismisses the conversation.
I bite my lip and keep the shitstorm of insults in check. He parks in front of what seems to be an expensive women’s clothing store... There’s a snowball's chance in hell that I’ll ever be able to afford anything in there! He steps out and walks around the vehicle to open my door, I shake my head. “You know what, this shirt is fine!” I nod, sure it’s more a dress than a shirt... But it works and that’s what matters.
“Julia, we’re going to buy you a shirt, si.” He extends a hand and grabs mine, my hand is dwarfed by his.
I cringe as he pulls me out of the safety of the car, “please, Mr. Alfonsi.” I plead, instantly feeling self-conscious as multiple sets of eyes zero in on us.
His jaw tenses and he simply closes the door, locks the vehicle and practically drags me inside the store. Two ladies close in on us immediately. “Good afternoon sir, anything in particular that we can assist with?” I bite my lip to keep in the chuckle that’s begging to be released. They’re both ridiculously in love with Red! I notice their name tags, the first one to have spoken looks behind Red and notices me, her eyes then continue down to our joint hands.
“Ma’am.” Eloise greets, not as warmly as she did my company. I shake my hand free from Reds... Despite it tightening.
I smile softly. Red doesn’t acknowledge them, he simply walks straight past them. I quickly follow. He grabs several blouses and thrusts them into my hands, he then continues to grab pencil skirts, business dress and pant suits. My eyes enlarge further each time he drops an article of clothing in my hands. “Sir, I think we have enough.” I look at him over the pile of clothes in my hands.
He looks down at me and nods, “go try them on.” He orders.
“We’re going to be late, sir. And, I only need one shirt, not all this...” I mumble out the latter part more forcefully.
He obviously ignores me and instead directs me to a change room. Within seconds I’m pushed inside, I look up at the wall length mirror and scream soundlessly. This is beyond ridiculous! Who does he think he is, ordering me around like some kind of bloody pet. He’s your boss! Exactly, not my keeper. I stubbornly tug his shirt off, but before I can pull on one of the blouses, the curtain opens. Before I can scream a large hand covers my mouth. I stare up shocked at Red. Is he insane!
The curtain closes behind him and he presses me up against the mirror. “Don’t make a sound, Julia.” I hold back a moan at his accent and nod slowly.
Cautiously he slides his hand down until it rests at the base of my neck, “what do you think you’re doing!?” I whisper harshly.
“Mamma is out there.” He states.
I roll my eyes, “and...”
“She’s with Fiona...” He cringes. My curious expression does not change. “She planning my wedding.”
I draw in a breath, “you’re getting married!”
“Stai zitto!” He slams his hand over my mouth again. How dare he tell me to shut up, the man's getting married and he’s in here with a half naked women! His eyes darken as they trail down, he drops his head and rests his forehead on my bare shoulder. I try to move out of his grip but he pushes his hand against my mouth harder. “Wait a moment, si.”
I wait a moment and more, impatiently I shrug his head off me... A married man! Good god. He finally releases my mouth and moves back a fraction, “do you mind!” I cover my chest with my arms. He clearly doesn’t mind in fact he doesn’t even seem fazed, bending down he lifts a cream pencil dress and holds it out to me. What a confidence booster... Not! I quickly pull it over my head and tug it down just below my knees.
Red spins me around and I clench my legs together as his fingers trail down my back. He clasps the zip and tugs it up in one quick movement. I strategically shrug out of my slacks and slip back into Robins red heels. “I think we’re safe...” He smirks slightly, why... I have no idea. I pick up my dropped clothes and push past him, stumbling slightly as our bodies brush.
I head to the counter only to have a band of steel wrap around my waist and pull me back. “Do you have a jacket?” Reds deep voice falls above my head.
“Why?” I question, it’s not cold.
He tightens his hold, “you back is on display.” He explains.
“Red, that’s my neck...” I snap a bit confused. He doesn’t reply, but a second later my hair falls from its high ponytail and around my body. “Are you serious!?” I spin in his arms.
His jaw clicks. “Do I look like I’m joking, Julia!”
“You choose the damn dress.” I sigh, tired.
He purses his lips and if that’s not the sexiest thing I’ve seen in my short life then I don’t know what is! “I know... I hadn’t realised it was so revealing.”
I raise an eyebrow, “if you think this is revealing, you’re going to hate the rest of my wardrobe.” I glare up at him and push at his chest. “Let go!”
His hands drop. He heads to the counter and I trudge behind him. “We’ll have the dress she’s wearing and the rest of the clothes in the change room.” He pulls out his wallet.
I grab his wrist, he looks down at me. “Red, I can’t afford all this and I refuse to let you pay for it!” He shakes out of my hold and places a platinum card on the counter, I grind my teeth together. The nerve!
Five minutes later, Red disposes of the bags in the trunk and helps me into the car. I cross my arms over my chest and glare out the window. Finally, an idea pops into my head, “I’ll work double time.” Yes, this way I can reply him for the clothes.
“Che cosa?” He questions distracted.
I sigh, “I’ll do another job for you so I can pay off the clothes.”
“Like what?” He replies, glancing over at me.
I slump back down and sigh, “I don’t know.”
After a moment Red pipes up, “you can bring me coffee every morning at six sharp...” He offers.
“But the office opens at eight,” I look over at him.
He nods, “I know, Julia. You will be my alarm clock, si?” It’s a question, not a demand or order.
“Okay...” I agree, “for how long?”
Red parks in front of a glass building, “until the clothes have been paid off.” He hops out and I follow suit, I bend and grab my equipment before straightening up and closing the door. When I turn to face Red his jaw is clenched. “No bending, si.” There go his demands again.
I nod, to annoyed to argue. We head inside and meet Mrs. Gryphon, she leads us to a conference room where the meeting is held.
I park my car and Marisa jumps out, “so he bought you all this?” She opens the boot and begins to grab all the bags out.
I nod, “apparently my clothes aren’t sufficient.” I grab the rest of them before locking up and following Marisa up to our apartment. We find Rob in her workout clothes on the couch. I sigh, I almost forgot about the run...
“Sucka!” Marisa teases before disappearing into her room after dropping the bags. I leave my keys and phone on the dining table and take the bags to my room. I pull the dress over my head and step out of my heels. Pulling on some tights and a singlet I tug on my sneakers and socks. I grab my earphones and exit my room, Rob stands and we head outside after I grab my phone.
Before we start we quickly stretch, I plug in my earphones and then slip my phone in my armband, as does Robin. We start jogging and skim through the streets and alley ways, already familiar with our routine. About half an hour later on our walk back I skid to a stop. “What?” Robins at my side instantly.
I glare at the white vehicle in front of me, turning I look through the large cage and into the basketball court. The lights are bright, sucking in a much-needed breath of air I scan the players. My eyes stop on the biggest figure. “That’s my boss...” I mumble in a shocked state. He looks so different... Younger.
“Damn... I could get used to that piece of ass!” Robin grins approvingly. Apparently, her voice is louder than first assumed, the players stop and then turn to us, I try to duck but realise there’s nothing to duck behind and instead awkwardly smile. Red almost knowingly gazes at me. He says something to the guys and jogs over to us. “He’s hot!” Rob whispers.
I shake my head. “Julia.” Red greets. “What brings you around here?” He questions.
“We live just up the road.” Robin blurts.
“Rob!” I scold. What, she mouths. I glare at her.
Red looks confused, “this is Rob?” He questions.
“Short for Robin,” Robin explains.
I roll my eyes, “why don’t you just tell him your blood type while you’re at it.” I mutter sarcastically.
Red nods understandingly and then something flash through his eyes, almost like relief. “Wait here.” He orders, my body stands still... Ever ready to comply. He moves back to the group of men and then a minute later he exits the cage and jogs back to us. “Have you two had dinner yet?” He questions looking down at me. Disapproval crosses his face. At what, I don’t know.
“No,” Robin disagrees at the same. “I mean, I have but Julia here doesn’t like to eat before she runs.” I look up at Rob, the traitor! She’d never turn down food. “I should be heading back, I have a ton of work to do!” She sighs. The liar, she’d rather lounge around then do any work. I gape at her. “It’s been nice meeting you,” she holds her hand out.
Red takes it, “pleasures all mine.” He shakes her hand two times before dropping it.
“I’ll see you later, babe,” Rob grins down at me before turning and running down the street... Just before she said she was too sore to run and now look at her, she could join the damn Olympics!
I turn back to Red, “I’m really not hungry...” I step back.
Red catches my wrist, “you look cold.” I shrug. He leads me to his car and pulls out a jersey, slipping it over my head he directs me to the passenger's seat. Looks like I am hungry after all... I frown and lean back against the soft seat. “What would you like to eat?” His deep voice has me crossing my legs real damn fast.
I shrug and then grin, “hotdogs.”
“Really?” He looks over at me and I see a sparkle in his eyes, I nod. I hold my breath as a smile coats his face, it disappears far too quickly. He starts the engine and reverses. During the ten minute drive he questions me, he seems far too interested in my extremely boring life.
He parks along the city’s busy streets. “...And, that’s me in a nutshell.” I finish, smiling up at him.
“Come.” He opens my door for me and we walk side by side down the street. I stop in front of one of the hotdog stalls and look up at him.
I ask the man for two, “I’ll pay you back,” I grin up at him. He shakes his head and orders one for himself. I notice curious eyes follow us and frown, I wonder if he’s ever been out without people gawking at him. He heads back to the car and leans against the boot, I try to get up although it’s more of a task than I’d previously assumed, considering my hands are currently full.
“Need help?” Red questions. I shake my head... Pftt, I can so do this! I try again, unsuccessfully. “Come here,” he mumbles wrapping an arm around my waist and lifting me up onto the boot. I thank him.
Together we enjoy our hot dogs. Once we’re finished I jump down and look up at him, laughter bubbles through my system, “you have a little something,” I swipe my thumb across the corner of his mouth. He looks down at my finger and I realise what I just did, “I’m sorry!” I quickly apologise.
“It’s fine.” He replies.
We slip back into his car and he starts driving me home. The drive is quite and
Red changes back into the cold man I’d quickly become accustom to. I keep quite and take in the bustling life around us. He parks in front of my complex and I pause briefly, and the open my door. He catches my arm. I look down at it. He releases me and grabs a pen and paper from the compartment in front of me.
He scribbles something on it and places it on my lap. “Don’t be late.” He gives me one last dark look before settling back in his seat. I hop out and quickly rush inside the complex before looking down at the paper. Two lines greet me; one a address; the second a six digit code.