A slight chill which woke me up rather than my usual alarm. As I patted around the bed for the thick blanket, my hand rested on a soft yet muscled torso. I jolted in surprise and coiled too far back that I lost balance, falling down on my behind. I grunted in pain and started massaging my rear for relief. However, I kept my guard up and stared droopily on the other person on bed with me. If this was any other unusual weekend quipped with booze and actual plans for one-night stands, I would have made a haste escape. This wasn’t that case. However, there was booze and I made a conscious decision to sleep with someone last night. Yet, I wasn’t sleeping with just anyone. It was Julian Hawksley, my boss.
As I sat there, thinking back how that kiss led one thing to another, I felt flushed again and my stomach curling with need. I suddenly felt a shame how quickly I crumbled from a kiss.
I cussed underneath my breath as I slowly stood up. Even after that commotion, Julian remained asleep and unfazed. When I’m on my feet, I got a good look of him. He had fuzzy bed hair and bare chested – and thank god, the lower half was covered or I would have fainted for so much blood rush up my head. Yet I’ve seen him butt naked. I’m not sure I could look at another man the same without comparing to him.
Sighing heavily at the consequences I’ll face later, I picked up the remains of my shirt and underwear and headed towards the bathroom. I stayed in the shower longer than usual to clean off the evidence from last night – like it would just wash away. Once I was freshening up, I begrudgingly returned to the room and got my last pair of undergarments and clothes.
Julian had finally woken up.
“You took a bath without me. At least wake me up, Zoey,” he feigns dejectedly.
I let out a heavily breath. After that long bath, it cleared my head and I was ready for an ultimatum. “Okay. Listen. Seeing as you’re not affected about last night to make that light jest, I want to make something clear. There is nothing between us. This was purely physical. I haven’t had any actions in months and hormones were pushing me… well, I want to be the bigger man and admit it.”
Julian smiled. “Oh, wow. This is the first time a girl actually just wanted to be in a physical relationship with me… oh, well, not really the first time. But those girls usually want to talk about feelings and go shopping.”
I pursed my lips and grabbed my clothes. “Right. No need to tell me what kind of girl you usually go for, Mr. Hawksley.”
“I think we’ve already gone past that, Zoey. Now we’ve spent the night together at least call me by my first name.” he cheekily said.
I peered at the clock in the room. I ignored his retort and changed the topic. “You have an hour to get ready for work. I suggest you wash up and change. I have some laundry to do.”
“Or I could take you shopping?” He teasingly suggested.
Rather than answering that question, I closed the door to the bathroom and left Julian by himself again. I’m not going to be listed as his flings. It might be a conscious decision but this was not going to happen again. Yet from how my heart was beating and my stomach filled with butterflies, I’m not sure I would have the guts to pull away when I kissed him again.
After I changed, I felt both relieved and a bit hurt Julian was no longer in the room. However, the need to do my laundry urged my thoughts away. I headed to the kitchen when I was done letting the washing machine do the work. There wasn’t much I could do for breakfast but toast and jam. I made some for Julian out of respect before making my way back to my room to gather my things for work.
When I heard the washing machine beeping and finished washing my clothes, I rushed and push the batch in the dryer. However, I knew I couldn’t take out my clothes after I placed them in since we were already running a bit too close for our Monday morning staff meeting. So I decided to leave it with a note. From what I remembered, Julian had said about someone coming to the condo to clean. If they find female clothes in a single man’s bachelor pad, and guessing Julian’s lifestyle, I don’t want my stuff piled with the lost and found box from the girls who forgot things after a quick visit overnight.
When I returned to the kitchen area, Julian was there eating the toast and jam I’ve made. Unconsciously, it made me smile.
“Thank you for breakfast. There aren’t that many girls who stayed over until morning and made me toast before,” he cheekily informed again.
That soured my mood a little. “No need to rub it in. Just thank me I didn’t poison them.” I lightly jested.
Julian was about to retort when the doorbell rang. I looked at him and arched my eyebrow. “Are you expecting anyone?” I asked.
“Nope.” He replied after taking another bite.
I rolled my eyes as his carefreeness of the situation. Without him asking, I walked to the entrance to answer the door. The doorbell rang twice in succession before I opened it. I felt my breath got knocked off as I saw the person standing in front of me. However, like instinct, my poker face kicked in and greeted the unwanted visitor.
“Ms. Allen, good morning. Is there anything I can help you?” My words have a slight edge to it, but from her confusion, she didn’t notice.
“What are you doing here?” She barked in annoyance.
“Well… I’m Mr. Hawksley’s secretary, ma’am. We’ve met before.” I tried to tread lightly, but she wasn’t having it.
“Yes. I know who you are. I’m asking what are you doing here?” She wasn’t playing at all.
I bit my lips as I was about to make a snarky retort. Then finally heavens heard my prayers as Julian walked up behind me. “Zoey, who is it?” He called out before I moved sideways for him to get a better view.
Once he saw Grace by the threshold, I noticed his jaw clinched but kept his demeanor calm. “Grace, I didn’t know you were visiting.” His tone was bland. Of course, he wouldn’t know. The woman was stalking him.
“I wanted to come back and see if you were back. You didn’t tell me you were back already.” Like a switch, her personality change. It felt I was watching a stage play with front row seats.
“I don’t feel like I need too. You know I would be back in Chicago after a business meeting. My office is here.” Julian nonchalant response was making me smile, but I bit back my lips again to stop the urge.
“Of course. I want to know if you’re free for lunch or dinner today.” She seemed hesitant to ask as her eyes quickly glanced it my direction. At least now she knows I exist.
“I don’t think I have time to spare today. You know I just got back from a business trip, so I would be busy debriefing my staff about it and finalizing paper works.”
She looked momentarily surprised at his rejection but quickly recovered. “Oh then, how about tomorrow? I think my mother would love to have a chat with you.”
While I stood there like the perfect audience, it was difficult not to snort and scoff at how hard this woman was trying to get something out of Julian. And he wasn’t budging.
“I’m really sorry, Grace. You should have called. I’m not so sure about my schedule this week.” It was then Julian placed a hand on my back, pulling me into the spotlight as well. “It’s better you ask Zoey here. She’s the woman to go to if you want an appointment with me.” He lightly jested.
I felt smug that I was on this end of the door this time. How does it feel now to be the other woman?
Grace feign laughed, which was so obvious. “Of course. How stupid of me?” She then begrudgingly addressed me again. “Zoey, right?” she paused to pull out something for her mini purse. “Here’s my business card. Please call me and let me know when Julian would be free.”
With a smile so fake, I felt my cheeks twitching, I got the card out of her hand. “Got it, Ms. Allen. I’ll let you know.”
As I was about to kick her out, the woman had the nerve to try again. “Are you sure you can’t at least give some small time away? How about breakfast?” She persisted.
Julian kept his Oscar-worthy smile and rejected her again. “I just ate. Zoey made some toast and jam.”
Grace playfully looked glum before making her hasty retreat. “Well then, I’m going to head out now and grab some breakfast before work,” she informed before painfully glancing in my direction again. “And call me, okay, Zoey.” It was a command.
“Right. Of course, Ms. Allen.”
Before she leaves, she had to make a statement and walked up to Julian for a kiss. However, he was quick enough to turn away so that she only kissed his cheeks. The brief look of bewilderment on her face was enough for me. This round is on me.
After she had disappeared towards the elevator and descended, I closed the door and found Julian’s mask shattered as he looked proudly at me.
“You know, there aren’t many people who could stomach Grace’s bossy attitude.”
“You call that bossy,” I scoffed and turned back towards the kitchen, where I felt my things.
By the time we’ve reached the office, we were cutting our schedule close to near minutes. We caught up with Julian’s sister-in-law, Kyla, who was making her way to the conference room for the staff meeting this morning. She looked surprised to see Julian and I nearly tardy.
“Julian, did you just get here?” She asked and peered hastily at me as well.
“Yes. And believe it or not, we slept in… I mean, I woke up late.”
“We?” Kyla looked at him wide-eyed.
Before he could fix the damage he’s done, I quickly interjected, clearing my throat as loud as I could and got Julian’s attention. Once our stare met, he swiftly changed the subject.
“So, how’s little Charlie?”
I watched Kyla in the corner of my eye. I noted her eyebrow creased before plastering a smile and replied. “She’s wonderful. Jensen’s reading her new stories every night for the past week since she’d easily get bored tried with one. But I’m not sure it’s about that, more like a two-month-old baby has an attention span as a potato. Though a real cue potato, if something like that exists.” Kyla babbled along, not pressing on what Julian had said.
Kyla kept on talking about her daughter Charlie, giving Julian nonsensical tidbit of information about her sleeping and eating habit. However, it wasn’t until we reached the door to the conference room she took a step closer to both of us, her eyes commanding.
“Oh! And don’t think you two have gotten away of diverting my attention. I heard what you said Julian,” she warned softly and glared at him. Without an indication she was going gauge some more, she backed away and entered the room, leaving us dumbfounded.
She knows. Damn him.
Without looking at each other, Julian and I entered the conference room and got straight to business. And here I thought I’d have at least a few more days before anyone found out about one of my horrid choices in life. But not, I couldn’t catch a break.
Once the meeting adjourned, Julian and I hurriedly retreated out of the room to our respected office and cubicle without coming into close proximity with Kyla. It was difficult since she kept on glancing at us throughout the meeting. We were nearly sweating bullets as we reached Julian’s office. And to our dismay, Kyla had followed a couple of paces away. Without thinking, Julian pulled me inside his office, trying to make it look nonchalant. Seeing as the glass divider wasn’t entirely soundproof, he kept his voice low as he gave me instructions.
“Sit by the couch and grab those paper works. Act like we are doing some check-up while I’ll be working at my desk.” He said before sitting down.
“She’ll know we’re avoiding her, Mr. Hawksley,” I whispered back with worry.
“Of course, she knows. Kyla could see my bull a mile away.” He grumbled. “But she doesn’t know the truth.” He added.
Like on cue, I heard and knock on the door. I jolted in surprise. Kyla was already by the door, looking annoyed. She briefly glanced behind her, weary prying ears in the area.
Once she got inside with us, she didn’t hesitate. “Can we talk?”
Julian glanced up from his computer with nonchalance. “Sure.”
Kyla arched her eyebrow at Julian’s passive response. “So, is this how you’ll play it?”
“Play what, Kyla?” Julian look truly confused.
She scoffed. “I heard what you said this morning. So, are you two…?” She trailed off and glanced in my direction.
I kept my cool and cleared my drying throat. “Excuse me? I don’t seem to get your question, Kyla.”
She arched her eyebrow again and pursed her lips. “You know I will know if you two are together.”
I faked a realistic gasp, which I’m proud I came out that way. “Why would you think I’ll… with Mr. Hawksley? He’s my boss. Why in heaven would I cross that line?” I stuttered.
From how I sounded and play my cards right, Kyla’s expression changed. She looked guilty for nosing around. “Wait. So, you two aren’t… then, why did you say we, Julian? We slept in, as you said.”
“Because we both did. Ms. Curtis here got up late. And by the time she got to my condo to pick me up, I haven’t even woken up as well. So, we slept in. Why did you suddenly get the idea we were together?” Julian asked accusingly.
“I… I’m… It rarely happens that I get wrong sometimes, Julian.” She squared her shoulder and plainly admitted.
I applaud Kyla for admitting her flaw. But she was right all along. However, I didn’t have a sense of guilt at the moment to tell her the truth. I’d like to keep that one thing a secret for as long as I can.
“No worries, Kyla. We make mistakes sometimes. I’ll let this one slide,” Julian replied.
And like that, it did the trick. Kyla turned away and headed back to her office. I watched her go without as much as a backward glance in our direction. Once she was completely gone, I let out a huge breath of relief.
“Thank god she believes that bull.”
“I should realize you’re a good actress, Zoey. You’ve faked everything this morning with Grace as well. I think I’ve yet to see your full potential.”
I rolled my eyes and peering down at my wristwatch, there were more hours in the day that I wanted. It gives life the ability to tempt catastrophe to pop out around the corner, challenging my patience and moral. Let’s hope Kyla would take the bait and never asked again. And I hope I’m able to hold myself back around Julian from this point on.