Two months since Howie crashed and he finally decided on a new truck. A beautiful, blacked out Four Runner sat next to my small black BMW. I thought they looked cute, almost siblings, like us.
“Good morning ma’am, are you ready to leave? I’m going to warm the car.” Theo’s deep voice carried through the garage into the kitchen.
“Yes please, I’ll be just another minute, hun.” I finished an email for Neil on two additional inventory changes that Alex had asked me to forward for him and closed my laptop.
I hadn’t called him again. I had kept it professional at the office and he seemed to be just fine with that. But that warmth in his voice was still present. I still would see him out of the corner of my eye looking up from conversations with other people as I walked past, reading the look on my face. Once he even paused in the doorway of the break room as I poured my coffee, I could feel the tension of him wanting to start up a conversation, but he let it go. I was relieved and yet, I also wished he had. I wish he’d corner me and give me no choice but to look into those eyes and tell him the truth.
Christmas was coming and left the weather in South Boston in terrible shape. I wrapped myself in a long wool coat and scarf. I left my hair down today, needing it to help me brace for the cold wind that would cut through these black jeans tucked inside my knee high boots. My sweater was my only saving grace.
“You’re looking very South Boston today Ms. Rossi.” Theo had grown on me lately. We talked about fashion, men, make up, celebrities on our trips to and from the office. Whatever the day brought up.
Gray stood outside the double doors as I walked up. His face softened when he saw me.
“You look nice today ma’am.” I blushed and thought it must just be because it’s the first casual Friday I’ve participated in. I prefered to look professional here. Just kept me more focused. But I did like the compliments I received.
Our end of quarter meeting was today. We all met in the conference room where I had first pitched my ideas to Neil. I sat beside the head of the table as it was my turn to lead the discussion on the accounting changes that would occur next quarter to help the paperwork make a little more sense to others. Essie sat across from me. We chatted about the big snow storm that was due to roll in overnight.
“You can’t trust the weather here. I’ve seen seven feet of snow piled up in two hours before, Loreina. If I were you, I’d book a hotel here after the meeting.” I nodded, taking her advice to heart. It would be nice to give Alex and Angelina some space and an empty house tonight. I shot him a quick text and he said he’d have Gray stay on the same floor with me. I rolled my eyes as the meeting started.
I kept my portion short and sweet, starting with the important bits first and held off questions, asking that they be emailed to me directly so we could address them in relation to real life issues. As usual, Neil wrapped up our meeting.
“Okay folks, that’s all we’ve got this time around. Please mind your inboxes, if the snow comes in hard the office will close and you can use vacation time for pay or just work from home. And if you could stay after I’ve got a few things to discuss before the new merge next week.” He pointed to me with his nose, I nodded and finished up my notes as everyone else filtered out of the conference room.
“Hey how would you think Evens would feel about letting me teach him the new account program so we don’t have a two day delay every quarter for his section-” he cleared his throat and leaned against the table next to me with his arms crossed.
I stopped talking and looked up at him. I was in another world.
“I’m sorry, you wanted to talk to me, not listen to me ramble on efficiency.” He grinned and stroked his red beard. There was a pause before he spoke that had my full attention.
“I uh, I have a confession... I can’t stop thinking about you.” I nearly choked on my coffee. He finally admitted what I had suspected all along. Essie called it last month when he had my office chair swapped for another model that was a soft suede instead of hard leather all because I complained to her in the kitchenette that my thighs stuck to it if I sat at my desk for long periods of time. I didn’t even know he was there.
“Neil I don’t know if I could. My life, this life I live isn’t glamorous. I still worry about him-” He held out a hand and stopped me.
“I will not pursue this relationship if you don’t want it too. But since the day of the proposal meeting, you’ve had my full attention.” I let out a sigh mixed with a giggle and packed up my laptop and tucked it into my bag. I turned and put my hands on my hips.
“Neil you’re a sweet and intelligent man. Any woman would be lucky to have you. You’re financially stable. All appealing qualities in a man.” he stepped closer to me, closing the gap I purposely left between us.
“Are you convincing yourself as to why this wouldn’t be a good idea? Because those are good qualities.” he ran a knuckle down my arm and even through the sweater I could feel the spark. That electricity that made me giddy inside.
“I just think I should be cautious. I don’t want this to affect my work. If Alex and Howie find out they’ll flip. They wont let me out of their sight before Johnathan is gone.” I dropped my gaze to the floor and ran a hand through my hair. He stepped closer and used a single finger to raise my chin to have our eyes meet. He leaned in and his eyes grew darker and heavy. I hesitantly closed the gap and our lips met. We savored this feeling for a moment before his hands cupped my face and my hands found his chest. Heat filled my cheeks and I pushed him away as I felt light headed. In a good way. The corner of his mouth twitched with a faint smile, eyes still locked on my mouth. I bit my bottom lip.
“If you’ll excuse me I have to go-” He grabbed my hands and held them against his chest before I could turn away.
“Please, just think about it Loreina.” his usual husky voice was now clouded with desire we both felt, almost a whisper. My insides melted whenever he said my name when we were alone. His accent seemed to be thicker around me. Heavier. More potent. I liked it very much. I simply nodded and restrained a big smile.
“I will, I’ll call you tonight.” he flashed me a grin and nodded as he stepped aside to let me leave.
As I walked out, my head buzzed with pleasure and I smacked right into someone. A wall of a man stood before me. My gaze traveled up from his black dress shoes, gray socks, black dress pants, gray vest, white shirt, green and white tie and his long gray overcoat. He must have been in his late sixties. His face was covered in a thick, long salt and pepper beard. His silver hair hid a red tinge and those gray eyes swallowed me whole.
“Oh my lord, I beg your pardon sir! I wasn’t paying attention.” I fumbled to catch my laptop bag before it hit the floor.
“Quite alright lass…” I smiled, hanging the bag back on my shoulder and holding out my hand to meet his. He took it gently and gave it a gentle squeeze.
“Loriena Rossi. And you are?” he grinned and his wrinkles around his eyes told a story, one of a hard working man. Maybe one too many memories hidden behind those gray eyes.
“I’m Shamus. It’s a pleasure.” and with that he let go of my hand and entered the conference room with Neil and shut the door behind him.
“Neil, grandson.” Shamus took off his overcoat and threw it down on the far end of the table from where Neil stood, still leaning against it. His fingers ran through his beard and his grandfather’s voice snapped him back.
“Hey pop. You just missed the quarter meeting. Would have loved to have you sit in. I’ve taken partnership with a new investor and the account was here. She’s brilliant.” Shamus slid his hands in his pocket and thought carefully as he walked to sit closer to his grandson.
“The Rossi girl?” Neil’s gaze shot up to meet his and he nodded.
“Yes, how did you know?” Shamus smiled and pulled out a chair and sat. He crossed a leg over the other and wove his fingers behind his head.
“I just met her in the hall. Tell me son, do you kiss all your accountants goodbye?” Neil stood speechless and when he held out a finger to defend himself Shamus laughed. A loud booming, throaty laugh. Neil’s laugh joined his.
“Relax. Kissing her is the least of your problems. Do you know the Rossi family? The business they deal in?” Neil cleared his throat. He had been expecting this conversation for a few weeks now but kept putting it off.
“I do, actually. Her brother is now an investor. He needed a shell company. The money is great. Accounts are going well. I’m thinking of firing Ronan all together and making her head of the department.” Shamus sat quietly for a moment.
“I knew her father. Antiono Rossi was not someone to cross. I’d imagine he instilled that into his sons. Just be careful. They have done a good job keeping fuedes under control since his passing but his sons aren’t him. They don’t know all the things he did. How many people he crossed, how many dead bodies ended up in the waters up North. I can’t tell you what to do. This company is all yours but I can see this ending unexpectedly for you. If it’s drowning you’re after, don’t torment yourself with shallow water. And don’t let that girl go. She’s got a gold heart, like your grandmother did.” Neil just met those gray eyes with his and thought.
“I will take your advice Pop. Thank you.” Neil pushed himself off the table and grabbed his over coat and headed to the ninth floor to my office.
“You don’t have a single room for me? Nothing from a single bed to a honeymoon suite? No no, that’s all you can do, I understand. Thank you for your time.” I sighed and slammed the phone down on the receiver. He hesitated and knocked on the open door’s frame.
“Hey, having trouble?” I spun around, my hair falling all to one side and arms crossed.
“Yes actually. All the hotels are booked. I shouldn’t have waited so late. I guess I’ll just have to find a way home. I wanted to stay close to make sure those transfers go through in the morning smoothly. I don’t want to take my work home but I will have to now I guess.” Neil smiled and shut the door behind himself as he sat near her windows with the curtains open. The snow fell in droves now. Covering everything. It was almost blinding bright white.
“Hey, don’t you know a very handsome man who owns dozens of hotels?” he smirked and leaned back. I rolled my eyes and sat in the chair opposite him.
“All yours are on islands and white sand beaches. That’s no sand out there.” I pointed to the windows that now had fogged over. He nodded seeing my point and stood and made himself a drink. He turned and motioned to an empty glass and I nodded. The liquor would warm my insides.
“You could always stay with me. And before you ask, yes I have a guest house. We would be far apart enough for you to feel as comfortable as any hotel. Gray is also welcome. The guest house is a three bedroom.” I took the glass from him and took a long sip. The burn warmed my body and gave me goosebumps on my arms. I mulled over the offer. It would probably be fine.
“Okay, when are you heading home?” he took his glass of whiskey like a shot and sat it on the table in front of him.
“As soon as you’re ready. People that live in town are clearing the office now before traffic backs up the highways. No one needs to get stuck in that.” I nodded and stood to pack up my bag. I stuffed the files inside my bag along with my laptop so I could keep an eye on the transfers. I just didn’t trust I’d make it back by tomorrow to pick these up.
I turned to walk around to my desk to get my coat, but Neil stood holding it up with my scarf draped around the collar. I blushed and turned so he could help me put it on.
“Thank you so much. You’re quite the gentleman, like I said.” I could hear the grin in his voice.