No Such Luck

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Chapter 16 - Just pretend

Eliza

"You have got to be the luckiest person that I know."
Ali said as she slid into the chair across from me.

I almost laughed at the irony.

"And why is that?"

"Brady Bolthouse aka Atlanta's most eligible bachelor is taking you out tonight, not to mention he has been rocking your world for weeks, and the cutest guy I think I've ever seen just said, and I quote, 'if this coffee is for Eliza, then it's free' care to explain that?"

I looked up and in the direction of the coffee house's counter and was immediately met with Xander's blue eyes. I waved and he nodded with a smile before looking away.

"He's sweet."
I looked back at my best friend as she narrowed her eyes at me.

"It's nothing."
I took a sip of my coffee and looked away. Ali had always been able to read me a little too well.

"Mmhmm. Anyway, how are you feeling about tonight?"
She smiled and my stomach rolled.

Nervous.

Terrified.

Completely out of my comfort zone.

"I'm feeling pretty good."
I nodded and she laughed.

"You shouldn't lie, Eliza. You're terrible at it."

I sighed as I slumped back into my seat.

"I don't know. I'm excited, I think?"

"You think? Look, if you don't want to go then don't. If you aren't comfort-"

"It's not that."
I shook my head. It was the exact opposite. I was comfortable. So very comfortable that it scared the hell out of me.

"What is it then?"

"I was supposed to be lying low. Avoiding this sort of thing. I've made too many irrational decisions when it comes to men. I don't really want to add any more to the list."
I shrugged. I felt so defeated. All I wanted to do was my job and cross my fingers that the rest of my life would fall into place eventually.

"Who says that's what you're doing?"

"What?"

"What is so irrational about meeting someone and liking them? Isn't that ideally how it's supposed to happen? You didn't swipe right on a dating app, you weren't set up. Why are you being so hard on yourself?"
Ali searched my face and I wished I knew what she was looking to find so she could tell me.

"I'm just so tired of doing this the wrong way."
I stared down at my cup so I could avoid her eyes. I was feeling sorry enough for myself, I didn't need her to as well.

We sat in silence for a few minutes and I assumed the conversation was over until Ali sighed deeply and took my hand from my cup.

"Eliza, just because you've met a few guys that didn't work for you doesn't mean you're doing it wrong. They are a guideline to show you what works and what doesn't. A blueprint to your soul. They outline it for you. So that the man who matches you can see it from a mile away. You deserve to find that."
She squeezed my hand and I exhaled.

"You think?"

"I know."
She nodded before squeezing my hand once more before letting it go.

"Thank you."

"Anytime. Now, let's go. One more workday before your big night."
She winked as she stood. I followed her, waving goodbye to Xander as we passed the counter.

When I made it to Bolthouse, my heart felt like it was going to beat right out of my chest. I'd felt that way since Brady had asked me out. Possibly even before. We hadn't been alone since that day either which seemed like a long time when I thought about it, so I didn't think about it.

I needed to take Ali's advice and just let it happen.

Whatever it was.

"Good morning, Eliza."
Ada greeted me as she always did and I smiled back at her. She grimaced took a deep breath, her face turning a shade lighter.

"Ada, are you alright?"
I walked closer to her but she only smiled again.

"I'm perfectly fine."
She nodded and smoothed her hands over her dress. It seemed as though she was trying to convince herself as much as she was me.

"Whose perfectly fine?"
Brady's deep voice entered the room before he did. And as if it wasn't already beating too fast, my heart rate picked up more.

"Everyone," Ada smiled at him before attempting to change the subject, "Brady can we go over this article before the meeting?"
She asked. Brady looked between Ada and me then he nodded before he made his way back to his office. Ada followed him and I waited until his door was closed before I walked to my own.

I finished up my latest project then collected my things before heading over to the meeting. It was Friday and the office was even more laid back than usual. The meeting was over within twenty minutes and everyone slowly trickled out of the room. I was jotting down a few last-minute ideas when I felt Brady sit down next to me, there was no possible way to mistake who it was. I looked up and was met with his smirk. I resisted the urge to smile back before I looked around. No one was left in the room, the two massive doors were shut, but not locked.

"Well, would you look at that? We're all alone."
He said as he ran his fingertips up my thigh. He was damn near a professional when it came to being discrete. He had touched me countless times while people were in the room, all while no one noticed.

"And the doors are magically closed, but neither are locked?"
I raised my brows, meeting his eyes.

"No," he sighed and removed his hand from my skin before continuing, "no need, I'm saving myself."

I gasped.
"Becoming celibate? How noble of you, Mr. Bolthouse."
I joked.

"With you around? Not a chance in hell."
Brady shook his head and I pushed my chair back and stood up. He grabbed my arm before I could even take one step.

"Can I pick you up at seven?"
Brady's voice was so low I'd barely made out what he said. A 180 compared to his normal tone and volume.

I almost told him I could meet him there. But the way he was looking up at me, with nervousness in his eyes that unarmed me I couldn't bring myself to do it.

"Seven sounds good."
I agreed.

He inhaled as he pressed his lips to the skin on my wrist that covered my embarrassingly fast pulse. If he felt it, he didn't show it and I breathed a sigh of relief as he released me and I went back to my office to finish the workday.

"Ali? You home?"
I said as I opened the door to our apartment.

"In here."
I heard her voice and walked toward the kitchen. She sat on the barstool, positioned in front of a massive vase filled with colorful flowers.

She raised one eyebrow and smiled, waiting for my response. When I said nothing she plucked the note that sat in the middle of the arrangement and hopped off the barstool.

"This is what I meant Eliza, this is what you deserve and nothing less."
She kissed my cheek and slid the small envelope into my hands as she passed by.

The front was blank so I flipped it over and pulled the card out.

E,

No one flower seemed good enough, so I asked for one of each. I don't think of just one thing when I see you, Eliza. You're so many things at once, a dozen roses would do no justice.

See you at 7,
Brady

I chewed my bottom lip and put the card back in its envelope.

I knew what people thought when they saw Brady too. I had thought the same things at first. But one thing I knew for certain now, Brady was more than what anyone could possibly concoct in their heads.

And I was going to show him.
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