Chapter 5 ~ The Okay Then
That asshole tricked me. Tricked me into admitting I had turned James down by making me think he was about to ask me out. And then? He just fucking waltzed out of my office and I didn't see him for the rest of the day.
Well, that was the last time something like that was gonna happen.
I ran two extra miles on my treadmill that night, pushing myself until I could barely feel my legs and I thought my chest might explode. I wanted to be exhausted. I wanted to forcefully push thoughts of Edward from my mind by wearing my body out to such an extreme that I had no energy to think about anything. Of course, the entire time I was running, all I could think about was discussing "working out" with Edward before that morning's meeting.
I jumped off the treadmill and bent over as I tried to catch my breath. After I finished off what was left in my water bottle, I walked to the kitchen so I could refill it. Sweat trickled down my neck as I held the bottle to the dispenser on my fridge and I leaned my head against my arm on the cool surface in front of me.
As my eyes closed, I felt Edward walk up behind me and wrap his arms around my waist. I could feel his tongue running behind my ear, along my neck. His teeth nibbled my earlobe.
"I'm all sweaty," I said, embarrassed by the state I was in.
"Mmm ... hot and salty. My favorite."
I couldn't help but giggle as I felt his breath in my ear, bringing goosebumps to my heated skin. His hands moved along my sides, brushing my breasts before trailing around and underneath them.
Cold water started running over my hand at the fridge.
"Shit!" I pulled my hand and water bottle away from the refrigerator and grabbed a hand towel to wipe up the mess I'd made on the floor.
I stood at the sink, drinking water and thinking still about Edward. "Shit." I said again, aloud.
I was in much better shape by Tuesday morning.
I chose to wear a simple, brown dress that fell to about the middle of my knee. It's neckline was high and one would think it downright demure if not for the fact that it was made of a jersey knit that clung to my body like a second skin. I arrived at my office at 7:30 and, knowing Edward would be coming down at 8:00, I called Jessica into my office.
Jessica Stanley was twenty-five years old. She was cute and bright, but had little confidence. I was hoping that would change as she got older because as it was, she often came across as nervous and unsure of herself, which was ludicrous to me. She was good at her job and worked hard and, while I never pried into her private life, I was sure she must have a lot of guys buzzing around her. She was about 5' 6", with dark blonde hair and though she was about ten pounds overweight, she had a set of double-Ds that I'm sure had caught the eye of more than one man. Besides, what's ten pounds? I thought she was adorable.
After speaking with her for a few minutes and assuring her that she was perfect for the training assignment I had given her, I reviewed my emails. I discovered that the sales staff was having a cocktail party and Texas Hold ‘Em Poker tournament on Friday evening and I was invited. The company threw that sort of thing often. We'd go bowling or to Gameworks or something along those lines, merely as a means of getting together outside the office and to shmooze.
I hated that shit. I liked to socialize more than most people I know, but I preferred to choose the people I spent my down time with, thank you very much, and the people I chose to spend time with generally did not work with me. However, while it was not mandatory that I attend these things, it was unspoken and yet understood that I should attend.
It was at one of these functions that I began to understand what sort of reputation I had around the office, though. We'd gone golfing (something I also hate and am very bad at), which was followed by a cocktail party (Con-Vert was big on cocktail parties). The VP of Sales, Eric Yorkie, was celebrating his team's victory on the course and had apparently had a few too many cocktails when he cornered me for a conversation. Most of what he said made little sense and while he was trying to make me laugh, I was more laughing at him than with him when he finally said, "Bella—who knew you had a personality under there?"
While the people who reported directly to me loved me, I was thought of around much of the rest office as a hard ass. I'd had too many confrontations with various members of our staff (especially our sales staff) over various issues and since I generally came out on top in those battles, they didn't appreciate me very much. Not until they needed something from me, of course. All I expected was that people do their job correctly—all people, no exceptions. It's not that I didn't allow for errors. Everybody makes them. But when a person just willfully broke the rules or didn't complete a task, or even if the same mistake is made repeatedly ... well, admittedly, I tended to get a little irritated. And it showed. The fact that this was seen as me being a "hard ass" was nuts and I knew deep down that, were I a man, I would be seen quite differently. I chose not to even think about that, though. I did my job to the best of my ability. I tried to be fair and professional and if people had a problem with me, I had learned over the years to think of it as their problem and not mine.
I saw had an email from "jwhitlock" and I smiled. I had truly enjoyed Jasper's company at the Serious 'Que (although perhaps not as much as Alice enjoyed it) and wondered what he might have to say. We didn't work together much, so I rarely, if ever, even saw him at work. I couldn't even remember having spoken to him before Friday.
Good morning, Bella.
Have you rec'd an invite for this Sales shin dig Friday night and, if so, are you going? I have never been to one of these things before and I need more allies than just Edward, who I assume will be busy kissing up to important people all night, as per his usual.
I smiled at his nickname, which I found fitting for him even were it not a shortened version of his name, and replied.
I am, in fact, going to said shin dig. Since I will have absolutely NO allies there, I would be happy to attach myself to your hip, if you'd like. I am pleased you are going, but at the risk of sounding rude, may I inquire as to why that is the case? You've never been on the invite list before, have you? Are we playing some strange Graphic Design-related, "team-building" game or something? Because if so, my complete lack of creativity may dictate that I come down with a 24 hour flu bug Friday afternoon...
I read a few other emails before receiving his reply.
Well ... it is not official as of yet so keep this on the down low, but as of next Monday I will be the Marketing Manager. Hence my invitation ... or is that initiation?
I decided not to tell him that Alice had spilled the beans, but was pleased to hear that he had decided to accept the promotion.
Hey congrats! Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy (I would say more deserving, but honestly I don't know my Graphic Design from Designer Jeans). Plus, on the purely selfish tip, I am pleased to know that I will have a friend at these stupid things from now on.
And his reply:
Thanks. I am nervous about it, for many reasons, but the extra money will be very good indeed. Especially since Alice is a very expensive girlfriend to have. :)
Oh my. I fought the urge to call or email Alice and tell her Jasper just referred to her as his "girlfriend" and instead replied:
Well, let me know if you need anything, but I'm sure you would not have gotten the promotion if you didn't deserve it. Besides, I am happy for you and isn't making Alice's BFF happy part of your life's goal?
No need to answer that question. I already know the answer is yes. :)
Have a great day.
As I finished typing, I heard a soft knock at my door and looked up to see Edward's smiling face. He leaned against the door jam, holding something white in his hand. I couldn't help but return his smile as he walked in at the raise of my head.
"Good morning, Mr. Masen."
"Are we not on a first name basis, yet?" He sat in the chair in front of my desk. "After all, I have had my tongue in your mouth."
I blushed and glanced at my door, to make sure nobody was there to have heard him. "We are. I just like calling you Mr. Masen. Is that a problem?"
"Well, no, but if it's a nickname you want, I can think of others I would prefer."
He crossed his legs, ankle over knee. "Oh, how about ... 'Sexy Motherfucker'?" He smirked.
I eyed him, comically. "Well, you got the second part right."
It was my turn to smirk. "Nothing."
"Uh-huh." He squirmed a little in his seat and put both feet on the floor. "Anyway, I brought you something. I know you don't eat donuts, but how about a bagel?"
My eyes widened in delight. "Did you say 'bagel'?"
He grinned and handed over what he’d been holding: a sesame bagel, wrapped in a napkin. "That I did."
I gave an overly hearty gasp and smiled. "Mr. Masen, you are a mindreader. I just happen to be in the need of some sustenance at the moment. But what is the occasion?"
"I need an occasion to bring a beautiful woman a bagel?"
"Of course not. But why did you bring me one?"
I batted my lashes and he chuckled. I grinned in reply.
"Well, thank you very much. That was thoughtful of you."
He shrugged. "No big deal, but you're welcome. And if you'd like to think you're now indebted to me, feel free." He winked at me.
I put the bagel down on my desk and stood. "Well, speaking of beautiful women, we should probably get your training started."
He looked confused, but also stood. "Well, sure, but ... huh?"
I crooked my finger at him, beckoning him to follow me and he did. We walked out of my office and over to Jessica's cubicle. She was busy tidying up her space to make room for Edward and whatever he brought with him. I dragged a chair over from an empty cubicle.
"Edward, this is Jessica Stanley. She is going to be training you this morning. Jessica, this is Edward Masen, our new Director of Sales."
She stood and reached her hand out to shake a now confused-looking Edward's. "It's nice to meet you Edward." I think she blushed. I know she looked down at her shoes after shaking his hand.
"And it's a pleasure to meet you, Jessica." Edward looked at me.
I decided to ignore the confusion on his face and said, "Okay then, I will leave you two to it."
I turned to walk away and heard Edward say something to Jessica before I felt him come up beside me.
"Can I talk to you for a second?" he asked.
"A second? Yes."
He followed me back into my office. "Um ... I thought you were going to be training me."
I stopped before I got to my desk and turned toward him. "Jessica is great, Edward, and she knows her stuff. She trains almost all of our new employees."
He put one hand in his pocket and the other ran through his hair and then scratched at his jaw, which now had a bit of stubble on it. Apparently, he didn't shave every day. And that stubble was sexy as hell.
"No, I'm sure she's fine. That's not ... well, I'm just surprised."
I sat down at my desk and raised my eyebrows at him as he walked closer.
"I'm sorry," I said. "You want your bagel back?"
He thinned his lips in an almost-smile. "Of course not."
"Okay then. It should only take an hour or two to go through everything. Have fun."
His eyes came alive with some kind of light and the slight awkwardness that had infected him only moments before seemed to dissipate just as quickly. He adopted his patented, cocky grin as he turned to leave my office and said, "Okay then."
As I turned back to my computer, he paused at the door. I looked up at him, expectantly.
"Are you going to this thing Friday night?" he asked.
"I am," I nodded. "Jasper's going too, so it might actually be fun."
He nodded, a knowing grin on his face that made me wonder just what was going on behind those beautiful eyes of his. He stuffed his hands in his pockets again as he walked away.
"Okay then," he said over his shoulder and he chuckled.
About two hours later, Jessica knocked on my door and walked in when I looked up at her. She was smiling.
I returned her smile. "How did it go?"
"Um..." Jessica looked down at her feet. "Fine. I mean, he seemed to get everything."
"Um ... Bella?"
I continued to smile at her as she sat down. "Yes?"
"Bella, Edward is so ... man. I mean, he is so cute!" She blushed. "I know I shouldn't talk about him like that, but ... man, he is just so cute!"
I chuckled. "I agree. He is quite attractive ... and it's okay. Ain't nobody here but us chickens."
"I know. But I mean, he’s so cute that I was, like, nervous the whole time he was with me. And it's not just that he's cute. He's funny and he seems sweet and ... well, I guess all salespeople have to be charming, huh?"
"I guess so." I shrugged.
"I hope I did okay. I was nervous."
"I'm sure you did fine, Jessica. You always do."
"I guess...” She looked into her lap where her hands fidgeted with each other. “Bella?"
I waited for her to get to the point. When I didn't say anything, she looked up at me.
"Do you think he's ... single? I mean, he wasn't wearing a ring, but do you think he has a girlfriend?"
Whoa. Wait a minute, here.
I cleared my throat. "Um ... Jessica, I really don't..."
She shook her head, her hair falling in her face as she did so. "I know, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked." She looked back down to her hands, which were still warring with each other. "I just..."
I smiled at her, even though part of me wanted to pull her hair out—a feeling I was not used to at all and really did not care for. "It's okay, Jess. I just don't know, really. We haven't discussed it."
It occurred to me that we hadn't discussed it and my stomach started to churn. I shook my head, slightly. "Anyway, I agree with you. He is very attractive. You don't need to feel embarrassed for noticing the obvious."
She looked up at me and smiled. "Thanks. I mean, I know we're at work, but..."
I chuckled and nodded as she stood up.
"Thanks Bella," she said as she walked toward the door.
"Thank you, Jess. For spending time with him this morning."
She nodded and smiled again and walked out the door and I knew she had already received all the thanks she needed—in the form of Edward's, I was sure, sly smiles and flirtatious comments.
I sighed heavily and put my face in my hands.
Eventually, I was able to get my act together and get back to work. My thoughts even managed to stay off of Edward for large periods of time. I was happy when the day neared its end, though. As tired as thinking a lot always made me feel, trying not to think about Edward all day exhausted me.
I had my head buried in a spreadsheet I was creating when I heard a knock on my door.
"Edward," I said, as he walked in. I was smiling. Of course. But then, so was he. Of course.
"Ah ... no more Mr. Masen?"
"Well, I like to keep you on your toes."
"I have no doubt about that." He chuckled and sat down in front of my desk. "I hope I'm not intruding. You looked rather intense there."
"Nah. Actually, I'm happy to look away from this. I have to do so many stupid reports. They drive me nuts. Not exactly my favorite part of the job."
"What is your favorite part of the job?"
I hesitated. Did I even know the answer to his question? The fact that I wasn’t sure was disconcerting.
"Um ... well, I like working with the people on my team, watching them learn new things and grow, you know?"
"I also like the analytic aspects of what I do, whether it's financial statements or trends or whatever."
He gave me a curious look, making me smile.
"I know. It all sounds incredibly exciting, doesn't it?"
He leaned forward, his forearms on his knees, and he spoke so softly that I barely heard him. "Bella, anything that excites you excites me."
I blushed profusely and was struck dumb. Edward sat still, where he was, his forearms on his knees. Gone was his cocky grin and his eyes were dark with a look I recognized from the other night. My mouth went dry and my pulse pounded in my temples. I knew he could see that I was breathing hard and that just made me blush all the more.
I wasn't sure how much time passed while we sat there, looking at each other. Finally, I took a deep breath and found my voice again.
"Edward, are you aware that you are a very bad boy?"
He sat back and his grin returned. "I am very aware of that fact, yes. Have been for a long time."
"Well, you know, admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery."
"You think it's a problem?"
I tilted my head and peered at him. "Actually, I haven't made up my mind, yet."
"No?" His eyebrows flew up.
I simply shrugged, content to leave him as in the dark as I was.
"Listen, Bella, I came down to let you know I'm not gonna be around for a few days."
My heart sank a little at the news. "No?"
"I have to go see a few customers with a couple of the Reps. I probably won't see you until the poker game Friday evening."
"Oh," I said. "Well, it was nice of you to let me know, although-"
He raised his hand and cut me off. "I know. You're gonna say I didn't have to. But I wanted to."
I cleared my throat and willed myself not to blush again. "Well ... again, that was nice of you. Somehow, I shall try to get through the rest of the week without seeing your smiling face."
"Don't lie, Bella. I know you're going to miss me." That damn cocky grin was back.
I rolled my eyes and all I said was "Mm-hmm," even though I was.
"You can always send me a text if you get lonely." His eyes sparkled.
"Well, does Jessica have your number? Because she might miss you more than anybody." As soon as I said it, I felt horrible for exposing her crush. I wasn't even sure why I did it.
Edward's eyebrows again searched for his hairline. "Oh really?"
I nodded. "I'm sure I don't need to tell you that your charms speak to many."
"She found me charming?" He chuckled.
"Amongst other things ... anyway, I shouldn't have said anything so don't make her feel weird, okay?"
"Now why would I make her feel weird? She's sweet. A little nervous for my taste, but now that I know I was the one making her nervous, I kind of like that too."
It was my turn to raise my eyebrows.
He chuckled, that stupid cocky grin prominent on his face. "Ah, don't get jealous Bella."
"No worries. I don't get jealous. If you're interested, go for it. She's a great kid."
"She didn't look like a kid to me." He winked at me.
I smiled, stiffly. "Well, you're a kid, too."
"Oh, I see. We're back to this stupid age thing."
"What 'stupid age thing'? I'm just saying she's your age. Well, nearly."
He startled me when he stood suddenly and leaned his hands against my desk. I sat back in my chair and concentrated on not hyperventilating.
"Bella, stop." The heat in his eyes threatened to burn through my dress. "I am not interested in girls. I'm interested in women. One woman, in particular."
I couldn't speak. Even if actual words had come to mind, I wouldn't have been able to voice them. We again stared at each other for several moments, tension building between us, before his eyes lightened and started to sparkle again. I made a mental note to ask him how he did that, once we knew each other better.
"Why don't you give me a kiss goodbye, since we won't be seeing each other for a few days? Give me something to think about as I while away the hours without you."
That woke me up. In more ways than one.
"In my office?" I shook my head. "Uh—I don't think so, my friend."
"Okay,” he grinned. “How about I walk you out to that wonderful truck of yours? You can kiss me there."
I turned away from him and toward my computer, saving my work and starting the process of shutting it down. "Absolutely not, Edward. If we're gonna do this thing, you need to understand the ground rules."
"What 'thing' are we doing?" He was downright smirking at me, now.
I looked back at him and sighed. "I don't know."
"Yes I am, actually ... but if we decide to do this thing, we cannot bring it into the office. At all. No truck-side kisses, no coming in here and closing my blinds-"
"Hmm, I hadn't even considered closing the blinds..."
"Edward, I'm serious."
He smiled at me. A simple, genuine smile that almost made me change my mind about everything I had just said and jump over the desk.
"I know you are," he said.
We continued to stare at one another for several beats until he finally straightened and put his hands in his pockets.
"Okay then," he said. "I guess I'll just have to see you Friday evening."
I nodded, afraid to open my mouth to speak.
He moved toward the door. "Enjoy the rest of your week, Bella." As he got to the doorway, he stopped. "Oh and Bella?" He turned to look back at me. "Keep that fucker James out of your office while I'm gone."
My jaw dropped a bit, but I had no time to say anything before he was gone.
I had the feeling I was in for another hard workout that evening.
Instead of repeating The Workout of the Insane, I called Rosalie and asked if she could meet me for dinner. When I walked up to the Irish pub and grill we'd chosen for our meal, she was standing out front, waiting for me.
"So how was your weekend?" I asked her as we were seated. "I haven't really spoken to you since Friday." We had sent a few text messages back and forth, but nothing illuminating.
"Never better, sweet tits. Never better." Rosalie had a way with words.
"Rose, you know I hate it when you call me that."
"I know." She smiled and picked up her menu.
After we ordered and had cocktails sitting in front of us, I got to what I was really interested in. "So how was your date the other night?"
Her eyes adopted a mischievous glint. "The other night? The proper question would be, 'How was your date all weekend?'"
"Oh really?" I raised my eyebrows. "That good, huh?"
I glared at her use of the nickname.
"Rosalie had her world rocked." She winked at me.
"And how. Let me just say, this guy should teach classes on The Art of Fucking."
Our waitress picked that exact moment to bring us our food. It was all I could do not to laugh at the poor, blushing woman as she set our plates in front of us.
I had never heard anything like that come out of Rosalie’s mouth before. I got good and laid, sure, I'd heard that. I'm freshly fucked, yep. Generally, she said things like I showed him what was what or even I rocked his world. I can't ever recall her saying anything about what a guy had done for her.
"So who is this guy?" I asked after our waitress skittered away.
She looked at me curiously while she chewed on a bite of mushroom-Swiss hamburger. Once she swallowed, she shook her head. "Nnn ... I think I'll just keep that to myself for a little longer."
It was too weird. She liked to brag about her conquests more than most men I knew.
"Rose, what's going on? What's the big secret? Are you, like, dating Johnny Depp or something?"
She waved her hand at me while replying. "Honey, if that were the case, I'd be singing it from the rooftops."
"Then what is it?"
She kept mum, smiling at me while she ate her burger, that glint still in her eyes.
Suddenly, something occurred to me and I put down the piece of fish I was about to pop into my mouth. "Wait ... Rose, is he ... he isn't married is he?"
She laughed loudly. "Honey, please. You know I don't share."
It was true. She would never put herself in that position. I just looked at her, curiously, but it became obvious that she wasn't going to fork over any details, so I let it go.
We shared some amusing small talk, most of which revolved around Alice and how gone she was over Jasper. Finally, after our dishes were cleared and we settled in for one last after-dinner drink, Rosalie asked The Question.
"So ... what happened with that cute-ass Edward the other night after I left?"
"What do you mean?" I asked, being coy.
"Spill it, sweet tits. It was apparent to everyone in the Serious 'Que that you guys were hot for each other. I thought you were gonna tear each other's clothes off and start going at it on the table in front of me."
"Okay, that is in no way accurate. And if you call me 'sweet tits' once more I'm getting up from this table and leaving ... Although I will have to make a pit stop at the bathroom first." I started to get up, but she grabbed my arm before I could do so fully.
"Oh no you don't. Spill it, swee—Bella."
I sat down. "Well ... nothing. I mean, nothing really."
"If that's true, I have lost all faith in you."
"Well, I mean, we stayed after you all had left. We had one last drink in the bar."
"Uh-huh..." She had an expectant look on her face and I was almost sad that I was about to disappoint her.
"Nothing happened, Rose. Not really. He kissed me goodnight."
She raised her eyebrows and I grinned.
"A few times."
She clapped her hands together and the people at the table next to us looked over. I rolled my eyes. There was just no way Rose could keep anything on the down-low.
"Don't get so excited. It was just a kiss." But I could feel the blush rising up my neck and coloring my cheeks.
"Uh-huh ... just a kiss huh? Then why do you look so titillated right now?"
"I think I look just fine and you just like to say the word 'tit' in any context."
"How was it?"
It was her turn to roll her eyes. "No, the last drink you had. Of course the kiss!"
I looked at her and watched as the grin spread across her face. Apparently, my feelings were written on my face.
"Rose...” I squirmed in my seat. “Yes. Yes, it was a good kiss."
"Okay, it was a great kiss."
She clapped again and said something thatsounded like "Gahaha!"
Finally, I gave in fully and spilled the beans. We leaned in toward each other.
"Rose ... this was ... toe-curling, head-spinning, heart-pounding, feel-it-in-my-pants kissing."
Again, the people at the next table looked at us. This time, they appeared annoyed.
"So what's next?" She asked, oblivious to them.
"I don't know, Rose,” I shrugged. “I mean, a great kiss is a great kiss and not that I'm anxious for that to be our last kiss, but..."
She held her hands out, palms up. "But what? What is there to 'but' about?"
"Rose ... he is ... significantly younger than I."
"Bah!" She waved her hand, dismissively. "So what?"
"Well, I would agree with you if I was just out to get laid. Maybe even laid more than once. But ... I work with the guy. I can't just have a weekend fling with someone I am going to see at work on Monday. No matter how great a kisser he is."
She sat back in her chair for a moment and sighed. "Yeah, okay. I guess I can see that."
I cleared my throat and shifted in my seat a little.
"So what? You just forget about it? I mean, isn't that going to be just as hard around work?"
I paused for a few moments before I answered. "Well ... honestly, Rose? I actually like the guy. Like, I think I might be interested in ... well, I don't know what, exactly. But more than just a weekend fling."
She gasped. I couldn't blame her, either. I hadn't said anything like that about anyone since Jacob left.
"Really." I finished my drink with a long pull on the straw and sighed. "So now I gotta figure out what I really want, here. I mean, with the age thing and the fact that we work together—I just need to figure out if the payoff is worth dealing with those factors."
"Uh-huh. So what does he want?"
"Right now, I'd say his desires have zeroed in on my pants and he's not seeing much beyond that."
"Of course.” She grinned. “He's a man."
"Yep." I popped the 'p' and motioned to the waitress to bring our check.
"Can I ask you something?" She over at me, her eyes narrowed.
"Why is the age difference such a problem? I mean, if he doesn't care, why should you? He's not some stupid twenty-something who has nothing worthwhile to say."
"No, I know he's not." I sighed.
"Well, okay then."
"No, not okay then ... It's just ... I don't know ... it makes me feel uncomfortable. Like ... you know, I'm not used to second guessing myself. The age difference makes me second guess myself. Like, when I think about it, I feel all insecure or something."
I shook my head. "I know. It's nuts."
She looked at me for a moment while I looked at the check, which was just brought to us. It was hard for me to admit my insecurities out loud, and especially hard in front of Rose. She was one of my best friends and she knew most everything about me, but she was always so sure of herself. I wasn’t sure she could understand not being so.
Finally, she said, "Well, if he makes you feel insecure then he's not the one for you."
"No, it not him.” I shook my head. “If anything, his paying attention to me makes me feel good. You know, he’s hot and he’s young and he’s stiff in the pants for me. Who wouldn’t get a bit of an ego rush? It's just me ... It may just be ... I mean, these tits might be sweet, but they're still ten years older than tits his own age. And, you know—this is the first guy I've been the slightest bit interested in since I found Jacob playing hide the salami with his little chippy. I just ... Fuck, I don't even know what my problem is ... but I do know that things at work could get very messy. Especially if it doesn't work. If people find out–"
"Do they have to?"
"Hopefully not. But if they do ... I mean, the gossip will be horrendous. And the age difference will just add a whole new level to that gossip."
"Who the fuck cares what people say about you, Bella?"
"Well, of course, but this is my career we're talking about. I mean, to have Carlisle find out? I just don't want to tarnish my reputation in that way."
She looked at the check and dropped money into the little tray underneath it. "Well ... it kind of sounds like you've made up your mind."
I dropped my own money down and spoke softly. "Does it?"
"Well, you just spent a lot of time trying to justify to me why you should keep your hands off."
I chuckled. "I don't think I was trying to justify it to you, Rose."
"Well...” She grinned. “Okay, then."