Only with You (The Best Mistake #1) - Page 15

He looked…lonely.

Sophie’s stomach clenched. At least she knew Brynn was cozy at home, drowning her sorrows in ice cream with her girlfriends.

Gray had no one.

She glanced at her watch. It was nearly seven. If she hurried, she could probably make it home in time to see whatever trashy reality show was geared toward single women with no plans on a Friday night.

Gray still hadn’t seen her, so it wasn’t like he’d know that she’d abandoned him to a Friday night even more pathetic than hers. Sophie might be alone, but at least she wasn’t working. She tugged her wine-stuffed yoga bag farther up her shoulder and quietly picked up her keys. Should she say hello? What if he just wanted some peace and quiet?

Or worse, what if he didn’t want to be alone?

Maybe she’d just pop her head in and say hi. He’d probably be horrified to realize she existed outside the hours between nine and five, but she couldn’t just sneak away.

He turned his head slightly to grab another file and her heart lurched as she saw his profile. He didn’t just look lonely. He looked sad.

And if there was anything Sophie couldn’t turn her back on, it was a sad creature. She clenched her fingers around the keys, inexplicably nervous.

“Gray?” she called out, as though she’d just now realized there was someone else in the building. His head snapped around as he spotted her through the glass wall, and she was relieved to see that while he didn’t quite smile at her (that would be a first), neither did he look annoyed at the interruption.

“What are you still doing here?” she asked, moving toward his office and leaning against his doorway. “It’s seven o’clock.”

“Working,” he replied, gesturing to the stack of files and his laptop.

“Have you eaten?” She didn’t know why she asked. She’d only meant to say hello and make sure he wasn’t, you know…like suicidal or something.

But close-up, he looked even more lonely and pathetic than she’d expected.

“Eaten?” he repeated.

“Yes, Gray, food. Normal people consume it to give them energy, joy, maybe a little extra padding around the middle?”

He stared at her, and she had the unsettling feeling that it had been a really long time since someone had cared about whether or not he’d had anything to eat.

She sighed. “I’ll order pizza. You’re not a freaking vegetarian or something, are you?”

“You saw me eat chicken at your parents’ house.”

“Well, sure, but I also watched you drink black coffee, which I know you hate. I hardly think getting verbal confirmation of your eating habits is unwarranted.”

“I don’t need any pizza. I can eat when I get home.”

“Which would be, what? Frozen dinner? Scrambled eggs? Please. It’s Friday night. Come on, humor me. I can’t indulge in a meat lover’s combo alone.”

“You’re eating pizza? Here? With me?”

“Why not?” she said with a shrug.

At least this pizza would totally be guilt-free. Calories didn’t count when you were just feeding your lonely boss.

Once again, the thought of Gray being lonely caused a funny fluttering in her stomach, which she chalked up to hunger pangs. Thirty minutes later she was down in the lobby, tipping the pizza boy and eagerly inhaling the scent of Romio’s house special.

Trying not to drool, she stopped by the office kitchen to grab some paper plates and napkins. As an afterthought, she also grabbed a fork and knife because Gray seemed the fastidious type.

Sophie paused and remembered her gym bag.

Oh, why the hell not? She grabbed a corkscrew that some of the sales guys kept around for spontaneous in-office happy hours. Pizza went better with wine, as did awkwardly intimate dinners with one’s stilted boss. Armed with a bottle of red and a box of greasy heaven, Sophie walked back into Gray’s office without knocking.

His eyes flicked to the pizza box. Then to the wine. He raised an eyebrow.

“Don’t go all prudish on me,” she said as she set the box on the corner of his desk. “It’s a Friday night, and I fully intend to enjoy this bottle of wine even if it’s not on my couch like I’d planned.”

“Nobody asked you to stay, and I certainly didn’t ask you to bring your booze.”

She must have become immune to him, because she didn’t even get riled at his lack of gratitude.

“Oh, so you don’t want me to share?” she asked innocently as she wrestled with the ancient corkscrew.

His answer was to stand and pull the

bottle and opener out of her hands. His big hands proceeded to open it like a pro before pouring liberally into two plastic cups. Her lady parts purred. Now this was a Gray she could start to like.

Sophie handed him a plate with two pieces of pizza before selecting a slice for herself. Just one, she thought as she mentally counted the calories. Her metabolism was pretty good, and supposedly the hellish yoga helped to keep her backside from wobbling. But even the best of genes would struggle to overcome these puddles of grease.

“So what are you working on?” she asked once they’d settled into chairs.

“You’re going to make me converse, aren’t you?” he said.

“Absolutely. It’ll help build your character. Oh, and here, I brought you a fork. I figured a tidy man like yourself wouldn’t approve of eating with his hands.”

His eyes flicked to hers, and she thought she read something like dismay. The stony gray depths were somehow warmer than usual, and they seemed to ask, So this is what you think of me?

She looked away, unsettled.

He picked up the pizza purposefully with both hands. “I’m trying to make sense of Martin’s shorthand,” he said, gesturing at the multiple piles. “There are about eight hundred different-colored file folders, pen ink, and highlighters. But I don’t seem to be any closer in deciphering the method behind the color coding.”

“I think maybe he just thought black ink and standard manila folders were boring,” she said around a huge glob of cheese.

He picked up his cup of wine and stared at her over the rim. “Boring? You’re telling me I’ve wasted hours trying to figure out what blue highlighter was supposed to signify and he just was trying to add some color to his life?”

Sophie shrugged. “Yeah, his secretary left a couple of notebooks behind with commentary on Martin’s quirks. I just found them this afternoon.”

That was a lie she didn’t feel particularly guilty about. The notebooks had been there all along, but the thought of helping Gray before now just hadn’t appealed.

Not when he looked like he wanted to call an exterminator every time he looked at her.

“What else did these notebooks have to say? Anything else that can save me time? Despite what you probably think, spending Friday night in the office isn’t exactly my idea of the good life.”

“Oh? Did you have big plans?”

Sophie instantly regretted her question. She’d forgotten that he and Brynn were originally planning to see a play tonight. Probably something scholarly. She hadn’t meant to rub the breakup in his face.

“Did you speak with your sister?” he asked after a pregnant pause.

Sophie nodded as she picked at a piece of pepperoni. “I didn’t really get the details, just that, you know…you guys decided it wasn’t working out.”

He didn’t say anything more, and Sophie was unsettled by his lack of reaction.

Was he more torn up about the breakup than she’d expected? He hardly looked like a man glad to be done with a going-nowhere relationship.

“Do you, um…want to talk about it?” she asked. Please say no.

“Talk about what?”

She sucked in a breath for patience.

“The fact that you just ended a relationship? That usually registers a blip on the human emotional scale.”

“Oh. No, I don’t want to talk about it.”

“No problem,” she said, happy to dodge that particular conversation. “Shall I go get Martin’s assistant’s notes? We can go over them while we eat and see if there’s anything that would help you.”

“Your sister’s great,” he blurted out.

Oh, here we go. She sat back in her seat and grabbed for her wine. Sophie wasn’t exactly in the mood to hear yet another person begin a tirade about Brynn’s excellence, but she couldn’t cut off a guy who’d just been dumped. Or at least she was assuming Brynn had done the dumping. Her sister’s message hadn’t exactly been clear, and she doubted she’d get all the gritty details from Gray.

“Yes, Brynn’s wonderful,” she replied warily.

“We just didn’t suit.”

“‘Suit’?” she repeated. “You do realize that phrase went out of style back around the time of Prohibition?”

“You know what I mean,” he said as he stared into his wine. “Everything worked on paper, but in person, nothing clicked.”

That’s because you two are the same uptight, overachieving, perfectionist freak. Suddenly her good intentions began to evaporate. The

thought of Brynn and Gray in all of their sophisticated and successful glory made her stomach churn.

“Are we having a bonding moment here, boss?” she asked snidely. “Shall I grab some tissues and ice cream to go with the pizza and wine?”

“Never mind,” he said gruffly.

“I’m sorry,” she said, feeling like crap. There was no need to take out her personal issues on the poor man. He shrugged and reached for the pizza box. He slid another piece onto her plate before getting one for himself.

So much for just having one, she thought as she dug in.

“So what’s real the story with you and Will? Is it like one of those on-again, off-again things?” he said, breaking the companionable silence.

“What’s with all the talking?” she teased gently.

Gray shrugged again, suddenly looking less like the powerful, disinterested boss and more like a shy new kid in town. “I don’t usually enjoy your variety of constant rambling—”

“Nice, Gray, just when I was starting to kind of like you.”

His eyes met hers and he continued. “But I don’t know anyone in Seattle, and you seem to be the only person I can talk to.”

Oh. Oh. And just like that, her irritation evaporated and was replaced by something downright melty. She pushed the uncomfortable sentiment aside. The last thing she needed was to start letting her guard down around her boss.

“I’ll grab those notebooks,” she said, almost knocking over her wine in her haste to stand.

“Sophie.”

“Yeah?”

“You never answered my question about you and Will.” His eyes burned into hers and she suddenly wished she’d had a couple fewer sips of wine. Or maybe a few more. Everything was fuzzy.

What was it he’d been asking?

Oh, right. Will. Best friend.

“Oh, Will and I are just friends. We’ve always been just friends,” she said with a wave of her hand.

“Then why did you tell me he was your date at your parents’ house?”

Sophie snorted. “Well, let’s see, I’d recently endured the humiliation of being stuck in an elevator with a man who assumed I was a whore, while wearing little more than a thong. And then the same man shows up at my parents’ house as my perfect sister’s perfect new boyfriend. So after that, did I want you to think I was single and lonely as well as pathetic and slutty? No, not really. So, I let you think I had a fake boyfriend. Sue me.”

Her voice pitched up at the end and she felt her cheeks flushing as she stared him down. Her attempt at cute and snarky had derailed into melodramatic and lame. She stood abruptly and walked quickly from his office, annoyed to feel the prick of tears as she gathered the notebooks from her desk.

Sophie took a deep breath. She needed to get out of there. She’d just hand over the notebooks and let him continue with his loser evening. Alone. She marched back into his office and nearly collided with his solid form. He put his hands on her shoulders to steady her, and she jumped back from the heat of the contact.

“Sorry,” Gray said quietly, flexing his fingers and putting them back to his sides, as though even the briefest of contact with her made him itch. He cleared his throat but didn’t move out of the way. “Look, I’m sorry for prying about Will. I was just curious what a woman like you would be doing with a guy like him.”

“You mean what would a rich entrepreneur want with a lowly secretary?”

“Stop it,” he said sharply, sounding very unlike his usual calm self. “Quit talking about yourself as if you’re toilet paper.”

“Perhaps if you quit treating me like an irritant I wouldn’t be so defensive!”

“This has nothing to do with me,” Gray said. “I made one single misassumption about you in a dark elevator. It was a mistake. I hadn’t slept, I hadn’t eaten all day, I hate confined spaces, and frankly, I really wasn’t at my best that night in Vegas, okay? But ever since learning that you weren’t a prostitute I have treated you with nothing but respect. And yet you continue to goad me and verbally sabotage yourself every chance you get. Why is that, Ms. Dalton?”

He took the tiniest step forward and she swallowed hard, resisting the urge to move away from him.

Her brain was struggling to think of a retort, so she blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “Don’t call me Ms. Dalton.”

“Why, is it too respectable for a screwup like yourself?”