Only with You (The Best Mistake #1) - Page 21

Gray’s jaw tightened, and his voice sounded gruff. “It was just those damn boots. They were awful. I figured no self-respecting woman would wear them.”

Sophie let out a half laugh. “You made a snap judgment based on my shoe choice?”

He lifted a shoulder and continued eating his salad.

She shook her head. “Talk about judgmental crap.”

“Talk about slutty shoes.”

That made her smile ruefully. “And to think I spent a good hour getting ready that night. All my hard work defeated by the wrong shoe selection. I was this close to picking a very respectable sandal.”

“Now can I ask you something?”

She raised an eyebrow. “Very good, Gray. Showing interest in your date is progress.”

He ignored her attempt at evasion. “Two questions, actually. First, why did you quit law school?”

Sophie blinked at the unexpected change in topic. She thought carefully about how to respond. Did she even know anymore? Her twenty-three-year-old self seemed like a distant stranger. “I don’t really know,” she said slowly. “It’s like one day I was contentedly going through the motions of the path I’d always been on, and the next day…everything just felt wrong.”

“So…you wanted to go into the restaurant business?”

Sophie laughed softly. “Very delicately put. And no, not really. I suppose you could say it was a very delayed form of rebellion. I’d done everything I was supposed to up until that point. Good grades, the “right” extracurricular, the right school, wholesome boyfriend…When I fell off that path, my parents flipped. There was a whole lot of talk about being respectable, and not a whole lot of dialogue about happiness. I guess in turn I tried to get as far away from their path as possible.”

“By becoming a cocktail waitress,” he finished for her.

“Well…it was that or a hooker,” she said with a sly smile.

He took a sip of wine. “Which leads me to my next question…Why are you still so preoccupied with what happened that night? It was a simple mistake, and we’ve already established that neither of us was at our best. Add to that a freak elevator malfunction. But you can’t let it go. Why is that?”

She let out a long breath and pushed her salad aside. “I’m going to need more wine for this discussion.”

He complied, refilling both their glasses without comment. Then he turned and studied her, his dark eyes latching on to hers with uncomfortable intensity.

She looked away and idly ran her finger along the stem of her crystal glass before speaking.

“So, the thing is,” she began slowly, “my career path hasn’t been exactly typical for a Stanford graduate. The alumni house is hardly pounding on my door begging for interviews.”

She took a swallow of wine, feeling his intent gaze still fixed on her profile.

“And I guess I’ve always known that I’m better at being liked than being admired,” she continued. “And I’m okay with that. Mostly. But being mistaken for a prostitute somehow felt like rock bottom, you know? Like I’d been able to handle the You can do better pep talks up to a point, but…”

She broke off, not knowing how to explain herself and worried she’d revealed too much.

He didn’t let her off the hook. “But when I thought you were at the bottom of the employment food chain, you doubted yourself and began to wonder if your family was right about you?” he guessed.

“Yup, that pretty much sums it up,” she said glumly.

“Hey,” he said softly, nudging his knee against hers.

She raised her eyes to his, ignoring the flip of her belly.

“You’re not inferior to anyone. You have skills that nobody else in your family has. Hell, the way you handled the Blackwells? I’ve never seen anyone wrap someone around their finger so efficiently. That kind of skill is worth something. You’re worth something.”

The last sentence came out in a mumble, and he tensed his jaw, probably from the uncomfortable sensation of saying something nice. Sophie wanted to give him a hard time about the uncharacteristic softness, but she felt too warm and melty to ruin the moment. This kind of affirmation coming from anyone would have given her a flutter.

But coming from Gray? She felt like grinning.

What would it be like to lean into him for just a moment? To beg for more reassurances. To hear that he liked her. That he respected her, just as she was, not for what she could be.

Before she knew it she was leaning, and from the way he was staring at her mouth, she wasn’t the only one

who felt the pull of whatever was going on there. He moved imperceptibly closer and Sophie held her breath, not daring to let herself think. Not about work, not about Brynn, not about Vegas.

Kiss me, she thought.

Gray drew back so quickly he nearly knocked his plate off the counter.

“Anyway, I just wanted you to know,” he said gruffly, grabbing their plates and standing.

Sophie shook her head and tried to shake off whatever had just flashed between them. She took a deep breath and ordered herself not to be disappointed.

You are not to make out with your boss, you are not to make out with your boss…

She repeated the mantra in her head as he dumped their barely touched salads down the garbage disposal with a fierce scowl. She had the insane urge to press her lips against the crease between his eyebrows.

How had the night turned so quickly from dreaded family dinner to downright sexy?

The taciturn, irritable version of Gray never made her feel off-balance. But this flirty, sweet version made her wary. This Gray could too easily slip past her guard, and the last thing she needed was to fall for someone who would never approve of her. Throwing a few morale boosters her way was one thing, but someone like Gray would never be in a serious relationship with someone as unfocused as her. Hell, Brian had been a freaking nomad, and even he thought she was floating aimlessly through life.

The thought depressed her more than it should. Most of the time she couldn’t stand Gray, and now she was thinking about a relationship?

They needed to abort this cozy chatter before she did something crazy. Like grab the lapels of his crisp white shirt and kiss him senseless. And every instinct in her body told her that getting personal with Grayson Wyatt could only lead to heartbreak.

“Can I help with the main course?” she asked too loudly.

He glanced up, looking relieved that she wasn’t going to continue their bonding moment. He’d probably reached his quota of emotional availability for the year.

“You can chop the parsley,” he replied. “You can’t possibly mess that up.”

“Gee, thanks,” she said, sliding off the bar stool. “Do you have an extra cutting board?”

He slid the garlic he was mincing to the right side of his cutting board and gestured to the space he’d just cleared. “Grab a knife. Parsley’s in the produce drawer of the fridge.”

Unsurprisingly, his fridge was both well stocked and well organized. She took her time browsing through the assortment of fancy cheeses and meats and wide array of produce. It had more variety than her local grocery store, she marveled as she checked out some expensive-looking ham.

“Quit fondling my meat, and just get the damn parsley.”

“Cliché sexual references, boss? I didn’t think that was your style,” she said as she grabbed the parsley and a knife and settled beside him at the cutting board.

Despite her intention to keep things completely professional between them, she couldn’t help but notice the domestic coziness of them sharing a cutting board. He seemed to think the same, because his eyes slid to hers and he gave her a shy smile.

She followed the motion of his hands as he adeptly minced several garlic cloves. He looked so at home with his cooking utensils. It was strange to think that the same hands deftly handling the chef knife were the ones she’d seen typing, holding a phone, or shooing her out of his office.

Awkwardly, Sophie began chopping the parsley. She’d never thought much about her chopping technique before. She’d watched plenty of Food Network and could whip up the occasional spaghetti or stir-fry without embarrassing herself. But after watching him go all Julia Child on her, she felt strangely inept.

Her eyes slid again to his hands, trying to mimic what he was doing. Noticing that he used shorter, more efficient chopping movements, she tried the same—

“Ouch!” she exclaimed. “Son of a…”

She’d never exactly been keen on blood, and the sight of red fluid covering her hand had her swaying.

“What the hell?” Gray said, grabbing her by the wrist. “You’ve cut yourself!”

“Wow, nothing slips by you.” she said dazedly, staring down at her bloody hand. It was hard to see around the Braveheart-worthy puddle of blood, but it looked like a major gash was running along her index and middle fingers right below the knuckle.

“You’re going to need stitches,” Gray muttered.

“Just get me a Band-Aid,” she said, humiliation beginning to sink in around the queasiness. “It’s only a little nick.”

But Gray had grasped her wrist and wrapped a towel around

her fingers. “Into the car, now. We’re going to the ER.”

“Are you freaking kidding me? Just get me another glass of wine and another towel or something. Maybe some tape.” Her hand began to throb. “Actually, make that wine a whiskey. But I’m not going to the hospital because I cut myself chopping parsley.”

“I can see your bone, Sophie,” he said as he ushered her out of the apartment, down a stairwell, and into the garage. Throbbing finger or no, she wasn’t so out of it that she didn’t notice the careful way he tucked all of her limbs into his black BMW or the way he quickly ran his hand over her hair.

Then again, that could have been the woozy at work.

“Just great. I’m even a failure at cutting herbs,” she muttered, throwing her head back against the headrest and clutching the towel more closely around her fingers. The blood had soaked through the folded dish towel and she was beginning to realize the sheer stupidity of what she’d done. She couldn’t even blame the wine. Sure, she’d had a glass, but most of her intoxication had been from watching the man next to her.

Distraction by lust. It happened to the best of women, right?

Through the haze of pain and humiliation, she realized that Gray drove just like he did everything else. Quickly, quietly, and with no unnecessary movements.

“How are you feeling?” he asked, glancing over at her.

“I’m feeling really great, Gray. For the first time ever I was getting the impression that maybe you didn’t hate me, and then I go and ruin the night by nearly slicing off the fingers of my dominant hand. So yeah, I’m great. Maybe later we can go shoot puppies at close range.”

“I never hated you,” he said quietly.

And then he reached over and briefly set his hand on her knee before he jerked it back to the steering wheel.

Despite the fact that her hand was wrapped in a blood-soaked towel, and that she was about to spend her Friday night in a hospital waiting room, she couldn’t hide a giddy little smile.

CHAPTER TWELVE

Somehow Gray had never imagined that his personal version of hell would include an emergency room waiting area, the frantic parents of his secretary, and her scarily stressed-out sister, who also happened to be an ex-girlfriend. Will Thatcher had shown up as well, although he at least seemed calm.

Resisting the urge to press his fingers against his temples, he turned to Will, the only one of the group not either wringing their hands or scowling at him. “Would you please explain to me how it is that you all ended up here for a very minor finger injury?”

Will shrugged good-naturedly as he dug into his second bag of peanut M&M’s. “Soph’s dad used to run this emergency room. There’s no way you could have snuck beloved Dr. Dalton’s youngest daughter through here without the whole fam finding out. M&M?”

“No. Thanks.”

“Tell us again how this happened?” Sophie’s mom asked, shredding her thumbnail to pieces with her teeth.

“Calm down, Marnie. Dr. Hoyne said it was nothing a few stitches wouldn’t fix,” Sophie’s dad said while rubbing his wife’s back.

Marnie hissed. “Oh, and what does Richard Hoyne know!”

“True, med school teaches those docs nothing these days,” Will said.

“I heard that, William,” Marnie said.

“Dr. Hoyne is a fine ER doctor. I trained him myself,” Chris said soothingly.

“So she’s not going to lose her fingers?”

Oh Jesus. Gray pinched the bridge of his nose. Of all women, the one who had to go and slice her finger was an employee. And of all the employees, he had to end up with the one whose dad was a retired doctor and had apparently handpicked the entire emergency room staff.

“I just don’t understand how this happened,” Marnie asked.

“I didn’t realize I owed you a report,” Gray snapped, losing his temper.

“Don’t get snippy with Mama Dalton,” Will said. “You’re the one cavorting around with your secretary on a Friday night, chopping off her fingers.”

“Yeah, how is it that you ended up spending Friday night with my sister?” Brynn asked, stopping her pacing for the first time since arriving.

“Oh, here we go,” Will said, noisily crunching his M&M’s.

Gray avoided Brynn’s accusing look. He hadn’t expected to see his ex-girlfriend again, and definitely lacked the quick thinking to smooth over the situation.