When Carlson Met Suzy
Why do they bother with the reduced calorie, less sugar crap in the snack bin? No one touches that make-believe junk unless it’s to chuck them aside in search of the real stuff. Staff at the headquarters of a construction firm needs calories and packed sugar to get through the bullshit day. Mumbling with annoyance, I dig in the basket, my wide hand tunneling through crinkling packages and brightly wrapped bars for the coveted bite-size cookies I spot at the bottom. My fingers quickly seize on the buried prize.
That should hold me over for the next twenty minutes.
Content, I’m stuffing a crunchy, heavenly morsel in my mouth when animated voices and clapping heels gradually approach, drowning out the faint, mundane clacking of keyboards, office chatters, and the droning of the copier. I’m not officially an employee of HC, but everyone knows when I’m here, I’m either with the CEO or hanging out in the kitchen.
“…usually here. If not, I’m sure we’ll… Oh, there you are.” Linda breezes in, brushing aside her bangs with a smile fixed in place. “I thought we might find you here. I’m showing the newest addition to my team around and introducing her to everyone.”
Another new employee. At the highspeed rate we’re going, HC will need to take up another floor in the high rise. I vaguely wonder if we’d need another kitchen. And better snacks.
Hawkes’s executive assistant and head of the administrative pool isn’t at all physically dominating, certainly not by my standards, but there’s someone small enough to be utterly and cleverly dwarfed by her. All I see are a pair of shapely lower legs above nondescript black, practical shoes and the top of a dark head. The legs… definitely worth a second and third look.
“’Morning, Linda,” I greet around a mouthful. “Is Hawkes lost without me again?”
Knowing I’m teasing about the CEO, the older woman chuckles good naturedly. Shaking her head, she steps aside, revealing a petite figure in a black and white striped top and black, knee-length skirt. “This is Suzette Sun – Suzy. She’s our new administrative assistant starting today. Suzy, this is Carlson. He helps out Mr. Hawkes.”
My gaze latches onto the stilled newcomer. Young – early twenties – and clearly nervous with first day jitters, her restless fingers clasping tightly in front of her. Dark, dark chin-length hair framing a pale, heart-shaped face that grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go.
Caramel colored eyes – not the sugar-free kind – promptly melting your vocal cord to brand a man the bumbling fool.
The lips with the timorous lift at the corners, plump and alluring. I bet it’s tastier, sweeter than these cookies.
Awareness punches through me without warning. Enthusiastic munching abruptly dies in my mouth.
Arresting eyes stare up at me, way up, because I’m the towering oak to her delicate, flowery shrub. They blink once, twice, taking me in and keeping the change.
“Hi,” she finally offers in a soft yet gushing voice. “Nice to meet you. I’m so excited to join HC. The office is amazing. I’ve never worked in downtown before or seen a view like this.” Her gaze briefly flicks over the side of my neck, swiftly assessing the ink with open curiosity. “I hope I get to work with you.”
Fair cheeks suddenly brighten adorably. I want to remind her I don’t work here, though for the first time in I don’t know how long, I wish I do, but there’s that look, the one where a woman fully expects the man to say something witty in return. What? I’m not witty enough to figure that out.
A grunt claws out of my throat.
Too late I realize I still have lazy stray crumbs lingering in my mouth that are now careening down the wrong pipe. Instantly I’m hacking, my inflamed, scraped throat seizing in embarrassing distress as I double over. My eyes well up no matter how much I try to man-toughen them up.
Before I know what’s what, a small palm is eagerly whacking the shit out of my back over and over. Fretting female voices hover around me. For a small thing, the new admin sure packs a mean wallop. To solidify my mortification, slender arms hastily wrap around my middle from behind, one fist, thumb side in, jammed above my navel.
I throw out a deterring arm a second before the new girl decides to Heimlich my guts out. No mortifying scene here in front of a pretty girl.
“Here.” An urgent hand thrusts a cup of water at me.
Grateful, I down that cool liquid, letting it mollify the angered muscles. “Thanks,” I manage on a wheezing exhale.
That sounded like Donald Duck giving birth.
A deep inhale sustains my starving lungs with an enticing whiff of fruity, girly scent. It’s not Linda, who always smells like an odd blend of peppermint and melted cheese.
“Maybe you should sit down,” Linda urges as Suzette steps back into view to study me with a worried frown. “You’re flushed.”
What would I do without helpful Linda pointing that out in front of our guest? Good thing she doesn’t know about the mole on my ass. “Functioning arteries. I’m obliged to them.”
The pretty admin doesn’t know what to make of me. Maybe all she sees is a six and a half feet tall tatted brute with really vigorous blood streams who doesn’t know how to eat properly.
The good girl with wide, innocent eyes and supple, kiss-me lips wouldn’t be caught dead with a guy like me.
Dark brows furrow over befuddled honey eyes. “There’s this theory about choking,” she begins in earnest, “that when we focus too much on conscious movements, the execution of natural movement is interfered, but that’s more applicable to performance anxiety.”
It’s my turn to blink at her.
Holy shit. Her soul is reaching right into mine.