Home > Right Where I Want You(11)

Right Where I Want You(11)
Jessica Hawkins

“It’s just that he . . . well, you know his reputation. He’s not used to taking orders, especially from women.”

“There’s more to someone than their rap, Georgina. I don’t let others walk all over me and that has earned me the bitch label, but anyone who knows me understands I’m not that.”

Was Sebastian more than the image he projected, or was he an actual bad boy to handle with caution? I’d seen glimpses of both. Then again, he’d witnessed different sides of me as well. “At work, he’s intimidating,” I said. “Outside of the office . . . forget about it.”

“Fight that feeling,” she said. “Remember, he’s not Neal. He’s just a regular colleague.”

She’d obviously never seen him in a suit. Or up close. Or at all. Regular guys didn’t leave a trail of longing sighs in their wakes.

My phone beeped with an incoming call. “I’ll come by the office tomorrow to debrief,” I told Dionne.

“Good luck,” she said and hung up.

I switched lines, but this time I answered with, “Can you teach me to be a bitch in sixty seconds?”

“I’ve been trying for years,” Luciano replied, “but unfortunately it won’t take.”

“I don’t know how to act in there. They think I’m someone I’m not—someone cool and confident with actual game.”

Luciano didn’t bother to mute his laugh. “Wait. Slow down,” he said. “Where are you, and who thinks that?”

“My new boss wanted me to go to happy hour with the guys, so I’m here. I believe he said I could ‘teach them a thing or two.’”

“Why does he think that?”

“I was critiquing their current methods by pointing out better ways to pick up women. My ideas make sense in theory, but I never thought I’d have to test them with everyone watching.”

“Relax,” Lu said. “Buy them a few rounds of drinks, and they’ll forget all about that. And if they don’t, just approach a man the way George would—like he’s a situation to be handled.”

“I can’t be George in there, Luciano. I’m supposed to show them I can hang outside the office, but I can’t. I don’t want to turn into a wallflower and lose the shreds of respect I’ve started to earn the past few days.”

“So Sebastián is coming around?”

“No, I meant with the other guys. Things haven’t progressed with Sebastian.”

“Well . . . for tonight, just try to look past the fact that he’s drop-dead gorgeous.”

“Is the drop-dead really necessary?” I asked. Why couldn’t Sebastian just be decent-looking, or even just attractive?

“You’re trying to work with him,” he continued, “not sleep with him. Unless—”

“Don’t go down that path.”

“Why not, G? It’s been like a year. I think you’re officially revirginized.”

“Luciano,” I hissed, turning my back to the bar as if someone might hear. “It’s barely been four months. Rude much?”

“Oh, yeah. I blocked out the part where you let your spineless ex sweet talk you into a ‘closure’ fuck. He’s such a piece of shit.”

“Totally,” I agreed. During the months I’d been incapacitated by the breakup and prone to making excuses for Neal’s behavior, I’d found it helpful to just agree with Luciano.

“You need to erase that experience with someone new,” Luciano said. “And don’t think I didn’t notice you blushing in the café the morning you met Sebastián.”

“Don’t think I don’t notice you’re saying his name with an accent because it sounds sexier.”

“I’ve been trying to get you to go Latin for years, mi amor.”

“For your information, he’s from Boston,” I said. “And his last name is actually Irish. Like mine.”

“He’s Latin, believe me. If you’d like, I can teach you some Spanish words that’ll blow his mind.”

I rolled my eyes. “Dionne wouldn’t take kindly to me fraternizing with a client. Besides, being ‘on’ all the time is taking it out of me. I can’t wait to go home and curl up with a pint of Mocha Chocolate—”

“Don’t you dare finish that sentence. You do not get to choose ice cream over men this often in one lifetime.”

“I can’t stay long anyway.” I checked the time on my phone. “The sitter is about to leave.”

“Oh, come on. Bruno’ll be fine for a few hours.”

“You’re probably right. There’s a ninety-nine percent chance he’ll be sprawled out on the couch and dreaming of tennis balls until I walk in the door, but that one percent . . .”

“How long are you going to keep making excuses to be alone?”

“He’s not an excuse—he needs me.”

“Then I’ll go hang with Bruno until you get home,” he said. “There’s a Project Runway marathon on anyway.”

“I can’t ask you to do that.”

“You’re not. I’m volunteering for the good of your sex life. Go get a stiff drink and an even stiffer cock.”

“Oh my god. I told you, that’s so not happening—”

He hung up before I could make a case for a life with just Bruno, a gay best friend, and documentaries about the reign of Catherine the Great.

I almost jumped when Sebastian spoke behind me. “You have a kid?”

I turned. He stood at his full height just outside the door to the bar, jingling change in his pockets, his tie loosened around his neck. He’d still been at the office after I’d left late the night before, yet he didn’t even have bags under his eyes. “I’m sorry?” I asked.

“You mentioned a sitter.” He tilted his head as if I’d just posed a complex riddle. “Are you a mom?”

I took a quick mental inventory of my conversation with Lu once I’d turned my back on the bar. Had I said anything compromising? Anything Sebastian could use against me? Had he heard the part about how sexy his name sounded with a Latin accent? “Were you eavesdropping?”

“Just making sure we hadn’t run you off already.”

If he was teasing me, there was no hint of a smile on his face. “Give me more credit than that. I had a call to take.”

He squinted down the street. With the onset of fall, days were getting shorter, but the sun was still setting. “So the kid,” he said, turning back to me. Today’s tie, the color of a cloudless sky, almost made his piercing eyes look blue. “Are you a single parent?”

“No.” I had yet to see Sebastian this interested in me, and his focused gaze made my heart flutter. I tucked my hair behind my ear, almost wishing he’d let up, despite the fact that I’d been hoping for some kind of breakthrough with him. “Well, sort of.”

“How is someone sort of a mom?”

“My dog.” I smiled. “Bruno.”

He raised his eyebrows. “You have a babysitter for your dog?”

I’d shored up this defense before. My ex hadn’t understood my devotion to Bruno, or why I’d willingly take on the responsibility of a terminally sick dog. Not even Luciano got it all the time, and he knew all the shitty details of my situation.

“How long are you going to keep making excuses to be alone?”

I could easily truncate this conversation with the truth, but Bruno’s condition wasn’t something I liked to talk about. Or think about. Or live through. I certainly wasn’t about to open up about it to someone who couldn’t care less about my personal life, so I went with another perfectly valid, totally truthful, but possibly less convincing argument.

“For your information, he’s a big dog that needs a lot of attention,” I said. “Not just exercise but mental and emotional stimulation.”

“Emotional . . . stimulation.”

“Smart dogs—and people for that matter, though I wouldn’t expect you to understand that—need to occupy their brains or they get into trouble. When Bruno gets bored or tired, he chews up stuff or figures out ways to get into things he shouldn’t, like the pantry.”

“Is this an actual dog or a human?”

Ah. And that was the fundamental reason Sebastian and I would never get along. The issue wasn’t our opposing management styles, rival sports teams, or clear personality differences. Sebastian was clearly not a dog person, while I would take a bullet for mine.

“There’s no human I’d rather spend time with,” I said, “so he might as well be one.”

“I should’ve guessed by your unfortunate people skills that you’d be prone to anthropomorphizing, and now misanthropy too.”

“And I should’ve known you’d hate animals,” I snapped back.

Suppressing a smile, he held my stare and didn’t deny the accusation. He dropped his eyes to my mouth. My neck. My chest, hips, and ankles. And still, didn’t deny it. He just stood there, inspecting, studying, charting me like a map, or whatever he was doing.

“I can’t quite figure you out, Georgina. Sometimes, you’re one way . . . and then you go and act like . . .”

“A bitch?” I asked somewhat hopefully.

“What?” Sebastian’s eyes widened. “I—God, no. You aren’t exactly vanilla ice cream on a summer’s day, but I wouldn’t put it that way.”

Plain, boring, and easily run over—was that how he saw me? And why did I care what he thought about me above anyone else, even Vance? Vanilla ice cream—really? “Why’d you come out here again?” I asked.

“To be polite and check on you. I know the guys can be intimidating.”

“And what about you?” I asked.

“Me? I’m about as menacing as cinnamon.”

If Sebastian’s plan was to bewilder me into silence, it was working. I wasn’t even sure there was an appropriate response to that. “I don’t get it.”

He shrugged, again jingling keys or change in his pocket. “Just a saying we have in New England.”

“I’ve never heard it.” I scratched my nose. “Maybe it’s specific to your neighborhood. Which would be . . .?”

“I’m from Boston.”

“I know, but I couldn’t find much about your background beyond that. And I need to know these things.” I sniffed. “To do my job.”

He took a few steps back and opened the door to the bar, still facing me. “Knowing the neighborhood I grew up in is pertinent information?”

Knowing Sebastian was. And while his past eluded me, I still had a largely incomplete picture of him. “Yes,” I said with conviction.

“Good to know.” He gestured through the doorway. “Coming in or not? We’re all waiting on you.”

“Oh,” I said, jumping into action. “Sorry.”

“Well . . . that’s better,” he said as I passed.

At one end of the bar, my new coworkers had gathered under a string of paper flags in every color of the rainbow. “What is?” I asked, heading in their direction.

“You, not fighting me at every turn.” Suddenly, he was right at my back, his voice lowered. “I much prefer it that way. I call, you come.”

Chills traveled up my spine. I almost stumbled but managed to compose myself. Even if he hadn’t meant it suggestively, it’d sounded that way—his voice low, warm breath at my ear. He wouldn’t be able to see my furious blushing from behind me, but I suspected he knew anyway.

His words alone inspired a thrill I hadn’t felt since my early days with Neal. A thrill that lasted all the way until we reached the group. But as the bartender looked right over my head to take Sebastian’s order, I saw his comment for what it was—the first compliment he’d given me, and it had doormat written all over it.

“Call all you want, and see if I come,” I said, walking away before he could respond.

7

Georgina

Sebastian stayed at his end of the bar. Whether he scowled in my direction or ignored me completely, I wasn’t sure since I avoided looking at him.

Justin came and set a shot in front of me. “Hanging in there?” he asked.

I nodded. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“You and Sebastian have put nearly the entire office between yourselves, not just tonight but all week. I was surprised you even showed up to work on Tuesday considering how he spoke to you the first day.”

Which time? Sebastian had cut deep both at the café and in his office, and since I’d only seen his mood darken around me, it was becoming apparent I inspired that in him. Either way, I’d definitely struck a nerve in Sebastian Quinn, when all I’d really wanted was to do the opposite. Everyone’s lives would be easier if he and I worked together instead of fighting each other at every turn. I even respected that Sebastian believed so strongly in his work and his team that he’d fall on his sword for it. But that was just the kind of thing I’d been hired to prevent. Modern Man needed a lifeline, not a deathblow.

“It’ll take more than a tantrum to keep me away,” I said.

Justin clinked his shot against mine and took it. “I wanted to tell you that Sebastian—he’s a really good guy,” he said, sucking on a lime. “I’m not just saying that because he’s my boss and my best friend. He’s a softie inside.” His eyes lit up. “He volunteers on Thanksgiving, visits his sister every month, and cries during Titanic. He’s got some personal issues, but he’s good people.”

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