A Perfect Ten

Page 100

Unease flooded me. Yeah, I was some friend. I lied to Gamble’s face every time I saw him these days.

Caroline seemed to think I was honorable, though. She beamed up at me. “Every time you were around after that, the room just got...brighter. You were always this upbeat ray of optimism. Even when you were trying to be polite to me at the beginning, you’d have something funny to say, something a little off color, a little naughty, but always, always entertaining. I craved the times you’d come around. I swear, you got me out of my depression more than anyone. Laughter is a lot more healing than you’d think.”

A strange memory caught me off guard at her words. Caroline saw the change in my face, and tipped her head to the side. “What?”

I started to wave her off and tell her it was nothing, but then, I don’t know...I stopped myself. “You know that game you play as a kid where you make funny faces at someone to see who’ll laugh first?”

She grinned. “Yeah. Noel and I used to play it, and then Brandt and I did after he left.”

I nodded. “I was just remembering...what you said reminded me for some strange reason...”

“Of what?” she prodded.

I shook my head, but then I went and confessed, “Zoey and I used to do that too, except we used words. You know, whoever said the funniest thing to make the other person laugh first, won.”

It seemed to take her a moment to realize which Zoey I was talking about. Then her lips parted and eyes flared. “Let me guess. You won every time.”

I gave a quiet laugh. “No, actually she did. My sister was so fucking hilarious. She always knew how to do or say just the right thing to make me smile whenever I was upset. I just...I guess I felt honored to hear I’d done that for you. Like some part of her is still here, living through me.”

“Oren?” Caroline murmured softly. She touched my face and I looked at her.

“I gotta get back to work,” I said.

She nodded but whispered, “Thank you for telling me that.”

I cleared my throat and tipped my face down to hers. “Yeah, well...thanks for telling me why I’m so much better than Hart.” When I winked, she groaned and rolled her eyes. I pressed my mouth to hers just as the office door swung open.

We leapt apart, but it was too late. We were already exposed. Expecting to find Gamble hovering in the doorway, I blinked when I saw Pick instead.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” I blurted out.

He glanced from me to Caroline and then back to me. “It’s my office,” he finally said, his voice mild, but his eyes narrowing with displeasure.

“But it’s midnight,” I argued without meaning to. “Shouldn’t you be tucked in bed with your little family right now?”

“Hmm.” Pick glanced between us again. Caroline grew more uncomfortable, crossing her arms over her chest and kicking at the toe of her pumps. I shifted slightly to block his view of her.

“Yes, I really should be in bed, wrapped around my gorgeous woman right now, but some unfinished paperwork I left here was making me toss and turn, so Tink kicked me out and told me not to come back until I’d taken care of it.”

“Oh.” Well, that explained that. I blew out a breath, glanced at Caroline, and turned back to Pick as I clapped my hands. “I guess we’ll get out of your hair and let you get to it, then.”

I stepped aside and motioned Caroline toward the door. She lurched into action, only to pause when she reached Pick still standing in the doorway.

He sent her a warm smile and stepped aside. “Caroline. You look lovely this evening.”

She bowed her head and mumbled, “Thank you.”

Patting her arm as she passed, he said, “Have a good night.”

I started to follow her, but my fucking boss stepped into my way, blocking the exit. Then he moved toward me, forcing me to back pedal. Once he was fully in the room, he shut the door behind him and glared into my face.

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” he growled.

I merely stared back, my eyes daring him to do whatever he was going to do: run to Gamble and tell him everything, beat my ass, lecture me, whatever. I was ready.

“You stupid fucker. I knew you wouldn’t be able to stay away from her forever, but Jesus, Noel is just down the hall. And this is my office, man. My office. You probably did it on the couch too, didn’t you? That was Tink’s and my special couch. You’ve ruined our special couch.”

“It is pretty damn comfy,” I had to admit.

Pick growled and gave me a little shove, offsetting my balance until I stumbled a step back. “Don’t piss me off more than I’m already pissed off. I don’t appreciate coming in here and finding an employee, getting it on while he’s working and stabbing one of my very good friends in the back in the process.”

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