Sliding a drawer of his desk open, Anton dropped a thick folder in front of me. “For starters, I’d like you to go through these call sheets and make note of how long each call lasted, along with how many minutes the caller had to wait on hold before reaching an associate.”
I gawked at the folder—it was larger than any college textbook I’d ever seen. “Is this supposed to take me all summer?”
That slow smile of Anton’s slid back into place. “I’ll give you until lunch.”
I was earning my pay here at XI.
I’d been sure I’d been on the receiving end of a good deal, but I realized by lunchtime that it was Anton who’d been on the better receiving end.
I didn’t know how I did it, or who’d slowed time down in order for me to get it done, but I was on my last sheet of that dictionary-size folder when Anton’s door whooshed open.
“Lunchtime,” he announced, sliding into his jacket that had just enough sheen to it for me to know it had cost a small fortune.
Glancing at the time on my computer, I felt my eyes bulge. It was almost one o’clock. “Oh, man. I’m sorry, Anton. I got so caught up in this project that I didn’t even realize what time it was,” I said, spinning in my chair to face him. “What do you normally get for lunch? I’ll run out and grab it right now.”
His eyebrows knitted together like he was insulted. “If India found out I’d reduced you, in any way, shape, or form, to a glorified coffee runner, she’d skin me and leave me in the woods for the bears.”
I capped my pen and dropped it back into the holder. “And if you ever give me another project like that and expect me to finish it before the year is up, I might just do the same to you.” I smiled sweetly.
“Have you talked to all your bosses like this?” he asked, leaning into my desk.
I raised an eyebrow. “Only the ones who deserved it.”
Shaking his head, Anton motioned for the door. “Come on. Time for lunch.”
“Huh?” Another brilliant gem from the mouth of Lucy Larson.
“Food. Sustenance. You. Me.” He motioned to the door again. “Now.”
Two things stopped me short from accepting Anton’s invitation right then. The first being Jude. And the second being Jude. He was about as territorial as I was, and I knew I wouldn’t have been okay with another woman taking him to lunch on a whim.
“I think I’ll stay and finish this up,” I lied. “I brought a snack with me.”
“Enough with the protesting already. You’ve put up a good fight, but it’s useless, because I always get what I want.” Anton’s eyes gleamed, while I felt my temper switch begging to be flipped. “Plus, it’s a company tradition passed down from my dad. Rule number two in the business world: You always take an employee out to lunch on their first day. That’s just good business.”
There’d been a lot of times in my life when I’d felt like an idiot. This being one of those times. Hoping Anton didn’t think I was acting like too much of a nut, I slid back into my heels and stood up.
“Far be it from me to stand in the way of time-honored traditions and good business,” I said, grabbing my purse before coming around the desk.
Anton had the door open and was waiting. Almost everyone in cubicle city was back from lunch, and just like this morning, whenever I’d looked up from my heap of paperwork, they were watching me.
Staring was perhaps the better word.
“I’ll have my cell if anyone needs to get hold of me,” Anton announced before closing the door behind us. “Don’t worry. They’ll get used to you in a few days.”
I followed him toward the elevator. “What will they get used to?” I hadn’t been aware I was something or someone who required getting used to.
“They’re a bit starstruck. It’s not every day you get to work in a call center with a girl who’s with one of the most talked-about NFL quarterbacks, and one who was just photographed nak—”
He paused as my eyes bulged before narrowing on him. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.
Shit on a stick.
The whole office had seen that picture? Anton had seen that picture?
A few of those male stares made a bit more sense today. They’d been staring at me like they were seeing me nak*d because they had, in fact, seen me nak*d.
“You saw it?” It wasn’t really a question, but I needed it confirmed.
Anton had the decency to look a little sheepish.
Just then the elevator doors opened.
Saved by the elevator.
“You want to talk about it?” he asked, trying, but failing, not to smirk.
“No,” I hissed, crossing my arms. I guess I hadn’t thought that picture would span the whole country. I should have known better.
“Don’t worry. I didn’t look,” he said, his voice soft. “I couldn’t stop the others from seeing it, but I didn’t. I’m sorry that happened.” His expression bled sincerity. The first I’d seen from Anton.
The anger rolled right off me. “Yeah. I’m sorry, too,” I said as the doors opened on the first floor.
Sensing I didn’t want to talk about it more, or finished talking about it himself, Anton waved at someone in passing. “There’s this great place right around the corner. Makes everything from scratch every morning. Soups, breads, sandwiches, that kind of thing.” He waited for me to go through the revolving door first. “Sound good?” he asked when he joined me out on the sidewalk.
It turned out the café was no more than half a block from the office. Even though it was past the height of lunch hour, the place was still bustling. The scent of fresh bread and basil hit me full-on as soon as we made our way inside.
Anton weaved a path to the only open table, waving at a few of the waitresses behind the counter, who blushed almost immediately. As suspected, Anton was a flirt. A certified ladies’ man.
We’d barely taken our seats when one of the starry-eyed waitresses was dropping glasses of water in front of us. “Hey, Anton,” she said, brushing her hair behind her ear.
I waved my hand in greeting, but I was invisible.
“Hey, angel,” he replied. When he looked at her, you would have thought she’d just died and gone to heaven from the dreamy look on her face.
Just as quickly as she’d arrived, she left in the same fashion. Anton obviously rendered most girls speechless. Good things I wasn’t most girls.
“Angel?” I said, giving him an unimpressed look. “That’s the best you’ve got?”
He took a sip of his water, the amused expression of his settling on his face. “Are you questioning my game?” he said. “Because I’ve got more game than I know what to do with.”
“Says you and every other male in history,” I tossed back. “But for a man who claims to have mad game, that was weak. I think my sixth-grade boyfriend won me over with ‘Hey, angel.’”
“Well, Miss Know-it-all”—Anton leaned forward—“Angel happens to be her name.” An eyebrow peaked and he waited.
I had nothing. I didn’t know anything either. Obviously.
“So . . .” I said, taking a sip of water, “how ’bout this weather?”
Anton laughed, clearly more amused than insulted at my latest bout of know-it-all-itis.
“Why have you, India, and me not gotten together and verbally sparred the night away before?” he said. “We’ll have to remedy that.”
“It seems we already are,” I said, smiling my apology.
“Hey, Anton.” Same greeting and moon eyes, different waitress.
“Hi, honey,” he greeted, giving me a sideways glance. “As in your name, Honey. Would you mind taking our order?”
Honey didn’t go as stupefied as Angel had when Anton leveled her with those baby browns. “At your service,” she replied, biting her lip in a suggestive, anything-but-innocent way.
“Lucy”—Anton motioned at me—“you know what you want?”
“I’ll have the Caprese salad, please,” I said. Honey didn’t once look at me or from Anton as she scratched down my order. The restaurant staff had obviously been drinking the Anton water and was thirsty for more.
“Anton,” Honey said, her eyes lidding, “what would you like?”
I grabbed my glass and took another sip of water. This chick meant business. I doubt she would have objected if Anton told her to meet him in the men’s bathroom in five.
“What’s your soup of the day?” he asked, returning those flirty eyes.
I never knew bisque could sound so lewd.
“Ooh, I’ll have that,” he said. “I’m living on the edge today.”
“Wild man,” I said, handing Honey my menu. “Watch out.”
“So, Lucy,” he said, “since my sister never shuts up about you, I feel like I already know you.”
I could only imagine what India had told him. In fact, I didn’t want to imagine.
“Okay, I’m going to take off the ‘boss’ hat and put on the ‘friend’ hat and ask you about something I probably shouldn’t . . .” He cleared his throat and leaned forward. “Tell me about your boyfriend—”
“Fiancé,” I clarified. “And India’s told you everything about me and nothing about Jude?” The girl loved Jude. Well, all the girls loved Jude, but India loved him in a platonic sort of way, not the make-me-moan kind of way.
“Here’s what I know of Jude from India. And these are her words, not mine,” he said, shifting in his seat. “He’s fine, has a nice ass, and can make you blush after four years together.”
“India.” I sighed. “All of those things happen to be true, but there’s a lot more to Jude than that.”
Anton nodded. “I would hope so,” he said. “What made you fall in love with him?”
This was not the conversation I was expecting to have with my boss on my first day, but expectations, in my opinion, were a wasted effort. Disappointment was at the end of every expectation.
“It wasn’t so much what made me fall in love with him,” I began, staring out the window. “It was more that I couldn’t not fall in love with him.”
“That whole, ‘the stars aligned and fate predestined it’ kind of thing?” he guessed, his smile telling me he thought he’d gotten it right. But he was wrong.
“No. More like we made the stars realign and fate had nothing to do with it.”
Before he could respond, my phone rang.
“Sorry,” I said, about to hit ignore when Anton gave me a nod.
“Take it,” he said. “You’re off the clock, and I’ve still got my ‘friend’ hat on.”
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll be quick.”
Anton nodded and waved me on.
“Hello,” I answered, twisting in my seat. “Is this Mr. Amazing?”