Sawyer didn’t look back as he made his way to the employee’s only door, but it wasn’t because he didn’t want to.
Making the strategic decision to kiss Penny had been easy, but Sawyer hadn’t expected that ending it would be so difficult. The whole thing had started as a way to win a bet by going on a date with his sexy neighbor, but he was starting to feel more like an asshole with each minute he spent with Penny. Making that bet had been the best and worst decision.
Behind the employee’s only door there was a small break room with a circular table, a fridge, a sink, a soda machine and a microwave. Stacks of tattoo magazines littered the top of the table. A door on the opposite side of the room stood closed, but he glanced through the window next to it and spotted a desk, laptop and a few file cabinets. No doubt that was Penny’s office. Ignoring his natural instinct to go check if she’d left her portfolio in her top drawer as usual, he grabbed his wallet out of his back pocket and strolled over to the soda machine.
He was trying to decide between soda and a sports drink when the door to the lounge opened up behind him. And this was why he’d played it cool when it came to going into her office. The curious at Daring Ink couldn’t be kept at bay long and he did not want to distract them from their purpose by getting caught in the boss’s office.
“It’s out of Dr. Pepper,” the woman said.
Glancing back he confirmed it was the platinum blonde. “Thanks. I’m a Coke guy anyway.” He slid his dollar bill in the machine and waited for the ka-thunk of the can hitting the exit flap.
After grabbing his Coke, he turned around. The blonde was already at the table. She was flipping through one of the magazines, but her attention was locked on him. Hard. Assessing. Skeptical.
He put on his most charming smile, the one that always worked. “Staci, right?”
“And you’re the boyfriend?” She made air quotes around the last word.
Bam. Penny hadn’t been kidding about her coworkers seeing right through him.
“Sorta.” He took a seat at the table across from her. “You a tattoo artist too?”
Staci snorted. “Not even close. I’m the office manager. Now, tell me about sorta.”
He popped open the can and took a long drink, letting the fizz tickle his tongue before swallowing. The move bought him time. He could keep pretending, which wasn’t going to get him far, or admit he was full of shit. Lucky him, he’d worked vice long enough to be able to lie like a pro, the key being to stick as close to the truth as possible.
“I’m working on it,” he said.
She smirked. “Good luck with that.”
Ouch. He flinched. The blonde was as harsh as her peroxide. “You think she’s too nice for me?”
Staci slapped the tattoo magazine closed and leaned forward. “I think she’d eat you up and floss her teeth with your bones.”
“So I can put you down for being in my corner?” he asked as she stood up.
“You can put me down as the one off to the side taking the bets, armed with a bat just in case you hurt her.”
The remark slid home with the pinpoint accuracy of a shank between the ribs. Making that bet with D’Andre was twisting his gut tighter and tighter each time he thought about it. “I just might surprise you.” Maybe he’d even surprise himself.
She paused at the open door. “I don’t think so.” Then she walked out.
Nearly an hour later, he’d chatted with almost every Daring Ink employee who’d filtered in to have a snack and try to get the scoop about the boss. The lone hold out? The skinny guy who’d been trying his hardest to make time with Staci when Sawyer had walked in. That said something, but exactly what he wasn’t quite sure. All he knew is that it set off that extra tingly sense that had helped him avoid tackles on the field in a football uniform and kept him alive on the streets in a police uniform.
The employee only door opened inward and Penny strode in, all sass and swinging hips that made his tongue stick to the top of his mouth.
“You ready to finish this up, princess?” she asked, her voice louder than normal.
They must have an audience on the other side of the door. They’d discuss his doubts about the skinny kid later when they were alone. His dick twitched behind his zipper, more than happy at the prospect of some one-on-one time.
“I was born ready,” he said.
“Good, no more breaks.” She sauntered over, smirking, then snagged his half-full can of warm Coke and downed it in one long swallow.
The move brought him eye-to-glorious-tits with her as the peach smell of her shampoo wrapped around him. He was never going to be able to have his favorite pie again without thinking of his moment. It took everything he had not to grab hold of her luscious hips and yank her down to his lap for a little more fake boyfriend/girlfriend time. He’d spent months undercover pretending to be just the kind of guy he loathed, doing whatever it took to convince the frat bro drug dealers that he was legit, and hating every minute of it. However, despite how things had started between them, what he felt with Penny wasn’t a ploy. He’d never wanted someone so much in his life.
“Come on.” She crushed the can and tossed it into the nearby recycling bin. “We have at least three solid hours of work to go.”
“I think you like jabbing me with that needle,” he teased.
She winked at him. “You have no idea.”
Then she pivoted and strutted out of the door, leaving him no choice to follow—something he found he didn’t mind. After all, the view was magnificent.
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