Excerpt from: Getting Down to Business

 
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Getting Down to Business

Copyright: Tessie Bradford, 2012

Laughter erupted around the large table, startling Mariel away from her very private thoughts. She smiled and nodded, hoping to deflect her co-workers from realizing she had absolutely no idea what was so funny.

“I’ll give you a million dollars if you can repeat any part of Dave’s story,” her best bud, Lisa, whispered in her ear.

“You don’t have a million dollars,” Mari replied with a quiet chuckle.

“Moot point, and what, pray tell could possibly be holding your attention, hmm?”

“I was thinking about why the quarterly reports won’t balance.”

“Right,” Lisa laughed. “The fact that tall, dark and studly is checking you out every chance he gets is having no effect on you?”

“Keep your voice down, Lisa,” Mari scolded, quickly glancing around to make sure no one was paying attention to their conversation. “Did you know he was going to be here tonight?”

“I might, possibly, maybe have mentioned this little get together when we met this morning regarding the Hudson order,” she said with a sly smile.

“And you failed to mention this to me, why?” she asked, staring at Lisa while stirring around the ice cubes in her glass with the tip of her index finger.

“Because that would have sucked all the fun out of watching you get flustered and googley-eyed when we got here.”

“First of all, I did neither, and second of all, we’re a few decades past our high school years. How ‘bout you act like it?”

“Okay.” Lisa slid back her chair. “Hey, everyone, Mariel and I are going to go powder our noses and talk about you all behind your backs. If the waitress comes by, I need another soda, and she definitely needs more liquor.” Mari felt her cheeks heat as Lisa wrapped her arm through hers and pulled.

“You are such a smartass.” She removed her finger from her drink, licked the tip of it, grabbed her purse and walked away with Lisa.

Despite it being Friday, Angelo’s wasn’t overly crowded due to the snow that had been falling steadily since mid-afternoon, and the ladies room was empty.

“Nice move,” Lisa said as soon as the door closed behind them.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Mari walked up to the mirror, finger combing her short hair and checking for any nacho remnants in her teeth. She cupped her hand in front of her mouth, breathed out then dug in her purse for a mint. When she met Lisa’s eyes in the mirror, Mari shrugged.

“And therein lays your ultimate appeal!”

“That I’m clueless?” Mari asked, turning around and placing her hands on her hips.

“Kind of, yeah. I mean come on; the heat of his searing glances had my heart a-pounding, despite the fact they definitely weren’t directed at me, and when you did the digit licking thing, shit, lust actually played across his ruggedly handsome face.”

“Jesus, Lisa, it’s obviously high time you stop reading romance novels and start writing them.” Mari shook her head and rolled her eyes. “If you promise to change our names and write a heartfelt acknowledgement of how I inspired your first book, you have my permission to use any of the silly fantasies I’ve shared regarding him and me.” Mariel experienced a flutter of panic at the mischievous glint in Lisa’s eyes.

“Thanks, but I’d rather have my contribution to the world of romance be in helping hook up two people who have a serious case of the hots for one another.”

“He and I are friends, and I’m okay with it.” Mari couldn’t help cringing at the absurdity of making such a ludicrous statement to the only person who knew her secret desires.

“And now you force me to call bullshit out loud?”

“Fine, you know I wish things could be different, but I’m not going to risk my job or self-respect based on my overactive libido.”

“Mariel, he hasn’t been your boss for over six months now, and any time you two are in the same vicinity, the sparks flying could burn innocent bystanders.” Lisa raised her brows.

“So we have similar senses of humor, get along well; it’s always stayed in the confines of work. Now that we’re both department heads who interact on a regular basis, a failed personal relationship would completely fuck with that dynamic.”

“There’s a whole bunch of space between opening yourself to the possibility of being with a man again and shit going to hell in a hand basket. What’s messing with the natural order of things is your attitude.”

“I don’t have an attitude. I’m realistic,” Mari stressed. “It’s not like he’s asked me out on a date or anything.”

“What about all the lunches?”

Mariel opened her mouth then snapped it closed. They did usually grab a bite together once a week, sometimes more if their schedules jived, and the conversations lately had revolved less about work…

A little niggle of hope had her staring at Lisa with a tiny smile.

“Exactly!” Lisa exclaimed triumphantly. “Mariel, you’re single, he’s single, you dream about being with him, and he looks at you as if he wants to eat you up. Stop overanalyzing and get down to some serious horizontal mamboing!”

“Are you sure you’ve not been getting your soda spiked tonight?” Mari laughed as Lisa threw her arms around her neck and hugged her tightly.

“Absolutely, positively not, honey. I take my job as designated driver very seriously. Let’s get back to the party.”