How He Really Feels (He Feels Trilogy) (2 page)

He smiled at that. “I love dogs, too. What does Jamie have?”

“A Golden Retriever named Charlie.”

“I had a
Golden growing up.”

“He’s a great dog.”

There was a short, awkward pause. His eyes met mine and I was momentarily polarized. Damn, but those eyes. They were a bright hazel shade, brownish-greenish and clear and gorgeous.

“Tell me more about you,” I said.

“Well, I work hard, but I play hard, too. I love adventure, and I love the outdoors.” When he said this, for some reason, an image of him wearing just running shorts popped into my head, with no shirt; I imagined a hard body underneath that suit, with cut, toned muscles, and not an ounce of fat anywhere. It was a beautiful sight in my mind, and it was the second time that I had pictured him in various stages of undress since I had met him.

“What sorts of adventures do you like?”

“Pretty much anything outside, but I regularly mountain climb, hike, ski, boat.”

“Have you been skydiving?”

He nodded. “Twice.”

My jaw dropped.

Um, freaking unbelievable. I’d love to go again.”

Did he just censor himself with me? I supposed he was my boss, and it was just his first day. He had to be the professional for now, and I was sure he would loosen up the more we got to know each other.

After Nick’s first day, I started a new daily routine. Every morning, I pulled into the parking lot at work, and the first thing I did was look for his car. When I saw his sexy silver BMW, I felt my heart race just knowing that he was inside the building. Then I would double check my make-up (which I had started wearing a bit more of, and taken more care with my clothes, too, since Nick had started at McMillan) and head to the elevator.

Our work day started at 9:00, and I was used to pulling into the parking lot at about 8:58; but since Nick had started working there, I tried to arrive before 8:45. Nick was extremely punctual, early most days, and on an average day, he arrived before 8:30. But there were those few lucky days when he got to work a little later than usual, and this presented the rare opportunity for me to ride the elevator up to the seventeenth floor of our office building with him. I knew it was going to be a good day when it started with just Nick and me on the elevator together. And these elevator rides were never awkward; in fact, Nick usually filled the silence by asking me about my current projects or about what I did the night before. I loved these quiet moments with him, and suddenly I loved the incredibly slow elevator that I used to curse when it made me late for work. 

The next part of my daily routine was walking past his office to get my coffee from the office kitchen. In the past, I would just stop at Starbucks every morning, but since I had to pass his office on my way to the kitchen (but not on the way to my cubicle), I decided it was smart to start saving my money and drinking the coffee provided to us free of charge. On a typical morning, I peeked my head into his office and wished him a good morning, especially if I didn’t get my elevator ride with him, but on my really lucky days, he would meet me in the kitchen and we would fill up our mugs together. I would go on with my day until I drank all of my coffee and needed more, usually around 10:30. My caffeine intake had doubled since Nick had started working at McMillan, but he didn’t need to know that. He was usually busy with a client or in a meeting, but on the days he was free, I would pop my head into his office and see how things were going, or I would invent some work question to ask him. I really just wanted to
at him again. I needed my daily fix of Nick, and seeing him sitting behind his desk, all authoritative and professional, turned me on every single day.

Some days, we went to lunch together, usually with other people from my team, but I didn’t care as long as he was there. And then I wrapped up my Nick routine on my way out at 5:00. I always stopped by his office and told him to have a great day, and every day, he said the same thing: “You have a great day, too, Julianne.” And then he smiled his heart-stopping smile at me and I went on home to pine away for what wasn’t mine, trying to come up with some way to overcome the barrier of friendship we were forming so that there could be so much more between us.

Time moved on, but my attraction to him didn’t. My attraction seemed to grow stronger by the day. The more I got to know him, the more I liked him, and the more I could see us together. He always wore these sexy suits and ties, pressed neatly and crisply, and on casual Fridays he occasionally opted for khaki pants and a polo shirt, either a green one that set off his eyes and just made my palms sweat, or a blue one that stretched across his chest, or a black one that made his eyes absolutely light up, or any other color of the rainbow that looked perfect on him.

Every woman that saw him was practically falling over herself to find any reason talk to him, and whenever I had to work with him, my hands shook involuntarily and I got all nervous inside. He was simply gorgeous, and I wanted him in the most carnal way. The more we worked together, the more my feelings for him intensified. I wanted him, but I didn’t know how to get him. I found out that he didn’t have a girlfriend, but I didn’t know if he wanted one.
Or if he had any interest at all in me.

As time went on, Nick and I were assigned to collaborate on different projects. He was my boss, but even so, our relationship slowly morphed into one of those coworker-friend relationships where we would more than occasionally have lunch together and hit up happy hour
after our long workdays. And slowly, as I got to know him, I was able to calm down around him, enough even that my hands stopped shaking every time I was showing him a piece of paper or a project at work. We engaged in fun, flirty banter, and I lived for the times when he would flirtatiously tease me and I would do the same back to him. And he even stopped censoring his language in front of me after awhile.

We went out to lunch together quite a bit, but we had never seen each other outside of the work environment with the exception of happy hour, which was always with other work people. As time wore on, I felt our connection growing stronger; he became a close work friend, but the friend factor did not change my lust for him, instead only intensifying it. We talked a lot, never about our love lives, but a lot of our personal lives. I knew a lot about his brother, Josh, and he knew everything about my family. I wished that I could be his
girlfriend, that we could move beyond our budding friendship, but at the pace we were moving, I was certain that it would never happen. I realized that I had made a mistake by being his friend. I feared that he would only ever see me as a friend. I was officially stuck in the friend-zone, and I didn’t know how to get out of it. Especially with the man who was my boss.

I still had the hope in my heart that someday our flirty banter would cross the professional line. I couldn’t help but picture him in my bed next to me, over me, under me.
Naked. Panting. Wanting.

But I digress.

There were two major highlights of our flirty banter, which, given that we had known each other for almost a year, were pretty minimal, but they gave me hope.

The first happened at a Friday happy hour. Our entire team went out for drinks after work, and we were having a great time drinking beer and sharing appetizers the Friday before Thanksgiving. I was two drinks into my evening with plans to hang out with Travis and some of his friends later that night, thinking, as always, that if Nick wanted to stay at happy hour longer, I could cancel with Travis. He would understand; he knew how obsessed I was with Nick.

Holly was seeing a new guy, so she left first to go home to get ready for a date. Greg and Malcolm were both married with kids, so they both went home to their wives. So that left Jake and Lucy, Nick and me, and it was sort of like that. Jake and Lucy had been flirting a lot recently, and they separated themselves from Nick and me, their heads close together in quiet conversation. I wondered at the time if she and Jake had virtually ignored Nick and me in part because Lucy was well aware of my enormous crush on Nick. She was just the kind of girl who would quietly nudge us together without either of us knowing.

I remember like it was yesterday, even though it had happened a month before the Christmas party. Jake grabbed Lucy’s hand and pulled it to his lips, and she stared up at him, a combination of lust and adoration shining in her eyes. Nick looked at me, eyebrows raised, knowing full well that Lucy was one of my best friends, correctly assuming that I would be in the know regarding their flirtation. I grinned at him, and he glanced over at the two of them and smiled at me. I was in heaven, having a private moment with Nick despite the crowd at the bar and the two people remaining at our table.

He pulled out his phone and texted me
Are they together?

I texted back
Getting there. They are very much in “like.”

He laughed aloud and texted me again
Good for them. What about you?

I glanced up at him. “What about me?” I asked aloud. Jake and Lucy were clearly too enthralled with each other to be aware that we were having a conversation literally right next to them.

“Are you seeing anyone?” he asked. It was the first time he had asked me anything about my love life, and my heart raced as those eyes pinned me to my chair. His hair was perfectly mussed in all sorts of crazy directions, and I wanted to run my fingers through it for about the millionth time since I had first met him.

I shook my head, and he smiled. “Good,” he said simply. He reached for my hand and squeezed it.

What did
mean? Was I reading into it? Or did he want me the same way I wanted him?

I never did figure it out, but I saved every text conversation we had, and I often looked back at that one in wonder. But how did I make a move?

The second “big event,” as I liked to call it, happened about two weeks before the Christmas party.

Nick invited me to lunch, which wasn’t necessarily a rare event or out of the ordinary. It was just the two of us, and we walked down to a local deli and ordered sandwiches. Nick treated, which was a little more unusual, and he picked out a quiet table in the corner for us to talk. It was almost romantic as the lunch crowd rushed by us, and we were lost in our own little world for two. Our lunch conversation mostly consisted of work talk, but then Nick brought up the Christmas party.

“So, do you have a date?” he asked, and my heart leapt as I thought that this was it! He was going to ask me out, finally, and it was to the office Christmas party!

“Not yet,” I said, trying to sound nonchalant even though inside I was quaking with excitement.

“Are you planning to go?”

I nodded.

“I heard the deejay is epic.”

“He is. The parties are always a blast.”

He gazed into my eyes, looking like he was wrestling with a thought, and then he said softly, “Save me a dance.”

I gazed back, and it was suddenly like we were the only two people on earth. The sounds of the deli faded into the background as I was lost in his eyes, and I had the distinct inclination that he was about to lean forward and kiss me.

And then, suddenly, he broke his gaze from me as he looked at someone who had just entered the deli, and the moment was gone. I turned to see his boss, Tom Davidson, Tom’s secretary, Josie, and a few other people. He brought the conversation back to work, but my mind was still lost in the conversation we had just been having with our eyes, and I wished that Davidson hadn’t walked in so that I could see where Nick had planned on going with that.

And that was it. Those were the two biggest events in our non-romantic history that led me to believe that someday something could happen. Ever the eternal optimist, I felt certain that someday we would be together.





Chapter 2







Nearly a year after Nick had started working for
McMillan, I was at the Christmas party, obsessing over Nick again… or, still. He seemed to get hotter and hotter every single day, and he looked particularly ravishing that evening.

I was disappointed with his choice of Christmas party date – Dana, one of the most obnoxious people in my office. She worked in a different department than me, but she came over to my
cubicle all the time to chat. Her catchphrase was, “Do you have any gossip?” I liked hearing the office gossip, but I couldn’t deal with how cruel she could be about our coworkers. One time she made a comment about Lucy’s weight to me, and that was crossing the line. Lucy was one of my best friends, and she was
overweight. After that, I wanted nothing to do with Dana. And now that she was at the party as Nick’s date, I felt even more disgusted with her.

I couldn’t believe that he actually took Dana to the party. She was pretty enough with her glossy dark hair cut in a sharp A-line and her big, brown doe eyes, and she had a nice enough figure with her athletic legs and toned arms. But she was just so insufferably obnoxious. It made me wonder why he selected Dana as his date when he could’ve gone with
. Including me. Especially me.

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