Hardwired

Author: P Hana

Page 21

   

I had quickly learned that my own safety net had sizeable gaping holes in it, which likely explained why lately I felt like I was at sea without a life preserver. Now my new weakness for Blake added a level of difficulty to the already risky endeavor of taking on the business full time. Yet here I was, giving him another opportunity to wear me down.

“It’s late. I should go.”

“You don’t have to.” His voice was serious, but not suggestive.

I searched his eyes for clues, hoping what I saw in them wasn’t pity. Mine wasn’t the happiest of stories, but feeling sorry for myself had gotten me nowhere.

“I know, but I have a million things to do before we meet up tomorrow.” I stood. “Enjoy the leftovers.”

He rose. “I eagerly await the hour when I can consider them leftovers.”

He was close enough that his breath drifted across my lips. The sexual tension crackled between us. A couple hours ago I was piping mad, but since then he’d devoured my favorite pasta and had been incredibly sweet. Still, being neighbors now required careful consideration about how best to move forward. Unfortunately he hadn’t given me much of a chance to consider anything, and my emotions were jumbled and confused.

I stuffed my hands in my pockets, resisting the urge to touch him. I looked down, wondering if this was the right time to talk about it.

“What’s wrong?” Concern etched the sharp lines of his face and he cupped my cheek in his palm. I leaned into the simple touch.

“Well for one, I’m still mad at you.”

A hint of a smile curved his mouth as he traced my lip with the pad of his thumb. He licked his lips, and mine parted at the gesture, tingling with the promise of his kiss.

“I like when you’re mad,” he murmured.

“Are you always this persistent?”

“Only when I see something I want.”

“How did I get so lucky?” I rolled my eyes.

“Are you fishing for compliments?”

“No, but I’m hoping you have a good reason for turning my life upside down.”

He stepped back and ran a hand through his hair, the absence leaving me momentarily bereft. I wanted him back, touching me.

“You’re different.”

I frowned a little. “Okay.”

“I wanted to see you again, and you weren’t really giving me that option.” He arched his eyebrows. “Can that be enough?”

I sighed and moved to him. “I guess we’ll see.” I pressed a swift kiss on his cheek.

* * *

I walked back into my apartment, which was too bright and bare compared to Blake’s. This was my new home, but I had a long way to go before the place would feel like my own. I eyed the mountain of bags and boxes that I needed to organize before getting back to work tomorrow. Then I remembered something.

I grabbed my phone and pulled up Sid’s number. He picked up on the second ring.

“What’s up?” he said.

“A few things. Alli got a job in New York.”

“Bummer,” he said without emotion.

“Also, someone at Angelcom is prepping me for my next meeting with Max, which bodes well for the financing.”

“Cool.”

“Lastly, where are you staying when the dorms close?”

“I was just going to crash with some friends around here until something came through.”

“I’ve got an extra room at my new place, and I could use the company. Are you interested?”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, definitely.”

“All right, sounds good to me.”

I smiled and gave him the address before we hung up.

* * *

The signage on the frosted glass double doors read, Landon Group, in bold serif font. I crossed the threshold into a landscape of high tech workstations that filled the long room. I spotted Blake leaning on the windowsill talking to a young man whose headphones were hanging around his neck. A smattering of Trekkie memorabilia decorated the desk. Sid would love it here, I thought. Blake looked up and muttered something before crossing over to me.

“Hey.” He flashed me a boyish smile and took my hand to lead me through the wide center aisle of the room to an enclosed office at the far end.

The gesture caught me off guard, but to my surprise, everyone seemed completely focused, as if no life existed beyond the stream of data feeding the machines. I was dressed all wrong too. In a white pencil skirt and a sleeveless black collared shirt with respectable black pumps, I stuck out in a sea of T-shirts, hoodies, and Hawaiian shirts. Apparently I had a lot to learn about tech start up culture.

Just outside what I assumed was Blake’s personal office, a punky petite woman sat at an L desk, zeroed in on her computer screen. She looked up when we approached.

“Erica, this is Cady.”

She jumped up and shook my hand. Cady was dressed as casually as everyone else in jeans and a simple white T-shirt. Her left arm was sleeved in colorful tattoos that blended together as one expansive work of body art, but what stood out most was her short bleached-out mohawk frosted with hot pink tips. Her ears were decorated with shiny metal gauges that matched her spiked belt.

“Hi, Erica. It’s good to meet you.” She took my hand, revealing a beautiful smile that lit up her gray eyes. Despite all her decorations, she was actually very attractive.

“Likewise.”

“Erica, Cady is my personal assistant. She’s also your neighbor.”

My eyes shot to him. I didn’t realize he had a roommate.

“I live downstairs from you. I think we just keep missing each other,” she said.

I breathed out with relief, surprised by my own reaction. “Oh, wow. Okay.” What the hell? I shouldn’t care if he had a roommate. After all, I was about to have one.

“Let me know if you ever have any questions about the place or the neighborhood. I’m kind of Blake’s unofficial property manager too.”

“Right, thanks.”

She gave a little wave as Blake pulled us into his office, shutting the door behind us.

His office was more typical of what I expected from his apartment, though it still impressed me. Three oversized monitors lined one of his two desks. Two displayed dozens of lines of code and the last was filled with spreadsheets. Heath’s assertion that Blake did all the work seemed valid. Even I wasn’t sure I could wear that many hats at once.

In another corner of the office, an enormous television hung on the wall, connected to what appeared to be every video game console one could imagine. He led me to a large frosted conference table facing a glass writeboard.

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