“What was that display in the office?” Perry demanded.
“It was a disagreement about the project.”
“I’ve warned you about your behavior. I mean, what if we had clients in here?”
“But we didn’t.” Boss or not, he was not going to handle me as if I was damned child. Warning me about my behavior? What was this romper room?
“I’m putting you on probation.”
“Are you kidding me?” He folded his bony arms across his chest, his beady eyes glaring at me.
“I could fire you right now.”
“But you won’t because you know I’m the best researcher in this outfit and over the last three years I have gotten more projects through government and legal red tape than anyone out there. Yet, you promoted Amie and relegated me to being a do-girl. And now you’ve stuck me with a partner who I don’t need.”
He pointed his finger at me for about five seconds then he said, “Why don’t you go home for three days and think about why I haven’t given you a promotion and why I think you need a baby sitter for one of the biggest projects this company has ever been a part of. Your attitude, not your ability, is holding you back. And that mouth of yours is why you’re on probation.” He waved his hand, dismissing me, and if I didn’t have a mortgage, I would’ve snapped it off at the wrist.
“Fine,” I said then walked out of his office. When I returned to my desk, Rich and Amie were there.
“This isn’t the water cooler,” I snapped. They turned and glanced at me. Amie had this smug smirk on her ivory face. Every time I looked at her, all I saw was The Joker from Batman. It was the red lipstick. The pointy nose and the fact that I didn’t like her ass.
“I thought you said we had a file to review?” Rich asked.
“Eh, I’m going home. You two have it.”
I packed my laptop, locked my desk and hoisted my purse up on my shoulder. “Why are you so mean?” Amie asked.
“I’m not mean, Amie,” I said. “I just don’t like you.”
Rich struggled to fight his laughter as Amie huffed then stomped away. I turned to him and rolled my eyes. “Excuse me.”
“Let me walk you to your car.”
“Wait, I was a bitch five minutes ago. Or was that fifteen?”
“Maybe I shouldn’t have called you that, but you hit below the belt. I’m sorry.”
It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him that I knew he was sorry, but I wanted an apology. Instead, I shrugged and didn’t protest when he took my computer case from my other shoulder. “Even though you want to act like what happened last night didn’t mean anything to you,” he said once we made it outside, “when I went to sleep, all I could think about was how sweet you tasted.”
“Rich, you threw up some red flags that reminded me of some bad mistakes I’ve made with men. Maybe it was the story about your tattoo or the fact that you drank my cola.”
“Are you serious?”
I hit the button on my keychain to unlock my doors. “I broke up with a guy once over a glass of water, so yeah. I’m serious.”
“That’s a lot of baggage you’re carrying around.”
“Says the man with the dragon tattoo.”
“Touché.” He opened the passenger side door and placed my computer on the seat. “How about we try dinner again? This time in a restaurant?”
“What’s your game, Rich?”
“Some men don’t have game and I’m one of them. I don’t have time to remember the lies I’d have to tell to be an effective player.”
I didn’t want to laugh or smile. But I did both. “Where and when?”
“I’ll pick you up at seven?”
“Make it seven-thirty. And just so we’re clear: if you ever call me a bitch again, I will kick you in your balls.”
“And underneath all of that prickly exterior, I know there’s a woman with a heart of gold. I’m going to keep digging until I find her.” Rich leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. It was so gentle that I thought a butterfly had landed there.
I was in serious trouble and I should’ve known better.