I’m not a slut. I convinced myself repeatedly. I wanted Henry Cavendish, and I was dying to see him. He approached me, and I knew that he’d shown some kind of interest in me.
Nah! I don’t even know if he’s interested in that way.
I’d been staring at my computer since my throbbing back felt the cushiony softness of my bed, typing some names of potential people.
I re-read what I’d typed a while back.
Potential “Safe” Persons to practice kissing. Target: Henry Cavendish.
Mark – My ex who wants me back. Not that safe, but at least a little. He might think that I still like him.
Drew – My college friend who still texts me.
George – One of the company managers who’s asked me out on a date.
Thomas – The company chef who’s giving me free meals because he told me that I’m beautiful.
Damn it. I felt ridiculous and crazy. Writing a list of people to practice kissing with was crazy! I sighed.
This was my ex-boyfriend’s fault. When he broke up with me, he told me I wasn’t a good kisser and wasn’t good enough to please him in bed. How dare he say that to my face after everything I did for him? I gave him everything, and never expected anything in exchange. This time, I wouldn’t ruin everything.
Okay. I’m hungry. I’m just hungry.
I saved the list, then closed my laptop. I hurried downstairs and went to the kitchen to look for food. Then I remembered I was supposed to go grocery shopping today, and unfortunately, I wouldn’t have anything for breakfast tomorrow. I exhaled as I checked the fridge and the kitchen cupboards for food. I shook my head as I found nothing.
“Jules, do you want some of this?” Claire appeared at my side, holding a box of pizza.
“Oh, God!” I sighed in relief. “Thanks, Claire. I’m starving!”
She chuckled as she opened the box. I grabbed a piece and ate it right away.
“How’s school?” I asked, chewing.
She rolled her eyes and sat on the barstool. “Oh, don’t start with that.”
“But did you already tell home about the party?”
She took a big bite of her pizza, then spoke. “Hmm… Mom said she’ll give me an allowance for the plane ticket. Wanna come?”
“I can’t. I have tons to do in the office.”
Her shoulders dropped. “But you've not set foot in Harrisburg for almost eleven months, Jules. How about your birthday? It’s a few weeks away. Aren’t you going to celebrate with us?”
I blew out a heavy breath. “As you can see, my life is my boss’ life. Plus, I just came back from a two-week vacation. He won’t let me leave again.”
“Right.” She nodded, agreeing. “It’s a miracle he let you take a break.”
“Not a miracle to me.” I shook my head. “He probably just didn’t want to see my resignation letter on his desk.”
“See? I told you. You’ve got to live your own life. Your boss has to know you can’t be with him gazillion hours a week. Mom and Dad miss you. Please remember that.”
“He’s inconsiderate.” I shook my head. “He even blocked a job interview six months ago.” I picked up another slice of pizza.
Claire raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure he’s not a psycho?”
“I’m sure he is,” I concluded and we burst out laughing.
“Hey, Jules. I’m going to use your computer. I need to search something on Google.”
I swallowed my food and nodded. “Laptop’s in my room.”
Claire shrugged and grabbed another piece of pizza before rushing to my room. Half an hour later, she came out holding my computer. I was now in the living room watching some late-night show.
“You have an email,” she said.
“Ms. Taylor, can you send me the Crown Inc.’s new project proposal? Adam Cavendish, CEO of—what do I do next?”
“Find the file Crown Inc. on My Desktop. Attach it and then send it to him,” I instructed, but my eyes still set on the TV. “Ugh, damn it! What did he say? I didn’t hear him.” I complained, referring to the particular scene on the show.
“Sent,” she informed. “Do we still have pizza?”
I glared at her this time, and she backed away in horror. “Yes! I’m watching, Claire. I don’t understand what the hell they’re saying!” I set my eyes back at the screen; I’d missed another scene.
“Sorry.” Claire giggled, then walked to the kitchen.
Several minutes later, my phone rang. I ignored it. But it rang again. Damn, it was freaking twelve-thirty in the morning! I grabbed my phone and glanced at the screen.
I gasped to see my boss’ name. I answered right away. “Hello?”
“What the hell did you just send me, Julia?” he yelled, but it still made my eardrum shatter into a thousand pieces.
I jerked the phone away. “But you told me—”
“Potential Safe Persons to practice kissing. Target. Henry Cavendish—what’s the meaning of this?”
Oh, my God. No! I shut my eyes in horror, and I felt the blood from my face drained. My heart was ready to jump out of my chest.
I’m dead. I’m freaking dead!
I covered the phone and looked over at Claire. “What did you send him?”
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“You sent my boss an incorrect file!”
“What? But you said—” she paused, then looked at the computer screen. “Oops.”
“What do you mean oops, Claire?!”
She bit her lip. “I attached the wrong file…”
“What the hell is this, Julia?” he shouted again on the other line.
“Don’t read that!” I shouted back in panic. “Please, don’t read that.”
I heard a sharp intake of breath on the other line. “For goodness’ sake, Julia! What are you doing? Do you like my brother? Is that it?”
“You received the wrong document, and it was my sister who sent it.” I bit my lower lip. I am really going to get fired now. “Mr. Cavendish, please don’t read the rest.” He must have thought I was a maniac who was in love with his brother.
“Yes, because it’s painful to read. Don’t make excuses. Why would you let your sister touch your work?” he said in a disgusted tone. “Where are you? Let’s meet.”
What? “Sir, but it’s twelve in the—Am I fired?”
“Yes, if you don’t come here right now. I don’t care if it’s already late. Just—whatever, Jules.” He let out a breath of frustration before hanging up the phone.
My knees fell. He would definitely fire me now! Goodbye, my job, and goodbye to my ultimate crush, Henry.
Wait, Adam would definitely fire me if I don’t go to his penthouse right now.
Hastily, I donned my office clothes.
“Claire, I’ll be back. I need to meet my boss.” It wasn’t her fault. She had just no idea about the files on my computer.
“Okay, sorry for the file.”
I hurried out my apartment as fast as I could, then sprinted toward my Toyota. I worried about what Adam would say. He would disapprove of me or even push the fraternization policy in my face before dismissing me. Surely, I would be free of his cruel management, but I would also lose the chance of dating his brother. I revved up my car engine to life.
It was well past midnight when I arrived at my boss’ penthouse. I’d been in his home a couple of times. I’d spent many sleepless nights with him finishing up paperwork.
I stepped out of the car, then pressed the doorbell. The gate automatically unlocked. I took a deep breath before I entered. Then I found Adam at the front door in his casual sweatpants and black shirt. He was also barefoot.
“Come in,” he invited.
I followed him inside. “I am so sorry, Mr. Cavendish.”
“Sit here,” he ordered as he sat on the couch and set his computer on his lap.
I sat across him, trying to avoid his eyes. It was too embarrassing. He must hate me by now. I shouldn’t have come here at all.
“It’s not even twenty-four hours since you pissed me off,” he started.
“I’m so sorry.”
“And what is this practice kissing thing? What the hell is this?” His sight was still on his laptop.
“It’s a mistake. My sister sent you the wrong file.” I tried defending myself.
He sighed. “It’s not the point. Why would you make a document like this? This is ridiculous.” His tone strangely softened, and I’d rarely seen him confused like this. “Thomas? My chef? What were you thinking? He’s giving you free meals?”
“And who is this George?” he asked. “George Bronco?”
I nodded again, then I looked down at my lap.
He heaved a sigh. “Are you that desperate to get my brother?”
I didn’t answer. Did he just ask me to come here to tell me that? Was he just curious about it? Wasn’t he going to fire me? He wanted us to talk about his brother instead?
“Listen very carefully. Henry’s preferences have always been precise and consistent. He prefers tall, honey-skinned—the supermodel type. And most of all, blonde.”
What? Was I really hearing this?
“And you,” he continued as he studied me, “… you’re not very tall, but fine. You are pale, and definitely not the supermodel type, and also a brunette.”
What a poisonous bastard! The hell you care!
“Are you done?” I shot back. “Is this why you called me here? You’re just going to insult me like that?”
“If you want Henry to see you as a woman, you should get tanned, dye your hair blonde, but you cannot do anything about your height. He wants six-footers. You’re just what, five-six? But you can join Miss Universe anyway. Henry dates beauty queens.”
I was so done with this!
“Seriously? I don’t care if I’m not the supermodel type! I’m sincere, and I’m true to my feelings.” I crossed my arms.
He laughed humorlessly. “Julia, I’m not trying to disappoint you, trust me. I know my brother so well.”
He freaking laughed! He was making fun of me.
“Get to the point!” I demanded.
“What I’m trying to say is that you’re beautiful in your own way,” his voice was feather-soft, “the girl-next-door type, but that’s not his type. You’re just going to get yourself hurt.”
I couldn’t deny that his eyes were sincere. I had a feeling that he was telling the truth. My shoulders fell.
“I like your brother, Mr. Cavendish,” I confessed.
“Do you really want him?”
I nodded, and he sighed.
“Okay. Do you want me to help you?”
What? Did I hear that right? He didn’t sound mad at all. I must be losing my mind. I must be hearing things.
“The only person who knows my brother very well is me.”
“Am I dreaming? Are you really my boss?”
“I’m serious, Julia.”
“So am I.”
“What made you think that you need to practice kissing?”
I shrugged. “Because I’m not good at it.”
“You should know that kissing isn’t enjoyable when you don’t like the person you are kissing.”
My chin dropped. Did my boss really say that?
“Do you mean when my ex-boyfriend told me that I’m not good at kissing, he means he didn’t really want me?”
“He told you that?” he scowled. “He’s an ass.”
I thought so too. “It’s not about that. I’m just saying I might not really be good at it because he told me so.”
“It’s about finding the right partner.”
I blinked. Was he giving me lessons about love now?
“Let me tell you something,” he continued. “Henry doesn’t date tedious women, and you definitely need to make him like you first before you kiss him. What the hell was playing in your brain?”
Right. He was actually giving me a piece of advice.
“Well, I’m sorry. I didn’t know that you’re a love expert,” I mocked. Seriously, I didn’t expect that from someone I referred as Mr. Wrong.
“I’m not,” he said tightly. “I’m serious about this, Julia, but I don’t do the love thing.”