Locking the front door, I flipped the sign over to show CLOSED in bright red font. I felt the tense ache in my neck muscles ease just the slightest as the end of another day came to an end. Both lights shut off in the front, leaving the workroom lit like a beacon to follow. I wound in and around displays picking up randomly forgotten items as I went.
“You can go ahead and get out of here if you want – I’ll balance this drawer and wrap things up,” I called toward the back. I deposited the inventory which needed to be put back in their rightful placings, leaning heavily against the front desk. Multiple delivery invoices covered in highlighted strips of special requests reminded me I’d be walking into a complete hailstorm in the morning. Even the scent of the flowers was grating on my nerves. “Don’t you have to leave early in the morning?”
“Not too early,” he said – his voice suddenly close. I glanced back to see him stretching his arms above his head the way only guys do, standing in the doorway of the backroom. It had been a long day for him, too. A truck had shown up last-minute, heavy crates needing to be unloaded and moved into the cooler before we could leave. He’d unloaded it alone because the front had been busy enough I couldn’t step away. “I don’t mind helping you finish up. Tell me what to do.”
His voice was gravelly with exhaustion and his hair was sticking up in all directions from where he’d run his hands through it in frustration. A smile tugged at the corners of my mouth as I shook my head.
“Go home. You look like hell,” I laughed, tossing him his car keys from under the register. Catching them easily, he stared at them for a moment before grinning up at me. A small dart of attraction struck under my cheekbones, lighting a blush to warm my face. I turned away quickly and focused on counting the cash correctly.
“It was crazy today,” he agreed. He spun the lanyard over his wrist and back out, his keys jingling noisily as he remained in the doorway. “I’ll be back Monday. You sure you’ll be good over the weekend?”
Laughing, I slammed the register closed and went to walk past him into the backroom:
“Oh, I think I’ll survive,” I murmured, sarcastically. “Seriously. Go get some rest.”
His hand caught easily in the crook of my elbow and the closeness of him sent my pulse flying. I nudged away gently, playfully pretending not to notice.
“Watch it, flirt,” I stated, trying to laugh teasingly through the rush of nerves. Weeks of accidentally bumping into each other and working in each other’s personal spaces hadn’t dulled his effect on me.
I’d disliked it at first; the way his looks across a room made me jumpy and how his hands always left goosebumps in their wake. I’d stood behind him a million times and felt the width of his back breathe in and out against my chest as I taught him how to gather and tie certain bundles, where to trim and in what direction, and how to grip softly so as not to crush stems. He’d reached above me to grab things too high for me to grasp, the feel of him solid around me. His hand always found the small of my back if he walked in and caught me standing on a ladder, steadying me with a small bit of irritation.
Just the two of us in the dark shop with the doors locked suddenly felt more intense than our mindless back-and-forth flirting and support during the days. I’d told myself for weeks being interested in a younger man wasn’t a good idea but age didn’t seem to matter when he was suddenly dominant and tall above me. His hand slipped from my elbow and gently grazed my ribs, falling to cup my hip and pulling me against him. I met his eyes in the light and I saw them change – saw them turn serious.
“God,” he whispered, leaning down to brush his nose along my jaw.
Heat exploded in my chest at the sensation of his breath on my throat. My back arched toward him on instinct and his hand gripped harder into my hip. I felt his other hand softly tug my hair back so my neck was open to his mouth.
I pulled away sharply, the back of my head butting hard against the wall.
Copyright © 2016 Pearl Bayou