Look The Part(9)

By: Jewel E. Ann


“L?”

“Short for Ellen.”

“You’re too lazy to add the N?”

“Stop being so …” She purses her lips to the side. “You.”

“Me?”

“Elle is short for Ellen. Just like Flint is short for Flinton.”

I return my attention to my computer. She knows damn well my name is not Flinton. I’m tired of acknowledging her lunacy. “You’re fired.”

“Yay me! I was worried you were about to let me squeak by today without firing me. See you Monday.”

“Monday.” I give her a parting glance and a slight grin in spite of how much she tortures me with her antics.

I’ve managed to avoid the second floor of the building since the day I failed at evicting Ms. Rodgers. As the elevator makes its short ascent, my clothes feel too warm, my tie too tight, and my skin too sweaty. I think my neck itches too. It’s an Ellen allergy. Surely Harrison will understand why I have to get rid of her if I can show proof of an actual allergy to her. On second thought, he won’t. His level of empathy has improved a little, but he’s far from putting himself in anyone else’s shoes.

“Do you still dance?” she asks Harrison as I stay behind the door, just out of sight.

“No.”

“Do you do any other activities?”

“Football.”

“Really?”

“No. That’s what my dad told me to say. Ha! He’ll be happy when I tell him I remembered to say it on cue.”

I close my eyes and shake my head. That’s not how it went down. This kid of mine thinks he can condense a fifteen minute discussion into eight words that are not on cue at all.

Ellen laughs. It’s grating. Her happiness is grating. And itchy. I tug at my tie, tip up my chin, and scratch my neck.

“Your dad has a lot of footballs in his office. I can see why he might want you to play it.”

“He played.”

“Oh yeah? In college?”

“I think so.”

Unbelievable. He remembers random shit he reads once, but he can’t remember the details of my football years—something I’ve told him hundreds of times.

“Where?” Of course that’s her follow-up question.

Here we go …

“I don’t remember.”

Bingo.

“He’s always watching it on TV with his friend.”

“Your dad has a friend?”

I clear my throat and walk around the corner. “Don’t sound so surprised, Ms. Rodgers. I might have more than one friend.”

“No.” Harrison shakes his head. “Just the one.”

I’m ready to shake him. Ellen bites back her grin but her lips get stuck on her teeth, so she wets them. And I stare at her wetting her lips because she’s distracting—and itchy.

“Get your things and wait in the car for me.” I hand him the key fob.

Lively blue eyes follow him. They remind me of Heidi’s, only lighter, almost translucent. “Bye, Harry.”

“Bye, Elle.”

“He lets you call him Harry?”

She hums and smiles. I tug at my tie. It’s strangling me.

“Apparently.” Her shoulders lift into a slight shrug.

“And Elle?”

She steps closer. Why the hell is she stepping closer?

“My friends call me Elle. I could be your second friend and you could call me Elle too. But …” She whistles the tune from Jeopardy, flips her red mane behind her shoulders, and grabs my tie, giving it a yank in one direction and then the other until it’s where it was before I started fidgeting with it on my way up here. “You’re going to have to stop all this eviction nonsense. Friends don’t kick friends out of the building.”

I sniff. “You smell like pineapple.”

She smirks. “Piña colada lip balm.”

I hate piña colada.

“Are you going to let go of my tie?” My gaze shifts from her piña colada lips to her hands grasping my tie like it’s tethering her.

“Do you want me to let go of you?” She rubs her smelly lips together.

My dick hardens, such betrayal. Stupid thing didn’t get the memo that we don’t get aroused over tropical drinks.

“I’m kidding.” Releasing my tie, she takes a step back. “I’m a feather ruffler. And I’ve come to enjoy ruffling yours.”

“And why is that?” I tug at the cuffs to my shirt and adjust the buttons of my jacket. There’s no reason for me to ask follow-up questions to her ridiculous statements, but I can’t stop staring at her. She’s … I don’t know … irritatingly beautiful.

“It’s the suit. My father was a tailor. His father was a tailor. And his father …” She grins. “You get where I’m going with this. A long line of tailors in my family. My mother used to smile and grab the lapels to my father’s suit jacket and say, ‘Jonathan Samuel Anderson, you sure do look the part.’

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