Marriage of Inconvenience (Knitting in the City Book 7)(9)

By: Penny Reid


“Oh, sorry. I apologize. Thank you.” Stop apologizing. Stop. Apologizing.

Some people have curse jars.

I had a “sorry” jar.

I also had a “thank you” jar.

Believe it or not, I’d been much better over the past year, but—gah!—something about Dan made it worse. He was dangerous. His sexiness was a hazard. To my soul. I required distance.

Taking a full step backward, I unnecessarily tucked my hair behind my ears—one of my practiced maneuvers for stalling—and infused my tone with controlled aloofness. “Excuse me.”

At my withdrawal, Dan’s warm smile fell away and his eyes narrowed as they flickered over me, now assessing.

“I’m trying to get ahold of Steven,” I said, my voice now even.

“You called him?”

“He’s not answering his phone and now my cell is dead.” I took two deep breaths before continuing with renewed detachment, “I was hoping I could ask one of the guys to call his desk.”

“He’s at my place.” His tone was no longer gentle, but now impersonal and business-like, mimicking mine.

“Your place?”

Dan scratched his neck, glancing over my head. “He’s working from my place today. He’s watching Wally.”

“Oh.” An automatic smile tugged at my mouth. I couldn’t help it. Even in my present state of distress, the mere mention of Dan’s dog improved my mood. He had the world’s most adorable canine. A lab/terrier mix with expressive brown eyes, floppy ears, and short black fur—except for a white patch around his mouth that made him look like he was always smirking.

“Steven has been helping me out for the last month, working from my place a few days a week.” Dan pulled out his cell. “You wanna use my phone?”

“No, thank you. But I appreciate it.” I glanced over my shoulder, out the lobby doors to the street beyond, debating my options. I couldn’t ask Steven to marry me over the phone, and definitely not in front of Dan. It was a conversation that required an in-person meeting. “Thank you, but I’ll try to reach him later.”

Would later be too late?

“Or, you know, maybe bring him lunch.”

“Pardon me?” My eyes darted to his. “At your place?”

I’d never been in Dan’s apartment before. The urge to snoop would be strong, but I would overcome it. What I might not overcome was the desire to discover what brand of cologne he wore. Sniff it. Write it down. Buy it for . . . reasons.

“What’s wrong with my place?”

“Nothing at all. But, you don’t mind?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Why would I mind?” His voice rose, just a smidge, and his eyes seemed to harden.

“I don’t want to—”

“What?”

“Take advantage.”

“You never do.” Dan shrugged, but there was something odd about the gesture as well as his tone, a strange tension in his shoulders. Abruptly, he lowered his eyes to the marble floor, took a deep breath through his nose, and then lifted his chin once more. A new, fastidiously polite smile now in place, his gaze was cool and remote. “He’ll be there all day. If you want to talk to him in person, you should go.”

I hesitated.

“It’s no big deal.” He said these words softly, his gaze dropping to my hands, and that’s when I realized I’d been twisting my fingers. “Seems like you got something weighing you down.”

I balled my hands into fists and hid them behind my back, and then immediately felt like a dolt for doing so, especially when the number-ten envelopes almost slipped from their place under my arm.

But I also managed to say, “Thank you. I appreciate it.”

Dan continued to inspect me, his eyes growing sharper. “Are you sure there’s nothing I can do to help?”

Again, the unbidden marry me whispered through my mind and I rolled my lips between my teeth, cutting off what I knew would be a small but hysterical-sounding laugh.

Shaking my head, I backed away. “No, thank you. No. Nope. Have a nice day.”

Turning from Dan, I power-walked back to the elevators and punched the button for the floor of my office. I needed my wallet. I needed to give Ms. Opal her envelopes and inform her that I had a family emergency, and let my junior administrative staff know I would be gone for the rest of the day.

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