She watched them. She had no right to be jealous because he was her boss. They had a seven-year working relationship and during that time, they had become friends. However, things had become complicated when she fell in love with him. And that was why it really hurt now to see him with Melissa.
Was there something going on between them? She watched the way he stood there, smiling at her and she wanted to rip the smile off his face. No one warned her about how painful love could be, especially unrequited love.
Why of all the men on the planet did she have to fall for him? He had no clue of how she felt about him and even if he did, he probably wouldn’t care. There were two types of women he was attracted to-tall, blonde and leggy or petite, fair-skinned with flaming red hair. She was neither. She wasn’t white or beautiful, period. She wasn’t even attractive by most people’s standards. So, she had no right to be jealous but she couldn’t help it. It clawed at her like a vicious monster, ripping her apart. She felt like a fool standing there, hidden behind the plant, watching them. Where was her pride? Did she lose that too when she lost her heart to this man?
Tears sprang to her eyes. Damn him. Damn them both. She was going to get over him once and for all. Enough of this pining and wanting what was never going to be possible. She didn’t stand a chance with him. There were plenty of other men out there who would find her attractive or at least interesting enough to date. So, she wasn’t a looker but she was smart. Some men were attracted to smart women.
She turned and almost walked straight into into Brian who worked in IT. He was a very attractive African-American guy. Too bad she wasn’t attracted to him, though. She could tell that he was interested in her. “Sorry,” she apologized.
“No worries. Are you all right?” he asked, studying her closely.
She smiled, hoping that he wouldn’t notice that her eyes were a bit bright. “I’m fine.”
“Ryker and Melissa seem very chummy.”
“Yes,” she mumbled.
“Buy you a drink?”
“Sure.” What did she have to lose? Why stand there tormenting herself over Ryker and Melissa when she could have a drink with Brian?
To get to the bar, they had to walk past them. Heart pounding, she walked abreast of Brian who stopped to say hello. “It looks like you two are having a blast,” he remarked.
Melissa smiled. “I love these work functions. It’s nice being out of the office for a change.”
“Yes, it does,” Brian agreed. “And now that the function is over, Shaelyn and I are going to enjoy a drink at the bar. You’re welcome to join us if you like.”
Ryker looked at Shaelyn first and then at Brian. “Thanks, but I have to be heading back to the office now.”
“Me too,” Melissa said.
“I’ll give you a ride back to the office,” Ryker told her.
“That would be great, thanks.”
“I’ll see you guys tomorrow,” he said to Brian and Shaelyn.
“‘Bye,” Melissa said, waving at them and then, she and Ryker left.
Shaelyn was torn. She wished that Ryker had stayed but at the same time she was relieved that he hadn’t. It would have been sheer torture sitting there and watching him and Melissa get all cozy. She didn’t want to think about them alone in his car as he drove her over to the office.
She had one drink with Brian who did most of the talking and then, he gave her a ride home. He wanted to take her out of dinner on Saturday but she turned him down. “Maybe another time,” he said.
“Maybe. Goodnight, Brian.”
She let herself in her flat and after removing her shoes, she headed straight for the bathroom where she had a hot shower. After donning a pair of silk pajamas, she fixed herself an egg salad sandwich and washed it down with a glass of Almond milk. She was in the kitchen and was on her way back to the living-room when her phone rang. Not really in the mood to speak to anyone, she still answered it rather than let it go to the machine. “Hello?”
“Hi, Shaelyn. It’s me.”
Her heart began to beat faster and she gripped the receiver tightly. Why was Ryker calling her? “Yes, I know.” She wanted to ask him if he was alone but was afraid that he would say yes. She prayed that she wouldn’t hear Melissa speak or laugh in the background.
“So, how was your drink with Brian?”
After she recovered from her surprise, she replied, “It was fine. How was your ride to the office with Melissa?”
“It was fine. We talked about the event and other things. I dropped her off in the parking lot and then, I went to my office to take care of a few more things before coming home.”
Relief washed over Shaelyn. He was alone. “The event was very good. Very informative.”
“How many drinks did you have with him?”
“Just one and then, we left.”
“Did he give you a ride home?”
“Are you alone now?”
“Of course, I’m alone.” What did he think? That Brian was there?
“So, is there something going on between you two?”
“I should ask the same thing about Melissa and you.”
“Never mind about her and me, I asked about Brian and you.”
“If you must know, he asked me to have dinner with him on Saturday.”
“And are you going to?”
“That’s really none of your business. Goodnight, Ryker.” She hung up the phone. What was he playing at, asking her all those questions about Brian?
Ryker replaced the receiver and rolled onto his stomach. Why couldn’t she have given him a simple yes or no answer to his question? The time she took to tell him that it was none of his business, she could have said yes, she was going to have dinner with Brian or no, she wasn’t going to have dinner with Brian. Damn her.
Why was he so bent out of shape over this? Why did it bother him so much when he saw her with Brian? Why didn’t he take him up on his invitation and stay for a drink? Then, he would have been the one to give her a ride home instead of Brian.
On the way to the car, Melissa’s remark had irked him. “I think Brian and Shaelyn should date. They make an attractive couple. It’s obvious that he’s interested in her.”
He had glanced at her and inquired, “Is matchmaking a part of your job description?”
Melissa, not realizing that he was being sarcastic, laughed. “Of course not,” she said. “I’m a romantic, that’s all.”
“So, it’s the romantic in you that wants to throw Shaelyn and Brian together?”
“I guess so. Don’t you agree that they would make a good couple?”
“I’ve known Shaelyn for a long time and I don’t think she would want anyone interfering in her love life.”
“You think I’m interfering? I was just expressing an opinion.”
“It’s an opinion which I don’t share.”
“I’m sorry, Ryker. You seem a bit upset. I guess I shouldn’t have said anything. Let’s just forget about it.”
“I’m not upset but, I agree. Let’s forget about it.”
They spent the rest of the trip talking about other things but at the back of his mind, he couldn’t get what she said about Shaelyn and Brian being a couple out of his mind. That’s why he had to call Shaelyn and find out what was going on.
Melissa was right. He was upset. He didn’t like the idea of Shaelyn having drinks with Brian. Seeing them together had really bothered him. Why? he asked himself. It couldn’t be that he was jealous.
No, that would mean that he had feelings for Shaelyn but how could that be? He was her boss, for Pete’s sake and what they had was a great working relationship and friendship. And, besides, she wasn’t his type. Melissa was and yet, it wasn’t Melissa who had him all tied up in knots wondering if she was going to have dinner with another guy.
Damn you, Shaelyn. He rolled onto his back and closed his eyes. He was jealous. It was pointless denying it. He was jealous as hell and he didn’t know what to do about it.
The phone rang, startling him. He reached for it and answered, hoping that it was Shaelyn. “Hello?”
“Hi Ryker. I hope I’m not calling too late.” It was Melissa.
“No, you’re not.”
“I was wondering if you would like to have dinner with me on Saturday.”
“Sure.” Why the hell not? It would be better than being here alone, thinking about Shaelyn and Brian having dinner together and going out of his mind with jealousy.
Melissa sounded pleased and…relieved. “Great. See you tomorrow at the office.”
He doubted that he would get much sleep but he would try. He stretched over and turned out the bedside lamp.