Welcome Blog Hoppers! This week is sponsored by the lovely ladies at Love Lust and Lipstick Stains. You can click on the picture above to see the list of other blogs on the hop or click on the frog icon to the side. There’s also a giveaway going on at http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/06395848/ . One of the ways you can enter is by following my blog!
For the hop, I’m trying something new that I hope you enjoy. It’s a sort of choose your own romance. Read the beginning of the story below and comment on what decision you’d like Tessa to make. I’ll post the next part of the story tomorrow according to the vote. Keep coming back the rest of the week to see the story unfold as chosen by the readers.
by Evelyn Aster
Tessa ran her thumb around the indention in her finger where her wedding ring used to be. It should be gone by now along with the hole in her soul that refused to close. She gazed outside her office window and watched the clouds gathering over the skyscrapers for a whopper of an April shower. Lightning lit them up, and a few minutes later she heard a rumble. The storm was still pretty far from her just like any sign of healing.
Her head hit the desk. She should be taking maternity leave now with her first child. She should be gathering it in a bundle of blankets and snuggling next to Rick for Friday night pizza and a movie.
Her intercom buzzed. Tessa sat up and pushed the button.
“Go home,” said her assistant Mark. “Better yet, go get a drink.”
Tessa turned and looked through the window in the wall that divided them. He was five years younger than her with features more likely to be found in a jeans ad than at an office. People always joked that she’d hired him for his looks, but he was the sharpest person she knew. She was frankly flabbergasted he was so content to work as her assistant. She made a face and said, “Do you think anyone would notice?”
“You’re the boss around here. Who cares?”
Tessa rolled her eyes and let go of the button. She preferred to lead by example. Besides, she was pretty much a middle manager. Still, maybe she would. Not the getting a drink part, but the going home early. No one would begrudge her—she’d been working her ass off throughout the whole divorce process.
What the hell? It was Friday. She shut down her computer and wished she’d brought in a rain coat. Since the divorce, she’d fallen out of watching the weather and news—there was too much sadness in her own life to keep up with all the shit going on in the world.
She stepped out of the office and said to Mark, “I’m going home then. You can leave too. We’re not doing–” her voice trailed off as she looked out at several empty cubicles. “Did everyone already leave?”
“Well, we just wrapped up that big account.”
Oh shit. She usually took everyone out for a drink when that happened, but this time she’d just moved on to working on the next account. Stunned at how out of touch she was, she said, “Why didn’t you remind me this should be a happy hour Friday?”
His brown eyes saddened and he said with a seriousness he hardly ever showed “I figured you weren’t in the celebrating mood. I was trying to hint at it just now, but I think I was too subtle.”
She sighed. “I’m sorry. I’ve gotta get with it again.”
He stood up, appeared to want to reach out to her, but stopped himself. “It’s been a rough year for you. I’ve been hoping for signs of your old self, but I know everything has changed.”
Tessa tilted her head and said, “Did they go to Harrigans?”
Mark said, “Yeah, I’m meeting them there when we leave. We might be able to catch them at the elevators. You know how slow they are and everyone just left.”
“Let’s go,” she said. He grabbed his suit coat off the back of his chair and she asked, “I don’t suppose you brought an umbrella?”
“No, but you can have my coat if you need it.”
She shook her head, but smiled at the offer. They jogged through the office. She heard chatter in the direction they were heading and said, “Play along with me.” She turned the corner and glared. The team she led stopped talking. Tessa narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest. “Going somewhere?”
The team gaped. Mark stepped around the corner and said, “I tried to talk them out of it, but they just blew me off.”
A man named Jeff who was older but still under her said, “That’s BS. He suggested it.”
Her most recent hire, a woman fresh out of college, blushed and said, “I’m sorry, Tessa. With the Morgan account done we thought–”
“That you could slack off?” Tessa raised her eyebrows.
No one answered. She was a bit surprised how terrified they looked, except for Jeff, and stared at them one by one, enjoying the momentary discomfort she was causing them. But she thought the new girl Lisa might pee in her pants so she relented. Tessa broke into a smile. “It’s fine. I’m sorry I’ve been so out of it recently. The first round is on me of course.”
The group laughed in relief and it was nice to feel like a part of them again—she’d been far too distant. When the elevator finally opened, they squeezed in next to another group leaving early. Tessa ended up standing face to face with Mark, his umber eyes smiling at her. She whispered, “Did you see how scared everyone was? I didn’t know I could have that kind of effect.”
“You cause all sorts of effects,” he whispered back. His stare changed to match the intensity of his words.
Her stomach fluttered and she had to avert her eyes. What did he mean? Heat rose inside her in a way she hadn’t felt in a long time. No, this was wrong, and he probably didn’t mean it the way it sounded. She lifted her eyes to his again, but he’d looked away. A bell dinged and the elevator door opened. She was so flustered as they walked out that she wasn’t careful, and her heel caught between the elevator and the first floor. She tripped, and he caught her by the waist.
“Easy, there,” he said. “You haven’t even had your first drink yet.” His words had returned to their joking inflections, but he held her close to him.
Tessa stood up straight and tried to shrug him off. “Thanks. I guess it’s been so long since I’ve had one that even the thought intoxicates me.”
He let go of her waist, but to her surprise, he took her hand. “It’s time you started having fun again.”
They were way behind the others now. Confusion made her slightly dizzy. She couldn’t decide if she should let go of his hand and keep their relationship strictly professional, or hold onto him and see where it went. He’d been a rock through the devastating events of the year, but she’d never considered being involved with him. Of course, she’d married way too young and hadn’t really considered anyone romantically except her ex-husband.
What should Tessa do? Hold onto Mark’s hand or let go? Leave your vote in the comments below. The decision with the most votes will be written about tomorrow. Come back to see what Tessa has to choose between next!