69 Million Things I Hate About You(6)

By: Kira Archer

He headed back toward his office with an extra spring in his step, reenergized and ready to work.

Chapter Three

Cole picked up his coffee cup to take a drink, but his lips met nothing but air.

He stared into the empty mug. Okay, the day had been long when he couldn’t remember drinking a single sip of coffee, let alone draining it dry. He put the cup down with a thump and turned back to the files in front of him with a scowl. The paperwork that wallpapered his life never seemed to go away.

Ten minutes later, he was reaching for his cup again, only this time he found it refilled. He hadn’t heard Kiersten come in, but then he rarely did when he was focused on work. Plus, the woman moved like a cat. She’d scared the hell out of him more times than he cared to admit in the six months since she’d been promoted. He was tempted to put a bell on her just so he’d know when she was about.

She removed a stack of files from his desk to return them to the filing cabinet in the corner of the office, and the gentle scent of her perfume floated over him. Something subtly floral that reminded him of the magnolia tree in his grandmother’s front yard. He’d always loved that scent. It was home to him. Kiersten had only recently started wearing it, and he wasn’t sure he approved of the new development. He needed to concentrate, not sniff the air like a schnauzer every time the woman walked by.

“New perfume?” he asked.

She looked up from the folders she was filing, her mahogany-colored eyes widening slightly. Yeah, so he didn’t often ask her personal questions. First time for everything.

“Lotion, actually. It was part of a bath set.”

“A gift?”

Her lips twitched, and she turned back to her filing. “Yes. From you. Last Christmas.”

“Ah. Of course.” Which meant she’d either purchased it for herself or one of the other assistants had. They took care of all the shopping for that kind of stuff for him.

Well, as long as she’d ended up with something she liked.

The phone rang, and she hurried back to her adjacent office to answer it. A moment later the intercom beeped.

“Your mother, sir.”

“Take a message,” he said. Blowing his mother off was going to bite him in the ass later, but he didn’t have time to deal with her at the moment. He needed to get back to work. It seemed like he’d been on an eternal carousel of contracts, conferences, mergers, and board meetings since he’d sold his first app back in college. The money had enabled him to start a development company, which had quickly gone lucrative. It had been a ceaseless parade of projects ever since. Though, as far as problems go, steady, profitable work wasn’t so bad.

Kiersten came back in, carrying another stack of files. It would probably be easier and save a ton of trees to keep everything digital, but being on the computer 24/7 was killing his eyes. Paper didn’t bother him nearly as much.

He reached for his mug. One sip and he held the cup back out. Already cold. Again.

Kiersten took the cup without a word and marched back out. He returned to the paperwork in front of him, until she came back with his newly filled cup. This time, the sweetened liquid pleasantly burned down his throat, the bitterness hidden under two creams and four sugars.

“I don’t know why you bother giving him the coffee,” a male voice said.

Cole looked up to see Brooks waltz in and drop into a chair in front of his desk.

“You should just stick a straw in the sugar dispenser and call it good.”

“It’s not that sweet,” Cole said.

“Ah, don’t get too offended. Something about you should be sweet.”

A snort that quickly turned into a gentle cough came from Kiersten, and Cole raised his eyebrows. He’d never heard such a sound come from her before. Then again, he’d only been working face-to-face with her for half a year, and she’d been nothing but strictly professional. Not that that had made those months any less distracting. Oh, she was an amazing assistant. Anticipated his needs before he knew what they were himself half the time. She had a quick intellect and ran a tight ship. His office was a well-oiled machine that she kept running so smoothly he never had to worry about anything.