Plus One(6)

By: Aleatha Romig

“Yes. For Timothy and me. I totally forgot about it. I need to confirm when the wedding is. I know! If it’s before you leave, you could be my plus-one.”

“And I totally would,” she says, “if I wasn’t leaving. I know! We could dance together and get your family talking.”

Laughter rumbles from my chest. “I’m going to miss you.”

With our dinner done, Shana says, “Come with me now. I’m meeting a few friends from work for a drink down the street.”

I decline, being a tad overwhelmed with Shana’s news and my upcoming phone call with my mother. “I think I’ve had enough excitement for one night. You have fun celebrating with them. I’ll see you at home.”

Shana and I make it to the elevator when I turn and notice the bar attached to the patio, now covered in see-through plastic windows. The view is still stunning and I imagine that in the summer, without the plastic, it’s even better. The bar is relatively empty.

“I think I’m going to get another glass of water before heading home. Clear head for the subway, you know?”

Shana gives me a quick kiss on the cheek. “Good girl. Probably by the end of the night I’ll need an Uber.” And with that, the elevator doors begin to close. She waves her fingers as she disappears.

The bartender only nods at my order of iced water, no doubt thinking I’m a big spender. It isn’t a money thing. It’s the three glasses of wine that I drank with dinner.

Since I don’t own a car, riding the subway is the best way to get home from Midtown, and as I said to Shana, I prefer to do that with a clear head. When I first moved here, the two of us made a few trips on the subway that we probably shouldn’t have. We were lucky. There is safety in numbers. Tonight, I’m on my own.

As I will be once she’s gone.

A long sigh escapes my lips as I think about her promotion.

I am happy for her. I am. It’s me. Just like my RSVP for Scarlett’s wedding, I’m plus zero… alone.

After the bartender places the water in front of me, I take a long pull of the straw, allowing the fresh water to clear my head. It helps to give me focus. But then, as I believe I’m ready to leave, I turn and see him walking toward me.

Duncan Willis.

I blink my eyes, trying to erase the mirage. Am I imagining him? Maybe it’s the wine that’s making my imagination come to life.

I tilt my head and take in his exquisite form. Perhaps it’s my subconscious way to deal with the impending loneliness. Whatever it is, I like it. I like that in my hallucination, he’s coming toward me alone. I wonder if I can relive this vivid image again at home, in my bedroom…

My eyes flutter as I mentally change the surroundings.

It’s my room and Duncan Willis is moving toward me with determined steps. My breathing stutters. His unbuttoned jacket hangs perfectly from his wide shoulders while his forward motion causes it to gape, revealing his fitted shirt covering… Before I can imagine what is under that shirt, his eyes zero in on me as if I am his target.

My body heats at the thought.

Duncan is the arrow and I’m the bull’s-eye.

I shake my head and turn away, seriously concerned that I’m delusional. Giggling at myself, I take another sip of my water.

“Miss Jones.”


The water forgets its downward trajectory as I cough and nearly spit.


He isn’t in my imagination. I was actually fantasizing over and ogling the real him—my real boss.

Before I can respond, Mr. Willis gestures toward the empty barstool beside me. “May I?”

My head bobs before my lips move. “Y-yes.”

“I’m glad I caught you. I wanted to say something before we return to the office tomorrow.”

His casual, deep voice reverberates to my soul, mixing with the swoosh of my coursing blood. His closeness fills my senses with the spicy scent of his cologne and gives birth to a swarm of butterflies in my tummy.

Duncan Willis is sitting beside me.

I try to ignore my juvenile reaction and concentrate on his words. As I do, I come up with the reason I’m acting like I’m sixteen instead of twenty-five. It’s because wine, lust, the fear of loneliness, and Duncan Willis all work together to create a dangerous and somewhat embarrassing concoction.

“Ms. Miller, Jennifer,” he begins.

I lift my hand. “Mr. Willis. You’re one of the owners of Buchanan and Willis. The company doesn’t have a policy against fraternization outside the office.”

“I wanted you to know that tonight wasn’t about that, about fraternization. I had dinner reservations. My date canceled. Jennifer had a marketing proposal. It was late. I’d heard good things about Gaston’s and well, I didn’t want to let the reservations go unused. I figured two birds, one stone. You know?”