The elegant chocolate rose rested on my plate, smiling up at me, taunting me.
I’d come home from work, and there it was, my rose valentine, tied with shiny red ribbon to my door knob. No message.
I frowned, puzzling through my very short list of possible admirers.
Hell, there were none.
Work? Hmm, three women, all married, and one fifty year old, single man. Oh Jesus. I felt myself go pale. Jesus, please don’t let it be him, I prayed with true sincerity. His huge tombstone like front teeth, yellowing with age, always widened to super beacons whenever I entered his office.
Sitting in my chair wasn’t enough. This deserved some serious pacing. I nibbled at my bottom lip. Stop doing that. Last time I’d drawn blood and my lip had become infected. Remembering the way people had murmured sympathetically about cold sores, while keeping their distance, I obeyed my stern mental order. Snatching up the rose, I glared at it as I paced.
“No,” I said in horror, “Bob can’t have sent you to me.” Bob. My boss. Way, way, way overweight. Lives with his mum. Hell, I thought he was gay. No it can’t be him.
But panic was starting to set in. Picking absently at the red foil enclosing the chocolate rose as I paced with increasing desperation, little flashes of Bob came back to me. Chortling loudly over a dumb joke I’d made at the last meeting. Offering me a lift home when the meeting went late. Oh God.
Red foil fluttered to the ground. His eyes. I’d always thought they were avuncular, like a dad would look at his favourite daughter. Oh God, oh God. I brought the now naked rose up to my lips and nibbled.
Anger replaced my shock. “What does he think he’s doing?” I asked the now gnawed-at rose. “Good grief, your owner is crazy. I’m only twenty-four. He knows that.” Another memory shook me. I’d told Bob I was between guys right now. I took a huge, furious bite and was left with the green stem.
The doorbell rang.
I ignored the delicious, creamy, chocolate sliding seductively around my mouth. Narrowing my gaze at the door, I stiffened my shoulders, took a deep breath, and stalked towards it. Okay, Bob, you’re my boss. Fine. But you have crossed a line.
I flung the door open.
Oh. Not Bob then. A guy stood on my doorstep. Black jeans, button-down white shirt. Tall. I raised my eyes from his broad chest up to his face. Handsome, in an easy-going, fun way. Curly brown hair. Sprinkling of freckles. Nice nose. I like nice noses. Then my eyes met his. Blue. Smiling. Shy.
“Um, hello?” I said blankly.
His shy blue eyes turned into rueful, embarrassed ones. “I’m sorry,” he said, “this is sort of…” His lightly tanned face flushed. Then he seemed to gather his courage, for he smiled again. Straight teeth. I like straight teeth. “My name’s Chris. I saw you at Uncle Bob’s office the other day, though you might not have seen me. You were busy.”
The poor guy shook his head. “I’m sorry. I’m doing this very badly, but I’ve never done anything like this before. I must sound like a stalker. Uncle Bob said you weren’t seeing anyone…”
His face was really red now. “Look, I’m sorry, I’ll go.” He turned to leave, but then added, “It’s just that it’s Valentines Day…”
Finally I found my voice. “No, Chris. Don’t go. Come in,” I said, grinning. “Any nephew of Uncle Bob’s is a friend of mine.”
Chris took a huge, relieved breath. His eyes dropped to the green stem I still held in my hand. “I see you got my Valentines gift.”