My normal work day starts at six-thirty in the morning, and ends at six in the evening, Monday through Friday, but today is different. I have an appointment at six that I can’t miss. I grab my suit coat, not bothering to put it on, and make my
way out of my office. I stop by Eric’s office to see if he’s finished up with the proposal for a lucrative client tomorrow.
I tap the door with my knuckle and walk inside. Eric’s standing, but bent over his desk, typing on his laptop.
“Nearly done?” I ask as I walk over and take a seat in the leather chair in front of his desk.
“Yes,” he says. “Just finishing up now.”
“What are your thoughts on Ledgewood? Do you think he’ll take our offer?”
I already know Ledgewood will take it, but I’d like to get Eric’s opinion on the matter.
He pushes his laptop aside and takes a seat.
“Ledgewood is a smart man. He has a lot to lose if he doesn’t make the right decision. He knows our deal will benefit him more than the others he’s come across.” Eric’s lips tip up into a smile when he continues talking. “Ledgewood will take the deal.”
I smile in return, because he’s absolutely right. Ledgewood may not have accepted yet, but it’s only a technicality. There’s no way he’ll pass this deal up.Kindly share out stories from generalloaded.com using the floating social media icon buttons on the bottom of the screen
“My thoughts exactly.”
I take a minute before I bring up the other reason I came by.
“If this Ledgewood account goes through, and we both know it will, I want you to buy in as partner.
I can tell I’ve shocked him. I’ve never brought up the possibility of Eric buying in, but I’ve thought about it a lot the last several months. He has such a pivotal role within the company. Yes, I could have done it without him, and yes, it would be just as successful, but I believe, given the chance, we could be bigger in the future. Eric is very committed to his job. He’s a damn hard worker, knows his shit, and would be a great asset to the company. Some of his ideas have made us millions, and this deal has the potential to make us billions. Eric’s worked just as hard as I have on it. It’s a contract we’ve both been busting our balls on for several months.
“Wow,” Eric says, leaning back in his chair, still appearing shocked. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Say you’ll do it. Your ideas and views have been spot on. The company needs you, and I’d be honored to have you come on board as partner.”
Eric laughs. “Oh, I’m definitely on board. It’s just you’ve never mentioned it before. I’m still a little surprised you’d ask me.”
“I don’t see why. You’ve done more for this company than anyone else, besides myself. And you’ve been with me almost from the beginning.”
“Since before the beginning,” Eric replies with a smirk.
I chuckle. He’s right. I brought Eric on board as my chief designer six months after I started the company, but we met back at Harvard. I was still in my rebellious
stage and was hacking any system I could, one of which was a program that Eric had just created. It was supposed to be unbreakable, but me being me, crushed his firewall.
Neither knew of the other, but he eventually found out it was me. He was impressed and we became friends.
I glance down at my watch and stand.
“I’ve got to go. I have an appointment with Phillip at six. Are we all set for tomorrow?”
I walk to the door with Eric following me.
“Yeah. I just finished putting the final figures into the system.”
I pull the door open when Eric calls my name. I turn back to face him and see his brows pulled down in worry.
“Everything okay?” he asks.
“Yeah. It’s just procedure, nothing to worry about,” I inform him.
I hold his concerned stare for several seconds, telling him with my eyes I’m speaking the truth. He finally nods,accepting my answer.
“How about we meet after work on Wednesday and iron out the details of your partnership?”
“Shit, man, I can’t.” He walks back to his desk and does something on the computer before shutting it down. Once he’s finished, he grabs his phone off the desk and his suit jacket off the back of his chair, slips it on, and comes back to follow me out the door. “I’m meeting Poppy after work for drinks.”
Hearing her name and what Eric’s said about them having drinks together has me stopping to turn and face him.
“Poppy? As in, my personal assistant, Poppy?”
The grin on Eric’s face when he turns to me after closing his office door has my hackles rising. He’s been a close friend for years, but I want nothing more than to beat his fu.cking face in right now.
“Yep, that Poppy. I’ve been wanting to ask her out for a while, but figured she’d turn me down.”
He pockets his phone and walks past me toward the elevator. My dagger-like eyes follow him before my feet actually do. I stand beside him with my hands balled into fists as we wait for the elevator.
“I didn’t realize you were interested in her,” I remark, keeping my voice neutral. The last thing I want to do is make him suspicious. No one knows about my obsession with Poppy, and I plan to keep it that way until I’m ready to reveal myself to her.
“Oh, I’m very interested in her,” Eric replies.
The elevator opens and we both step inside. I try to refrain from smashing his face against the mirrored wall.
I can’t outright tell him to back off Poppy without giving myself away, so I have to be careful with how I respond.
“Are you sure it’s a good idea to start an office romance? Do you remember what happened the last time you tried that?”
“Damn straight I do. The damn bitch accused me of sexual harassment.” The look of disgust that passes over Eric’s face is unmistakable.
Fuck! I knew I should have changed the policy of office romances after the last time. That shit’s biting me in the ass now.
“But this time is different,” Eric continues. The look of disgust is now replaced with longing. I grind my molars together. “Poppy is different. I feel good about this, Ash.”
I swear, the more he talks, the more damage I want to do. And I don’t feel a damn bit of remorse as I picture myself ramming my knee into his balls to make
sure they never go anywhere near Poppy. I love Eric like a brother, and I’d do damn near anything for the man, except give Poppy over to him. That shit is not happening. I’ll make sure of it.
I keep quiet the rest of the ride down to the parking garage. If Eric notices, he doesn’t say anything. The lights on my car flash when I use my key fob to unlock my door. Still fuming, I bid Eric good-bye and slide into my car. It doesn’t take
long to get to my appointment, and takes even less time to finish. Just as I told Eric, it was standard procedure.
It’s fifteen till seven when I pull up to my condo. Even though I just saw Poppy a couple hours ago, the need to see her again after what Eric told me today is too much to resist. Even so, I have to wait a couple hours for the sun to go down to disguise my peeping ways by the cover of darkness.
I make myself something to eat, grab a shower, and answer a few emails I wasn’t able to get to earlier as I wait for the sun to dip beneath the horizon. As I’m sitting at my computer, I pull up the video feed for Poppy’s house. After searching several rooms, I spot her sitting on her back porch with a glass of wine and a book, her feet propped up on the matching ottoman. Disappointment hits when I see she’s already taken a shower. Her wet hair is pulled high on top of her head, and she’s wearing a light pink camisole and cute little shorts with strawberries on them. The angle of the camera isn’t the best, but still good enough to give me a decent view of her.
I open up our text thread.
Me: Good evening, Poppy.
The silence between us has gone on long enough, and I can’t stand it anymore. I need to feel connected to her somehow.
I watch her body stiffen. Her book closes and falls between her legs as she leans forward to snatch up her phone from the table beside her. After reading my message, her fingers fly across the screen as she types out her reply.
Poppy: I’m mad at you. You’ve been avoiding me since yesterday.
I smile. I’ve obviously been on her mind the last couple days.
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Me: Maybe I was just working and didn’t have time to chat.
I set my phone to the side and zero in on my computer screen. I can see the huff she gives, and I’m pretty sure she rolls her eyes after reading my response. A couple seconds later, my phone chimes.
Poppy: First, yesterday was Sunday, and who in their right mind would work on a Sunday? Second, I find that highly unlikely coming from a man that’s following a woman around and laying claim to her.
I chuckle and shake my head.
Me: You’re right. You’ve caught me. I was trying to give you time to cool off from everything that happened Saturday.
Poppy: By leaving me in the dark?
Me: No, by not overwhelming you with information.
My computer alerts me of an incoming email, but I ignore it, not willing to take my eyes off Poppy.
Poppy: Well, it’s stupid. Now, tell me how you knew who my date was, and how long you’ve been following me.
This is the part where I have to be careful. I recline back in my chair, rub my hand across my jaw and think of how much to tell her. I don’t want to lie to her… well, you know what I mean, but revealing too much at one time could be damaging.
Instead of doing what I should do and reply to her through text, I pick up my phone and push the phone icon right by her name. I watch my computer screen with satisfaction as her phone begins to ring. Her body jerks when she notices the number, and her chest rises as she pulls in a deep breath. It’s plain to see she’s nervous to talk to me. It takes five rings on my end before she swipes her finger across the screen and brings the phone to her ear.
“Hello,” she answers hesitantly. I close my eyes for a brief second as I hear her angelic voice. Every time I hear it, it does crazy shit to my body.
“Hello, Poppy,” I reply, lowering my voice and changing my accent so she doesn’t recognize me. I perfected several different accents in drama club back in high school.
It takes her several seconds to answer,but then she breathes out, “Wow. I don’t…” She stops, then starts again. “I wasn’t expecting you to call me.”
“Are you bothered that I did?” I silently pray she isn’t.
“No, of course not. I’m just surprised.”
We’re both silent. I don’t like the quiet from her end. I want to hear her talk.
“Say something else,” I demand. I not only want it, but I need her to keep talking. I feel like a druggy getting his fix after days without.
On the screen, Poppy adjusts in her seat so she’s more on her side. She picks up her wine glass and takes a sip of the clear liquid.
“Why?” she asks, setting her wine glass back down and pulling her legs up to get more comfortable.
“Because I like hearing your voice.”
She hesitates before she responds, and
it’s not the response I was hoping for. I was hoping to put this off for a little while longer, but apparently, moving from texting to talking wasn’t as much of a distraction as I was hoping it would be.
“How about you talk by answering the questions I asked you.”
I have to hand it to her. She knows what she wants and is going after it. I respect that and can’t fault her for it.
I take in a deep breath and let it out while I think of what all I want her to know. I know I have to give her something, but I won’t reveal all my secrets yet. A person can only handle so much, and Poppy’s handled a lot so far. I won’t take the chance of pushing her over the edge and making her too leery of me.
“You want to know how I knew who your date was?”
“Yes, and how long you’ve been following me.”
“Okay.” I recline back in my chair and get comfortable. “I have the means to gain certain… information.” Before she has a chance to ask how, and I know she is because I see her open her mouth on the video feed, I stop her when I continue. “How I gained that information is not something I feel comfortable discussing with you yet, but I will. Just not right now.”
I barely hold in my chuckle when I hear her huff on the other end of the line.
“That’s kind of unfair, don’t you think? How would you feel if someone was interfering in your life?”
She has a good point, but it doesn’t matter. First, no one would dare interfere with my life. That would be a mistake they would learn quickly as being the wrong one. Second, my end goal, and the only thing that matters, is making Poppy mine. I’ll do whatever is necessary to make that happen, even if that means withholding information from her, for now.
“That scenario doesn’t apply here because no one would be stupid enough to try to interfere with my life. But I get your point. Just know that I’m not withholding information to be a dick. I’m doing it because it’s information you’re not ready to hear.”
“And how do you know I’m not ready to hear it?”
“Because a person can only handle so much.”
It takes her a minute to form a reply, and when she does, it makes me like her even more. She’s relentless, something her and I have in common. More interesting stories from TOPSTER STORIES App.It’s a good trait to have. I’m also enjoying the fact that she’s actually talking to me. I’m
so used to her giving me minimal replies at work. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her talk so much. Not knowing who she’s dealing with gives her the confidence to stand up for herself.
“Well, then, maybe we should stop this right now. I don’t like secrets, and you seem to have a lot of them. I also don’t like lies. I just want to put that out there right now.”
I laugh outright when I watch her throw her arm up in the air and twist her body on the chair so her back is against the back rest, just like a child would do if they weren’t getting what they wanted.
“What are you laughing at?” she asks, her voice suspicious.
“Nothing.” I stop laughing and turn serious. “Listen, one thing you’ll learn about me, Poppy, is that I do not lie. I may hold back information with the best interest of the person, but what I do say you can count on as the truth. And no, this doesn’t stop right now. This is very much still happening.”
Instead of responding to that, she asks, “How long have you been following me?”
I sigh and sit up in my chair, resting my elbows on the hardwood desk. It’s better to get it over with now.
“For almost a year,” I tell her truthfully.
“What?” she screeches across the line. She jumps up from her chair and starts pacing with determined steps across her porch.
“This is bad,” she mutters, interrupting me. “Very, very bad. I can’t believe this shit.”
I give her a few minutes to stew, before trying again.
“Poppy,” I say cautiously. “This can’t be that much of surprise to you. After all, I have been sending you flowers for eight
She laughs humorously. She stops her pacing and bends her head back to scowl up at the sky. It’s getting dark, but where she’s standing and the view of the camera gives me the perfect angle to see her beautiful face.
“Ha! Sending me flowers for eight months and telling me you’ve been keeping tabs on me for almost a year is two entirely different things, Sterling.”
“Sterling?” What the hell did she call me?
“Yes, Sterling,” she says flippantly, while carelessly throwing her hand in the air. “It’s what I call you because you won’t give me your name, and I have to call you something. You send me sterling silver roses, so it fits.”
Knowing that she’s thought about me enough to give me a nickname sends a thrill through me. I smile as I watch her start her pacing again.
“I’ve told you before that I’ll do what it takes to get what I want, and what I want is you, Poppy. I made it my business to know everything about you. “Keeping tabs” on you, as you put it, is one of the ways I do that.”
I hear her huff out a breath over the line. She finally stops her pacing and rests back against the railing on the porch.
“This is so, so wrong. And what makes it worse is the lack of fear I have of you. What in the hell is wrong with me? Why am I interested in knowing more about you? I should be scared—terrified of what you’ll do. You obviously think it’s okay to meddle in my life and stalk me. I mean, who allows that shit and doesn’t freak out?”
“Poppy, I want you to listen to me,” I say, my tone serious.
I stop and stay quiet until I hear her mutter, “What?”
“I know this is a lot to take in. I know it’s not traditional. I know you still have a lot of questions, one being why can’t we meet now. I’m not quite ready for that, but it will happen, I promise. Just know that I would never harm you. You may not know me, so my word may not mean much to you, but you have it regardless.”
After several tense seconds of watching Poppy on my computer, her body finally relaxes. I sag back in my chair and release the breath I didn’t realize I was holding.
“Give me another letter,” she says, her voice back to the sweet I enjoy so much.
“Don’t hurt me, Sterling.” I hear the hitch in her voice, and I want nothing more than to hold her in my arms and reassure her that I would never do anything that would cause her pain. The trip to Texas isn’t for another ten days, and I need that time to ingratiate myself into her life so much she’ll never want to let me go. There’s a lot of shit she’s going to have to get past, once I tell her everything.
“I swear on my life, Poppy, I’ll never hurt you.”
“Okay,” she says quietly, and nods to herself.
“Have a good night, Beautiful. Sweet dreams.”
“Good night, Sterling. Bye.”
I hang up and watch her for a few more minutes. She has a sweet smile on her face as she glances down at her phone in her hand.
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By the time I close down my computer, the sun has set. I get up from my chair, grab my phone, and head out to my car. My need to see her now, in person, is overwhelming.