I bite back the response that I want to say. “I’ll do anything for you.” Instead, I say that I know where it is, and after finding the yellow folder he described, I head for the door. “I’ll be right back.”

A young man, perhaps a year or two older than me, exits the elevator by the security desk and heads toward me. “You must be Lia; I’m Jess.” He shakes my hand in greeting. “It’s nice to see we have someone not old enough to be my mom working here at last!” The guard uses a handheld scanner to capture the barcode on the guy’s badge and buzzes Jess in, and the door to my office area opens on automatic hinges. I wish they could have done that for Jean instead of making me look like an idiot earlier.

I peer at the guard’s name badge. In the dim light of the overhead it’s hard to make out until my eyes adjust. “Michael, can I ask what’s probably a silly question? I see that Jess swiped his badge, and you were able to let him in from here. Why couldn’t that happen for Jean from Research when she came up earlier today?”

The guard coughs, disguising a bark of a laugh. “Umm… You mean Scientist Barbie? She does not have proper clearance for the offices on this floor. Jess has clearance for almost every room in the complex. I cannot disclose additional information, but if you ask Mr. Huntsworth, he may tell you.”

Knowing that would likely be a futile effort, I smile and thank Michael for his help. It can’t be fun to sit at the desk for a twelve-hour shift with nothing to do but press buttons and watch security monitors. It will be even less interesting with Beck gone starting tomorrow. The office will be lonely; that much I know already.

I scurry along the hallway, my footfalls loud in the empty corridor. It’s nearing seven, and even the assistants have gone home. It’s just Beck, the guard, and me. As busy as Beck is, I know dinner will be eaten either rushed, standing shoulder to shoulder while we work, or alone in the dark at my desk. I’m unsure which one I want.

No. Being with him, even if we’re eating sushi like it’s popcorn between tasks, would be better than not having this time with him.

I return to our office, but there’s no food and no Beck. The entire office suite is empty. “Beck?” I call his name and go from my desk in the lobby to his office. Louder this time, I call his name. A door, one I thought was a coat closet, has a light shining from beneath it. “Maybe it’s a meeting room,” I say to myself as I open the door. The food service cart is at the bottom of a set of stairs leading up, and at the top of the stairs is a door, propped open, revealing the night sky.

Beck comes to the top of the stairs, a blanket over his arm, and calls down, “Yay! You’re back! The food’s here, Lia. I thought we could use a break from the office. Come on up.” He disappears from my view, but I soon see him as I crest the landing after the final stair.

The space is huge; the roof of our building is connected to the others by slim walkways that make up the ceilings to the skywalks between the three towers. Our roof is mostly open with a garden diagonal from where I stand at the stairwell. To my right, Beck has a personal restaurant, or a close facsimile.

Four patio heaters are beginning to warm the night air, shimmering with heat. Adding to the comfort, Beck drapes a blanket over the top of a wicker couch and pulls back a bit of mosquito netting to invite me beneath the spacious gazebo style tent. “Welcome to Chez Huntsworth. Tonight’s main course is a sushi sampler. May I interest the lady in the finest vintage of hot tea or chilled spring water? Sorry I don’t have sake or wine. I don’t drink on the job. Please sit, Lia.”

I take the spot he points to and reach for a bottle of water. “This is amazing; thank you.” The moonlight and glow from the electric braziers illuminate his hair, giving Beck an otherworldly appearance. With Beck in his suit and me in a skirt and blouse, I can almost imagine this as a date. Hell, this is already nicer than most dates I’ve gone on.

“You’re smiling. What are you thinking about?” The couch cushion dips as Beck sits down beside me, his knee grazing mine.

“Honestly? I was thinking that having dinner with my boss is nicer than all of the dates I’ve ever been on.” It’s hard to think with him so close, and blurting out my real thoughts is easier than trying to come up with a believable lie. I consider asking if this is his version of a date, but I don’t want to make it awkward.

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