Misadventures with the Boss (Page 20)
Was this how she lived? Anyone could just roll up to her apartment door. There was no security of any kind.
I didn’t like that one f*****g bit.
The doors dinged, and I stepped into a hallway that smelled just like the guy out front. I glanced both ways until I saw the door marked number eight at the end of the hall.
Holding the white bakery box in one hand, I knocked and then waited for the sound of footsteps. It wasn’t until I heard them that I realized I’d been holding my breath.
The footsteps slowed to a stop in front of the door, and without a pause, the door swung open to reveal Piper with a towel on her head, blinking up at me in shock.
“Hey. Uh, what are you doing here?” she asked, raising a hand to her towel as her cheeks turned pink.
“I should ask you the same thing. This place is a f*****g death trap.”
“Excuse me?” Her eyes—one lined with makeup and one without—narrowed.
“I just walked up here, and you didn’t even check to see who it was before swinging the door open. I bet it wasn’t even locked. And what the f**k with no buzzer or anything?”
“I’m sorry, is this some employee safety inspection I wasn’t aware of?” She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at me.
She looked cute as f**k in her towel turban and bare toes, but I wasn’t going to let that sway me. This was serious.
“Look, I know you’re a sweet and trusting soul, but this isn’t whatever backcountry town you came from. You have to watch yourself.”
“You mean Chicago?” she shot back.
I paused. Okay, so maybe not backcountry, but that only pissed me off more. She should know better. “That doesn’t change my point. There is literally no security here.”
“There’s a doorman,” she said. “He was probably just outside smoking.”
“Well, someone needs to fire him, then, or get him to do his job.”
She rolled her eyes and stepped back with an impatient wave of her hand. “Did you want to come in, or was your plan to stand on my doorstep and yell at me?”
I took a step inside and offered her the box of pastries. “I got one of everything. Wasn’t sure what your favorite was.”
“Cheese Danish,” she said, taking the box and carrying it over to the island on the far side of the room.
The place was a loft so small I wondered for a moment what exactly I was paying her, but then she interrupted my thoughts. “What brings you here on your Saturday with no call and no warning?”
“I called twice,” I said.
She popped open the box, and her eyes lit up as she scanned its contents.
“And when I didn’t answer you figured you’d come over and…what? Ransack the place?” she chirped, suddenly seeming more cheerful than a few seconds before.
Okay, so apparently showing up bearing baked goods had earned me some brownie points, even though she was mad. I made a quick mental note.
Buy lots of Danish.
She selected a treat from the box and took a monster-sized bite. I followed her lead, taking a chocolate croissant from the box and examining it.
“I thought you might like to see the city. It’s a beautiful day, and you’re new around here, so I thought…”
She grinned. “You’re getting soft, boss. I kind of like it.”
She licked a fleck of glaze from her bottom lip, and I resisted the urge to show her exactly how soft I wasn’t. I’d been irritated all morning because I wanted to get to know her a little better. Lying in bed all day, as awesome as that might be, wasn’t going to scratch this particular itch.
“Anyway,” I pressed on. “You’re only trying to distract me from the fact that you live in the gateway to hell. This neighborhood isn’t safe. You should let me find you a place in one of the buildings I own. Something with cameras and 24-hour security. And buzzers.”
“It’d be nice to have packages delivered someplace they wouldn’t get stolen,” she acknowledged, glancing around with a satisfied grin. “But to be honest, I sort of like this place. It has character.”
I surveyed the old wooden framework around her windows and scrubbed a hand over my jaw in irritation. “That’s one word for it.”
“I’m not talking any more about this. I want to hear all about your big plans for today.” She took another bite of her Danish. “Where are you taking me?”
I sure as s**t wasn’t just going to drop it, but I wasn’t going to let it ruin our day, either.
I tucked it away to chew on later that night and turned my attention away from the dingy windows back to her.
“I don’t really have any, exactly. I don’t really know what you like to do.” I glanced around her apartment again, looking for some sign or hint of where to start. There was no video game system, and while there were a few paintings hanging on the walls, the place was mostly covered in family photos. I walked toward one of them and pressed my finger to the glass as I examined a girl who looked almost exactly like Piper.
“Who is this?” I asked.
“My sister,” she said. “She’s the one who set up the, uh, dating profile.”
“Right,” I laughed. “So, tell me, what do you want to learn about our fine city?”
“How to get Hamilton tickets?” she asked cheekily, eyebrows raised.
“Try again,” I said dryly. “I’m pretty spectacular, but I’m not magic.”
“How about we hit the streets and just see what we see, huh?”
“You? Miss organization and plan-every-second-of-the-day-out wants to wing it?” I considered for a moment and then gave her a solemn nod. “Okay.”
I was careful to make sure she locked all her doors and windows before we started on our journey. As we passed the doorman, he was still leaning against the wall outside. Piper grinned at him.
“’Sup, Pipes?” he asked as she kept going, not noticing—or, more likely, choosing to ignore—my grimace of displeasure.
“He’s not going to do his job if you act like what he’s doing is okay,” I said.
“Lucky for me and him both, I’m not his boss.” She winked. “Now come on. Did you come to fight with me all day or to show me around the city?”
“A little hard to show you around the city when I don’t know where to start.”
“How about with your favorite place?” she offered.
I thought about it and then nodded.
“Yeah, okay. Come with me.” And without even thinking about it, I grabbed her hand and led her off into the heart of the city, feeling better than I could remember feeling in months.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. Maybe that he’d whisk me away to some underground jazz club or to his favorite tailored suit shop. Maybe just to some hole-in-the-wall burger joint that nobody had ever heard of. With a guy like Jackson, I could never be sure.
But, as we sailed down the avenue, I had a few guesses.
“The M&M store in Times Square?” I asked, grinning at him.
“Nope,” he said, squeezing my hand.
“What about, um, the Ferris wheel in the Toys ‘R’ Us?”
“Not there either,” he said.
“I’m running out of guesses,” I complained.
“Good news for me.”