Romance: Dedication - A Workplace Romance (Dedication Series, Romance, Contemporary Romance Book 1) (6 page)

BOOK: Romance: Dedication - A Workplace Romance (Dedication Series, Romance, Contemporary Romance Book 1)
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              Jane ran a brush through her hair. Every time it seemed like they were ready to leave, Franklin would do something to start the process all over again. It was after her third time getting dressed again that she forced him out of the house and into a taxi. They traveled back to the bar that they’d celebrated at the night before. As Jane stepped out of the taxi, Franklin paid for the ride. Jane had just woven her hair into a ponytail when she heard a familiar voice.

              “Jane?”

              Rebecca was looking at her with a raised eyebrow. Her purse was slung over her shoulder, a raised hand blocking the sun from her eyes. When Franklin moved beside her, wearing clothes from the day before, Rebecca glanced back and forth between them. Jane bit her lip as the reality of the situation hit her friend.

              “You two? You two! What...how...why? Jane?”

              Jane steered Rebecca away from Franklin calling over her shoulder to him. “Pull the car around!” When they were out of earshot of Franklin the brunette opened her mouth. Jane could see the gears working in Rebecca’s head, trying to piece things together.

              “Don’t start.”

              “Mckinnon, seriously? All of the men in that office you could screw and you pick Mckinnon?”

              “Franklin and I just-”

              “Franklin!” Rebecca exclaimed. “Now he’s Franklin to you? What is going on? Please, tell me you’re not crazy enough to actually fall for him.”

              “What’s so bad about him?”

              “He’s a mean, conniving, snake who’s probably playing with your emotions for fun,” Rebecca said as she perched her hands onto her hips.

              Jane rolled her eyes. “Trust me, I don’t think he can fake the way he’s been acting. Can’t you just be a normal person who doesn’t work at the same place as me and be happy that I got laid? And that the guy is actually pretty nice?”

              “I will never be happy that you’re sleeping with Satan.”

              “Rebecca…”

              Something on Jane’s face must have made Rebecca reconsider things. She rolled her eyes, but her hands at least dropped from her hips. Jane heard the heavy sigh that passed her lips.

              “Fine. Look, just don’t do anything stupid, okay? We have it hard enough working in the men’s club without being part of their locker room triumphs. I just don’t want to see you get hurt, okay?”

              Jane nodded. “I know. Trust me though, I can handle this. Besides, right now we’re still just…”

              “Screwing? Don’t give me that look.”

              “I was
going
to say, starting out. I promise, I’ll be careful.”

              Jane left with a wave as she walked to Franklin’s car. Rebecca was right, it was foolish getting involved with someone that she worked with. She couldn’t help it though. Her gut told her that there was no way Franklin could be faking his actions. She slid into his car, slamming the door  before they started driving.

              “What did the witch want?” Franklin said as they sped down the highway.

              “We were catching up. You really shouldn’t call her a witch.”

              “I’m sure I’ll have a less evil name for her when she’s less evil, until then she’s the witch.”

              Jane rolled her eyes. “You’re both impossible.” There was a pause as she buckled herself in, “What did you call me? You know, for full disclosure.”

              “Ahh, lets not talk about that.”

              “Come on, tell me. I won’t get mad.”

              Franklin blew out a breath heavily. “Every woman who’s ever said that gets mad.”

              “I’m not every woman, now am I?”

              He glanced over at her as he drove. When she continued to gaze at him waiting for an answer, he sighed. “Her broom.”

              “Wait, what?” Jane asked as she contorted her face in confusion.

              “You know, the witch and her broom.”

              “Why a broom though? You could have gone anywhere with that.”

              Franklin’s mouth twisted into a little awkward smile. “You know, because you kind of had a stick up your butt. And Rebecca’s always riding you.”

              Jane’s mouth fell open. “That’s terrible!”

              “I said let’s not talk about it!”

              Jane’s arms crossed over her chest. She could feel steam rising from her head as she leaned back against the leather seat of his car. Franklin glanced over at her, the smile quickly replaced with a look of concern.

              “Are you mad?” He asked quietly.

              “Not even a little.”

              The car stayed silent for the rest of the drive, Jane seething until they pulled up to his place. It wasn’t what she’d expected. Knowing Franklin’s background, she had imagined some grand home with expensive furnishings and exquisite cars. Or an oversized bachelor pad decorated in modern chrome and high tech devices. The place they pulled up to was very different than she’d ever let her mind wander to.

              Franklin pulled the car into a little driveway barely big enough for two cars. The house in front of them was two stories, red brick with hunter green shutters and a cute garden out front. There was even a white, picket fence along the outside of the property.  When the car was parked, Franklin ran around the front of the car to open her door for her. Extending his hand to help her down, she slipped her fingers within his grasp. Jane started walking towards the house, a hunter green front door sat behind an ornate black and white glass door.

              Producing a key, Franklin let them into the house. It was hot inside before he walked over to a wall and adjusted the thermostat for the air to blow. Jane still hadn’t said a word as her eyes traveled over every inch of the house. It looked exactly like the sort of house she’d lived in when she was a child. She followed behind him into the kitchen. It was so far the only modernized part she’d seen with a stainless steel stove and appliances. Everything else was dark wood, warm colors and old school comfort.

              “Your house, it’s so beautiful,” Jane whispered once Franklin had poured her a glass of cold water.

              A look of relief seemed to slip onto his face. “I’m really glad you like it. A lot of people make fun of my place.”

              “Why?” She asked as she raised an eyebrow.

              He shrugged. “It’s not what they’re expecting. I get told a lot that it’s the type of place you get once you’re married and ready for kids. My parents think I can do way better, but I like it. I never felt too comfortable growing up in big homes.. He checked his phone. “Feel free to look around. There’s a garden out back too, if you like that kind of thing. I’m going to go upstairs, find some clothes to pack before we head back to your place.”

              Jane nodded. When he walked away, she kept looking around before she picked up her cup of water and wandered through the house. She could tell that he had worked on some of the rooms in the house to make them bigger, especially the bathroom that could fit three of her bathrooms inside of it. There was a library filled with books that ranged from mysteries and thrillers, to bestsellers and biographies. Jane let her fingers travel over the smooth spines of them. Two walls were dedicated to them: She could appreciate that.

              Once she stepped out of the library, she decided to take a peek at the garden. Sliding open double glass doors, Jane was hit with the fresh scent of flowers. Before her eyes were rows and rows of vegetables. Some were only budding, but some looked as though they would be ready to be picked soon. She walked past rows of tomatoes, cabbage, cucumbers, beans. There were even small mounds of dirt that held little white tags identifying them as basil, and parsley, and rosemary.

              “What do you think?”

              Franklin stepped out of the house in a short sleeved, navy t-shirt, khaki shorts and white and blue sneakers. He ran a hand through his hair as he walked over to her casually, hands slipped inside  of his pockets. Jane’s heart thudded against her chest. How was it possible that he looked just as good in casual clothes as he did in a suit. She knew one thing for sure, the short sleeved shirt showed off a world of muscle that she wasn’t used to seeing on him day to day.

              Her eyes traveled down his body, taking him in, appreciating him in a way that, mere hours before, wouldn’t have happened.

              “Hmm? Oh, the garden. Yes, I think it’s beautiful,” she forced her attention back to the plot of fruits and vegetables. “My grandma used to have an absolutely beautiful garden when we were children. I used to love to help her with it.”

              “What happened to it?”

              “We had to put her in a home last year. She’s as spry as ever, but no one could afford to take care of her at home. We were too afraid to leave her in her own house, with the memory loss you know?” She dusted the dirt off of her shorts as she stood from the patch of ground marked, strawberries. “I haven’t had the time or place to be able to grow my own. I always wanted to get a little coop, you know, for chickens. Then I could have fresh eggs with my fresh food in the morning. Now, I eat processed donuts and consume my body weight in coffee,” She gave a little laugh as she looked over at Franklin.

              He had a look on his face that she couldn’t put a word to. When he walked over to her, he wrapped his arms around her waist, rested his lips against her neck. He held her tightly. The feeling of being safe washed over her again, making a smile form on her lips.

              “I’m sorry, about your grandmother,” Franklin finally said.

              “That’s alright. We all get older, I suppose. I’m actually seeing her Sunday night, so we’ll have to part ways early I’m afraid.”

              “I can pack her up some vegetables, if you like.”

              Jane turned slightly in his arms to smile up at him. “I would love that. Thank you.”

              They strolled around outside for a while longer as Franklin pointed out the newer things he’d planted as well as his plans for the rest of the space. Somewhere along the walk, his hand found hers and held it tightly. He showed her the in ground pool on the other side of the yard,  a hot tub off to the side. A lone little shed stood by the back gate, the paint badly in need of a touch up.

              “I’ve been meaning to get to it,” he said sheepishly, “but by the time I come home it’s dark. When I wake up, still dark.”

              Jane laughed. “I know the feeling all too well.”

CHAPTER FOUR

 

              “I don’t like the beach,” Jane objected as they sat on her couch. Her legs were tossed over his as Franklin flipped through the tv channels lazily.

              “Who doesn’t like the beach?” Franklin scoffed as he looked down at her.

              “People who don’t want to be picking up sand for weeks on end.”

              The  man shook his head. “Only you would hate the beach.” He kissed her forehead. “Live a little.”

              “I’m living just fine, thank you very much.”

              They had spent much of their Friday repeating the night before. Maybe because it was their last day together before the work week started back, they were stumped for what to do. Jane was perfectly happy on the couch, but Franklin refused to let that happen.

              “It’s our first date, it should be something memorable,” he said as he continued to flip, the TV channels. “I don’t want our first date to be sitting on the couch.”

              “Who said I wanted to go on a date with you?”

              “Mm, who wouldn’t, Parkett?”

              “You’re not that great, you know.” She said, sticking out her tongue at him.

              “That’s not what you said last night. Or this morning….” He smiled, “I believe your exact words were ‘more’ and ‘don’t stop’.”

              Jane grinned up at him. Despite what he said, she could now see that he was a lot more sentimental than he let on. To get her attention, he wrapped his arm around one of her slender legs, pulling her closer to his chest. She tried to hide a smile from him. He’d been talking about a date since the night before. While Jane liked the idea of it, the possibility was frightening. She hadn’t gone on a date in years: Grad school had been first in her mind, then the internship. Couple that with her bad luck of first dates and she wasn’t exactly eager to ruin what they had.

              “Go get dressed. I’ve got an idea you’re going to love.” Franklin’s phone was in his hand, and he started intently at the screen, a wide grin on his face. “Go on,” he urged when she didn’t move.

              “Can we please stay in?” Jane asked, sticking her lips out in a pout.

              “What are you afraid you’re going to fall victim to my charm? Hate to break it to you, babe, but it’s a little too late for that.” Then he was kissing her, slow and intense. It made the blood sear in her veins, leaving Jane dizzy when he pulled away. “Go on. I’ll give you thirty minutes, Parkett. Then I’m coming in no matter how undressed you are.”

              “You’re not really giving me an incentive to put on clothes.”

              “It’ll give me something to peel off you later.”

              She left the dining room, throwing a look over her shoulder to Franklin as She closed the door behind her. Picking out an outfit wasn’t easy. Since he’d already seen everything she’d had to offer, Jane wasn’t really worried about her body image. Instead, she wanted to look
nice
for him. Not frumpy Jane Parkett in work clothes and kitten heels. Jane wanted to surprise him: Make him lose his train of thought they same way Franklin did to her. “

              The red skater dress was one of her favorites. It was mid length, flaring out just enough to accentuate her hips. Pairing it with a rose-gold belt and matching bracelets made it just dressy enough for a first date.  Franklin knocked on the door just as she was swiping on a line of eyeliner. Her makeup was simple, natural foundation and, with a deep red lip that Jane had perfected for special occasions.

              “Come in.” To say she purred the words out would be an understatement. A part of Jane still wanted to stay in, do things that wouldn’t be proper in front of regular company.

              “I like you all dressed up.” The room seemed small with him in it. Franklin sat down on her bed, casually leaning back. “Let me know when you’re ready.”

              Jane turned to him, her smile big and welcoming. She walked over to where he sat on the bed, putting a sway in her hips that had him watching her like a hawk. His lap was very happy to see her when she sat down, entwining her hands in his hair, pulling just enough to get his attention.

              “It’s not too late to stay,” she murmured against his skin, pressing a series of kisses into the skin there.

              “Oh, you can seduce me later. After I entertain you for a few hours.”

              “I can’t wait.”

              Entertainment, as it turned out, was a beer and whiskey tasting at a trendy bar in downtown Chicago. It was simply called Room. During the day the tables were lined with hungry young up-and-comers. And at night, the same people danced the night away, drinking top-rated cocktails. There were groups of people all lined up against a long farm-style table.

              “A beer tasting?” Jane said into Franklin’s ear.

              “You drank so much the other night, I figured you had to enjoy it.”

              “I do.” She said brightly, looking up at him through long lashes. “I hear they have good food, too.”

              “Yeah, great appetizers, small plates, that kind of thing.”

              Jane grinned. His ability to read her mind was one of the many things that she liked about Franklin. Beneath the table, she ran her fingers up his inner thigh. To anyone else, the small shiver that passed through his body might have been imperceptible, but Jane saw it very clearly.

              “Welcome to Room ladies and gentlemen. Tonight we’re going to sample a number of beers and whiskeys that I think you’ll enjoy,” a red haired man spoke to the room, his casual jeans and button down shirt appealing on his slender frame. “If this is your first time, feel free to ask questions, but otherwise, enjoy.”

              As they watched, the first round of beer was brought out to them. Jane picked up the glass with the dark colored liquid in it and took a sip.              

              “Mmm, it tastes like...cinnamon.”

              Each beer was paired with a small taste of an entree. The first being a braised beef dish, that practically melted on Jane’s tongue. If all the pairings were as good as the first, then it was lucky they’d taken a cab. Jane watched as Franklin downed his small taste of beer. Between the courses came a small taste of whiskey or scotch. Now, Jane would never tell Franklin, but her knowledge of whiskey ended at Whiskey Sour’s. It didn’t matter what was in it, as long as it was made correctly, with an extra maraschino cherry or two.

              The deep amber liquid placed before smelled smoky, and slightly like apples. Drinking it quickly, before she could chicken out, the flavor burst on her tongue. A little bitter, kind of spicy, with a tell-tale burn as it went down her throat.

              “What do you think?”

              “Its...interesting. I think there might be some hickory in there?” Franklin was busy scooping up some of the pottage from the beef with his spoon, eagerly lifting it to him mouth. A dot of the liquid stayed in the corner of his lips. As he licked it away, Franklin purposefully caught Jane’s eye. “You better stop that before we get into trouble,” she giggled.

              “I like getting into trouble, Parkett. Can’t you tell?”

              “I can.” One of her hands found it’s way to rest on his shoulder, her fingers curling around the strong muscles she felt there. “Now, get me drunk and well fed so I can take you home and do a host of naughty things to you.” The last bit was said in a soft whisper, right into Franklin’s ear. The little shiver of anticipation she felt run through him made her want to howl triumphantly. Jane had never been shy when it came to sex with boyfriends...It was the
one
thing she knew she could get right. Hell, the only reasons her relationships lasted as long as they did was because of the sex. Why else would a guy put up with her constantly busy schedule.

              With Franklin, she felt completely at ease. Almost. There were still some doubts that, at any given moment, he’d change back into the rude and aggressive McKinnon. Whatever way he’d looked at her before, the affection in his eyes now was nearly enough to make her forget that she’d ever disliked him.

              Maybe people really could change?

              “Okay next round,” Franklin said, snapping Jane out out her thoughts. Franklin held a piece of pork up to her lips. It looked succulent and juicy. At his bidding, she opened her mouth, allowing him to feed her the morsel.

              “Oh, my god.” The words came out as a breathy moan, one that Jane was too blissed out to care about. “This is amazing. We have to get more!” Everyone else at the table had similar looks of joy: Hardly anyone had even touched the beer.

              Franklin picked up the little card that came with the tasting, “It’s roasted pork belly, with a hoppy IPA.” The beer came next, a light amber color, and just a
bit
bitter for Jane’s liking.

              “The food gets an A+, the beer, I’m thinking a solid C…”

              “Are you serious? This entire dish is great,” The look Franklin gave her made Jane laugh. In fact, they were all smiles and laughter until the last course was whisked away. By that time they’d gotten just enough alcohol in them to be a little tipsy. Jane held on to Franklin after he paid their bill, walking them out into the night with his hand pressed firmly against Jane’s backside.

              “Okay, so you don’t like IPA’s, you love porters. And you don’t like chicken…” He shook his head. “How the hell do you not like chicken, Parkett?”

              The woman groaned loudly, “It’s not that I don’t like chicken. Its cheap, and in grad school I’d buy it in bulk and it eat with every meal. I’m tired of chicken.” She held up her hands at his widened eyes, “But that fried chicken, fritter thing was pretty tasty. With that sauce…”

              “That was pretty great,” Franklin remarked after a pause. “I mean the entire night too, not just the food.” Jane felt warmth spread through her body: He’d had fun with her, in public! Rejoicing at a first date gone right seemed a bit premature, but Jane was too tipsy to care. She wrapped an arm around Franklin’s waist, hugging him close.  breathing in the spicy lemon scent that she now knew came from a bar of expensive looking soap.

              “I had fun. Where to next?” She didn’t want the night to end. He’d have to leave in the morning. After that it was back to work, and she didn’t want to think about how things would be at the office.

              “Well, Parkett, I happen to have a sweet tooth: How about cupcakes?” She followed his gaze to a cupcakery a little ways up the street. The powder blue sign was etched with brightly colored treats.

              “You read my mind,” With his hand in hers, the couple walked off toward the shop.

 

***

 

              “That's your third one,” Jane said loudly, taking the box of cupcakes from Franklin’s greedy paws, “How have you not rotted your teeth out yet?”After getting an assortment of cupcakes from the bakery, Jane had been witness to what was by far the most gruesome sight she’d ever seen.

              Franklin devoured three cupcakes in the time it took her to select and take a small bite of one. The “sweet tooth” was more like a ravishing hunger, because three hadn’t even been enough for the poor guy.

              “It’s a superpower,” he said, gulping down a glass of cold milk that Jane had generously provided. “I could eat sweets all day if you let me. Seriously though, I
have
to try the chocolate mousse one.”

              “That's the one I wanted to try.” Jane protested, holding the box away from him. “I’m going to hide these if you don’t behave.”

              “Not fair, I told you that we should get a dozen.”

              “I’m not going to let you eat that many! You’ll get diabetes or something.”

              His hand found her thigh. The soft fingers rubbing small circles into the skin. “I wasn’t going to eat all of them. I was planning on taking one or two with me for tomorrow.” Jane shook her head, splaying her dark hair about her head.

              “I think I’ll make sure these stay safe. And uneaten.” She said, voice laced with faux-sternness. When the cupcakes were safely tucked away in her kitchen, she returned to the living room. They’d spread out on the floor, using blankets and pillows to make her brand-new carpet all the more comfortable. Franklin was reclining against a big throw pillow, arms hidden beneath it. The position was provocative enough. What with his shirt riding up
just
enough to give Jane a peek at the light rows of abs beneath.

              God, his body was a blessing. Not too heavily muscled. Just the right amount of hard and lean. It would be a wonder if Jane could ever manage to look at him in a suit again without drooling.

              “Are you going to stand there with you mouth open, or are you planning on joining me?” His voice was an amused laugh. Jane plopped down next to him, draping an arm around his shoulders, taking a moment to enjoy the feeling of his warmth. “I like this,” Franklin said into the hollow at her throat.

BOOK: Romance: Dedication - A Workplace Romance (Dedication Series, Romance, Contemporary Romance Book 1)
10.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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