Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(14) by Susan Mallery
They shook hands. She felt definite heat. Until that moment, she hadn’t given a thought to her love life. She was in the middle of a lot of personal upheaval and getting involved hadn’t seemed important. But suddenly, she saw possibilities.
“I’m a little overwhelmed by all of this,” he said. “I only interviewed a couple of days ago. I wasn’t sure I’d done that good a job, but she called this morning and made me a great offer.”
“Which you took.”
His eyes locked with hers. “Lucky me.”
Her thoughts exactly.
There were actual sparks, which she hadn’t felt in a really long time. Sparks, heat and a lot of potential. She suddenly felt like bursting into song.
“Okay then,” she said, telling herself it was important not to act like an idiot in front of Ryan. “Let me show you around the place. Are you from the Seattle area?”
“No. San Diego. I moved up here to help a buddy open a restaurant. Unfortunately the funding fell through and I found myself looking for a job in a strange city.”
“Seattle is great,” she said.
“I like what I’ve seen so far.”
He smiled at her as he spoke, as if implying he wasn’t just talking about Seattle.
She wondered how inappropriate it was to drag him back to her desk and have her way with him. Or not, she thought. Maybe she should take things more slowly. Show him the restaurant, let him meet the staff and drag him to her desk in the morning.
She smiled. It was always nice to have a plan.
“ELISSA, PHONE CALL.” Mindy held out the phone and smiled. “It’s a guy,” she mouthed.
Elissa put down the sugar container she’d been refilling in the lull between breakfast and lunch and told herself there was no reason to panic. Only she couldn’t seem to stop her heart from thumping wildly or her breath from disappearing.
She almost never got calls at work. The only one she could remember in the past year had been to tell her that Zoe had woken up with a fever and wouldn’t be going to preschool that day.
Could Neil have found her again? He always seemed to. It was the Internet. With fifty bucks, you could find anyone. Or maybe someone he knew had come in and recognized her. Or was it worse? A doctor at an emergency room, phoning about a horrible accident that had hurt her daughter?
“Hello?” she said into the phone.
“Elissa, it’s Walker. I’m sorry to bother you at work.”
Walker? She hadn’t talked to him in nearly a week. Not since their predawn coffee moment. “Is everything all right? Did something happen to Zoe?”
“What? No. As far as I know, she’s fine. This is about something else. Do you have a minute?”
“Sure. But let me call you back from the employee phone in the break room.” She scribbled down his number, then hung up and announced she was taking a break.
Mindy smiled knowingly as Elissa walked past her. She was going to have some explaining to do later.
She settled in one of the plastic chairs and picked up the phone. Seconds later she heard Walker’s low voice.
“What’s up?” she asked.
“I need to come by the restaurant and I wanted to explain why.”
There was an explanation? “It’s a public place,” she said. “Anyone is allowed.”
“I know, but this is different.” He paused, then said, “Before I left the Marines, a buddy of mine died. His name was Ben. He was a good kid. Determined. We were friends. He took a bullet and I wrote a letter for his family.”
“I’m sorry,” she murmured, wishing there were other words, more meaningful words, she could speak.
“He lost his folks when he was pretty young and grew up in foster care. He didn’t have any family, so there’s no one to send the letter to. But he told me about this girl. Ashley. He was crazy about her and wanted to marry her when he got out. All I know is that they went to high school together and her first name.”
“You want her to have the letter,” Elissa said, knowing moments like this put her life in perspective. Honestly, what did she have to complain about?
“Yeah. Ben went to four high schools in four years. I’ve made a list of all the Ashleys and I’m visiting them one by one.”
Suddenly the call made sense. “Ashley Bledsoe works here.”
“She’s on the list. I want to come by and talk to her, but I didn’t want to freak you out.”
She smiled. “I wouldn’t have thought of you as a guy who said words like freak.”
“I have many sides.”
She liked the ones she’d seen.
“Ashley works until two. If you come about one-thirty, we’re pretty slow. You can ask your questions and have lunch.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
She tightened her grip on the phone. “I won’t say anything to her,” she told him. She sensed it was important for him to have the conversation himself.
“I appreciate that. I’ll see you at one-thirty.”
She hung up, then stared out the window at the parking lot. Ben must have meant a lot to Walker for him to go to all this trouble. It made sense that living through dangerous situations together would forge strong bonds of friendship. Whoever Ben’s Ashley was, she was going to be getting some sad news.
Elissa tried to remember if her friend had ever mentioned a guy named Ben, but the way Ashley dated, it was tough to keep track of all the guys.
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