The Hating Game Page 88

“No?”

I feel terrible. I’m ruining what was the beautiful bubble of energy from our drive home.

“Today is Sunday,” I respond after a lot of deliberation.

“Tomorrow is Monday,” he returns. We both sip from our mugs. The Staring Game has commenced, and I am welling up with questions I am dying to ask, but I have no idea how to go about it.

“Truth or Dare,” he says. He always knows the exact right thing to say.

“Dare.”

“Coward. Okay, I dare you to eat the entire jar of hot mustard I have in my fridge.”

“I was hoping for a sexy dare.”

“I’ll get you a spoon.”

“Truth.”

“Why are you freaking out?” He takes a bite of sandwich.

I sigh so deeply my lungs hurt. “I wasn’t ready for this, and I am having some scary feelings and thoughts.”

He studies me, looking for any trace of lie. He can’t find any. It’s abbreviated, but it’s the truth.

“Truth or Dare?”

“Truth,” he says, unblinking. There is some low afternoon light coming through the windows and I can see the cobalt facets of his eyes. I have to close mine a moment until the pain of his beauty eases.

“What are the marks in your planner?” It pops into my head. He didn’t answer last time; I doubt he will now.

He smiles and looks at his plate. “It’s a bit juvenile.”

“I’d expect nothing less of you.”

“I record whether you’re wearing a dress or skirt. D, or S. I make a mark when we argue, and I make a mark when I see you smile at someone else. Also, when I wish I could kiss you. The dots are just my lunch break.”

“Oh. Why?” My stomach trills.

He considers. “When you get so little of someone, you take what you can get.”

“How long have you done it?”

“Since the second day of B and G. The first day was a bit of a blur. I’ve always meant to compile some stats. Sorry. Saying it aloud sounds insane.”

“I wish I’d thought of doing it, if it makes you feel better. I’m equally insane.”

“You cracked the shirt code pretty quick.”

“Why do you even wear them in sequence?”

“I wanted to see if you noticed. And once you did notice, it pissed you off.”

“I’ve always noticed.”

“Yeah, I know.” He smiles, and I smile too. I feel him take my foot in his hands and he begins to rub.

“Those days-of-the-week shirts have been oddly comforting.” I lie back and look at the ceiling. “No matter what’s going on, I know I’m going to walk in and see white. Off-white. Cream. Pale yellow. Mustard. Baby blue. Bedroom blue. Dove. Navy. Black.” I’m ticking them off on my fingers.

“You forgot, poor old mustard has been replaced. Anyway, you won’t be seeing my stupid shirts soon. Mr. Bexley has told the interview panel to have a decision by Friday.”

“But that’s only a day after the interview.” I’d thought maybe there would be a week or two of deliberation. I’m going to either be victorious or unemployed next Friday? “I feel sick.”

“He’s told them if they haven’t worked out who’s the right candidate five minutes into the interview, they’re morons.”

“He better not try to sway the interview panel. We need this to be fair. Ugh, I hadn’t thought about reporting to Mr. Bexley directly, without you as the buffer. I tell you, Josh, the man has x-ray eyes.”

“I want to blind him with acid.”

“You keep a vial of acid in your drawer?”

“You should know. You’ve been snooping in my desk and planner.”

There is censure in his tone but his eyes remain friendly as he slides his thumb into my arch and makes me purr.

“You’d resign, if I got the job?” He says it gently.

“Yes. I’m sorry, but I’d have to. At first it was my pride making me say it. But now it’s clearly the only option. I want you to know, that if they decide you’re a better fit for the role, I’ll resign happily. I’ll be happy for you, Josh, I swear. I know more than anyone how hard you’ve worked for it.”

I arch a little and sigh. “You’d be my boss. It’d be hot as hell, making out with the COO every chance I got, but we’d get caught for sure.”

“But if you get it?”

“I can’t expect you to resign, but I can’t be your boss. I’d give you inappropriate tasks and Jeanette would have a stroke.”

“And if I were your boss, I’d work you so fucking hard. So fucking hard.”

“Mmmm. I’d have dirty dreams all night.”

“You told my parents I was probably about to be chief operating officer. Did you mean it, or were you just adding to your long list of brags about me? It’s okay if you didn’t mean it.”

“If I were the recruiting panel, I’d look at our CVs side by side and you’d probably edge me out. You’re so good at what you do. I’ve always admired how well you work.”

I rub my hand on my chest to try to relieve the ache.

“Not necessarily. It’s not just the CVs. There’s the interviews. You’re charming. There’s not a person alive who doesn’t adore you instantly.”

“Says you. I’ve seen you in action, when you’re making an effort. You’re like a 1950s politician. Smoother than smooth.”

He laughs. “But you love B and G. And everyone there hates me. That’s your advantage over me. Plus you have your top-secret weapon Danny is spending his weekends on.”

“Yeah.” I dart my eyes away.

“It’s got to do with ebooks, I’m not an idiot,” Josh says.

“Why can’t you be an idiot for once? Just once, I want to keep a secret from you.”

“You’re keeping a secret from me right now. We haven’t gotten to the root cause of your freak-out.”

“And we’re not going to.” I pull the blanket over my head altogether.

“Very mature,” he comments and swaps my feet, squeezing my toes and circling his thumbs. “You can’t keep secrets from me for long. I know you too well. I’ll get it out of you.”

“Well apparently I’m a complete open ebook.” I groan in the dark. “Did Mr. Bexley tell you about my digitalization project? Please don’t screw me on this, Josh. Please. My entire presentation is based on it.”

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