Two days later, Ryan, arched his back and stretched, popping his spine at the kitchen table after disconnecting from the seven a.m. weekly status call. Maiya had been on the line; her voice low and raspy like it always was in the morning. The tone vibrating through the headset made his skin tighten and prickle into goose bumps. She always sounded like she’d barely rolled out of bed and then dialed in to the call. She probably had. He could tell she wasn’t a morning person—where he was up, showered and dressed for the meeting each week. By the time the call started, he’d already had two cups of coffee, ready to head into the office when it ended.
About to shut down his laptop, an instant message popped on his screen.
Maiya Rossini: Hey you, you’re in trouble. ;- )
Ryan Donnelly: When am I not?
Maiya Rossini: Very true. Can I call?
Ryan Donnelly: Cell.
He waited for it to ring twice before answering. “Ryan Donnelly.”
“Killing me here.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Feigning innocence, he chuckled to himself, knowing it would keep her talking.
“You’re driving my analyst crazy, that’s what. And don’t give me that innocent tone.” She snorted. “Seriously, you went over Chris’s head, Ryan. You know you can’t do that shit. It makes the whole team look bad. Besides that, he’s been busting his ass for you, so you totally offended him.”
Bingo.Maiya’s unfiltered rebellious nature popped out, front and center via curse words. This was his favorite part of their play. “We need to work as a team, you know?” She cleared her throat.
“Oh come on, you can’t be serious?” Ryan leaned back, stretching his legs out in front of him, her raspy voice rolling over and through him like a high fever as they fell into familiar banter.
“Completely. Totally. Incredibly...serious.”
“Okay, okay. What do you want me to do?”
“I would like you to apologize.”
As usual, she got straight to the point. No surprise there. “Don’t hold back much, do you?”
“Oh, please. As if you do?” She laughed.
“Okay, you win. I’ll apologize.”
“Wow, I had no idea you’d be so easy! Do it today, pretty please?”
“Easy? I wouldn’t go that far, but I’ll make an exception for you just this once.”
“Such a charmer.”
Her sarcastic response had him chuckling. “I’m a pro at being charming. Easy? That’s a whole different story.”
“Riiighhht. By the way, I’m coming into the office next week.”
“I heard. I’m looking forward to meeting you in person.” Ryan shifted the phone to his other ear and shut down his laptop. Their work relationship, especially as of late, teetered on a fine line between appropriate business discussion and flirtatious innuendo. It’d become an addicting habit for him—one he’d be wise to put a stop to. Regardless of his, so far, failed intentions to keep things on a professional level with her, he was looking forward to meeting her in person.
“Definitely. There’s a team function planned. We can have a drink or...something.”
Was that subtle bait hanging out there for him? Oh, yeah, he’d bite. “Sure or…something.” He paused before packing his laptop in his bag, anticipating her response.
“Hmm. Alrighty then. I’ll let you go so you can handle the mess you made. I’ll talk to you later.”
It wasn’t the response he was hoping to get from her, but it served to bring his thoughts back to where they needed to be. The marketing campaign he’d been assigned was the biggest one of the year. There was an opening for an Associate Director of Projects and he had his eye on it. Ryan hoped the success of the project would lead to landing the promotion.
“Talk soon, Maiya.” He disconnected the call, grabbed his bag and headed toward the garage. The last thing he needed was to screw up his opportunity by getting involved in a personal way with Maiya.
The problem was, Maiya Rossini was a challenge and Ryan loved a good challenge. However, it didn’t escape him that she was also trouble. The other problem was, he liked talking to her, enjoyed flirting with her too, but it had to end there. Playing this game with her could prove disastrous, but when it came to Maiya, he wasn’t sure he could help himself.