All Work and No Play

By: Coleen Kwan



The waiter arrived with a platter of bar snacks, and the conversation drifted to less tricky subjects. Persephone was her usual self, chattering about the friends they had in common and what they’d all been doing, but Giles felt strangely disconnected. He’d only been away from the UK for a couple of months, but already he could sense the bonds loosening, and he realised he didn’t mind at all.

An hour later, Persephone went off to the ladies’ to repair her makeup, while Giles sat in their booth, wondering what Anna was doing and whether she’d bothered to eat any dinner. He was betting she hadn’t. Last week, when they’d worked late, she’d barely stopped to grab a chocolate bar from the vending machine. Tonight, with the extra pressure she was facing, she might not have even done that.

Coming to a quick decision, he signalled to the waiter and ordered some California rolls to go, giving his credit card at the same time to settle the bill. Moments later, Persephone slid her arm over his shoulders as she eased into the booth beside him.

“What should we do next?” Her smile was arch, her fingers suggestive. “Want to come up to my room for a bit of fun?”

When he’d agreed to see Persephone, he’d wondered if she had this in mind, but now that she’d raised the subject, he found his body totally unresponsive to her. In fact, her perfume was too cloying, her lipstick too garish, and her eyes too calculating. Persephone was as beautiful as ever, and once upon a time he’d have gladly followed her upstairs, but now she did nothing for him. It wasn’t her fault. She hadn’t changed; he had.

“I’m sorry,” he said gently as he removed her hand from his shoulder. “But I can’t.”

Her eyes popped with surprise. “You don’t want to fuck?”

Not her. Not anyone except a stubborn, gorgeous woman who dominated his thoughts. And he didn’t want to fuck Anna so much as make love to her, to crush her in his arms and find out all her secrets, all her sweet, dark, lush secrets... Christ, he was growing hard for another woman while turning down the advances of the one in front of him. Not very chivalrous.

“I don’t think that would work for us anymore,” he said as diplomatically as possible.

Persephone pouted. “I suppose you’re bonking some Aussie girl called Kylie. Next thing you know, you’ll be eating horrible Vegemite and talking like someone from Neighbours.” She sniffed to register her disapproval.

Giles grinned. “I should be so lucky.”

But she didn’t get his attempt at humour. With a shrug, she gathered her handbag. “Oh well. Guess I’ll call my friends and see what they’re up to.” She pecked him on the cheek and rose to her feet, already scrolling through numbers on her phone. “Bye, darling. It was fun catching up.”

She tripped away, and he was willing to bet she’d forget about him before she even left the hotel.

The waiter arrived with his card, receipt, and the box of California rolls in a small white carrier bag. Giles rose to his feet, energy returning to him in a strong surge. He had an important delivery to make.

***

Swiping a hand across her damp brow, Anna reached for her Diet Pepsi and took another slug. As she set down the can, she glimpsed the time on her screen and sighed. Eight pm already, and she still had so much to do. Grimacing, she stared at the lines of code on her screen, but it was hard to concentrate when her stomach was grumbling and her hair was sticking to her neck.

In the hushed stillness of the office, the click of an opening door reached her ears. That was the door that led to the lift lobby. Someone approached from behind her. She swung round, expecting a security guard, only to find Giles walking towards her.

Unbidden, her heart skipped a beat. She’d assumed that only happened in novels, but apparently it was a genuine thing. She only had moments to compose herself and to regret how sticky and messy she looked before Giles entered their pod.

His jacket was slung over one shoulder, and in the other hand he had a white carrier bag.

“Whew!” he blew out a breath as he halted before her. “It’s like a sauna in here. What happened to the air conditioning?”

“Unfortunately, they’re doing maintenance tonight, so no air conditioning.” She pushed back a limp strand of hair, conscious of her rumpled appearance. Giles, of course, looked as debonair as ever. “What are you doing here?” she asked.

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