She was greeted at the Hotel reception by a giggling Christina, fluttering her long fake lashes at Vince. Everyone flutters their eyelashes at Vince, fake or otherwise. They couldn’t help themselves. He was a sub 30 beast of a man with an innocent charm and contagious laugh. There was a warmth to Vince that drew you in; ladies either wanted to screw him or mother him. Unfortunately, he wasn’t particularly bright, though it made him adorably naïve—probably why Cat leaned more towards the mothering.
The admin office was tucked behind the main reception desk. Vince, having noticed Cat from his perch behind the desk, threw open the office door for her. Cat appreciated the gentlemanly gesture, particularly as the door itself swung directly into Tony, knocking the cup of hot coffee from his hand and drowning his bright white shirt in scolding brown liquid. Tony’s fury halted her emerging chuckle. She didn’t envy Vince right now.
“For fuck’s sake Vin!” he said at angry-dad volume. “What’s the bloody emergency?!”
“Sorry, boss. Was just opening the door for Cat, didn’t know you were in there,” he said, noticing Tony glaring at Cat now.
“Yes, I was in there listening to you two gossiping for the last half hour. Haven’t you got any clients?” It was more of an accusation than a question, especially now that Cat had been pinned for Christina’s insolence. His eyes narrowed while he shook coffee from his fingers.
Vinny was looking desperately remorseful. “I’m really sorry… I’ll grab the mop. Hope your shirt’s alright!”
Tony raised his eyes and stared at Vince. “Hope my bloody shirt’s alright? It’s a shirt. I’m sure it’ll get over it, unlike me who will have to spend the rest of the morning nursing burns and stinking like a Starbucks stock room!”
Vince, still holding the door, caught a supportive wink from Cat, now sidling her way past Tony.
“Let’s be honest, there are worst things you could smell of,” Vince said, knowingly throwing fuel on the fire.
In an attempt to defuse the situation—and her about-to-explode boss— Cat chimed in “And anyway, you’ve got a spare shirt hanging out back.”
With that she gently clamped onto Tony’s elbow and led him through the door into the small room. The closing door did nothing to stifle the echoing giggles from Christina, nor Cat’s mental images of poor Vin rushing around, frantically searching for a mop-bucket.
“Great. Just bloody great. Look at me!” he said, gesturing towards the offensive stain, causing Cat to focus on his broad shoulders and solid chest. She felt an uncontrollable grin slipping from the corner of her mouth.
“I don’t know why you’re making such a fuss,” she said, putting those mothering skills to use. “You always have a change of clothes lying around. This place is practically a walk-in wardrobe.”
Cat opened the storage cupboard at the back of the office, knowing full well Tony kept his possessions there. She could hear a rustle of clothes behind her and knew he was slipping out of his jacket; the buttons rattled as it carelessly hit the desk. She lingered in the cupboard’s dim light, hearing the rub of silk as he slid off his tie, huffing at the sheer inconvenience of it all. Locating a pale blue cotton Hugo Boss shirt, Cat grabbed the hanger and turned to hand it to him. Tony was fiddling with his top button, oblivious to Cat’s eyes watching his fingers as they tugged in frustration. She wanted to offer a helping hand but resisted the urge, amused by his futile attempts. Thinking better of it, she lay the shirt on the desk.
Straining his neck and glaring directly at the ceiling light, Tony finally popped open the button. Undoing the remainder of them was comparably effortless. Cat stood transfixed, watching as, inch by inch, Tony’s bare chest exposed itself. She became acutely aware that his eyes were no longer on the light above—they were now on her. FUCK!! She felt the heat rise in her cheeks, knowing she must be blushing and cursed her hungry eyes for not looking away in time.
Never in her life had she been so relieved to hear the beeping of the phone hidden in her bag, granting her the perfect excuse to busy herself and ignore Tony’s ingratiating face. She played with her phone, glad for the distraction.
She opened a picture message from Jay. It was a photo of the fanciest looking eggs-on-toast Cat had ever seen, garnished with a generous portion of parsley.
Jay: Dinner and Breakfast lol!!!
She laughed, knowing Insommnia77! was likely alluding to the fact that he’d gotten lucky last night—and the lucky lady had stayed long enough to deserve eggs. The distraction gave Cat the moments she needed to compose herself.
“Oooooooh… New fella, eh?” he nosed, his shirt still undone and hanging temptingly from his shoulders. Why haven’t you changed, already???
“What makes you think it’s a man?” rebutted Cat. “Could be my mum. Or the girls.”
He raised his perfect eyebrows. “No one laughs like that when it’s their Mum. The way you’re grinning it’s definitely a fella.”
Was she grinning? Possibly—with sheer relief at being distracted from the increasingly awkward tension in the room. She wasn’t blushing anymore at least, but still couldn’t bring herself to look him in the eye—or any other of his body parts for that matter. Would you just get changed already!!
Tony moved towards her and perched next to the monitor, ankles crossed and arms folded. Jesus Christ his pecks bulged. The hairs on his arms only boosted his natural, manly magnetism. As the shirt hung from his partially naked frame, Cat was close enough to smell that familiar Armani aftershave she so adored. She forced her eyes to stay glued to the phone. Why was he sitting so bloody close? Why did he have to smell so damn good?Why was it getting so hot in here…
She tugged at the shirt lying on the desk. Tony was sitting on the sleeve, forcing him to shift position and stand up.
“Hadn’t you better get changed and stop being so bloody nosy?” Cat was clearly agitated. “Surely, you have better things to do than wind me up for the rest of the morning.”
“What?!” He’d spit out his coffee if he had any left. “It’s not my fault Vince threw the bloody door at me!”
“You’re such a princess.”
“It was really bloody hot, actually!” he whined, slightly more than she’d expected him to. “Seriously, I’m fucking wounded and it’s all your fault.”
“Err… what?” she shot back. “How’s it my fault?! Explain.”
“That boy goes all soft when he sees you. His attempts to win your approval almost cost me third-degree burns!” Now he was being dramatic.
”For fuck’s sake, there’s…” Tony’s naked chest caught her off guard when she finally looked up again. “Nothing there…”
“I’m not making it up,” he said, sliding the rest of the shirt completely off his shoulders and freeing the cuffs. He was now completely naked from the midriff up and as hard as Cat tried she couldn’t help but take in every perfect inch. This was far too intimate; he was far too close. Surely, Tony could hear the crescendo of drums building in her chest. His torso was sun-bed tanned and Cat’s eyes scanned his naked flesh from rippling ab to rock solid peck to those heavyset deltoids and… Oh feck it… there actually was a mild red blemish on his right shoulder; maybe he was, in truth, ever so slightly wounded. She felt a pang of guilt over her assumption that his ranting was nothing more than petty attention seeking. With difficulty, Cat collected herself.
“Looks like you’re gonna need a skin graft. Hang on…” she joked, shaking her head and standing up to grab a cooling pack from the first-aid box. Unfortunately, the box was next to Tony’s gym bag, stuffed in the back of the storage cupboard, with a semi-naked Tony stood between her and it.
Her intentions were genuinely innocent. But now she stood facing her topless boss, close enough to touch if he didn’t move out of her way. He looked mildly surprised by her advance; he’d clearly been teasing her with his half open shirt but wasn’t expecting to find himself in such a compromising position. It was too close. She could feel his breath on her face, neck. Their eyes momentarily locked, Cat’s breath stuck, burning in her chest. Why was he not moving? Why was she not moving. WHY THE FUCK WAS NOBODY MOVING?!
Fortunately, a flustered Vince fell through the door with a mop and bucket, focused on the job at hand and clearing up the earlier spillage.
Tony blinked his dark eyes, still locked on hers. He didn’t jump at Vince’s sudden intrusion. He remained where he stood, motionless, stalling her escape. Cat broke from their mutual gaze first. Putting her hand out to balance as she manoeuvred herself past Tony’s naked frame, her hand planted itself on his skin. The hurried action caught Cat off guard, though Tony grabbed her resting hand in an attempt to steady her. And he didn’t let go, not until she was fully past him and reaching for the doors behind. He released her hand allowing her to open the doors in search of the first-aid box.
Looking up from the floor and nearly finished with his janitorial duties, Vince noticed topless Tony. “Mate, if you can’t find a shirt I got a spare in the Instructors Office.” He was still trying to make amends for coffee-gate.
“Nah, you’re alright,” Tony said, still fixated on Cat. “Just getting one now.”
Cat found the pack and passed it to Tony. His exposed torso didn’t bother Vince. Working around the gym meant you quickly became accustomed to a certain level of nudity. Besides, it wasn’t the first time Cat had found herself in the cramped office with a scantily clad instructor. They were always rushing around from class to PT session, using her office to change into fresher clothes in the interim. Sometimes she wondered if they all considered her office an extension of their changing room. This time, however, was the first time she’d borne witness to her bare-chested boss.
Tony was seated at the opposite desk, ice-pack resting on his increasingly less impressive burns.
Vince noticed the pack. “Shit, you alright?”
“Yeah Vin, don’t worry,” Tony replied, feeling less sorry for himself. “Cat’s just making a fuss is all.”
BLOODY men, now it was her making a fuss. Only moments before, Tony was bitching about third degree burns. His testosterone-heavy alpha male gene had obviously kicked in, defending his need to attend to the mild—but still apparently existing—burn. Whatever!! She switched on her computer, desperate to find something to think about that had nothing to do with the last few minutes.
Tony reached for the clean shirt, carelessly tossing away the cooling pack and finally getting dressed. Cat pretended not to notice his every movement. He didn’t bat an eyelid at her. Instead, he snatched up a bottle of disinfectant and some blue roll from the side, then assisted Vince in cleaning up the last of the coffee from the door. Tony wedged the door open for the floor to dry and Vince disappeared, returning with a bright yellow warning sign.
With the floor gleaming, and any evidence of the earlier crime now covered up, Tony turned to Cat. His face was tight and his eyes troubled. He attempted a smile but it was awkward and uncomfortable. He left the office to catch an update from Christina. Cat could hear them discussing today’s duties at the reception desk.
She felt numb.If you would like to catch up with Cat and join her as she bumbles her way through single, life then here’s the story so far…