Aidan Fitzgerald rubbed his blurring blue eyes. He peeked through his fingers at the clock on the computer screen. Damn, it was already after seven. Even if he wanted to finish the project, his brain was too fried. He could barely make out the words in front of him. He turned off his computer, secure in the thought that his newly elevated promotion of Vice President of marketing meant he could wait until the morning and not have someone bitch at him for slacking off.
With a groan, Aidan rose out of his chair and stretched his arms over his head. He grabbed up his bag and headed to the door. As he flipped off his office lights, his stomach rumbled. There was probably nothing at the house to eat, so he’d need to pick up something on the way. For a brief instant, he wished there was a woman waiting on him with a home-cooked meal. He quickly shrugged the thought away. A couple of meals weren’t worth the hassle of long-term relationships. In the end, he was much happier with begging dinners off one of his married sisters. At least until they launched into one of their tirades about how he couldn’t be a bachelor for the rest of his life, and at thirty-two, it was time for him to settle down and have a family.
“Bullshit,” he muttered under his breath at the thought. The attractive cleaning lady down the hall raised her head.
She then gave him an alluring smile. “Goodnight Mr. Fitzgerald.”
“Goodnight Paula,” he replied. He smacked the button for the elevator, fighting the urge to close the gap between them and strike up a conversation. He raked a hand through his sandy blond hair and shook his head. Talking to Paula would most likely lead to some tryst in the storeroom closet, and as much as he would enjoy that, he was getting a little old for those kinds of hook-ups.
The elevator jolted him down to the first floor. Heated voices met Aidan the moment he stepped off, causing him to grunt in frustration. Damn, the last thing he needed after working late and being cock-teased by the cleaning lady was to come up on some domestic dispute. And from the tone of both a man and woman’s voice, that’s exactly what it was.
“Connor, I can’t believe you cornered me here at work!” a woman hissed.
“What was I supposed to do? You won’t answer my calls or emails. I had to see if you were all right.”
“I told you to leave me alone, and I meant it!”
“But I love you, Em. I don’t want to lose you.”
At the sound of scuffling, the woman’s voice raised an octave. “Stop! Don’t you dare touch me!”
The protective side of Aidan stirred at the woman’s tone, sending him barreling around the corner. “Hey! Get your damn hands off her!” he bellowed.
The couple startled at the sight of him. The woman’s tear stained face flushed crimson, and she ducked her head to avoid Aidan’s intense gaze. Immediately, he recognized her—Emma Harrison, 4th floor advertising, and the woman he’d tried unsuccessfully to take home from the company’s Christmas Party. From the way she refused to meet his eye, he knew she recognized him as well.
Aidan turned his attention to the guy, Connor, whose eyes were wide with fear. He hastily dropped his hands from Emma’s shoulders and took several steps back. Connor looked like he was ready to bolt out the nearest exit. Aidan then realized how intimidating he must appear with his fists clenched at his side, his jaw hard set. He tried relaxing his stance, but his blood still pumped so hard in his ears he couldn’t.
Connor held up his hands in surrender. “I’m not sure what you think was going on, but we were just talking.”
Aidan narrowed his eyes. “I think from the way she was crying and begging you to stop touching her, it was a lot more than talking.” He started to ask Emma if she was all right, but she blew past him and escaped into the restroom. He glared at Connor.
“Look man, you’ve got it all wrong. I—”
“What’s not to get? You obviously can’t let your ex-girlfriend or ex-wife or whatever she is go, even though she can’t even stand for you to touch her!”
Nervous laughter erupted from Connor. He silenced it the minute Aidan cocked his eyebrows at him and took a step forward. “Trust me, you’re so very, very wrong. Emma’s not my ex.”
“Then what’s the deal?”
Connor cleared his throat. “Fine, you want the truth? Here it is. I’m gay, and Emma’s been my best friend since middle school.”
Aidan’s mouth dropped open. “Seriously?”
“Huh…then I stand corrected. Sorry about that.”
Connor shrugged. “It’s okay. I probably would’ve done the same thing if I thought some asshole was hassling a woman. Well, I probably wouldn’t if he was twice my size like you.” He glanced past Aidan to the bathroom and grimaced. “Dammit, I hate when she’s mad at me. I don’t think she’s ever been so angry and so hurt. I just don’t know what to do to make it right, ya know?”
Aidan shifted on his feet, sensing the conversation was headed into emotional territory, which was somewhere he tried avoiding at all costs. He held one hand up. “Hey man, it’s really none of my business.” But the moment the words left his lips, he was sure they had fallen on deaf ears. The anguished expression on Connor’s face told him he wouldn’t be getting away without hearing the full, dramatic story, unless he literally tried to out run him.
With a sigh, Connor ran his hand through his dark hair. In a low voice, he said, “She’s crazy about kids, and her biological clock is all in a snit to have baby for like the last two years. Loving her the way I do, I’d promised her I’d be the father and donate to the cause.”
Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the story Aidan had expected. “Don’t tell me. You chickened out when it came down to doing the deed?”
Connor scowled at him. “Ha, ha, asshole, real funny. For your information, it was going to be done in a clinic.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” Aidan mused, with a sly smile.
“Dude, gay, remember?”
“Sorry.” For reasons he couldn’t possibly fathom, Aidan was so intrigued by the story he felt the need to prompt Connor to continue. “So what happened?”
“My partner isn’t ready to have children. I promised him that Emma didn’t necessarily want me involved, but he won’t budge. It’s been hell choosing between the man I love and my best friend.”
“Why can’t she just go to a sperm bank or something?”
Connor chuckled. “Emma has it in her mind there will be this horrible mix-up where her choice of a prime donor’s sample was swapped with some serial killer’s.”
Aidan grinned. “I guess I can see her point.”
A buzz went off in Connor’s pocket. He dug it out and then groaned at the ID. “Shit, it’s Jeff. He’ll have my ass for coming here and trying to talk to Emma. I really, really have to go.” His gaze once again went to the bathroom. “I hate to leave her though…”
“You go on. I’ll see she gets to her car okay.”
“Really? That would be awesome.” He thrust out his hand. “It was nice meeting you…”
“Aidan. Aidan Fitzgerald.”
“Connor Montgomery.” After they shook hands, Connor smiled. “Thanks for all your help and for totally misreading the entire situation.”
Aidan laughed. “It was a pleasure almost kicking your ass.”
“Hey now,” Connor replied. When his phone rang, he winced and gave a short wave before bringing it to his ear. “Babe, yeah, sorry I missed your texts. I’m on my way home now.” He pushed through the glass doors and disappeared into the night.
With a shake of his head, Aidan started across the lobby to the bathroom. He rapped on the door. In a shrill voice, Emma shouted, “Go away, Connor! I have nothing else to say to you! Not to mention, you just embarrassed the hell out of me in front of one of the biggest assholes in the company!”
“Biggest asshole, huh?” he murmured under his breath. Not exactly a title he was proud of, especially coming from a woman. He was used to hearing much more flattering descriptions of himself from them. Well, at least in the beginning before he walked away. After that, things usually took a nasty turn.
“I’m not leaving this bathroom until I know you’re gone!”
Aidan sighed. She was a determined one that was for sure not to mention stubborn as hell. His mind flashed back to how beautiful and sexy she’d looked at the Christmas party—how the slinky green dress she’d worn flowed over her curves making her irresistible. When he’d seen her across the room with some girlfriends, he had been determined to spend the night with her. Her shy smiles and glances up at him through her eyelashes had spurned him on to close the small space between them. Of course, by the time he’d arrived at her side, her interfering friends had already informed her of his dubious reputation as a heartbreaker and serial womanizer.
“Women,” he muttered under his breath as he pushed through the bathroom door. Emma sprawled out on the tapestry settee with a wet paper towel over her eyes. On one side, her skirt was jacked halfway up her hip, giving him a fabulous view of legs and thighs. At the sound of footsteps, she gave a frustrated grunt. She stabbed the air in front of her with her index finger. “I swear if you don’t leave me alone, I’m going to kick you so hard in the balls there will no longer be any question about whether you can father my children!”
Aidan chuckled. Her deep auburn hair so foretold her fiery personality—one she’d showed him at the Christmas party. All her bashfulness had evaporated in an instant when she told him in no uncertain terms that she had no desires to be one of his conquests or one night stands.
“Actually, it isn’t Connor.”